Looking for inspiration one day, and checking some of my favorite blogs I came upon a post on my friend G-Roc’s blog, The Shoe Game. The post was for a video by an indie rapper from Seattle, named Mackelmore. The song and video were about Air Jordans. Now, I’ve been super skeptical of songs and videos like this. I mean, I’m a rapper and also studied film. Especially, since “sneakerhead” culture has become so popular. Most of these songs came out pretty shitty, for lack of a better word. And the ones that had visual interpretations were even worse. But, at G-Roc’s behest I pressed play anyway. And I was floored…
Now you can take what you will from the video and song. I thought his account of his childhood fascination with Air Jordans, consumer culture, and the lessons he learned as a result were awesome. But moreover, as an indie artist myself, the lingering question was…How the f**k did he make that video!? From the actors, to the mid-late 90’s Nike commercial-esque look of it all…How did he pull it off? That led me to another Youtube video that explained how he was using Kickstarter to make the video for “Wings” as big as he had imagined it.
$18K+ later, $3K over his projected goal, he and Zia Mohajerjasbi shot “Wings”. Now, I can read between the lines. There’s a number of reasons this worked. First of all, after watching some more of Mackelmore’s work, he’s definately put in hard/groundwork and has a following. The songs subject matter isn’t self-absorbed, like a lot of rap, and speaks to a relatively large subculture. So the idea of getting fans, who can latch on to the song, to pay for the video isn’t far-fetched. The pitch is about more than, “I’ve got a hot club banger, that I think, you’ll think is hot too. And, you should donate money for me to make a video that looks like it belongs on MTV Jams. Bitches, booze, club lights, and sunglasses at night.” So, I see why he won, and won big, on Wings. I could go on and on about how music video has changed because of the internet. I could talk about how technology and the decreasing cost of it has changed the creative landscape, making it harder to distinguish the bullshit from the diamonds. I could even talk about the artists I know personally, who have begged, borrowed, crawled on hand and knee through alcohol soaked glass shards and pleaded to even get 2.5 minutes of decent 720P footage shot and edited. I would even place a wager on the idea that directors would be willing to put up their own money and resources to work with Mackelmore, post-“Wings”, just to see if they can top it. But, I wont.
Even with all the fine print, Wings, is a piece of work that, for Mackelmore, is a one-stop calling card for everything that is great about his work. Every artist is looking for that one piece. This is his “Thriller”. If somebody asked me, “Hey, I heard about this guy Mackelmore. What should I check out by him?” My response will simply be, “Watch ‘Wings’.” Maybe he’ll top it one day…maybe not. But, as an artist myself, this looks like a career landmark for him.
I was inspired by the work itself, and what went into making it. Job well done.