2014 has been a outstanding year for music in St. Louis. Though it could be said that some of this year's best music has been a product of sad, gut-wrenching events that momentarily left our city lost, we are rebuilding. As Mvstermind of the hip-hop collective MME said, "The universal language of the arts will be what can close the gap of understanding." St. Louis has, and always will, embrace that ethos. And what goes better with a great song than some great visuals? So here it is, in no particular order, the ten best local music videos of 2014. Let's celebrate St. Louis a little more.
Mir, Con and Mvstermind of MME "Wave 2 (Westfall)"
After Michael Brown's death, Mir, Con and Mvstermind of MME released a song. The track's themes discuss discrimination, peace and revolution, which certainly have become keywords in the days following Brown's passing. In the video, the collective matches powerful words with even more powerful images; each rapper appears with his family, in his family home, attempting to bring reality and humanity to their music. Even more interestingly, the video for "Wave 2 (Westfall)" was filmed prior to Vonderrit Myers' death in October, but almost begins at the exact same location where Myers was shot. It all comes full circle.
Fister "Life is Short Life is Shit and Soon it Will be Over"
Fister's video for "Life is Short Life is Shit and Soon it Will be Over" begins with building instrumentals and visuals of the band members, but soon shifts to footage from protests in the Ukraine from earlier this year. At that moment, the guitar slowly builds. The images become even more potent (and increasingly violent) when the vocals chime in, which channel the anger and frustration in modern times for that which is happening both in the U.S. and worldwide.
Nato Caliph featuring Thelonius Kryptonite and Fallout "U-City Looped"
Nato Caliph also touches on the movement that has spawned from the death of Brown with "U-City Looped," featuring emcees Thelonius Kryptonite and Fallout. Of course, the video is shot in the heart of U-City, in the Delmar Loop. Parts of the video are "looped" as well -- i.e. the video essentially rewinds and then introduces another emcee's verse -- an effort at showing musical and visual continuity. Caliph is known for his conscious raps and his love for St. Louis; this video and song certainly displays both.
Ciej "12 Women"
Ciej is a self-proclaimed relationship guru, and in "12 Women," we see him drop some knowledge on that front. In his video for the song, Ciej's flow is clean and to the point, layered over a downtempo, a soothing beat that he produced. More than that, the video -- shot by local photographer and videographer Andy Koh -- is very minimal, which lends itself to the song: The listener can actually heed Ciej's words of wisdom instead of getting distracted by over-the-top visuals.
Tok "Big Mass"
Tok is known for its funny music videos, and the video for "Big Mass" is absolutely crazy. The band seems to be having a love affair with peeps (there's a video on its YouTube channel that shows one of the members interviewing one of the marshmallowy confections, even). "Big Mass" starts out innocently enough, with a blue bunny peep tripping out while lying on the grass. The peep is then kidnapped by a slew of other bunny and duck peeps, and it seems like the end of the road. But then he exacts his revenge and...well, you just have to watch the entire thing to find out what happens next.
Syna So Pro "Numbers"
Though live music videos can get boring, the only way to truly experience Syna So Pro's music is by seeing it in that setting. In this video, shot by Bill Streeter's Lo-Fi Saint Louis, Syna performs her song "Numbers" at Scarlett Garnet on Cherokee Street. She is a one-woman show, looping vocals, keyboard, guitar, bass and violin one after the other during her performance. The best part is when Syna is free of all instruments and is able to dance to the music she's made. Indeed, the job seems like a sweaty one; at the end, she says as everyone claps, "Thank you. I need a towel, and a change of clothes."
Blank Generation "Break the Doors Down"
Blank Generation's aim is to unify St. Louis through its fusion music, combining elements of rock, hip-hop, funk, soul and pop music. "Break the Doors Down" is a perfect showcase of this mix, combining rock-like instrumentals with Hearskra-Z's bars and images of emcee LooseScrewz turning up on TV screens. All the screens get kind of trippy and make you feel like you might be back in the '90s again, but regardless, this song is a total headbanger.
Prince Ea "Michael Brown, Same Story"
Rapper and activist Prince Ea has always been an inspiring, prominent voice in St. Louis, and is always ready to lend his wisdom. Since Brown's death, Ea continues to motivate his listeners, mostly in the form of video blogs and spoken word on YouTube. Though his video "Michael Brown, Same Story" isn't technically a music video, the rapper spits bars in their truest form, as spoken word. As the video opens up with Ea contemplatively standing in front of the famed QuikTrip on West Florissant Avenue, he launches into his first verse, "Policeman murders young black male / I can't say that I was surprised when I read that headline." The following verses are just as powerful as Ea's opening salvo.
Jah Orah and KD Assassin featuring MC923 "It's Not the Same"
Jah Orah and KD Assassin's song "It's Not the Same" is a track from the duo's most recent project Used to be Darrick & Bobby. Orah and KD use the song as a way to tell their own stories of relationships and heartbreak, weaving their narrative with featured emcee MC923. The trials and tribulations of the three's failed relationships become some sort of "manthem," the beginning and the end showing the trio bonding and swapping stories around a fire.
Lizzie Weber "Raptor"
Lizzie Weber is a musician whose songs are experienced nicely during an in-studio performance. While her song "Raptor" opens up with a serene melody on the piano, Weber soon launches into her first verse with her smooth voice. While you think the song might turn out a little somber, her band joins her and creates a more jaunty tune, with drums, violin, cello and bass. Weber's performance allows the listener to concentrate on the song itself, free of distractions.
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