By now most have seen the video for “Don’t Leave Us Fenty,” an utterly bizarre campaign tool that uses the same gritty imagery that usually bolsters the reputations of rappers to do the same for a politician.
“Don’t Leave Us Fenty” borrows a lot of shots and set-ups typical of 1990s rap vids. Why not more current videos, you ask? Well, rap videos made post-2000 tend to focus on flashy cars, big chains, popping bottles, and booty — not exactly fitting images for a video for a mayoral candidate (unless his name is Kwame Kilpatrick).
Turns out that video visuals that rappers used during that era to show that they retained strong ties to their neighborhoods, were tough and smart, and in touch with the people also work if you’re a mayoral candidate looking to show you have strong ties to a city’s neighborhoods, are tough but smart, and in touch with the people.
Fenty’s not in the video, of course, but his proxies rapper Wali, Backyard vocalist Weensey, and Peaceaholic/Fenty booster Ron Moten stand in for him while video production team the Connoisseurs incorporate typical '90s hip-hop video elements that work to give Fenty cred.
Shot of a neighborhood street sign
The Bone Thugs and Redman videos are just two examples, but it's a common hip-hop video trope to snap the street signs at the intersection of some well-known corner. Rap videos use it as an establishing shot, to let people know where the artist is from and that he/she hasn't forgotten about his/her roots. The Fenty video flashes on the street sign at the intersection of South Capitol and Brandywine streets SE, where nine people were shot in one night back in April. The video director seems to use the shot as a way to tell people that Fenty hasn't forgotten about the incident. If you've forgotten that the mayor was booed when he showed up, almost 24 hours after the incident, the shot almost works.
Shot of little kids' innocent faces
Nothing softens a rapper’s hard edges like lots of shots of moist-eyed little kids playing or looking sad. Nothing softens a politician with a reputation for being a jerk like children standing around, each holding up four chubby little fingers (meaning four more years!), either.
Shot of people chilling on park and/or project benches
This shot, in rap videos, is a nod to the classic, outdoor park/project courtyard jams that hip-hop was founded on, and also a way for a rapper to say, "Hey, look at me, I'm not afraid to get out there an mingle with the people!" Unfortunately, this is one case where having a proxy just doesn't work. Just because Wali, Weensey, and Ron Moten are out in the streets, chopping it up with the people, doesn't mean Fenty is. Nice try, though.
Shot of producer/impresario type
See: P. Diddy in pretty much every video any of his artists has ever done; Ditto Damon Dash
In rap videos, having a producer or label head cameo in a video is a way to let everyone know who is running the show. Also, nothing keeps artists in line like having the boss standing behind them ensuring that they don’t screw up. Rap videos feature impresario types because, well, they have no choice! Wouldn't be surprised if the same were true for Ron Moten's appearance in "Don't Leave Us Fenty."