The video for Ty Dolla $ign’s “Paranoid,” which song has been stuck in my head all week, depicts the rapper and his cohort being drugged and murdered by a couple of bitties in lingerie.
Talk about anxiety under the influence.
The chorus goes like this:
Two a’my bitches in the club, and I know they know about each other (other)
I think these bitches tryna set me up, maybe I’m just paranoid.
I’m paranoid, I’m trippin, been smokin, been sippin,
I been fuckin around with two bitches, but I’ll never make these hoes my Mrs.
Ty goes on to describe how one girl is light-skinned and the other is dark, he gave them both Range Rovers and even the same perfume, and now they’re all in the club together. Sounds like a solid set-up for a sexy video shoot in Miami Beach.
But instead, director Ethan Lader shoots the whole thing inside a middle-class house, staging the drugging and murder of Ty Dolla $ign and featured rapper B.o.B., neither of whom have maintained control of their faculties. When the video opens, Ty is already dead on the floor, singing out from a lifeless body surrounded by blood and his spread-out dreadlocks, while one of the ladies stands by with a knife dripping blood; B.o.B. is sitting up on the couch, but his neck muscles have gone out and he needs another woman to hold up his head so he can rap facing the camera, his eyes black. His drink pours out from his hand, and when she lets go of his face, his head swings back.
Don’t get me wrong; these lyrics are mad misogynist, and colorist to boot. Yet the video depicts a deep patriarchal anxiety: you’ve been fuckin around with two bitches, Ty, and you’re right to be paranoid about it, ’cause that shit ain’t right. Not only does the video invert the all-too familiar scenario of men drugging women, but it also shows the two lingerie-clad women getting freaky in Ty’s bedroom after the deed is done. These women don’t need dude’s bullshit–they don’t need him at all.
This video tells almost the same story as Gaga and Beyonce’s “Telephone,” in which two women murder a no-good man, but “Paranoid” inverts the female pop stars’ “Pussy Power” message into one of deep male anxiety.
In the relationship between this song’s sexist, player ethos and it’s video’s vulnerability and anxiety, I am reminded of Tricia Rose’s thoughts on Ice Cube’s comments that the men at video shoots “came for the girls”:
Ice Cube suggests that many men are hostile toward women, because the fulfillment of male heterosexual desire is significantly checked by women’s capacity for sexual rejection or manipulation of men….Ice Cube and many black male rappers expose the vulnerability of heterosexual male desire, [and] the realities of the struggle for power in heterosexual courtship. (Black Noise, 172)
Rose’s comments help us see Ty and B.o.B.’s vulnerability at the hands of women as directly related to the violence of the song’s lyrics. Understanding that doesn’t solve the cycle, but it illuminates a bit of their fear.
Well, go’on, then, be paranoid. Quake in your patriarchal boots.