Brentin Mock is a staff writer at CityLab. He was previously the justice editor at Grist.
“In My Feelings” surfaces the places where you can find a good po’ boy. That’s great for the tourist, but doesn’t mean so much for the people and cultures that define the soul of the city.
Welcome to the latest installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.
It’s been impossible to escape the Everyone’s-Summer-Anthem-Whether-You-Like-It-Or-Not called “In My Feelings” by Drake. Comedian Shiggy even turned the song into a dance challenge on Instagram with the hashtag “#inmyfeelingschallenge,” which has logged close to 500,000 posts and generated millions of views so far. Collectively, these clips could have easily served as the song’s unofficial music video, but Drake still shot a real, official video for it anyways, an 8-minute feature filmed entirely in New Orleans.
At first glimpse, the video could easily be taken for a throwback to the old Ca$h Money and No Limit Records music videos from the ‘90s to the mid-2000s that basically served as an anthropological docu-series on the city. Drake is wearing gold teeth, with fluorescent orange-and-red camouflage pants—classic fashion tropes of New Orleans’ hip hop scene—while images of Ca$h Money rapper Lil’ Wayne are splashed throughout the clip. Drake seems really intent on taking us back to the 400 Degreez days.
But Drake can’t really transport us there because the backdrops used in those Ca$h Money videos no longer exist. Master P., Souljah Slim, Juvenile, Mystikal, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X, and dozens of other New Orleans rappers all famously used the thick-bricked public housing developments as the settings for the videos. The Uptown C. J. Peete housing projects—aka the “Magnolia”—was arguably its own character in most Ca$h Money mini-motion pictures; as was the Calliope projects for No Limit.
But none of these housing projects are still standing. All of them have been replaced by mixed-income townhouses that were built after federal and city government official used Hurricane Katrina as an excuse to dismantle public housing in the city. This is perhaps why Drake shot most of the “In My Feelings” video in the French Quarter—it’s probably the only thing most viewers would recognize from New Orleans. So, you don’t really get a video that makes you nostalgic for the “Ice Cream Man” and “Still Fly” days of Hip Hop cinema. Instead, you just feel nostalgic for a Hand Grenade daiquiri.
There are other scenes in Drake’s video that remind you that this is not the New Orleans that Hip Hop grew up with. Instead of the Louisiana Superdome built in the 1970s and damaged by Katrina in 2005, Drake features shots of the restored and corporate logo-hogged “Mercedes-Benz SuperDome.” Props to Drake for giving props to public transportation though, having some of the city shot through its streetcars. But these cars—probably the least-reliant form of public transit for actual New Orleanians—are used more by tourists.
This is not just to nitpick at Drake but it’s worth recognizing that there is a whole music video genre out of New Orleans that uplifted its most downtrodden and written-off people and neighborhoods. Drake’s new video barely registers a spark with that genre.
The No Limit and Ca$H Money videos defied conventions by casting women who who not only rejected MTV-model beauty standards, but women who were often otherwise rendered invisible in everyday society (the song lyrics, not so much). Just before that era, most rappers and artists filmed videos in mansions, on beaches, or in some environment that typified wealth. No Limit and Ca$h Money chose to film videos in the places that they simply considered home, regardless of their income, and not as places of poverty. Their videos surfaced a dignity that already existed among the marginalized people and places of New Orleans, that otherwise would not be seen by the newcomer, developer, and voyeur. There are several New Orleans artists today carrying on the No Limit/Ca$H Money music video legacy, however. 3DNa’tee’s videos—like the one for her song for Big Dawg—come to mind for its fresh portrait of the city.
Drake’s new video surfaces the places where you can find a good po’ boy. That’s great for the tourist, but doesn’t mean so much for the people and cultures that define the soul of the city. The No Limit/Ca$h Money videos left you with the fuzzy feeling that there are valued communities in New Orleans. Drake’s would-be throwback just leaves you in your feelings.