Essential Music Videos: Wyclef Jean by Young Thug

The Essential Music Video series features different music videos, both new and old, that are great or historically relevant in some respect

Young Thug’s “Wyclef Jean”, as directed by Ryan Staake, is one of the more fascinating music videos in recent memory, an almost nightmarish surrealist statement. The video simultaneously details and depicts the result of a typical hip hop music video shoot, replete with images of scantily clad women dancing sexually and opulence, tempered through the idiosyncratic vision of rapper Young Thug, who ultimately never showed up for the shoot. Watching “Wyclef Jean” is akin to watching a slow motion car wreck.

The video, as originally intended, is an interesting subversion in its own right, with adult women on children’s cars and children, dressed as police officers, with water guns, playing around a police car being smashed with baseball bats. While this interesting subversion creates a different look than we might normally expect, it’s hard to imagine the video in its entirety, as originally intended, becoming anything more than just another video.

By structuring the video not around any internal logic, but instead around the real-life story of the shoot, the video became the ultimate viral video, and a “rock star” calling card. Its internal style and opulence, the treatment and entitlement of Young Thug, the sheer decadence and waste, brings to mind decades of stories of rock stars and rappers who show off their wealth and who can get away with anything. Small details, like when we find out that Young Thug flew a kid in from Mississippi, or when the video tells us about a moment that was censored, ironically set against the most explicit of lyrics, instill the video with a real sense of humor, as if to say “Is this real life? Can you believe this shit?”. The complete synthesis of elements, both originally intended as well as metatextual, all work together in spectacular fashion.

As the director indicates when the video ends, it’s impossible not to wonder what Young Thug thought when he saw this video; I’d like to think that he was over the moon.

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