Today marks landmark music video and film director F. Gary Gray's 44th birthday. While he's most known for the classic films Friday and Set It Off, showing his trademark talent for incorporating a hip-hop influence into the silver screen, it's important to also recognize Gray's tremendous contributions to the art of the music video. We at the Weekly would like to wish Mr. Gray the absolute happiest of birthdays by taking a look back at some of his finest music video moments.
Coolio – “Fantastic Voyage” 1994
Before he was synonymous with either the super-serious guilt tripping of Michelle Pfeiffer in the “Gangsta's Paradise” video, or co-signing Kenan and Kel, Coolio first broke nationwide in 1994 with “Fantastic Voyage.” Gray's direction did a fantastic job shaping Coolio's image as a fun cooler-than-cool party maestro who could have a great time while calmly letting the party jam out of his trunk.
4) Dr. Dre – “Keep Their Heads Ringing” 1995
Off the soundtrack to his film Friday, Gray knew the importance music videos in the '90s had in order to get a young audience into a movie theater. He also apparently knew how to crank the party up to new heights by throwing a west coast party video inside of an airplane. Dimly lit to reflection the ominous vibe of the beat, it's one of the most subtly artful contributions of west coast hip-hop to the music video medium.
3) Outkast – “Ms. Jackson” 2001
The music industry was at its absolute peak in the early-2000s, and that included the budget for music videos. While this seemingly unlimited wealth allowed for most videos at the time to just make expensively literal renditions of the songs, Gray used Outkast's “Ms. Jackson” as an opportunity to get exceptionally metaphorical, using the metaphor of members Big Boi and Andre 3000 struggling to maintain a home that's falling apart to reflect the tension in the song's relationships.
2) Ice Cube – “It Was a Good Day” 1993
While it has become the subject of some recent controversy in determining which calendar date was actually Ice Cube's “good day,” there's no question that Ice Cube's “It Was a Good Day” is one of the most iconic rap videos ever made. As violent as the imagery in Ice Cube's output had become, especially since departing N.W.A. years prior, Gray's ability to match the song's relaxed vibe showed us a different side of Cube, making the twist in the video's closing moments put Cube's music in an entirely new context for many viewers. Police aside, there's nothing cooler than riding through South Central L.A. with Cube for a day, and this video proves it.
TLC – “Waterfalls” 1995
One of the definitive music videos of the '90s, TLC's “Waterfalls” took the trio into the absolute stratosphere of superstardom and made Crazysexycool one of the highest selling hip-hop albums of all time. Using groundbreaking computer-generated effects, heartbreaking imagery and capturing everything Crazysexycool about the trio themselves, “Waterfalls” set a new standard for music videos, eventually taking home four MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year.