5 Classic Music Videos That Were Shot in a Single Take
By Alec Banks
In the late '90s and 2000s, music video budgets were astronomical. As a result, we got blockbuster efforts like The Fugees' "Ready or Not," Missy Elliott's "She's A Bitch," Busta Rhymes' "What's It Gonna Be?" and Diddy's "Victory."
However, there were several videos during that era that opted for a more Spike Jonze-directed "Drop" meets Martin Scorsese's tracking shot for Goodfellas — resulting in visuals that were shot in a single take.
Here are five classics that never needed a single cut.
D'Angelo "Untitled (How Does It Feel)
“Untitled” was the third of five singles released for Voodoo — following more Hip-Hop-oriented songs “Devil’s Pie,” produced by DJ Premier, and “Left & Right,” featuring Method Man and Redman. While the song was certainly sultry, the Paul Hunter and Dominique Trenier-directed video took the steaminess to a whole new level.
Trenier’s strategy was to shed the artist’s Brown Sugar-era image — punctuated by the singer's commitment to a new workout regimen.
“Initially, to him, it seemed completely bonkers,” said Trenier, who managed D’Angelo from 1996 to 2005. "He didn’t quite get what I was saying. He kept going, ‘What do you mean, ‘naked’?”
Douglas Century wrote about just how divisive the video was between the sexes in The New York Times, saying, "Most women watch and swoon; many men turn away and scowl.”
Danyel Smith, the former Editor in Chief of Vibe, provided a counter, saying,“It’s about time that girls had something luscious to look at while they’re listening to a song. For years, men have been treated to breasts and butts along with their favorite songs, and women have had to just sit there and endure.”
Dilated Peoples "Back Again"
Dilated People's "Back Again" is West Coast boom bap personified. The one shot video — directed by Jason Goldwatch — finds the group walking in circles on a roof top. With every rotation, Goldwatch is able to bring various illusions to life which gives the video ample amounts of energy.
Lil Wayne "A Milli"
The music video for "A Milli" was shot on the same day as production for "Got Money" which also appeared on Tha Carter III. In 2019, Tyga paid homage to the "A Milli" video — as well as "Fireman" from Tha Carter II and "Lollipop" — on his song "Lightskin Lil Wayne."
J. Cole "Who Dat"
The BBgun-helmed clip (Maxim Bohichik & Alex Bergman) followed similar cues as the Jason Goldwatch video — with surprises around every turn. Bergman said of the one-take format, "When a video is chopped up really fast, you end up seeing the same locations over and over again. You have no reason to continue on for four minutes, especially in our ADD, YouTube generation. If you don’t cut, [it’s like,] “When’s this going to stop?” The viewer does not know when to change the channel. It’s almost like hypnotism."
Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar "Nosetalgia"
BMX rider-turned photographer, Harrison Boyce, earned a reputation for his stark, black and white images. Naturally, when he was enlisted to bring the Pusha T visuals to life, he made something of a living and breathing portrait of Compton.