On March 1, rapper Live teamed up with R&B maven Dean for a duet that was both aggressive and surprisingly nuanced. The song itself isn’t anything too new in terms of content — a man gassing himself up, expounding upon the many reasons why his manhood exceeds the testicular fortitude of all the other “fake rappers” out there. That being said, there is something magical just in terms of tone and delivery that makes this song a little sharper at the edges than much of what’s been released so far in 2017.
The real magic, however, is in the visuals. The music video for “Know Me” is a match made in heaven for the two alternative musicians. It combines elements of each artist involved, perfectly melding Live’s wavy aggressiveness, what many “Rebels” have deemed Dean’s avant garde aesthetic and the space-age imagination of Christian Yu, chief director of Dream Perfect Regime (DPR).
There’s no storyline, as such. The visuals themselves, however, paint a very stark and aggressive narrative: Live’s proclamation of his domination of his craft, how if people didn’t know him before, they sure as hell know him now. Even more interesting is the idea that even if they think they know him, his bravado on blast and his ego wide for the world to see, they don’t know the first thing about him. What the viewer gets — whether they are part of the few who think they have an idea about who Live really is or those who remain willfully blind to his presence — is an almost violent and certainly visceral visual representation of our two protagonists.
Disparate images rubbed against each other — flat backdrops representing the superficial landscape of the world around them as they stand out in stark 3-D is in bas relief, almost breaking the fourth wall just by forcing their presence on a flat moving plane. Think old-school anime: two still surfaces moving in opposite directions to create the illusion of movement.
That, of course, is the whole point. The world is an illusion, made up of assumptions and half-truths, expectations from those who could care less about who and what we truly are as a means to make everything fit notions of how things should be.
As a general rule, I’m skeptical when it comes to rappers featuring in songs and vice versa. Especially when there are such differing tones of voice and delivery, the collaboration could end up being a concoction of too different styles at best and a complete train wreck at worst. However, Live choosing Dean as his featuring artist may have been a stroke of genius. Though Dean does tend to fly with the falsetto, the darkness underlying his vocal works perfectly with the almost sinister nature of the MV and even better with Live’s guttural rasp. He’s admitted to being a student of R&B. As such, he’s almost mastered the art of melisma, to the point he can create shades that are at once bright but in the same breath have a slant and curve to them that suggest something ominous and almost dangerous lurking at the listener’s periphery.
The combination of color, shadow, selective lighting and camera angle used in “Know Me” are most certainly a nod to films like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” or even “Mind Game,” everything distorted and flipped to the point of reality being spliced and sewn together like some sort of psychedelic surgery.
Christian Yu’s vision may seem abstract in terms of style, but he’s very deliberate with every aspect of execution. There’s a method to what could be considered a put-on bit of madness to set him apart from everyone else. What comes across is his desire to use visuals and technique to create a very literal storyline, no matter how “out there” the images may seem. Each moment is calculated, rendered almost word for word (or even more interestingly, mood for mood) so the viewer can follow the general narrative arc of the song even if they aren’t sure what the words mean.
“Know Me” is a piece of magic that doesn’t happen all that often. Yu and the DPR collective have managed to create some spectacular music and videos this March, as if making art for art’s sake. If “Know Me” and the subsequent album and videos that followed are an indication, DPR is set to change our perceptions of how art is made in South Korea.
Cy is a digital journalist and blog writer specializing in reviews of music and film across a broad range of genres. Wherever there’s electricity, food and a good Wi-fi connection is where she makes her home. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.