Last year Noon came out of nowhere and picked up an incredible six Houston Press Award nominations. Despite accusations of spamming, the rapper and his partner Ryno maintain it's just an indication of the support their act has built in the city. Having glimpsed their latest music video, "Path 2 Choose," I'm inclined to agree, for within its running time much ass is indeed kicked.
I usually don't do too many rap videos for a couple of reasons. No. 1, I'm not much a rap guy. More to the point, I find rap videos that tell compelling cinematic stories to be few and far between. "No Church In the Wild" comes to mind, and of course, "Tha Crossroads," but most rap videos seem to be stuck in that '80s performance-based model that shows off the artist but doesn't aspire to higher cinematic storytelling forms.
In a way, "Path 2 Choose" is the latter, but the song has such a powerful message that I simply can't overlook it. It's just so damned real.
Taking place alternatively at the Old City Cemetery, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and Galveston's Sunny Beach, it's an emotional confession by both Noon and Ryno, backed by a tremendous hook from Scooppa. For the most part, the action is limited to our two MCs taking turns baring their souls, but Durty Filmz manages to direct his shots (scripted out by Noon himself) in such a way that the island's powerful backdrops themselves become symbols of the lyrics.
It's a subtle piece of filmmaking that could use some further expression, but isn't bad at all.
"My father is a Colombian immigrant who came to America at the age of nine," he says via email. "He met my mother at Reagan High School and had me at an early age. My mother was forced to drop out and begin working. We stayed together till my early teens when my father began to abuse crack cocaine.
All together, he has served four prison terms for possession of crack. We went from two cars and a house to having NOTHING," continues Noon. "I began to live with friends and relatives which was very tough at times. After my father's last stay in jail I told him if he went back in, he would do the time alone, and keep my word throughout this process. My verse the video is inspired by my trials and first-hand experience with drug abuse in the family. How effects so many more lives than just the person abusing."
In the course of this verse, Noon lays out a single line that I honestly believe is one of the greatest lyrics in modern music history, "He wants a conversation that I don't owe him." There is just such a wealth of meaning in that line. At what point do we become adults who have the ability, and some would even argue the necessity to shut out our parents when they continue to cause pain in our lives? What does a woman disowned for being a lesbian owe her family who wants to come back into her life when she has a child? What does a son like Noon owe a man that, sadly caught in the grip of addiction as he may be, failed to provide for what his son most needed?
To me, that's a line that could be whispered by a million young adults finding out that sometimes growing up means running away.
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Ryno's contribution is more physical, and actually leads to one of the video's few truly gripping moments in its cinematic narrative of two contrasting visual tones. The first is Noot's confessional angst, which he plays that to the hilt. The second is a lighter atmosphere featuring many of the duo's fans and friends at a nighttime beach party. These are warm moments, and good, which is why it's so damned unsettling when the scene suddenly shifts to silence and Ryno collapses into a scene with an ambulance.
The piece was inspired by a Halloween party Ryno hosted three years ago, and was later discovered outside convulsing and turning purple. Later it was determined that although he was not a heavy drinker, he would have to abstain from alcohol for the rest of his life because of a condition that swells his kidneys. Noon described it as alcohol basically being "stabbing his kidneys with a knife."
Just as Noon uses the song to come to terms with his experiences with his father, Ryno too moves on in his verse, leaving behind much of his party-life when it becomes apparent that it might very well kill him. The scene could be better, I must admit. The abrupt shift works, but hopefully Noon's new interest in filmmaking will lead him to a few things that might gussy it up a bit. The sound of a pounding heart, shaky-cam -- things like that are admittedly cheap tricks, but do help deliver a more gripping story for the viewer.
All in all, "Path 2 Choose" isn't a masterpiece of cinemaudio or anything, but its sheer honesty and the depth of the track itself manages to overshadow the less-inspired visual moments. Noon and Durty Filmz have a bit to go before they're turning in something like the rap equivalent of Featherface's "I Saw You Dancing," but it's a hell of a lot better than most things I get sent. Check it out below.
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