Detailed Analysis of Hip Hop videosMF DOOM- Madvillain - AccordionThe initial long shot reverse zooms from the accordion player, theinstrument being a prop that visually accompanies the droningaccordion on the soundtrack. The dark hallway setting is establishedthrough this zoom, and the low-key lighting foreshadows theappearance of the artist, MF DOOM, an abstract rapper whose grittyvoice and masked costume support his villainous image.
DOOM is introduced in a two shot with the accordion player, whilethe camera slowly and subtly tracks his position, indicating to theaudience that focus should be on him. An even more prominent useof low-key lighting connotes mystery, layering his enigmatic persona,and helping to build his realistic super villain character throughmise-en-scene. After gesturing the accordion player to continueplaying at a tempo suggested by the non-diegetic soundtrack, whichDOOM hears in the video, he pulls a microphone prop out of hispocket and starts rapping into it, both conventional aspects of the HipHop genre. The intense low-key lighting still largely obscures hisappearance at this stage, which is unconventional of Hip Hop musicvideos that usually attempt to show their artist in full directly afterestablishing setting.
A sharp reverse zoom from close up to mid-shot reveals MF DOOM’smask in full. He is revealed as an African American, a conventionalethnicity of the Hip Hop genre of music, relating to the targetaudience somewhat. Freehand camerawork adds an urban,spontaneous style to the overall video, as if it hadn’t been planned,lending to its abstract, unconventional feel. The lack of narrative isthus justified and accentuated by the freehand camera.
Adancer is introduced, obscured by the low-key lighting and placedin the background behind DOOM who frequently blocks line of sightto her. Her implementation seems unusual, and somewhat awkward,and I believe this to be an intentional tone set by the director, playingon the condition that her presence is mandatory in order for rapaudiences to relate. This subverts the conventions of the rap genre, inwhich most women are portrayed explicitly, in excess and are often amain focus of the video, with the rapper and dancers displayed at theforefront of most shots. In this long shot, DOOM walks to theforefront, swaying and getting in the way of the dancer. The slowpaced editing really takes precedence here, with many long takesreflecting the droning, dragged out sound of the accordion sample inthe instrumental. It is a conventional feature of music videos tomirror the tempo of the song through editing.
In this close up shot, DOOM points the microphone at the camerawhile rapping to deconstruct the expectations of the genre. Thevideo’s implementation of the various physical conventions of HipHop such as dancers and microphones is contrasted with DOOM’smisuse of them, connoting the antagonistic trait that he simplydoesn’t care. It also connotes an excess of this trait, as he is breakingthe fourth wall to a heightened degree, by pointing the prop at theaudience in a threatening manner.
In a pan from left to right, DOOM is placed along the vertical axis ofthe principle of thirds, in the peripheral of the frame at both thebeginning and end of the shot. The frequent occurrence of thissignifies an emphasis on subverting genre expectations, with theconventions being to display masculinity and aggression throughbecoming the main focus of the shot. To do this most rap artistswould “wrestle” with the camera. However, the unusual character ofDOOM is accentuated here, with him lurking in the shadows andcorners of the frame in a fashion not unlike outcasts. Thus, it is asignifier explaining his masked image. DOOM does not want to beseen, for he is a freak.
A close up of DOOM’s face and mask while he looks upwards signifieshope for a man who has lost it all. The shot accentuates themovement of his eyes, which have been almost completely veiled bythe shadows cast by his mask and liberal utilisation of low-keylighting, connoting vulnerability and a humanity that has been all butlost.
MF DOOM steps back from a mid-shot as a blur and pixilation effect isapplied. This connotes that he has lost touch with normality, andcontrasts with the previous close up where he looks somewhathopeful. It also adds further notions of mystery and enigma behindhis dark persona, as he fades into the shadows. The overall monotonyof the video reflects on the monotonous style of the instrumental,coming across as somewhat sloppy and ill planned. In thesoundtrack, DOOM’s musical style, in rap standards, is very sloppilyexecuted, with him constantly rapping off beat and slurring many ofhis words, but intentionally. Thus, the video mirrors the spontaneityand unconventional style of DOOM, by attempting to seem somewhatunprofessional and badly executed, challenging the expectations ofthe form itself.Overall, the music video clearly strives to challenge conventions ofboth the rap genre and music video form. It’s muddy visuals, constantlow-key lighting, freehand camerawork; lack of colour and variation,obscurity of the artist, use of props to subvert expectations and themonotonous style completely circumvents the standards of themodern music industry. This simplicity creates a video morememorable than that of conventional standards, though it does retainsome conventional aspects, such as the tempo of the instrumentalbeing reflected in the pace of editing. I have learnt then, that to
achieve peak effectiveness, videos should mirror the song in questionas much as possible, to create consistency and reinforce originality.