Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Just Be You: Brother Reade "Now They Want Half"

Underground artists promote authenticity in hip hop...

Brother Reade "Now They Want Half"

dir. by Banner Gwin

Upon first watching "Now They Want Half," one could easily make the mistake of assuming the stoic bespectacled man staring at the screen throughout is an actor rather than one-half of this hip hop duo. It isn't simply because of his performance, but Bobby Evans doesn't seem to fit our typical assumptions about the culture. Of course this sort of stereotypical opinion of hip hop is precisely what Brother Reade's Jamz is addressing in his rhymes. Director Banner Gwin intentionally amplifies the strangeness of Evans in order to drive home the point, "you don't have to be rich, you don't have to be cool."

Yet these artists are two parts of the same group (cleverly shown through a shot where Jamz raps at the screen on the left while Evans appears through a mirror on the right), and they are not oblivious to the charms of typical hip hop dreams. Jamz defends LA despite its downsides, while he scrounges his refrigerator for food. As the rapper points out early on, he wants to make money but isn't ashamed of poverty either. The camera zooms in on him as he sits in an undershirt and gym shorts, eating a bowl of cereal in a modest kitchen.

The video works by setting up a series of contrasting or absurd images, the most obvious of which involves the members of Brother Reade themselves. There is also the blue light which glows outside the windows, compared to the red light that imbues the interior. A nailcutter graces a cutting board, and Fugazi is mentioned in the same breath as Jay-Z. These ideas are meant to confound any attempt at pinning either the video or the music into a box.

There's also intentionality in the way the images conjure up feelings of nostalgia. Like the dorky organ that accompanies the bassline, the retro walls hold family photos from the 70's. When the camera passes through the house in the end, it's now completely empty of people. Yet it's still alive with memory, and the artists will not soon forget the vibrant history that exists within those walls. Just as Brother Reade bring us a new voice filtered through familiar sounds, the video for "Now They Want Half" is as mysterious as it is inviting.

It's no Da Vinci, but it may very well show up on a few end of the year lists.

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