With the proliferation of cameras, satellites and other technologies that collect biometric data, it is easier than ever to track the location and behavioral patterns of individuals. The internet has made it possible for millions of people to spy on each other at will through social media and applications like Google Earth. This is the premise for the music video by rapper Vince Staples.
This video was produced as though we are watching through Google Street view, with some shots being stills and others containing movement. It takes place in “Norfy”, California, which is Vince’s nickname for his hometown of northern Long Beach. The camera follows Vince as he passes by other residents who are seen doing a variety of activities. In the end of the video, it is revealed that a teenager identified as “Lucas” has been watching these events unfold from his computer screen – when his name is called, he quickly closes his laptop and leaves the frame.
There are some details about Lucas that shed some light on the intersection of race, class, and the vicarious life of the hip-hop fan. Lucas is portrayed as a teenage white male; based on his room we might assume he is somewhere in the upper-middle class, and based on the “Free Kodak” poster on his wall we can deduce he is a hip-hop fan. Vince Staples knows his audience quite well – though hip-hop is one of the most diverse genres of music, people like Lucas make up a considerable chunk of its demographic. When a genre of music that is rooted in the struggle of an oppressed people is consumed by those who have not experienced that struggle, it becomes commodified as entertainment.
There is an irony in us watching someone watch someone else. To this end, I think “FUN!” serves as a criticism of not only Lucas, but the viewers themselves. After all, are we not spying on Vince as well?
– DJ Mango