WELCOME TO WHACK WORLD: A Visual And Auditory Project by Tierra Whack

23-year-old Tierra Whack has received a lot of attention recently.

Often credited one of the most innovative voices in rap today, she has featured in publications like Pitchfork and the New York Times. She was nominated for a Best Music Video Grammy in 2019 for ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ and was featured in PHASER’s ‘Your Guide to the Sub-Genres of 2019 Female Rap’. However, the young Philadelphian still isn’t getting as much attention as she deserves.

‘Whack World’ is a fifteen-minute music video – or is it a series of fifteen-minute music videos? Each track has a completely unique look and sound, a reflection of Whack’s wide range and restless inability to limit herself to one project for too long. Each one lasts for only a minute although the length is also due to the fact that each clip was originally uploaded to Instagram, where videos must be 60 seconds or less. The result is to create a vivid but surreal world, in which costume, design and colour both communicate and confuse. It takes three songs to see Whack’s face; in the first, ‘Black Nails’, Whack is hooded and narrates the song through nail art, while in the second, the gloomier ‘Bugs Life’, the right side of her face is completely swollen. The entire video is full of bizarre, surreal imagery. In ‘Hungry Hippo’ she eats diamonds with chopsticks in a camper-van. Puppets sing the chorus of ‘Pet Cemetery’. However, there is also space for realism. In ‘Cable Guy’ Whack slumps on her chair, watching someone try to fix her TV. ‘4 Wings’ is halfway. The song is set in the midst of eating a takeaway, but while the rapper is dressed in a jumper and a silver raincoat, the man sitting opposite is only wearing a watch. When the song transitions, the warm colours drain to make the remains of bones and chips cold and blue. One of the most impressive aspects of the video is the transitions, despite being an incredible mix of styles and aesthetics it rarely feels jarring.

Tierra Whack is nothing if not creative. She’s definitely a gifted rapper – if ‘Whack World’ isn’t convincing then her more recent work, such as ‘Unemployed’, certainly is. However, more than this, there is something interesting about making videos for an entire album. And, while it certainly shows her skill with imagery, it only takes a scroll through her YouTube comments to see that many people have discovered Whack’s music while it’s playing over video. Rather than being an addition to the music, video is a key part of the work, described on YouTube as her ‘Visual and Auditory Project’. It’s not just the short song length which makes the album uniquely suited to Instagram. The designs and narratives on screen somehow fit together to create a surreal world in which the lyrics are only part of the self-expression.

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