Music videos are an important tool in the arsenal of any artiste. They provide another avenue to express the meanings behind any song. Whether it’s a simple video of an artiste singing in a studio or one as elaborate enough to exhaust a small film budget, music videos help extend a musician’s story. Much like a beat maker adds depth to a rapper’s line, the right video director adds different perspectives to the song in question. Some, like Reggie Rockstone’s and K. K. Fosu’s “Ah,” are a direct translation of the music.
Others, like the symbolism-filled video for ‘’Me Ne Woa’’ add layers of meaning to the music; these types of videos have lives beyond the music as the audience is forced to watch reels after reels of the scenes to decode hidden messages. The interrogation room scene in Kendrick Lamar’s DNA song, for example, has been broken down many times.
M.anifest has a rather small collection of music videos for someone who launched his first album some 12 years ago. For the Madina rapper though, it’s more a matter of quality over quantity. Much like his pen game, M Dot is almost stainless on set, except when he decides to dance then he is all rusty like a one pesewa coin.
Here is a look at what I find to be his best music videos in no particular order.
No Shortcut to Heaven
This is one of M.anifest’s best singles out there. The message is typical M Dot- an important anecdote on why one has to go the full hog rather than cutting corners in pursuing their ultimate dreams. The video starts off with a panoramic view of the clouds before throwing you into the muddy and wretched reality (life) of a hustler; it’s a down-to-earth rollercoaster where you are given a first-hand experience of what it means to reach out and touch your dreams.
The opening scene is quite lovely. That aerial shot of great trees grants you lofty ambitions. It’s a rich, pure opening, one that looks to last forever. But the story is about hustle. More than hustle; it says there is no other way of reaching your goal without putting up a fight. And so the director take you to the bottom of the pit where the fire is hottest. It’s wet and it’s muddy. Even the beautiful choreography of the miners is less appealing for that reason. What with that son-of-a-gun paying you close attention like Ji Seung Park watching over Andrea Pirlo on a Tuesday night.
That Obrafour shot is amazing. If symbolism matters, then the white shirt is the clean goal at the end of your dreams. Unlike the Hand Dey Go, Hand Dey Come video where M.anifest plays an unconvincing fisherman, ‘No Shortcut to Heaven’ puts the rapper in the throes of the action. He plays a worker at a galamsey pit, similar to a scene from the movie ‘Blood Diamonds’. In a way, it puts you in his shoes as he raps about things he ‘dey lack’ while opportunities beckon. He gets his hands dirty here, smears his face with mud as he wipes away sweat.
In the song, the rapper contrasts wants and needs. This plays out in the video when he finally secures a nugget of gold and, instead of using it wisely, chooses to spend it on that fair-skinned dame, a lady his boss is seeking to woo. He gets caught at the end, of course, and you understand why life in these parts doesn’t taste like Baileys. Lesson!
It is rare in this part of the world to see a rapper’s art interpreted through another person’s art. This is exactly what happens on W’ani Aba. The music references Serge Attukwei Clottey’s Afrogallonism. ‘’Afrogallonism’’ is an exercise in regeneration, one where old, discarded receptacles are transformed into beautiful conceptual pieces of art. Serge’s interpretation of waste marries beautifully with the message in W’ani Aba; which is that life is a matter of perspectives. And because vision plays an important role in what we cherish and respect, the reinvention of the spectacles helps progress the story line.
“Life is a tragedy for the poor and comedy for the rich” could not have been put more perfectly. Sitting and dying in waste when billions of dollars could be made from it is the sad story of this part of the world. What you see and how you interpret it goes a long way to determine how far you go. It’s more than a matter of whether the cup is half full or half empty. But rather if it’s half full, what does it mean to you? How concrete are your plans towards making it full. If it’s half empty, are you willing to climb the reservoir so others can push you up?
The whole W’ani Aba video seems like a scene taken out of an Africanfuturism film- a piece of art created from the lived experiences of Ghanaians for the rest of the world. Couples who are in conflict make up the moment they see another perspective. Serge’s shy, disinterested partner quickly sees him with different eyes when she dons the glasses. A table of old Nokia phones take on a different meaning under the right glare, and so on and so forth. Futuristic!
While his counterparts negotiated the harsh Lagos traffic in search for artistic collaborations, M.anifest has always moved within the finer circles of Jozy. The scenes in Forget Dem are cleverly graded with colours befitting the Rainbow Nation.
That opening scene at the pastry shop is exotic. As the tongue glides up the ice cream cone, you imagine more than slice bread, and the heat rises up your sternum and your heart misses a beat. In Sacceh Scissors Unisex Salon, though, M.anifest dishes out a bit of this and a bit of that- a barber and the tailor, a curator of aboys as well as kaba and slit. More incorporated than a DIY; go figure!
It seems to be a feature of M. Dot that all the groovy, infectious music he has produced have been easier to interpret under a camera’s lens. Nothing slaps quite like music you don’t need time to understand. It serves as an instant muse, capable of drawing the most introverted creator out of his depression.
The end scene gives one the feel of an after-work evening cocktail party. The outdoor event is filled with colour, both human and material, and those dancers at the back give texture to what seems music made in a Jazz factory. International!
