According to Rap Genius — that is, the unpaid third parties generating its content — rappers are eager to be seen as big, literally. A search of the word “giant” in the lyric archive returns all manner of analogies, comparisons, and imagery that places them above all the rest of us, ready to squash the world at whim. Over the years, these dreams of gargantuan rule seeped their way into rap videos. Through the use of green screen technology, rappers could be as large and/or in charge as they wanted to be, and the results were varying. While the giant rapper phenomenon has fallen out of favor in recent times, its lasting footprint will always be impressive from an overhead slow motion pan out.
– Godzilla 1985
– Godzilla (1998)
“Here It Comes”
Long before Childish Gambino, this was the hardest trying, least comfortable in his own skin rapper alive. Serch spent most of his career/life letting you know he was Down. This had the unintended effect of making his 3rd Bass mate Prime Minister Pete Nice look like the cool one of the group despite often acting, dressing, and sounding like an old man. So perhaps it’s not surprising Serch would employ the green screen for this video. But upon seeing footage of Big Serch’s Big Head, the director must have convinced him that he needed a Tiny Serch for perspective, along with a Regular Serch for hood wearing and choreographed dancing. So we get all three, often interacting in the same scene. Make no mistake; Tiny Serch is the star of the show here, leaving Big Serch and Regular Serch behind. The video opens by introducing Tiny Serch, who Regular Serch is holding in his hand. Regular Serch throws Tiny Serch to the floor and starts rapping, leaving Tiny Serch to go on a series of adventures. His first stop is a pizzeria where he goofily dances on a sneeze guard while two employees look on, disapprovingly. Hey, Mario and Luigi, considering what the Fat Boys did to Sbarro, I’d say you got off easy. Next, Tiny Serch looks on as Big Serch and his crew cheer the burning of property (or a picture of it, but lets go along with this). I am sure the owner will understand once it is explained his building was destroyed for a Rock Master Scott reference. Then Regular Serch attempts to stomp on Tiny Serch while quoting a fictional giant. Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell another white rapper beef, son. The song is a classic, and the video was headed for a solid 3 Anger Falcon rating until the last minute of it when…wait…this looks familiar! Quick, shaky, hand-held self shots of not very much happening…am I crazy, or did MC Serch invent Vine?
Tha Dogg Pound feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg
“New York, New York”
Here is what I don’t understand about Lost Cause southern types, aside from their racist perversion of history: they spend all their time fighting a war they lost 150 years ago when they could be celebrating the war they won 15 years ago. The East Coast/West Coast Rap War of the 1990s ended with each side losing its most valued respective artist, which is like if both Grant and Lee somehow got killed in 1864 and everybody decided to stop fighting. Rap fans shrugged their shoulders, gave up on both coasts, and embraced a region that produced the best rap group of all time, the most influential rapper since Rakim, and a sound that reigns over the entire rap world to present day. (Seriously, a fucking Canadian rode a complete bite to fame and glory, with no one ever questioning where the twang came from. They all rapped like Moka Only before that.) So I say to you, sons of the South, take off the wool uniforms, lay down your muskets, and join the fight against the new Lost Causers who act like New York and Los Angeles never fell off. Get on those YouTube comments and defend your legacy! You tell them, “Fuck Lil Wayne? Fuck YOU!” Anyways. I digress. You’re too young to remember, but this song and video actually made people mad at the time. Really. I am not kidding you. They made response tracks and everything. DPG flies to New York for the apparent purposes of being cold, rapping in front of stoops and in Times Square, and setting up shop at a penthouse where they do all the same shit they could have done in L.A. The green screen is put to spectacular effect as Big Kurupt just kind of chills atop a building, and Big Snoop provocatively kicks down another (between this, his NYspeak “god” talk in the intro, and the 1995 Source Awards, he was the Sherman figure of the conflict, and the only one to come out of it with a career left). Oh, and a zooted Big Daz hurdles a bridge. This contrasts with the rest of the video, which lovingly shoots various New York landmarks the same way you’ve seen a million times before. And yet, as I said, people got mad. It was a different time.
Saafir feat. PLEASE GET WELL SAAFIR!
