"This Is How We Roll," the just a little bit gritty video country with a dab of rap duo Florida Georgia Line's big single was directed by Marc Klasfeld. That name should ring a bell if you give a shit about the art (or um, okay, the "art") of music videos, because Klasfeld directed the incredibly important video for Juvenile's "Ha." Klasfeld's "Ha" captured the pleasures and the pains of the Magnolia Projects and inspired a whole generation of brilliantly exploratory, pop documentary, locale-centric rap field trips such as Mark Romanek's "99 Problems" for Jay-Z, Chris Robinson's whirling feature ATL, the entire career of Motion Family, and as director @LILINTERNET told me a few months ago, the slow ride through Houston stylistics of Beyoncé's "No Angel."
And by the way, "This Is How We Roll," the song, like Florida Georgia Line's massive hit "Cruise," is a total fucking banger. [Ed. note: Fuck yeah.] A rap slang-tinged, buttrock country hit with a soaring hook that owes way more to hip-hop than you might imagine and is, on the verses at least, pretty just much a rap song, but somehow boot scoot boogies by without overdosing on rap-country corn like say, Trace Adkin's "Honky Tonky Badonkadonk," or the sloppy, country-EDM-rap fusion of Pitbull and Ke$ha's "Timber."
Put "This Is How We Roll" in the same group as Jason Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem" and Eric Church's "Homeboy." Pop country songs through and through that strangely, kind of "get" hip-hop. And "This Is How We Roll" guest Luke Bryan's line "Yeah, we cuss on them Mondays/ And pray on them Sundays" taps into the same contradictory material/spiritual spirit that permeates hip-hop (Lil Boosie on "Crayola": "Leave church on Sunday, jump in my Bentley/ Thank the man up above for the blessings that he done sent me") that hey, you can follow all the way back to poet Langston Hughes' "Brass Spittoons," which contains the lines "Gin on Saturday./ Church on Sunday," if you really feel like it.
So yep, here is an ambitious country video directed by the guy behind "Ha" and that's fascinating. The primary setting of "This Is How We Roll" is in the back of the group's tractor trailer, which is set-up to look like the inside of a bar; a clever adjustment to the typical country video which tends to use the middle American bar setting as an atmospheric crutch the same way rap videos lean heavy on "the club." In a sense though, the back of the truck becomes the "projects" of "This Is How We Roll." We're privy to a number of different types, here: cow girls and cow douchebags for sure, but also a big tubby shirtless guy, a dude on crutches, some dork in a dirtbike gear and a cowboy hat.
Meanwhile, a P.O.V. shot of a dirtbike rolling down a ramp and through the air forces you to stay with these white trash acrobats for longer than usual. And a shot towards the end of the duo, along with Luke Bryan, lookin' cool in front of a big ball of fire is an iconic, bromantic image every bit as exciting as something out of one of those legendary Puffy and Ma$e videos, even if Florida Georgia Line look like creepy guys that'd try to get you to go to an orgy with them rather than platonic images of transgressive, aspirational excellence, but hey.
"This Is How We Roll" lacks the political edge of "Ha" for sure, which located a shabby nobility in the downtrodden and ignored (tellingly, what you remember from "Ha" are the extras; not Juvenile's crab-walk performance parts) but Klasfeld still gives country vid characters, who would be at best, on the peripheral in other country videos, a moment or two to shine and mug for the camera. It's celebratory and inclusive. And though "This Is How We Roll" isn't "Ha" for the CMT set (and anyways, Klasfeld's video for Bubba Sparxxx's "Ugly" was arguably, an attempt at a country-fried "Ha" anyway), it does have some of that classic Juvie vid's energy. It's an admirably stylized video that also plays by the mainstream country rules and well, that's enough to make it something special.
This is how Brandon Soderberg rolls. He's on Twitter — @notrivia