Here’s a fun compare and contrast game.
Big K.R.I.T. – What You Mean (feat. Ludacris)
Rick Ross – Hold Me Back
The similarities are pretty obvious and, to be honest, inconsequential: they both came out on the same day, are shot in black and white, and feature guys rapping. But the differences are actually very interesting if you take a moment to sift through them.
I’d venture to guess that these dudes are trying to use these newest videos to project where they’d like to be more than where they actually are right now. Big K.R.I.T. has only had an official album out for about two months, and while he’s got quite a few dedicated followers, it’s still a bit of a stretch to call him an “established” artist at this point. That’s the battle he’s fighting: to be seen as a legitimate contender in the Coliseum that is hip-hop. So in his video, he has to really project stability, success, and longevity to push people’s perceptions of him in the direction of seeing him as a dude they should get used to seeing as relevant. The imagery and cinematography portray this perfectly: the camera spends much more time standing still in his video than in Rick Ross’s, and when it does move, it moves with sureness and intention. You also see a lot more images of lavishness in K.R.I.T.’s video than in Ross’s, most likely because it’ll take a little convincing for someone to believe Big K.R.I.T. is ballin’ anywhere near the level that Rick Ross is. The video’s emphasis on visual symmetry adds an additional stabilizing factor; the images in K.R.I.T.’s video feel very timeless and abstract, impervious to decay.
Rick Ross, on the other hand, can safely be called an established rapper at this point. I’ve probably heard more Rick Ross blaring out of SUVs in in the past week than any other artist, and I’m in Brooklyn, nowhere near Ross’s hometown of Miami, Florida. He’s got numerous top 10 albums and singles, he’s collaborated with a huge number of very diverse artists, he’s had a few beefs and controversies, he’s founded a very prominent record label with several successful artists, he’s deep. But if you were to go in cold and just watch the “Hold Me Back” video with no context, you’d think he was 17 years old and trying to prove his hardness to the older cats on the block. The imagery is harsh and gritty, he actually has several shots where he’s not wearing sunglasses (a Rick Ross rarity), the camera work, while definitely ultra crisp quality, is obviously handheld and very unstable, and you see almost no evidence that Rick Ross has anywhere near as much money as he seems to in his other videos. Sure he’s got a couple chains on, but so does everybody else around him. Even the cell phone that chick hands to him at 2:17 isn’t a fancy bejeweled iPhone, it looks more like the phone you get for free when you first sign up with Cricket. And the people in the video are totally average, normal people; a stark contrast with the toned and touched up models in “What U Mean“. He is trying to portray almost the complete opposite image K.R.I.T. is in his video; Ross wants you to see him as wild, uncontrollable, unpredictable. The images in Rick Ross’s video look way more like Juvenile’s iconic “Ha” video than, say, Jay-Z’s most recent crisp black and white video.
I love this juxtaposition for so many reasons, the least of which is just how it demonstrates the endless diversity in rap. It’s cool to see Big K.R.I.T. dressing for success in his video, trying to really talk you into taking him seriously, while Rick Ross works from the other direction trying to ward off any criticisms that becoming an established mainstream rapper has softened his character or resolve.
Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.