Who won the Hieroglyphics vs. Hobo Junction battle? If these words are gibberish to you, as they should be, then go ahead and skip down a little. If you still want to know the answer to that question, Wilford, let me settle it in a couple sentences. The winner was the guy who sabotaged the other guy’s album with a quarter-assed guest freestyle that still made the album because it was as good as anything else on it! This tactic fooled the other guy into thinking the actual battle would be a similarly off-the-dome freestyle contest, only to be met with the winner’s scripted verbal assault, which was like bringing a water pistol to a Lazer Tag fight. Now, as to the question of who won the battle of every other aspect of their careers, that’s a different story. If tasks such as Making a Coherent Video proved too difficult, that was probably a good sign of how things would end. Bringing us to this mess, which looks like the result of five different video treatments pasted over each other, shredded, then taped back together and filmed. It begins with its most promising idea, Saafir rapping down the street with everyone else on pause mode. Then we get a shot from the perspective of Saafir’s mouth and it gets weirder from there. The green screen is used so that Big Saafir raps over Regular Saafir, something rappers loved to do for unknown reasons. Since we can’t stick with a concept for more than 10 seconds, Saafir’s head becomes a mask that is placed over the faces of various people while he raps. Listen, I wrote that sentence and don’t understand it myself. The scene shifts to a train yard which makes sense given his crew name and…oh wait, never mind, Disembodied Head Saafir is rapping along with Regular Saafir, and then Mouth of Saafir stops by to rap in the sky as Regular Saafir stands there with an “oh, film students are cheaper for a reason” look on his face. The video closes by actually showing us how these incredible illusions happened with shots of the green screen itself, kind of like when the Masked Magician demonstrated that David Blaine’s levitation trick was simply putting his ass on a crane and filming actors reacting. I’m reminded of this because it is actually used briefly in the Saafir video when a sleeping man begins to float, which nicely and even a little eerily conveys the theme of the song. That would have been an amazing idea to devote more than .8 seconds of screen time to.
“Without a Doubt”
This crew was always first class, so of course they use the green screen in interesting, artistic ways. Many 90s rap video signifiers are present here: party scene with everyone dancing at a moderate mid-tempo pace, pant legs rolled up indiscriminately, pagers flaunted as status symbols, flatbed truck rapping, fully clothed women (hey, I didn’t say all these things were good). Spike Lee dolly shots create the feeling of floating through the party, both participant and observer. Some sort of portal door takes our heroes from city blocks to upstate parties at “The Big House” (hosted by Big Dres), a fantasy shared by anybody who ever wanted to escape one for the other. In fact, not a lot of material here for a gossiping bitchy video reviewer to work with, so this one may not even make the…whoa…what…the…fuck. Mista Lawnge just ate himself. Mista Lawnge just ate himself. Mista. Lawnge. Just. Ate. Himself. I thought if I kept typing that I would somehow make sense of it, but it didn’t work. Mista Lawnge just ate himself, and I am stupefied. All throughout this column, I have been trying to understand this whole thing with rappers having Big and Tiny versions of themselves in the same scene, and now I feel like I discovered the key to the whole shit, but can’t really comprehend it. There is not enough space here for this writer to delve into the psychological implications of fantasizing about self consumption. Not to get all Rap Genius on you, but one interpretation of eating yourself I am stealing from the Internet without proper accreditation is that it represents a yearning for self acceptance. I can’t tell if Mista Lawnge had a breakthrough or a breakdown, but I have to believe that eating himself publicly was the first step to a sort of understanding most of us will never reach in our lives. We jangle jingle, it ain’t no riddle.
Bone Crusher feat. Killer Mike and T.I.
Of course you ain’t never scared, you’re 20 stories high! Finally, someone who gets it. Bone Crusher hasn’t been heard from since this song/video — perhaps returning to the sea, awaiting a showdown with an oxygen destroying monster like Destoroyah or Kanye West or somebody — but he made his one chance count. We fade in on a familiar rap video scenario, people having trouble gaining entrance into a nightclub and acting increasingly wacky with each denial. Directors seem to think this is fertile soil for comedic possibility, but it’s always just annoying. Fuck all that though, because stomping his way along 75 into Atlanta at a rate that, even in slow giant steps I had no idea was possible, is our So So Def comic book hero: Bone Crusher! (Calling him Big Bone Crusher would be redundant and a little disrespectful of the seamless way the video makes his green screen and regular selves all appear huge.) Don’t let the SSD logo remind you of Jermaine “Forever Tiny” Dupri’s unconvincing tough talk album intro to this song. That will ruin it. Instead, watch in awe as Bone Crusher stomps on cars, scrapes open a building with his giant hand, and pancakes a parking garage. Like most Atlantans, he passes by Philips Arena uninterested in the goings on inside, casually picking a sedan off the bottom of his Cons, which are still impressively white considering he’s been out crushing things. We end where we started, with Bone Crusher leaning down to deal with the mean club door man. Hey, giant Bone Crusher, can you stop by Masquerade and crush it for me, please? Bunch of assholes working there. Anyway, this video is perfect and gets everything right about giant rapper green screen usage: 1. Don’t let your whole crew be big, just you. 2. Destroy shit, or there’s no purpose of you being that large. 3. Most importantly, don’t have multiple sizes of you hanging out at the same time because that’s just weird. Excellent work.
“Ski Mask Way”
50 Cent counts his money in the sky.
Thank you for reading Music, Watch. And now, run for your lives, create ridiculous weapons, and put your faith for humanity’s salvation in Japanese scientists with strangely muted reactions to incredible things happening, by viewing our tribute to GIANT RAPPERS below: