Action Bronson, the heavyweight Queens spitter made sure to come out of the gate like he was hosting the new season of Cash Cab. In “Barry Horowitz,” as soon as the beat drops, his Plymouth hard top is rollin’ underneath the BQE dime spots. In “Shiraz” the crazy’s lurking in the park could be from nowhere else but the outer boroughs. When Bronson brings the camera to Arthur Ave., while he’s picking up prosciutto, it is unmistakably New York.
“When you’re doing it, you’re thinking oh that’s a cool wall, or that’s a cool shot. You’re not necessarily concerned with the bigger meaning of what you’re doing. You just want to make sure the artist’s personality and the vibe of the song come across through the visuals.” – Alexander Richter, director of “Barry Horowitz”
“We’re really camera heavy because we’re both photographers,” adds Richter. “The way Tom [Gould] and I work is really involved with the artist, and kind of run and gun, because we aren’t setting up productions. It’s just capturing the personality like in photography.” Not being able to hide behind the production values traditionally associated with music videos has forced a more artist-driven form of music video. Viewers are now in the homes of these artists with their friends, and their personalities are constantly in the foreground. Richter says, “we always joke with Bronson that he’s gonna win a Grammy for his acting. He’s just this incredibly funny, and warm and larger than life and that comes across in the videos.” Bronson represents the grit of the everyday struggle, even when he’s serving up a feast with his dead ex-girlfriend as the centerpiece. The thread that runs through all of these videos is how normal they are, especially in their insanity.
A$AP Rocky’s first three videos “Higher,” “Purple Swag” & “Peso” all take place in or around the A$AP Mob hub. “Purple Swag” is the pinnacle of Rocky editing Harlem to just a couple blocks. When the crew leaves the apartment they don’t actually go anywhere. The most movement in the entire video is the slow motion bike scene where Rocky let’s his JScotts fly. “Peso” takes place on the blocks around Broadway where the Mob still lives. From the Jumbo Burger to the bodega, to the catacombs of that roach-infested Uptown pre-war apartment building, where you might become the next casualty of a dice game, Harlem is A$AP. It wasn’t about New York, it was about Rocky. It’s the Flintstones Jeremy Scott adidas, and the Supreme towel over Rocky’s head. Take this in contrast to “Oh Boy,” which was shot on almost the same block as “Peso,” but looks like a promo for a bad Paid In Full sequel: Rico’s Revenge. Rocky, like Tyler and LiL B and Kreayshawn before him, wore their surroundings like wardrobes, without any emphasis on the hood, they brilliantly translated Harlem without even really showing Harlem. These videos were about real life, real streets, the parts of NY that won’t make it into movies, because they’re just too fucking normal, which made the stars that much more magnetic.