South African musicians have the most unfortunate reputation of poorly executed artistic projects; music videos being the most noticeable example. Riky Rick cannot be attached to this idea, however. The 31 year old rapper has delivered musical bangers for the better part of his music career, but the visuals for his latest single “I Can’t Believe It” have captured my heart.
A musical favorite with whom I share differences in principals
I fondly recall the first time I met the enigmatic musical persona that is Riky Rick. When I attended a party he was hosting at Jade Champagne Bar & Lounge my friend and I grew unimpressed with the DJ’s set, so we stopped dancing. The ever well dressed Riky waltzed around the room engaging guests, though at the time I couldn’t immediately identify him. He questioned why we weren’t ‘enjoying’, spared a dance with us, and when he saw our spirits had lifted, he sauntered away as smoothly as he came.
Riky Rick is an entertainer, his music suits summertime and memorable parties. At the same time, I’ve struggled with his brand and its affiliates in recent years. From his collaborations with unsavory men to his public shaming of a fan wearing fake Balenciaga sneakers, he is my problematic fave. Nevertheless, his most recent music video for “I Can’t Believe It” has given me something positive to focus my praise.
“I Can’t Believe It,” a short film as a music video
Directed by Adrian Louw, the short film opens in a cemetery where friends pay their respects to a fallen compatriot. Without any indication as to when the film takes place, the opening alarm of Riky’s single lends itself to a sense of foreboding. The styling by Unathi Mkonto and Mpumelelo Mdunge reflect an imagination of South African punk; featuring shaven heads, tattoos, berets, and leather jackets.
In all of its intensity, the short escalates from spirited socializing among friends, to an almost reverent and prayerful scene in which the cast dances to the song’s hook. The scene is reminiscent of James Cameron’s AVATAR when the spiritual leader led the Na’vi in prayer to Eywa. From the first hook of the song, characters begin mobilizing towards a march that later breaks into chaos. Teargas, weapon wielding protesters, and the active fires and smoke appear consistently throughout the protest.
A metaphorically rich & dramatically cinematic music video
Two objects stand out most prominently; a wilted, nearly dead, rose and a vial of blood. Both appear as necklaces, whereas the former also appears in conjunction to a type of alter; featuring lit candles in the same room where the main characters dance in a trance like state. “I Can’t Believe It” climaxes with the death of their compatriot, indicated by one resounding gunshot, blood pooling in a stream of water, and eventually the slain body of the fallen. The video matches the anarchy of the plot by flashing between scenes before and after the shooting, building up to proverbial power scenes of the film. Here, characters, Riky Rick included, stand in defiance around, and for some on top of, a police vehicle. The film eerily closes with one character extinguishing a candle, as if extinguishing the life it represents.
Laden with visual stimuli and metaphor, Adrian Louw and Riky Rick present a powerful visual. This short film/music video faces audiences with a visualization of tough-yet-soft, carefree punk in the South African context. Without drawing lines along gender identity or race, “I Can’t Believe It” draws attention to the radicalism and fearlessness of the youth.
Photography credits in order or appearance
Music Video credits
A Swank Group Production
Director: Adriaan Louw
Producer: Allison Swank
DOP: Fabian Vettiger
Editor: Paul Speirs
Production Manager: Sazikazi Mbalekwa
1st AD: Haydn Van Zyl
2nd AD: Rasta
Director’s Asst.: Katya Abedian
Focus Puller: Alex Bayne
Loader: Josh Dean Marais
Camera Asst.: Kelebogile Mokanyane
Gaffer: Jean Du Plessis
Spark: JP Walkinshaw
Art Director: Marco Filby
Art Asst.: Chris Booyens
Wardrobe and Casting: Unathi Mkonto
Wardrobe Asst.: Mpumelelo Mdunge
Online & Grade: Strangelove
Sound Design & Final Mix: FIELD
Hair and Make Up: Orli Meiri
Playback Operator: Mpesh Mpendulo
Unit Manager: Clive Ginsberg
Location Manager: Michael Modena