Georgie Greville & Mark Szumsky
December 5, 2006
Hey, music lovers! It’s Andy Gesner and the staff from HIP, asking you: how many rappers have recorded songs about the environment? Very few, we’d wager. But Dr. Octagon is no ordinary emcee. He’s the patron saint of alternative hip-hop, the first name in left-of-the-dial rhyming, and a writer who has never shied away from difficult or controversial subject matter. Many know him best for his sci-fi themes, but on The Return Of Dr. Octagon, he’s shown that he can apply his off-the-wall approach to social topics as well – and often with startling results. “Trees”, the second single and set highlight, is part diagnostic assessment of the state of the earth, part emotional appeal on behalf of the environment, and part hip-hop version of The Lorax. Producers One Watt Sun have welded Dr. Octagon’s apocalyptic global-warming narrative to a sophisticated electro-rap beat that skitters, twists, pulses, and grabs listeners by the collar. You won’t hear anything like it in 2006; or, for that matter, in any other year.
Credit our friends at MTV for recognizing a powerful statement when they hear it. The video network chose “Trees” to accompany their on-air “Break The Addiction” campaign: an effort to raise consciousness about energy-saving methods, and to spread the word about the very real destructive effects of climate change. MTV brought in George Greville and the computer-design team Click 3X to shoot a clip for “Trees”, and the artists have delivered a sensational interpretation of the song: dark, often humorous, studded with powerful images and artful special effects. Greville also coaxed a remarkable performance out of Lion King child-star J.J. Singleton, whose elastic expressions and nimble dancing serve as a counterpoint to the disturbing computer-generated shots of a polluted globe. The members of Click 3X put on a clinic for prospective computer-video artists: not only is the “Trees” clip loaded with first-rate CG animation, but its effective use of 3D tracking and match moving will leave your head spinning. The clip made its TRL debut on November the 1st, and will surely remain in circulation among environmentalists and adventurous rap fans for years to come.
Both a PSA and a promotional spot for The Return Of Dr. Octagon, the “Trees” clip deepens and literalizes the message of the song. “Trees are dying!”, Dr. Octagon raps again and again in the chorus, and it’s meant to be a wake-up call as well as a lament. At root, “Trees” is a blues song – only the woman who’s been done wrong here is Mother Earth, and the implied solutions are ecological rather than romantic. One Watt Sun loops Dr. Octagon’s voice and adds echo to underscore important passages, and Greville and Click 3X have followed all of those cues by cutting furiously, using recursive images, and creating a mounting feeling of destabilization in a world out of balance.
In the “Trees” video, the pint-sized Singleton takes the lead as the alarmed speaker in the devastated future world. We see him first in front of a weather map covered with cardboard sun insignias, each bearing an impossibly high temperature. As he moves his pointer around the map, the suns begin to burn in place, turning white hot and overwhelming the kid meteorologist. Later, a monster hurricane churns north from the Atlantic, engulfing the Eastern seaboard. Singleton dances through a field scarred by pollutants: huge factories stripping branches bare, and belching smoke messages into the sky.
The trees are played by kids, too. Dressed up as sawed-off stumps and dying trunks, they make the “tree hugging” metaphor feel real – they huddle in circles and hold each other in front of the grey sky. In the second-most striking image in the clip, the trees fall in rhythm into open graves, two at a time, as the camera sweeps through the decayed arbor. The most striking image? A globe rolls out of a laboratory and onto a highway, where it’s menaced by gigantic speeding SUVs, each bearing bull-horns. No better visual metaphor for the earth’s fragility have we seen; we’re sure you’ll agree.
We’re understandably thrilled to be working once again with the crew at OCD International to bring you the second clip from the remarkable The Return of Dr. Octagon CD. We’ve got plenty of copies in stock for all of your give-away needs. If you need more info call Andy Gesner at 732-613-1779, or email info@HIPVideoPromo.com.
For info on Dr Octagon’s previous video “Aliens” click HERE