The fifth instalment of Grand Theft Auto’s main game series took some notable steps towards further establishing the franchise’s relationship with the hip hop community. Reputable producers The Alchemist and Oh No were signed on as composers for the game, tastemakers such as Big Boy and Flying Lotus were given roles as in-game radio hosts and its commercial soundtrack featured original contributions from the likes of A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and BJ The Chicago Kid. But perhaps one of the most intriguing connections to the genre comes not from anyone with a direct hand in producing rap music, but rather the game’s player base as a result of their reaction to one of its newer, more recreational features.
Shortly after the game’s launch, GTA V introduced the Rockstar Editor – a visual editing mode that allowed players to record clips within the game’s engine and splice them together as they see fit, utilising a wide range of camera options. Since its inception in 2015, the feature has spawned a large community of channels on YouTube that deliver content solely created using the assets provided by the game. The popularity of said content has swelled so much that a simple ‘GTA V music video’ search on the site turns back 65,600,000 results – with the majority of said visuals taking rap songs to the task as a result of its affiliation with many of the genre’s influencers and stars. With the industry’s focus on music videos seemingly diminishing as a result of consumer focus shifting towards streaming – streaming YouTube videos will eat through your mobile data folks – it’s interesting to see that there are so many young people interested in picking up the slack, even if it just confined to fiddling around for a few hours in a sandbox video game.
Of course, the software has its technical limitations – and after a couple of hours sinking into an unrelenting YouTube k-hole, it’s clear to see that not everybody who dabbles with it is destined to pursue a career in the IRL director’s seat. Regardless, there’s definitely fun to be had as a result of messing around with GTA V’s editor and there’s a bunch of videos to prove it. Here’s a compilation of some of the more weird and wonderful visual takes on some of 2017’s biggest rap songs – courtesy of a few avid users of Rockstar’s editing magic.
Lil Uzi Vert – ‘XO TOUR Llif3’
When Tee Taylor uploaded his cinematic interpretation of Lil Uzi Vert‘s ‘XO TOUR Llif3’ to YouTube, it’s evident that he was confident in its artistic merits. In an act of braggadocio that many rappers would be quick to acknowledge and respect, he simply titled it ‘Lil Uzi Vert – XO Tour Life (MUSIC VIDEO)’ and invited those rummaging through the platform for an official video that didn’t exist to witness his iteration from the streets of Los Santos. His bravado paid off – the original amassed a whopping 2,153,412 views until YouTube’s much loathed copyright system mercilessly struck it down. But where many would have simply folded before the authoritative powers that be, Taylor – unperturbed by trifling matters such as copyright strikes – re-uploaded his visuals and began his hustle once more. It’s at just under 700,000 views right now, so maybe YouTube and WMG have realised the error of their ways and left it to get the props it deserves.
Although its clickbait title is undoubtedly responsible for a hefty portion of its view count, the content of the video itself warrants some credit for its success too. Shots are timed to match the song’s lamentable lyrical content with pinpoint accuracy – with a particularly poignant scene showing ‘Uzi’ (perhaps the video’s only misgiving is how weathered and old its protagonist is portrayed) walking through a graveyard with his head firmly in his hands. As the song plays out to a panning shot of the Los Santos skyline at sunset, there’s a few seconds to contemplate the emotional gravity of it all. Is this how you would feel if all your friends truly were dead? Maybe Uzi’s team should seriously just consider giving this masterpiece the mantle of official music video for real and save themselves a couple million dollars in the process.
XXXTENTACION – ‘#ImSippinTeaInYourHood’
Regrettably at the time of writing this article, nobody had took it upon themselves to do the glorious deed of recreating XXXtentacion‘s moody XXL cypher verse in all its squatting emo glory. Instead, what we have here is a whirlwind rendition of ‘#ImSippinTeaInYourHood’ – one of the internet phenomenon’s breakout hits from 2016 and the song with the title most likely to scream “xD lolrandom” if it were to become sentient.
QuezzDaGrim’s unruly take depicts a motley crew of rifle-toting individuals that all look like they’re dressed for an Insane Clown Posse concert. What follows is essentially a supercut of the group indulging in various gymnastics and gestures – forward rolls, finger pointing, gun pointing, the worm(?) – that suggests what you’re observing is some sort of radical straight-to-DVD exercise video aimed at angsty teenagers. The video’s noisy, directionless and tries too hard to be edgy – so honestly it’s a perfect fit for XXXtentacion, the king baby of controversy himself. Let’s take a brief moment of silence for those sneakers, though – those saturated abominations look like they came straight out of the character customisation menu in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3. Definitely would not cop.
