There is a devastating sadness to 21 Savage and J. Cole’s “A Lot” video, not because of its musings on poverty, death, racism, abuse and generational trauma. Those are sad as well, but that imagery is so ingrained in the black experience that one learns to exist with that consistent hum. Instead, it’s the presentation of joy.
The Aisultan Seitovl-directed visual is about “a lot” to quote Savage, but its mainly about the search for one meal. The symbol is effective because as quickly as the Norman Rockwell-esque images of a black family sitting around the table appear, the illusion shatters. In its wake comes reality. One family member is shot, another is in jail, a third is dying and they all seem to be coping under the weight of institutional forces baked into existence. It’s all contrasted with the opulence of old money. As the East of Underground sample plays, the family ironically dances in a living room none of them will live to see.
Savage’s “How much money you got? (A lot),” evolves into a mantra during the nearly seven-minute video and as the camera pans, out it sets in. Savage has all the wealth in the world and very few people left who can appreciate it. Everyone he knows in whatever pocket universe this video resides in is either dead, in jail or irrevocably broken. The only thing left to keep him company is the tulip centerpiece withering around a table of empty chairs.
Happy Black History Month.