As the old adage goes, as soon as you call it a movement, the movement’s over. Or something like that. Because of this, I am cautious about labeling what the folks over at Creative Control TV are doing as a movement if, through some fault of my own, I might bring about their downfall. Hip-Hop needs Creative Control and the rappers, like Curren$y and Fiend, whose music they produce videos for. Watching any one of their videos, you’re instantly struck by what’s missing from them, blessedly. There are no expensive cars, scantily clad women, handguns, or small white Justin Biebers being chased by screaming girls. Instead, their videos are a series of gritty, often black and white scenes of hotel rooms, strip malls, the back seats of old cars driving down rain-slicked highways – in short, the places that real people live real lives.
Sonically, the rappers who you’ll see in Creative Control videos are as gourmet as they come. That is to say, they never sold drugs, never killed anyone; their only hustle is the music that they so devotedly gift to their fans in a constant stream of mixtapes.
Their flow is different, slower and more thoughtful than mainstream Hip-Hoppers. They don’t make song’s for the club, the lucrative songs that have lined Diddy’s and 50 Cent’s pockets. Instead, their music is to be enjoyed with friends, perhaps over a joint, some dark liquor, maybe a freestyle cipher depending on blood toxicity level of the listeners. And that is exactly the imagery that the Creative Control dudes use – just Hip-Hoppers enjoying their Hip-Hop. Form meets function, seamlessly.
As one first plays through the video for Flying Iron, a new loose joint from the king of Creative Control, New Orleans-bred emcee Curren$y, one instantly sees their classic style. Yet, unlike most of their projects, the video opens with a scene from an anime cartoon in which a contract killer’s services are being solicited by a nervous client – so much for non-violence, but still, it’s intriguing. These anime scenes appear through out the video, matching the content of each rapper’s verse. The music cues, and song’s horns are smooth, matching Fiend’s voice as he gives the song a little introduction. Fiend raps from a series of hotel rooms, occasionally out on the balcony,and in the lobby. The lighting of these rooms and the views of LA beyond match the nighttime anime scenes that flash by at various points. The flow between these two different aspects of the video is seamless. After Fiend, Curren$y lends his calculated flow to the echoing beat; “Curtain closed on ya/ Everybody left the show on ya/ Emptied the rose on ya/ Fine, pretty, fresh to death, I might as well throw a rose on ya/ they willin in my section, poppin bottles/ You might get some Rose on ya” as anime images of champagne and roses fly by. The video’s editing is as smooth and thoughtful as the song it portrays. Then, after 2:31, the video is just horns and ciphers, doobies and freshly dressed young men kicking it, enjoying themselves. All cameos and glass drink cups.
This video encapsulates the Creative Control movement. It is simple. All the live actions scenes are shot in single hotel. All of the anime footage comes from a single anime film. And the two mirroring each other in both look and feel. The video is intimate, with close ups of the artists, their facial expressions as they rap. Visual effects are limited to smoke and washed out light. It’s beautiful in its simplicity.
Hip-Hop has become a commercial powerhouse, a cash-cow in the entertainment world. But, those born after the time of Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, even Run DMC and other early commercially successful acts, forget where Hip-Hop came from. It was born out of the creative energy of young people who gathered together, rapping and DJing to express themselves, entertain, and pass the time. This is what you see in the videos cut by Creative Control and the rappers like Curren$y, Big K.R.I.T., Nesby Phips whose music they frequently portray. It’s a return to the roots of Hip-Hop, new in many senses, especially sonically, but old in it’s feel and purity. These videos feel tangible, relatable, in a way that those from industry acts do not.
In a recent interview with Karmaloop TV, Curren$y was asked about his plans for the future. His response? Put his team on, position them so that they can have the kind of success, modest as it may be, that he has come to enjoy. What rapper says that in this day and age? Similarly, when I personally met Big K.R.I.T. a number of weeks ago after a show in Providence for the Smoker’s Club Tour (also featuring Curren$y and Smoke DZA), handing him a BenzAndABackpack card and asking him to check it out. He explained that he had been underground for so long and knew how it felt to just be starting out, grinding in search of some success. He said that he reads and listens to everything that his fans give him, checks their stuff out just as they had done for his music. Now, I don’t know whether K.R.I.T. actually does check out everything he’s handed, somehow I doubt it. But it was a good sentiment to express. It was refreshing, faith restoring.
I’ll end with another saying: some people just get it. Well, these dudes just get it – and the Hip-Hop world needs more of them. Long live the Creative Control, uh-hmm, Movement.