While MTV and VH1 have compiled a list of videos that were deemed so controversial, some couldn’t be at all or at least not until a certain time of the day, a majority of those clips came from male artists, but women haven’t strayed away from provocative imagery, such as the icon Madonna and Fiona Apple. Though they’re hard to come by in the realm of hip-hop and R&B, on occasion some of the most popular female artists, on purpose, have pushed the status quo of what is art from the female perspective.
The chosen 5 are certainly not only videos to raise an eyebrow, but have in the last five years or so had fans and critics in a tizzy over the message being translated, or the use of gratuitous depictions.
–C. Shardae Jobson (@lavishrebellion)
1. Beyoncé’s “Deja Vu”
No one really knew what to expect from B when she dropped “Deja Vu.” Though it was all experimental for the contemporary R&B artist that, let’s be honest, could be categorized as that sexy female artist that gyrates suggestively enough to attract approving glances and just looks cute. In “Deja Vu,” while Beyoncé looked as beautiful as ever, it was a chaotic clip that showed a frenzied New Orleans belle on the verge of implosion from infatuation. Directed by the acclaimed Sophie Muller, known for her work with No Doubt and indie acts, this was her first-time collaborating with King B and it was a controversial one for the fans especially that actually demanded a re-edit. They weren’t down with the shaky and in-and-out camera movements; how aloof she was behaving in the video; her ode to African dance got lost in translation, and the Beyhive particularly cringed when she danced somewhat erotically (and nearly) atop of Jay-Z’s during his verse. While a re-edit never actually happened, the one time Beyoncé herself challenged to being more than just the pretty girl in the video, she was ridiculed for essentially doing something different. “Deja Vu” however, remains her most artistically brave clip to date.
2. Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat”
It started off calm and collected and ended urgent and collected. Badu’s “Window Seat,” while sonically soothing, had a video that was anything but for its anticipating anything can happen undertone that could rival the loudest thriller. It’s during the middle of the song after having walked down many blocks, the neo-soul icon begins to take off layers of clothes, proceeding to walk with just her bra and panties on, and revealing an extremely womanly figure that boasts a grown woman and one with life experience. Badu then has a slight pep in her step and by the end she is shot in broad daylight and lies on the corner with blood streaming from her body. It’s a scene that re-enacts a re-imagining JFK’s assassination and was entirely shot guerrilla style as she barely had a crew aside from the person filming. The video was inspired by Matt and Kim’s “Lesson Learned” in which the duo also roamed the streets in the nude, and cost Badu $500 as she was fined for a classic C Misdemeanor violation (aka disorderly conduct/public nudity). While reaction was divided amongst praise and confusion, most applauded Badu for her political edge.
3. M.I.A.’s “Born Free”
Much of M.I.A.’s videography is nothing but controversial imagery, and nothing got much shocking than her “Born Free” execution. Granted the track is incredibly boisterous, M.I.A.took her imagination to a lethal level as the clip, shot COPS style, showed a small militia targeting red-headed young boys, resulting in genocide. As an assertive world-issue activist, having been born in Sri Lanka and living as a refugee in England, M.I.A. is completely absent from the video, allowing the harsh surroundings of government brutality to speak for itself in volumes. Directed by visual auteur Romain Gavras, the video was banned from YouTube after a brief availability on the site, though it earned accolades for its representation of civilization decayed. You can watch it now on the online, following a disclaimer.
4. Rihanna’s S&M
Possibly one of her most sexually liberated songs ever, the wonton clip for “S&M” was colorfully seeking for attention. As a take on Hollywood and the paparazzi, Princess RiRi was adorned in high fashion’s version of trash and couture and participated in scenes of playful, lascivious conduct, including gossip blogger Perez Hilton being walked by Rihanna like a neighborhood dog. Directed by Melina Matsoukas, the video caught some heat from famed photographer David LaChappelle, who received an undisclosed amount of money as he sued Rihanna and Melina for depicting scenes directly taken from his past photo shoots. This was Rihanna’s tongue-in-cheek commentary on censorship with a kinky gloss-over.
5. Angel Haze’s New York
Detroit born, and Brooklyn raised rapper Angel Haze, came back to the concrete jungle for her “New York” clip which is absurdly antagonistic as she and two followers run through the city and proceed to attack random individuals. While Haze’s face can be seen, her followers maintain their gas mask facades on, and there are suggestions of sexual assault in Central Park and homicide in an apartment, all shot in black and white. A super seedy clip that will leave you comfortable, it does go with the track’s menacing aura.