For me and my peers, music videos were an integral part of our teenage years. Our mornings would be spent in the form room before class began, hyped about the new videos that aired on MTV Base the night before. If you missed out, then you had basically X’ed yourself out of the early morning conversations. What ensued every day, was a comprehensive breakdown of the exciting new visuals. It always began with us singing the hooks, before highlighting key rhymes and then turning our attentions to the details of the video.
Similar to nowadays, each genre had a general formula. R&B songs back then tended to focus more on matters of the heart or on the art of lovemaking than championing quickies in the club bathroom or snorting cocaine lines and popping bottles. The videos always had a story line the audience could easily relate to. Even when dealing with grown folks issues, as a teen, what I couldn’t digest fully from the lyrics, the video storyboard illustrated to perfection.
Here’s a perfect example:
At 13, love was a term we’d attributed to our Marques Houston (of Immature) crush or to the Pizza Hut £1 lunchtime special. The minutiae of the ups and downs of falling in and out of love could lose us, but Officer Keith Sweat, fooling around with a suspect of case… we knew that was a no-no. And then the twist at the end? Oh, you KNOW that started a serious convo amongst us.
Our gaggle of giggling girls would then all move on to what the video starlet was wearing. Always starting with her hair. Back then, Brazilian weaves weren’t ever even a factor. In fact, donning any kind of weave to us was kind of wack. Poetic Justice braids were considered ok. Janet Jackson was a talented black women who had a beauty we all aspired to encapsulate (not to mention she locked lips with Tupac in Juice) so we loved her regardless. But more than that, braids were not viewed as a tool to distance yourself from your blackness. Braids were an expression of the black woman’s creativity and an acknowledgement of our African roots. We didn’t mind a lil’ relaxer (although we gave more probs to dope natural styles), but bangs and pig tails, a lil’ gel with cute accessories were cool too.
A lot of the chicks in the videos tied their hair back to ensure all attention was paid to their tight threads. Hilfiger was doin’ it back then. You weren’t saying a thing if you didn’t own a Tommy Hilfiger item. It was Reebok Classics. Timberland boots and even a little Lycra. Destiny’s Child videos were always imaginative and for this reason; despite the group flashing a lot more flesh than the likes of girl group TLC or the 90’s favorite around the way girl, Aaliyah, their outfits were consistently visionary and well coordinated with the other members of the group. Showing a lil’ leg is easy, but how to you do it and still maintain an air of mystery around your womanhood. You could keep your clothes one and STILL be sexy? Who woulda thunk it?
I miss the 90’s. I know that a lot of people are going to roll their eyes at this point (if they haven’t already). For some reason, being nostalgic can be misinterpreted as not being open to change. This isn’t the case. I welcome change, but not change for the sake of change. The change has to be for the better. Ok, so baggy jeans or dungarees may not be in style at the moment. Timberlands have been replaced by the Jordan epidemic and red bottoms, Brazilian weaves and fake eyelashes. The video chicks used to like the women in our families. We could relate to their look. To their struggle. To the delivery of their craft. I miss the connection to the music the 90’s gave me. You see, I’m a bit of a prude. I’ve never popped a molly. If I sweat, it’s because I’m hot and I need to shed a layer or two of clothing to cool down. I’ve never sniffed a line. Never owned a Rolex. In London, the local transportation service gets me to any part of the city 24 hours a day so my bass pass is serving me well. If I’m having a lazy day I’ll hop in a cab. The braggadocio subculture of hip hop and new millennia r&b is lost on me. It does not compute. That isn’t a part of my culture. It isn’t a part of hip hop.
At the risk of sounding like a ‘hater’, the new age video chicks are off putting and sometimes offensive to me. A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman. As a sexually secure, straight female I can say that. Video vixens are intended to be desirous not just to the male viewers but also as a beacon of class and beauty to the women watching. This involves a certain amount of skill. In the 90’s, they acted in the videos. They also had to learn some choreography and dance (and my peers and I would all dance along too). It triggered the inventive capabilities within us and we’d even create our own choreography to our favourite songs. Basically, every Missy Elliott video ever made… EVER.
It’s not all terrible. The 13 year old me would have definitely bumped some of these new artists with the same gusto. Rapsody definitely has that old school swag some of us miss. She represents the jeans and fly tee, wooden medallion wearing b-girl missing. She might not view this as a compliment but it is. Everything about her movement is inspiring. Her need to educate and inform. Her strong grasp and understanding of the combined five elements of hip hop and her loyalty to the Jamla crew. This is why she received my XXL Freshman Class of 2014 vote… I digress.
I don’t want to return back to the 90’s. Doing so wouldn’t be progressive but the direction much of the industry is moving in is not conducive of progression. It is indicative of regression of the most heinous kind. Doing anything and everything strange for a bit of change. Advocating drug addictions and body mutilation for a few more likes and retweets on social media. The self hated is palpable. Too much tweakin’ and beefin’ and not enough meetin’ in the middle. We COULD learn a lot from the old way of doing things but we probably won’t. It’ll probably get worse before it gets better…if that’s even possible.
If this (see below) is where we’re at now… I’m seriously because there’s no reciprocity. Simply put, I’m not about that life.