There’s no discussion about iconic hip hop videos without Busta Rhymes. Busta’s visuals for songs like “Dangerous” (where in one fight scene he played the part of The Last Dragon’s Sho Nuff was enough to make me think they needed to reboot the movie just so he could play that part), “Gimme Some More” and “What’s It Gonna Be?!” with Janet Jackson are all notable for their creativity. “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See,” though was on that I remember because, well, we just didn’t see it coming.
“Put Your Hands...” was the first single off his sophomore album, When Disaster Strikes. Coming off the platinum success of his debut solo record, the pressure was up. Busta delivered. The single was a monster, especially at the club. Busta was always a high energy guy, the beat along with his lyrics was basically a shot of 5-Hour Energy drink dropped inside of a Red Bull.
And then the video dropped. Busta decided to pay homage to one of the most iconic Black movies of all time, Coming to America. Including everybody’s favorite “the royal penis is clean” scene, at least implied. This was in the era of million-dollar videos and when it came to big-budget videos for big-budget visuals, Hype Williams was the go-to-guy. Seriously, watching this video I wonder what the final bill was. Costuming and make-up alone had to cost a grip; the glow-in-the-dark body paint in the final scenes was beautiful...I hope they got all that shit in one shot.
But fam, there’s an elephant. A whole ass elephant that’s not just in the background. The elephant had a job. The elephant had a whole ass job to be part of a scene with Busta. That couldn’t be cheap. Either they had to get an elephant who mastered in hip hop videos in Trunk University or they had to train him on the spot. THEN, they had the absolutely amazing dance sequences, mirroring the scenes in Coming to America where Prince Akeem (played by Eddie Murphy) is about to be introduced to his bride-to-be (played by Vanessa Bell Calloway). But they had to hip hop it, so they had to do the choreography and the costuming. Really, it’s impressive as hell. In fact, it’s so impressive that I remember having conversations with the homies when the video dropped, probably on MTV since this looked like an MTV ready-made video, about how if you’re going to do a music video and somebody gives a milli a milli a milli to do it, this is how you do it. No Montell Jordan.
I mean, who didn’t want to re-enact their own version of Coming to America? I know I did. I will say watching this 1997 video with 2020 eyes (I was 18 in 1997; I’m 41 as of this writing), that last scene where they’re in the glorious body paint is curious AF. It’s an African-themed video (taking its cues, again, from Coming to America), and this was before Africa stopped be a country to most Black people so I can’t entirely tell what inspired the last dance scene/fight scene. I’d love to ask whoever storyboarded it what inspired that and why? I don’t know enough to call it definitively problematic, but it also had nothing to do with the movie. While the movie rested on definite stereotypes of African-kingdom opulence, it didn’t feature any “huts-and-spears” stereotypes, so I’m left wondering what’s really going on there. In 1997, though, this video was like, “yeah, Busta is the king of videos!”