by Steven Boone
Let’s face it: There is always something awkward between the urban down-and-out and their liberal, educated sympathizers. It hovers, it looms, but it won’t even whisper its name. If you are a member of the former, all you have to do to bring the monster out of the box is show a member of the latter a certain music video: "Hell Yeah," by Dead Prez. It is, in my opinion, the greatest rap video in the history of the medium. It's also, on the surface, a sharp slap at shallow liberal sympathy.
This video from 2004 is choreographed like a Muppet Show number directed by Spike Jonze (actually by Gil Green), but right from the start, its buoyancy is undercut by “home movie” footage of a white suburban family driving down the wrong block while on vacation. In a reality-TV-nightmare flipside to National Lampoon’s Vacation, they end up getting violently carjacked. Dead Prez members stic.man and M-1 take off in the car with a couple of homies, recording their crime with the freshly stolen family camcorder.
The rest of the video (and song) is a lyrical primer on every hustle, caper and scheme uneducated, underfed, over-stimulated poor folks pull to get by: armed robbery, petty theft, credit fraud, welfare fraud …
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