“I love my baby mother
I never let her go.”
– Marc Anthony to Cleopatra, last words
(Just so you don’t have to refer back, here it is again)
Civil society and racial madness
The first thing that happens in the video is that the ATM doesn’t work the first time he swipes his card. DMX is PISSED. One of two things is true – DMX overreacts to things or gets angry too easily, or this is not an isolated incident, but a symptom of a larger problem.
We are then introduced to the framing device — the whole story is being told to you by DMX on a corner presumably after this has happened. And he’s STILL really angry. As in, he is equally angry after it was all over as he was when the ATM didn’t work, as he was when the police were taking shots at him.
DMX rushes into the bank angry. He doesn’t see the people lying all over the floor. He doesn’t notice the tellers are terrified, because he is so angry that his ATM card didn’t work. He must expects the world around him to be crazy – from the lyrics, we can presume that things random gunfights are normal occurrances in his daily routine, and now something as simple as getting cash out of his account requires a civility that does not come from the world DMX lives in – a world that does not acknowledge the realities of what it forces him to do. He steps into the role of crazy angry black guy pretty much unbidden.
Unbidden, of course, unless the ATM is symbolic of a larger social failure of institutional technology and support systems. If the ATM symbolizes the failure of DMX to get service across this overtechnologized, dehumanized world, perhaps his anger is bidden – but people don’t see it that way. There’s a disconnect.
So, he’s mad at the teller, which confirms that he must be the robber – because who would be mad but the robber? Except in this reality when nothing ever works and people are always shooting at you, you would be crazy not to be mad.
It’s another paradox. We have a modern paradigm that refuses to admit to its dominant and reasonable effects on the human psyches that inhabit it. That is – the thing that drives you crazy is that reality denies its obvious effects on you – it insists that what is happening to you is not happening, or, rather, that its objectionable qualities (like the kind of racism that gets innocent civilians shot) cannot exist, and therefore do not exist.
Then, he tells the teller to suck his dick. That’s pretty straightforward.
After that, he stands astride the prostrate hostages and curses them all out because he is so angry about his ATM card and about the behavior of other rappers.
I think here he’s bemoaning the fact that he has to go to a bank at all. He’s talking to the camera, not the people – “Look what I have to put up with! I’m forced to come to place where people disrespect me, and then they expect me not to get mad? Are they aware that they are talking to DMX?”
By the way, if I were DMX, I would totally come out with a song called “Are You, Sir, Aware You Are Talking to DMX?” It would be the same as all my other songs. It would also be awesome.
Shit gets real
Suddenly, DMX sees the cops outside and realizes what has happened. The news reporter comes on and fills us in — everyone believes DMX is a legendary bank robber. DMX, to his credit, quickly recognizes the new absurdity of his situation. Whereas before the failure of the bank to function was an irrational modernity, without cause, without reason – this is a rational one, but brutal. He knows full well the cops will probably shoot him, and that they will do so for reasons, even if those reasons are not those found in a policeman’s oath to protect and to serve.
This is some comfort – an objectionable reason is more comforting than no reason at all.
As a sidenote, I used to discuss this hypothetical philosophical question with overthinker Stokes, and I posit it to all of you – if you found you were being hunted by a demon that wanted to kill you, how would this change the way you look at the universe? Would it be:
A) Bad news, because your beliefs that you were safe from such things turned out to be false. If there is a demon, then you are in immediate peril of death, which you had previously hoped to forestall.
B) Good news, because it demonstrates that the world you perceive, and that is explained by modern thought, which is a hopeless and brutal world, is not the limit of existence. If there is a demon, then there may be angels, which makes you more hopeful about the meaningless death you had previously resigned yourself to suffering.
Make your choice in the forums! Sidenote over.
Notice during his rants in the bank lobby, DMX has a chandelier above his head, beaming white light – a symbol of the status he does not hold, of the dichotomies enforced on modern society that disenfranchise him and threaten his right to live. Another tension, another ambiguity – a thing of beauty, a sort of halo, that is also a mark of disrespect and a threat. It’s a looming, ominous presence.
The security guard is shot, and DMX helps him up and carries his out of the building, at which point he is shot at by the police. This is one of the two central dramatic actions of the video (for its intellectual space is an ellipse, not a circle – don’t forget that this is a party song; don’t worry, I haven’t) – the problem of this world made flesh. Anything DMX does in the spirit of the role of robber he has been assigned encourages the abusive police, but anything he does against it is disregarded. He is conditioned to be the problem-causer – forced into the role of the sort of guy who gets taken out by a helicopter sniper, and not given a chance at anything else.
Unless . . .