Use the tools available to you. Your work might not be perfect, but if you don’t get it out there, it’ll never be at all. If Chicago music video director DGainz, who directed Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like,” was worried about the quality of his camera, and Chief Keef was too worried about having a traditional music video set, they wouldn’t have influenced rap videos forever with “I Don’t Like,” a bare-bones visual that set the tone for thousands of “me and the guys” videos to follow.
The music video for a breakthrough single doubles as an artist’s first commercial. A certain sect of rappers might resolve to “fake it til they make it” with rented cars, hired models, and money fluttering throughout the air—and there’s nothing wrong with that—but it’s all a production, with a “wink-wink” factor that even the artists have to acknowledge at this point. The “I Don’t Like” video carries none of that. The five-minute visual, which was released 10 years ago on March 11, 2012, is a spectacle of simplicity that encapsulates the rawness of a Chicago drill scene that has already inspired a generation of artists.
“I Don’t Like” was first uploaded to DGainz’ YouTube channel, like so many of the first Chicago drill videos. Millions of subscribers flocked to video director’s channels, giving them the power to routinely break artists, much like mixtape DJs a generation before them. And so many of the songs on those channels take after the blueprint of Chicago drill, with dark melodies, rapid-fire percussion, and innovative cadences. All three are apparent on Keef’s Back From The Dead, an album which also recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. “Impact” is a commodity everyone claims they’ve bought in on, but “I Don’t Like’ is an undeniable demarcation point for rap history.
All paradigm-shifting works of art shirk tradition in some fashion. Out of necessity, genius, or both, someone vies to tinker with a main ingredient of a formula and opens a new path. DGainz, like A Zae Productions, and so many other directors revolutionized music videos by tearing up video treatments and letting their subjects’ charisma carry the proceedings. Parts of the “I Don’t Like” video look more like behind-the-scenes clips than actual music video scenes. Young Chop is on his computer, possibly cooking up a beat, while someone curiously looks on next to him. Some of the guys are caught talking amongst each and smoking, barely acknowledging the camera.
These scenes hammer home the idea that they’re all literal kids, still getting used to being on camera, but the visual work works. So much of rap is about selling a lifestyle. It’s about using videos to orchestrate an outsized depiction of your supposed everyday life, and DGainz realized: What’s a better sell than a candid look at how someone’s actually living? What’s a better sign of your respect than the amount of peers who show up to dance and lock arms with you?