The video for "We Alright," a new Young Money single featuring the forever-franchising crew's latest nobody Euro, along with Lil Wayne, and Birdman, directed by Colin Tilley, is fairly unremarkable: For Euro's verse, it approximates the punk 'tude of Beyoncé's "Flawless" (directed by Jaka Nava) without any of the atmospheric heavy lifting; and when Birdman raps, it's a bottle poppin' Last Supper that never quite captures the fun they're all supposedly having on-screen. Tilley is one of the few rap video craftsman around, and he does great in-the-pocket work (the Bela Tarr-suggestive video for Nicki Minaj's "Freedom"; the mirrorball surrealism of Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now"), so perhaps the stitched together nature of the thing was the result of scheduling issues.
Typically, this totally meh video comes alive when Lil Wayne takes over. His part of the video is an extended The Wolf of Wall Streetriff, with Wayne addressing a hard-working, hard-partying office, very much modeled on scenes from Martin Scorsese's dark, dirty minded comedy. Wayne putting himself in the role of The Wolf of Wall Street's Jordan Belfort, an outsider who broke the system better than any of the insiders is an interesting parallel to Wayne's own singular and strange pop stardom. And it's fascinating to see a rap video embrace The Wolf of Wall Street because it's a movie that seemed to suffer so many of the prejudices and misreadings that've plagued hip-hop. Namely, a truly lunkheaded misunderstanding that presumes presenting awful or even straight criminal behavior, while being no-bullshit honest about the reality that out-of-control maniacs are alluring, connotes some kind of celebration. Lil Wayne and Scorsese get each other, it would seem.
Another extended movie tribute by Wayne comes to mind while watching "We Alright." In director Gil Green's video for Tha Carter III single "Got Money," Lil Wayne, T-Pain, and Mack Maine turn themselves into rap Robin Hoods, entering a bank in the blasé style of Heat and robbing it with a plan to redistribute the stolen money to those that lost everything in 2005's Hurricane Katrina and were given little to nothing back by the government. "So, here we are, years after Katrina," Wayne mumbles in voiceover during the video's prologue, "But the system makes you feel like it was just yesterday. I got an idea. I got a plan" (hints of Dead Presidents).
If you want to be a grump about it, you could view the shift from "Got Money" to "We Alright" as another illustration of hip-hop continuing to betray its subversive values: Wayne has gone from taking on government betrayal over Katrina to celebrating the screwing people over assholes of Wall Street. But it seems more like the umpteenth example of rap being very good at holding two opposed ideas in its mind at the same time. Wayne happily indulges the two roles that the mainstream rapper must figure out a way to occupy at the same time: The voice-of-the-downtrodeen and the voice of the crass, conspicuously consumptive capitalist machine.
More simply, Wayne in "We Alright" is a money-burning motivational speaker for getting that fucking dough bro, and that might be the most fun way to describe a rapper in the post-Puff Daddy era of rap music anyways. And better yet, "We Alright" completes a circle here by making a rap video out of a movie that shows white business fucks act like bigger assholes than most similarly ballin' rappers (something financial meltdown doc Inside Job subtly suggested). This is witty homage.
Brandon Soderberg is a writer and dog owner living in Baltimore. He's on Twitter - @notrivia