When the video for Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” dropped last week, it stopped viewers dead in their tracks with its striking imagery. The black and white video marries dance performance with stark clips of police shooting a young black man. Toward the end, police shoot Lamar before he smiles at the camera.
“Alright,” which already garnered significant attention while being filmed (and can be seen above), was directed by The Little Homies and Colin Tilley, director or Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” and 19 Chris Brown videos. Tilley sat down with MTV.com for a lengthy interview in which he broke down the evocative video and addressed his and Kendrick’s motivations for different shots. The whole interview is worth a read, but his statements on the various police shootings are most telling:
MTV: It’s got some dark subject matter obviously – you know, we see Kendrick get shot – but aside from that, there’s also so much joy in the video. Talk to us about why you all decided to include the dancers throughout.
Tilley: The dancers were a huge part of this. We really wanted to make sure that there is a positive message behind all this. It’s taking something negative and putting a positive spin on everything that’s going on. It’s giving hope. When you see people dancing, that’s an act of celebration. That’s expressing yourself in a certain way. That expression is so key to this whole video. It’s letting everybody know that there is a positive behind all this.
MTV: At the start of the video, we see somebody – who’s not Kendrick – getting shot by a police officer. At the end of the video, we see Kendrick, who’s been floating in the sky like a superhero, get shot by a police officer. Can you talk about what that symbol represents, to see someone who’s successful, and obviously someone who’s a hero to a lot of people, get shot at the end of the video?
Tilley: It shows that, at the end of the day, we’re all human and that nobody’s untouchable.
MTV: How difficult was it to shoot that scene in particular? And I don’t necessarily mean logistically, but more so emotionally.
Tilley: Right, of course. Whenever anyone’s life is being played with – whether it’s on camera or in real life – it’s a touchy subject. So, that’s why we chose to make it more of a fantasy and make it more like a dream – not necessarily a good dream or a bad dream. In that particular scene, it’s definitely a bad dream. So, we didn’t want to use a real gun. I felt like the police with his fingers as a gun was much more powerful.
MTV: In what sense?
Tilley: I mean, it’s kind of like, that effect pretty much was able to bring him down.
Check out the full interview with Tilley at MTV.com.