Butch Dawson's New Video Is a Colorful, Dank Tribute to Life in the Swamp

The Baltimore rapper's clip for "Better Forever" (featuring Hemlock Ernst, AKA Future Islands' Sam Herring) further explains the ethos of his 2018 album 'Swamp Boy.' It's dark, decrepit, and teeming with life.

by Colin Joyce
Jan 15 2019, 5:58pm

Swamps are places of great mythological import. Dark, dank, and teeming with life both mysterious and strange, they carry with them the weight of hundreds of years of stories of witches brewing up evil in isolated cabins. Or there are tales like Florida's skunk ape, a sort of warm-weather yeti that thrives in the sticky humidity among the snakes and mosquitos, going on rampages and taking out whatever unfortunate soul crosses its path. Of course, there's also the real life shit that you have to worry about if you grow up near one—you can't let small kids or pets out of eyesight for too long, they might get dragged into the depths by a big-ass reptile. No wonder Floridians get up to such weird shit, the swamps can put you into a weird headspace.

Last summer, the Baltimore rapper Butch Dawson released a stellar album called Swamp Boy that consciously evoked this mythos. The record's eight tracks are appropriately slow, dark, and slinking, full of the haze and the mystery of lands that give the project his name. It feels like it could swallow you. For Dawson, the image was a conscious choice.

"The swamps is another term I use for the hood," Dawson says via email. "My neighborhood is made up of vacant row homes, some knocked down so there is just grass and rats, crime still goes on, and its a neighborhood that hasn't been gentrified yet so you getting poverty at a crazy level. It reminds me of an actual swamp where its dark, creepy, broken, and every living thing there is out for themselves."

Today, Dawson is giving another window into his vision of the swamp, with a video directed by Jeffery Rettburg for "Better Forever," one of the project's standout tracks. As Dawson raps about old jobs and the intricacies of the American income tax system, he slinks through desolate, murky environments. He's accompanied by Hemlock Ernst—the rap persona of Future Islands singer Sam Herring—who acts as a nimble guide through the fog and the mire. It's a lively clip, a reminder that swamps aren't just a place of danger, they provide homes for all sorts of wildlife—or anyone who can adapt to the heat.

Watch the clip for "Better Forever" up above and be sure to check Swamp Boy, in full, if you haven't.