Friday, July 23, 2010

Cartoons Tupac and etc.

Originally titled "Sucka 4 Luv", "Do For Love" was the second single release from Tupac's first truly posthumous album, RU Still Down? (Remember Me). Tupac's death, of course, necessitated the need for creative video-making. Animation is a logical solution, as it can actually depict a deceased musician, as opposed to lyrics-inspired short films (the album's first single, "I Wonder If Heaven's Got A Ghetto" employs this strategy) and eulogistic montages.

I vaguely remember seeing this video in middle school. While at the time I had naively identified myself as an east coast/Biggie fan and not a west coast/Tupac fan, the animation style really appealed to me. The elongated, sinewy bodies, the fudged frame-count creating a jerkiness in the movement of figures, the diversions into primitive CG, the claymation, the strange moment where 'Pac becomes a bug-eyed anime figure housed between computer-window bars--a move which may be self-reflexive only out of necessity. While initial efforts to figure out who directed this video/what animation studio is behind it, are suprisingly and frustratingly useless, I can't help but try to define some of the few extant examples of hip hop animation/cartooning.

Of course Darryl Daniels' (AKA Joe Cool then and Supreme now) artwork comes to mind, as his iconic airbrush cover art for Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle album set the template. Finding info about Daniels online is also difficult, although images exist of his tee shirt designs and further art for Snoop:

Aside from more professional mainstream examples, Black hip-hop animation seems an neglected movement, unlike graffiti and clothing design. Parallels can be found in underground comics, and Lawrence Hubbard's cartoon 'hood-narratives seem like a rawer version of Joe Cool's illustrations. The bodies in the "Do For Love" video reflect the decade's general sketchy, angular rendering, the fashion of mainstream comics and animation of the time, from Peter Chung to Image Comics, and the work of Chaos Comics' Steven Hughes, whom passed away in 2000 after a battle with cancer.

While the general shape and placement of figures in space may reflect the 90s mainstream genre comic (and the "Do For Love" animation even sort of looks like the HBO Spawn series), the effect is simpler, more expressive and fluid, which places it in a distinctly cartoony zone, albeit with faces exhibiting the kind of short-hand, "That's just the way it is" humanity Tupac invested in his lyrics and delivery. I suppose the precedent is 1992's Bebe's Kids (director Bruce W. Smith went on to create The Proud Family television series), although delivered in an abstract, impressionistic style (note the Starry Night riff at the beginning), rather than the straightforward narrative and compartmentalized comedy and social-commentary found in Bebe's Kids (if such comparison between long-form feature animation and music video is even appropriate).

I feel like I'm pulling too many disparate threads together here. If any readers have any idea which studio created the "Do For Love" video, please let me know!

No comments:

Post a Comment