It’s June 2020, and while I imagine this year looks nothing like anybody assumed it might—and as time keeps on slippin’ into the future—I hope that we somehow come out better on the other side of it than we started. That’s a very, very reserved optimism, by the way. Be that as it may, June in America is Black Music Month—a time to celebrate, you guessed it, black music and its creators—black people—and we here at VSB intend to do just that. For the next 30 days, and just like we did with our 28 Days of Literary Blackness in February 2019 and 30 Days of Musical Blackness in June 2019, we’re doing a month full of iconic black videos, some immensely popular, and some that have flown under the radar. And because some of our more difficult citizens will undoubtedly ask what makes it a black video: We’re going to feature videos for songs by black artists.
Welcome back to Black Music Month, VSB-style.
Have you ever seen a video that impacted you from the moment you hit ‘play’? That, for me, was the video for Los Angeles-based musician, producer, DJ and songwriter Flying Lotus’ song “Never Catch Me” that features Kendrick Lamar. The video shook me—and it still does, if I’m being honest. It’s disturbing. It’s beautiful. It’s joyous. It’s scary. It’s moving. It’s all of the things. There’s a reason several publications placed the video at the top of or near the top of their year-end best video lists.
It starts off with scenes from both a funeral home and then from the inside of a church, where two caskets sit open. We pan over a sparse crowd only to find that we’re at the funeral for two children; we have no idea how they passed. Already, the video puts you in a place of sadness. And then the music starts, which is oddly upbeat while being tremendously somber; but it’s also jaunty.
And then it happens; The boy’s eyes open. Then he and the little girl sit up. And then, against the backdrop of sadness of the adults in the church, they get out of the casket and dance. They dance in front of their caskets. They dance down the aisles and out of the church until they hop into a hearse and joyride off into the sunset. I had a visceral reaction to this video when I saw it in 2014 and have never been able to let it go. Until yesterday, I hadn’t watched the video since the few times I saw it when it released in 2014 because of how it made me feel, but I have revisited the feelings I felt from seeing it. Even rewatching it, I had the same feeling.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what the video is about. I even read interviews with the video’s director, Hiro Murai, who has directed many music videos and several episodes of the FX show Atlanta, including the video for Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino’s seminal video (and one that is likely to make its way into this series) “This Is America.”
In interviews, Hiro hasn’t been explicit in explaining the story he was trying to convey, on purpose. It’s art, and a lot of art is subject to interpretation. Are the kids outrunning death? Is the point that kids don’t see death the same way as the adults, all sad and distraught, do? The kids take off joyriding at the end and are smiling. Do the spirits of kids never die? Are they always happy? I don’t know. I had all of the questions watching it and all of the feelings trying to figure out what I see.
What I know is that very few videos had as much of an impact on me as “Never Catch Me.” Over five years later, when I thought about videos that were iconic, it immediately rose to the top. That is the mark of good art and when music, lyrics and visuals come together in a perfect way. I’m not sure when I’ll watch this video again; I almost can’t. But what I do know is that I’ll probably never stop thinking about it. And that is iconic.