The first single off M.anifest’s upcoming #theGamble EP is an instant jam. The groove is infectious from the onset. Luckily for Manifans, the song had a video to match it. Shot in La Maison gallery, #BigMad music video is rich with art. The video played on the trope of the cheating spouse. Rather than pit M.anifest against Simi, the directors gave viewers a version with two different couples. And Simi, like she does so gorgeously on the bridge, serves as the link between the two couples, drawing the audience in as the video comes to an end. Even in tears, the video keeps playing at the back of your head, much like the Mike Millz On‘Em beat.
The imagery in the video is outstanding. The rich leather couches, M.anifest’s and Princess Fathia Nkrumah’s impeccable wardrobe collections, the hourglass, China ware, the sculptured doves on the table (a representation of love and peace) and the paintings on the wall all provide an exotic ambience. You know instantly that you are not just in a player’s home, but a rich player willing and able to pay his way into forgiveness. His partner is richly dressed too; her wig looks it came from Arabian horsetail.
When we eventually Simi, she is in a dark room filled with dark thoughts. Her better-half is inside too, and she is giving him a piece of her wine-intoxicated mind. It’s the kind of betrayal that can only be confronted by a sedated mind, and Simi is Big Mad; the video shares a positive resemblance to the chords that play in the background. Duet!
Me Ne Woa
The opening scene is an inverted shot of seawater crushing against a rocky beach. Then, we get a spectacular view of fishing canoes astride the vast ocean. Back on the beach, we see M.anifest and his love interest sharing an intimate moment. They quickly part ways as the rapper goes out in search of das geld.
The video is rich with symbolism. The lady in black signifies the dark temptations of being away for so long. She is the umbrella beneath which you can take cover under pouring rain. Her arms are always open for you, so that if the night grew too cold, she’d spare you a moment’s body warmth if you wanted to. It’s the curse of long distance relationships that suspicions are not far away from a lover’s mind.
The lady in white no doubt signifies purity and the honesty of a lover. She has her arms to herself. She waits patiently, counting on you to be faithful to your heart. At the end of the story, we have the two love birds holding hands and gazing out at sea.
The story seems to be incomplete, or so we have been made to believe. Perhaps, Big Mad is the concluding part, telling us the rapper was actually cheating when he said he was in a studio all weekend. Lovely!
Be My Woman
The video to this track always reminded me of an old South African film. I can’t put a finger on what film but the feeling is always there. It might be the feel of dawn and brick walls that make it refreshing. It is not just another love song from M.anifest and Mi Casa; the video shows what kind of love is being discussed. We see the morning routine that makes her a special kind of love interest. More than music video, Makere Thekiso directed a short film that can stand on its own regardless of the background music. Itumeleng SOLAR Modise plays her role perfectly. Never in a hurry, she takes her time to adorn herself, chooses the perfect colours for her nails; she even blesses us with a little dance. And when she steps out of the house and draws stares from onlookers, we understand why the rapper referred to her as Ahoɔfɛ Dua.
This is more than a music video. It’s a documentary of life in Accra specifically, the many ways by which life throws curve balls in our faces hoping we’d go down and surrender, hoping we’d sink into the shit of our existence and cry our hearts out. Weep and beg for mercy. Lie down and raise our voices to the heavens and hope that manner would fall in our open mouths. Or that our child’s cry would be music we could dance to, and maybe the rains would bring glad tidings rather than flood our doorsteps. Hope!
Cupid’s Crooked Bow
Cupid’s Crooked Bow tells the story of a strange kind of love; one where each party is aware of the sins of the other but that the affection they share can’t be unravelled. The director’s took a heavy cue from that message and put a person living with albinism at the heart of the video. It’s quite thoughtful that the whole sequence is shot in the dark. And so in a night filled with music and one night stands, the singer falls for the only person who has fire in his eyes. She loves his sweet hustle and would take him even if he walked barefooted. When she cradles him in her naked arms at the beach, I wonder why I have goose bumps on my skin. Somebody tell Cupid he had a perfect shot. Night Magic!
Its obvious M.anifest is a soloist, except when he’s with Worlasi then the striker finally has his perfect number 9-and-half. Keep Shinning is a soliloquy of a man speaking from the tops of a mountain to an unseen crowd. There is nothing complex about Keep Shining. Just as the message is clear as day, the video allows M.anifest to breathe in peace.
The rearing horse adds depth to the video, positioning M.anifest like Genghis Khan delivering a Ted Talk to Kissinger and Iddi Amin. The guys at Film Fam do an amazing job. Legend!
M.anifest and HHP are on a campaign trail through the streets of Johannesburg in this music video. The pair strike a formidable partnership on the mic, a feat ably represented in the video by director Jobie Bakama. It’s not a very pretty video like Forget Dem, or Be My Woman even. Jigah favours the rougher surroundings of SA. Just as politicians mount on trucks and go about promising bacon and kelewele to their constituents, so too do HHP and Mani go about talking up their abilities. The camera angles capture the huge pile of litter on the side as well as the hopeful smiles of followers as the campaign truck proceeds down the road. And it all ends in an evening rally, as is expected, with the two rappers still pounding. You could see they were excited throughout the shoot. Fun!
This article is written by @amsataar, a freelance writer and content developer. He blogs at @anansianddragon