This week, I was planning on doing a Will Smith song. Specifically, I hoped to do something off of Willennium, the 2nd studio album by Will Smith and the one where he boldly predicts that the 21st century would go down in history as the Willennium. He also sings about Y2K because in 1999 that was a fresh and popular reference. Although there are tons of great songs on Willennium, including “Wild Wild West” which was based off the movie Wild Wild West, something still bothered me. There was something I was missing. Then I remembered this:
That’s the music video for “Men in Black” based off the movie Men in Black. It’s also insane. It’s also a lot of fun. It also has really poorly CGI’d aliens dancing some sort of variation of the electric slide.
As many people might remember, a variation of this music video played at the end of Men in Black. So the movie ends, the credits start, and this…thing… happens. As a kid, watching Men in Black in the theaters, I swooned. Now, I scratch my head at its audacity. If R.I.P.D. ended with Ryan Reynolds doing an extended dance number with a demon or ghost or whatever I would roll my eyes, laugh condescendingly at this pitiful attempt at “fun”, and probably write a scathing tweet making fun of it. But, for whatever reason, with Will Smith and Men in Black, it was fitting.
It does bring up the unanswered question of how exactly we are supposed to contextualize this video in the larger make up of the movie. For example, is this Will Smith – beloved Hollywood icon and rapper – singing, or is it Agent J – wise cracking, world saving, agent working for the MiB?
The video offers some clues.
One thing is that clearly the Will Smith in the video is supposed to be playing Agent J, and he certainly has enough inside information about MiB to make the case that he is, in fact, the agent himself.
From the deepest of the darkest of night
On the horizon, bright light enters sight tight
Cameras zoom, on the impending doom
But then like BOOM black suits fill the room up
With the quickness talk with the witnesses
Vivid memories turn to fantasies
Ain’t no M.I.B.’s, can I please
Do what we say that’s the way we kick it
In this verse for example, Will Smith makes passing references to many of the agency’s highly guarded secrets. I doubt he had clearance for that. Then again, Agent J never did like playing by the rules.
The movie never hints at Agent J being any good at rapping though. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if Agent J was good at rapping, he had a way of carrying himself that suggested a casual, hip hip-ness, but no where in the movie did he express any interest in saving the galaxy through verse. The only connection between the Agent J in the film and the Agent J in the music video is the general arrogance and swagger that both seem to possess and need to remind us of at every turn.
Another perplexing thing about the video is the location. Much of the song seems to take place in the MiB building itself. When was it filmed? How was it filmed? Despite it being a top secret government agency, I’m sure it has some form of governmental oversight that might view dancing around singing about being galaxy defenders with dozens of staff, agents, and one potentially dangerous alien, as a bit of a waste of tax dollars. Perhaps it was classified as an instructional video for the benefit of new recruits, although the teachability of that is questionable.
Instead, it appears the whole thing was done, without permission, by Agent J himself. He obviously didn’t get into too much trouble because he returned for two more adventures in Men in Black 2 and 3. It still must have been frowned upon. How else to explain the fact that NO ONE in any subsequent movie makes any mention of the time Agent J made a preposterous rap song and video using the MiB facility and staff? Whether that is out of respect for a great field agent who has saved the planet many times over or because bringing up the music video is simply too embarrassing for everybody involved, we’ll never know.