Thursday, 16 September 2010


Here is my first analysis of a music video.

The song Children's Story is the first known song (dating back to 1988) of London-born American rapper Slick Rick, and is considered a classic of the hip-hop genre (a testament to its inluence, its lyrics as well as its beat and composition have been both sampled and reincorporated in countless songs). The song starts with (apparently) kids asking Slick Rick to read them a bedtime story (thus the title), and he tells them a tale (that can be interpreted as an implicit condemnation of violence and greed) about a young man who gets into crime, becomes addicted to it, and finally goes too far as he is hunted by the police and is eventually shot and killed.

However in the video, while the lyrics stay the same, the 'story' is presented in a very different way with visuals which differ from what is actually being told. The video starts with artist Slick Rick as ‘Uncle Ricky’ who reads the bedtime story to three ‘children’ (who are really adults), but the story seen consists of an innocent man mistaken for a bank robber and chased by police and eventually arrested. Once in jail, he escapes and the police chase him again; the story ends ambiguously without it being clear what his ultimate fate is. Uncle Ricky then leaves in his limousine, and the limousine is then chased by the same police, implying it was a true story and that Uncle Ricky was the young man from the story.

The story acted out is much less brutal and is done in the style of comedic silent films, so the lyrics contrast heavily with the visuals. As a result, I reckon that the video looks slightly stupid at times, for example when Slick Rick raps the line "the cops shot the kid I can still hear him scream" while the kid is seen alive and well.

There is a massive intertextual reference to silent films, as all scenes representing the 'story' look set in the past, are in black and white, have no synchronized recorded sound of their own, and are full of projected speed, muted gestures and pantomime. The video uses comedic tricks like the classic slipping on a banana peel, and portraying the police as clumsy buffoons who jump up and down a lot and fall over a lot as well as the leader wearing an obviously fake moustache.

There are few features of the genre's (hip-hop) characteristics; the only ones I can spot are the use of the artist wearing a big piece of bling, and the sequence in which he brings two females with him into the limousine at the end when he leaves. The latter brings to mind that 'pimp' image which many rappers seem to be keen to associate themselves with. All in all, it's a weird video: the location in which Slick Rick is telling the bedime story is some kind of exterior lair with somewhat creepy trees and statues of characters from Alice In Wonderland. The 'children' are actually adults: two of the females who leave with him, and a short happy man who seems to like sleeping outside.

This is both narrative-based (there is some story to the police chasing the man) and concept-based (the whole style of the silent films). The relationship between the music and visuals fit well, as it sort of looks like the police are dancing to the beat as they jump around and wave their arms about. There are no real star motifs really, other than his eye-patch. All in all, it's a music video which tells a story of anti-crime but is shown in a different innocent and humorous way.

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