‘Wyclef Jean’ video captures Young Thug’s persona
Owen Lane | Friday, January 27, 2017
Last year, a handful of artists (mostly in hip-hop) experimented in the music video medium. Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” was a highly-acclaimed visual album that matched each of its songs with a music video. Frank Ocean released two albums in 2016, the strictly-musical “Blonde” and the audio-visual experience “Endless.” Even as far back as six years ago, we witnessed an early example of an ambitious music video project in Kanye West’s 34-minute “Runaway” video.
Now we have the “Wyclef Jean” video. Young Thug released the video Jan. 16 for the single that opened his latest album “Jeffrey.” The video takes the form of “Wyclef Jean” director Ryan Staake “[explaining] how this video fell apart.” In the video, Staake explains that Young Thug never actually showed his face on the day of the shoot. Rather, months later Thugger sent the director footage of himself dancing by a plane. Needless to say, the video does not follow its intended path, which originally involved Young Thug somehow interacting with toy cars, models and a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.
Staake’s video explains, through plain white text on black slides cut into the footage, how the director made the most with his opulent resources. The text playfully mocks viewers’ preconceptions of “behind the scenes” videos by showing a “wooden” bat bending in slow motion. It satirizes Young Thug’s decadent production choices by pointing out a child actor who Thug flew from Mississippi to have a small role in the video as a cop. It’s a remarkable accomplishment in editing. “Wyclef Jean” was not just some postmodern ruse, either. A team from Vice’s music channel, Noisey, witnessed and documented the train wreck to prove it.
Ironically, a video about the artist’s absence and indifference could not have been more suitable for Young Thug. Staake deserves serious credit. Like Thugger himself, the video is funny, stylish, unpredictable and relentlessly lampoons convention. Artists such as Frank Ocean and Beyoncé obviously present visually stunning and meaningful music videos, but “Wyclef Jean” will make you question when you last felt truly entertained while watching a music video. This video provides yet another piece in the growing pile of evidence suggesting that Young Thug is one of the most brilliant, innovative rappers in the game.