"Mad Maxin' With The Money"
Directed by Hype Williams
By Elizabeth Kolsky
January 1, 1996
California: mines of gold, miles of movies, beaches of blondes and Death Row Records. The Sunshine State holds a special spot in the collective American memory. It is the contradictory land of desire and destruction, where dreams are violently held in check by ravaging natural and human disasters.
Ever since Dr. Dre and Suge Knight set up their West Coast spot, they've kept busy fanning the flames of controversy. Dropped last year by Warner Music Group, they sport a roster teeming with America's proudest provocateurs. The money-magnet line-up includes Dre, formerly of N.W.A. "Fuck the Police" infamy, Snoop Doggy Dogg and 2Pac, who have both recently been on trial. Death Row's artists have been ceaselessly assailed by the police, the Family Val-U-Whores, and the media. And as if those battles were not enough to satisfy the right to fight, Death Row continues to drive in the wedge between East and West Coast hip-hop.
With their latest release, "California Love," by 2Pac featuring Dr. Dre, Death Row makes it clear that the bi-coastal rivalry is on: "Let's show these fools how we do it on this West side, 'cause you and I know it's the best side." And in this single, the battle of the beat is ultimate: "He who controls the dancefloor, controls the people." The provocative song is brilliantly partnered with a roiling, apocalyptic video. Granted, it blatantly draws on the Mad Max vision, but that's hip-hop: take a bite out of what's been done, and put the remix on it. And director Hype Williams has come up with a magnificent and unforgettable video.
It is California in the year 2095. The sky is a deep, pulpy blue, and inside an undulating rawhide tent, we meet the man of the hour: MONSTER! Now, Monster, who resembles a roughed-up leather-clad George Clinton after a day at the Gauntlet, is a man who knows to take his dancing seriously. So long as he rules the party, he rules the people. Quieting down his ragtag crew of lunatic homeboys, Monster booms: "I don't want nobody digging up the dancefloor but us. CAN YOU DIG IT?"
Now, one would like to call Monster a symbol of East Coast hiphop, to associate the warring visuals of the video with the warring lyrics of the song. But it's not that easy. The video does not make it clear that this is a battle between East and West. What we see is futuristic tribal warfare where the opposing forces are not clearly defined.The conflict begins when Dre and 2Pac slip in the back flap and steal Monster's captive pussycats, slithering steel-busted hotties, knee-high in leather and chains. Upon their escape, it gets kinda hectic, and BOOM!, we're hit with the banging bassline and the sexy synthesizer sound.
The wide-angle camera roams across the golden desert toward Dre and 2Pac's glowing pleasure dome. Seventies funkmaster Roger Troutman announces in his trademark talk-box vocal sound, "California, knows how to party.... We keep it rockin'." Roger's from Ohio, but we'll overlook that for now. Inside, Dre and 2Pac rap centerstage, an eerie, dusty lighrap centerstage, an eerie, dusty light pouring in from on high. The dancefloor is a fi2Pac keeps the crowd happy, boasting: "Only in Cali/ where we riot not rally/ to live and die." Meanwhile, Monster, stripped of his power and party, gets pissed and hits the road. Roaring, he comes tearing across the desert. But with Monster's mad warriors rumbling forth in hot pursuit, Dre and 2Pac up and make off with the luscious ladyloot. Climbing astride a fierce fleet of Land Rovers, they head for the horizon. As Monster's tribe reaches the deserted houseparty, the video climaxes to overlapping images of flaming destruction, and 2Pac awakens with a start -- it was all just a dream, "TO BE CONTINUED..."
And what a dream it was. A reported $600,000 dream. But, I'm sick of all the cheap, jealous gripers balking at the heavy budget. This video is a beautiful spectacle. It is incredibly sexy, the scenery is dazzling, the costumes are divine, and in the end, it's going to sell a lot of records.