In addition to being a hip-hop fanatic and walking wiki-wiki-Wikipedia, I happen to have a B.A. degree in Cinema Studies from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. This means I have certified qualifications to take a meticulous eye to hip-hop's latest and greatest visual promotional tools to decipher what's really happening in front of the camera. This is Rap Video Cinema Studies.
Rich Chigga - "Dat $tick (Remix)"
For our first session, we have teenage Vine star (or "digital influencer" if you prefer to use terms that just depress everybody) Brian Imanuel who has garnered a substantial viral following for his hip-hop alias Rich Chigga.
After his original "Dat $tick" took on a life of its own earlier this year, Pouya and Wu-Tang's Ghostface Killah hopped on the remix, which was released today in one of the most compelling music videos this year.
Opening with an on-fire Chigga wearing a fannypack while rolling slowly on a hoverboard -- aka, quite possibly the most challenging first half of a sentence I've ever had to write -- we have the young Chigga juxtaposing the very old with the very young in a perhaps unknowing tribute to the Spike Jonze directed video for Wax's "Southern California."
From there we get a motif of lights and modern automotive technology. Women are seen deploying cartooning characteristics of trucks, the splashing of automated robotics in Pouya's verse, there's a full-fledged omnipresence of digital and manufactured exaggeration.
While Chigga himself is, to needlessly implement British slang terminology, taking the piss out of street mixtape music, his performance on the song and in the video is one of sheer focused dedication. This allows for a sturdy ground of subtlety which the ever-accumulating absurdity can flourish upon.
But Rich Chigga's aim in the clip is neither one of deconstruction nor elevation. "Dat $tick (Remix)" exists to be as insistent within its established mise-en-scène as possible. Case in point, the Ghostface cameo.
While it's clearly him on the verse, Tony Starks is not in this clip.
Rap videos typically deal with the absences by working around the absence of the featured artist with a facsimile (the Biz Markie puppet in Masta Ace's "Me & the Biz"), editing in b-roll footage of the artist (the then-incarcerated Keith Murray appearing in an early CGI-misfire in KRS-ONE's "5 Boroughs") or just shooting exterior shots around the missing verse (Eve's rhymes on the Roots' "You Got Me" which, to this day, people still think was contributed by Erykah Badu) "Dat $tick" opts to first just place a Clutch Cargo-style Ghostface-face over Chigga's body, intercut with a floating gold bust of the Ironman.
But the strongest imagery from the clip comes from the mouth of the fanny pack opening. Seemingly an attempt at digitally emulating a practical effect with the faux-tactile tongue standing in strong contrast to the overtly CGI surroundings, the phallic nature is only the surface reading. The deeper assertion that our carnal physical instincts, even if inherited as part of our past, will always be at the center of our desires, regardless the depths of an electronic reality we plunge ourselves into.
See a rap video that deserves a cinematic interpretation, hit me up at @chazraps.