Playboi Carti – ‘Magnolia’
When Playboi Carti released the official video for ‘Magnolia’ last week, the internet was quick to comment on how its glitchy editing job made milly rocking ’round New York look like a total fever dream. What they didn’t know was that a few days later, one GTA V music video director would unveil a visual accompaniment so compellingly absurd it would make its official counterpart look more rudimentary than a game of Pong.
CB3AMAZING 3’s video is an outlier amongst these picks in that it possesses a distinguishable narrative and doesn’t rely on shock tactics and flashy cinematography to engage the viewer. It opens with a skit that depicts Bruno – a somewhat deranged burger flipper – destroy his car in a fit of rage after his boss reminds him that he’d been fired from Burger Shot for what we can only assume was violent misconduct. Troubled (or perhaps liberated) by the loss of his work life, he heads to the beach and begins indiscriminately tapping away on a set of bongos. His performance draws a minor audience – most of which fall from the sky – and segues into a blown out beach party where he seemingly befriends none other than Bigfoot. It all gets a little bit ambiguous from there – there’s a night gathering which involves Bigfoot dancing on cars and Bruno joining a paparazzi team of monkeys – but it ultimately ends up with a heartfelt farewell scene between Bruno and Bigfoot that bestows the valuable life lesson that even when your personal circumstances look bleak, a mythological cryptid might just turn up out of the blue and offer you the support you need. The most heartfelt entry on this list without question.
Tyler, The Creator – ‘Who Dat Boy’
Given Tyler, The Creator‘s contribution to GTA V’s illustrious OST with ‘Garbage’ – that’s the song’s title, not ill will towards his music – it only felt natural to include an offering from his beautifully potent new release Scum Fuck / Flower Boy in this list. When it comes to formulating aesthetics for music, Tyler’s track record is that of a creative visionary’s – so it’s a ballsy move to take a stab at making something derivative with such a limited tool set. Alas, one brave YouTuber has done exactly that.
Unfortunately, Kingv Gaming’s brief attempt doesn’t quite nail the menacing tone of its predecessor. Centred around the concept of a prison outbreak, it’s overloaded with dizzying camera sweeps and high contrast colour palettes that serve to do nothing more than cause migraines. Whilst it does manage to replicate some of the distress that oozes from Tyler’s Frankenstein-esque high budget visual, it’s largely because his ghastly channel intro crassly worms its way into the song’s sinister intro akin to the way Beats By Saif tacks his mediocre beats to every verified rapper’s tweet. That’s frightful in some respects, but probably not in the way our dear director had intended it to be.
Future – ‘Mask Off’
As the turbulent tale of Tee Taylor did well to outline previously, YouTube’s content ID system has been quick to declare itself as a staunch enemy to the otherwise thriving community of GTA V video editors online – and mere hours before this article went live, it sadly claimed one of the entries on this list. There are a few more videos birthed via GTA V’s video editor for Future‘s flutastic ‘Mask Off’ still available on the site, but none quite encapsulated the wild array of feelings one felt whilst watching SaVage MoDe GAMING’s cut. What follows is a written description of its more, uh, definitive moments.
On the positive side of things, Mr. MoDe gets some serious credit for creating the ultimate GTA V rapper doppelgänger. His virtual reconstruction of ‘Where Ya At’ era Future – complete with cowboy hat – was so frighteningly accurate it was going to be the featured image of this article. It also offers a rare glimpse of humanity in a game that’s usually associated with violence and bloodlust. Towards the end of the video, ‘Future’ skydives from a multi-storey building and unfurls a rainbow-coloured parachute – a heartwarming gesture which one can infer as a symbolic show of support for Pride and the LGBT community.
However, there’s also a scene in which he straight up just decks a woman. There’s no justification for it. It just happens. A woman is standing on the street, minding her own business – and then ‘Future’ swings into focus and knocks her straight to the pavement. It’s jarring and uncomfortable. IMMEADIATELY following this shot, he then proceeds to slug a man partaking in some gentle morning exercises in the exact same fashion. What possessed SaVage MoDe GAMING to have such a radical change of heart? Why would he choose to include such conflicting messages – one of support for progressive thinking and equality, the other a declaration of violent misogyny and hatred? With the sudden disappearance of his video, perhaps the world will never know – and maybe for the sake of the real Future, it’d be better off if they never find out.