Rapper Vince Staples released his latest album FM! today, and it’s chock-full of certified slappers. The music video to “FUN!,” one of FM!’s singles, takes place entirely in Google Maps. (Realistically, it’s in a UI that looks like Google Maps, but whatever.) In the video, Staples gives us a Street View tour of the neighborhood he grew up in and still raps about: the Ramona Park area of Long Beach, California.
The video opens by zooming in on our Google Earth-sized planet, and it plops us — with Google Maps’ little yellow man — onto a nondescript street in “Norfy, California.” There, we see Staples pose in front of groups of kids dancing, clean his sneakers with a toothbrush and bleach, stumble across a robbery in progress, walk by a scene of police brutality, and, finally, dance with his crew at the entrance to Ramona Park.
The video keeps the weird visual artifacts that Google’s cameras create whenever the Street View map is moved, including the glitchy bodies that happen when people are moving as the camera go by and the program’s weird, stuttering movements that happen when you click an arrow in the street-level view. (The effect is reminiscent of the Google Maps pranks people used to play when the mapping vehicles came to their neighborhoods.)
Technology mediates the distance between cultures
The chorus of the song describes why the video isn’t just a jumble of stories piled on top of each other: “We just wanna have fun / We don’t wanna fuck up nothin’,” Staples starts. He then switches it up halfway: “Fun, we don’t wanna fuck up nothin’ / And we don’t give a fuck ‘bout nothin’,” which nails the freewheeling nihilism of good people stuck in impossible situations.
The two-minute video ends with the camera pulling back to reveal a white teenager watching the video on his laptop. (There’s also a “Free Kodak” poster in his bedroom.) Someone — presumably his mother — yells, “Lucas!” The kid startles, slams his laptop, and runs out of frame. The whole thing is a fascinating meditation on how technology mediates the distance between cultures, and how easy it is to consume something that feels taboo when you’re online. Lucas, a young white voyeur, was reaching out across time and space because he wanted to know what that felt like — authentically.