Steel City is backdrop for new video from legendary Public Enemy
Public Enemy told anyone within earshot of their lyrics and trembling bass line to “Fight the Power” and “Bring The Noise” nearly three decades ago.
Today, the iconic rap group is promoting self-worth over material, while using images of the Steel City to tell the story.
Pittsburgh filmmaker David Snyder directed the video for “Everything,” the debut single from Public Enemy's “The Evil Empire of Everything,” one of two albums the group released in 2012 to mark its 25th anniversary.
Fans shouldn't expect to see the likes of Chuck D, Professor Griff and Flavor Flav bobbing in front of the camera this time out.
Instead, they get Nina Gibbs, her husband and other Pittsburgh regulars lip-syncing the lyrics.
“The message of the song is you don't need material things to have everything or to be content in life,” Snyder says.
“Everything” was shot over two weekends in various Pittsburgh neighborhoods, including Mt. Washington, Homewood, Bloomfield, Freeport and New Kensington.
Producer Gary G-Wiz suggested developing a video not featuring footage of the group to parallel the spirit of the song's lyrics. It was Snyder's idea to use Pittsburgh backdrops and local talent portraying working-class people doing their jobs.
Snyder — a multiple winner in the 2011 Pittsburgh 48-hour Film Project — knew just where to look for actors.
“Taking Chuck's words and putting them into the mouths of regular people ... helps you relate to the song more. It's more personal to the audience than seeing Chuck on a sound stage somewhere,” says Snyder, who grew up in Moon, studied film at Wright State and got his video chops working at the community-access station in Moon.
Gibbs, a producer for the 48 Hour Film Project, is shown in the video in partial silhouette painting a window sill.
That wasn't a performance: She and her husband Jason Sauer, who also is in the video, run a general-contracting company. They were hired to fix up an apartment in Garfield that weekend.
Gibbs' scene was shot on the job.
“It was a cool experience,” says Gibbs, 32. “People all across the world are looking at this because of the reputation of Public Enemy. They're all seeing the faces and scenery of Pittsburgh.”
Sauer, a professional artist and the owner of Most Wanted Fine Art in Garfield, has a scene with his son, Rowdy, toward the beginning of the video. He says it didn't take him long to get the lyrics down good enough to lip synch Chuck D's vocals. The hard part was keeping up with the rapper's inflections.
“I had to make sure that when he cleared his throat I did it, too,” says Sauer, 37.
Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5682.