Keef and Company are pretty much doing the same thing at this house that they did in a South Side Chicago apartment: Creating a space for their closed-circuit crew to do what they want to do and not be harassed.
Welcome to Almost Art, a column about music videos by Brandon Soderberg.
Although Chief Keef's “Citgo” circles around the same “I got lots of commas” topic sentence boasting of other more rowdy Chief Keef tracks, producer Young Ravisu's Oneohtrix Point Never-does-drill beat demands introspection. The world-weary frustration of Keef's music made explicit thanks to this bonus track from last year's Finally Rich's blissed-out qualities. The ideal video for “Citgo” then, would aim for something arty, right? Maybe glacially-paced found footage from some stoner, sub-Tarkovsky sci-fi flick; perhaps, a gorgeous long take tracking shot of shithead cops chasing Keef through South Side, Chicago, the camera wobbling in sync with those maudlin synths; or maybe just FaceTime close-ups of nerdy white rap bloggers crying in reverse as they listen to the track?
Director Will Hoopes' video for “Citgo” isn't quite that out there, but it is an idiosyncratic take on the guys hanging out rap video (punctuated by some awe-inspiring slow-motion imagery) that plays out like a half-happy sequel to Keef's breakthrough song and video “I Don't Like.” No longer in his grandmother's house, shirtless, and adolescent-gaunt, here Keef is dressed fresh casual, looking a bit more well-fed, driving an ATV, and living in a fairly nice, couple hundred thousand-dollar house. The tone is mid-level aspirational.
You're pretty much witnessing classic rap video style turned on its head just a little. Sharp, unambitious editing bounces between one location for performance, another for some kind of kinetic action but transported to a slightly offbeat location like the quasi-rural suburbs. Some of the Beastie Boys' beat down in the woods with Wolfen vision of “So Whatcha Want,” and Souls of Mischief's mountains-and-beach-replacing-the-streets strutting of “93' Til Infinity” are in the visual DNA of “Citgo.” And when it comes to ATV-fueled good times, well, Gretchen Wilson's “Redneck Woman” comes to mind.
The performance aspect of the video takes place in the home's garage. Echoes of Weezer's “Say It Ain't So” which pulled along with it, the Our Band Could Be Your Life context of the garage as the place where rock n' roll dreams begin. Weezer, self deprecating, were scaling down ambitious MTV videos. I mean, is there a more '90s slacker moment than Rivers Cuomo awkwardly sipping from a juicebox? In “Citgo,” a nice functional garage is a sign of success, not get-in-the-van-style scrapping. Weezer begin in the garage, Chief Keef ends up with a garage of his own.
Action scene from “Citgo” happens in the backyard. What you get isn't a icky Hefner-esque grotto like Drake's “Started From the Bottom” video, or even, a pimped-outpool with waterfalls and women, but a grassless, dirt-filled yard designed for speeding around on ATVs. Again, with low-stakes luxury. Some badass four wheelers are precisely the sort of thing a young dude like Keef would blow his money on and well, good for him. Keef and company are on private property, dicking around on four-wheelers for their own amusement. They're pretty much doing the same thing at this house that they did in a South Side Chicago apartment: Creating a space for their closed-circuit crew to do what they want to do and not be harassed.
Slowed down shots recall The Matrix bullet time of Buffalo 66, or the photoshopped drug trips from last year's Dredd, and approximate the song's on-painkillers qualities. The first shot we see, is one of these: The camera, a few feet off the ground, hypnotically taking in the ATV headlights pulsing and flickering; another surreal shot slowly pushes in on Keef, sneering from his ATV, his crew seemingly frozen. Especially transcendent is a reduced-speed image of an ATV popping a wheelie, the deep focus and narcotic slowed-up qualities affording the image a hard-to-pin “off” feeling—like a GIF that goes on a little too long.
A video that just indulges that wheelie for three whole minutes—think: Zidane: A 21 Century Portrait—would be incredible, but it wouldn't be true to Keef's no bullshit, quietly transgressive hip-hop vision. Instead, you get a slightly askew riff on hip-hop video style, with a few nods to the avant-garde. It's the ideal visual analogue for Keef's formulaic yet form-busting hip-hop.
Brandon Soderberg is a writer and dog owner. He's on Twitter - @notrivia