If fans already thought that Lil Wayne put his emotions on display on “How to Love,” off Tha Carter IV, wait until they get a load of the video, which premieres online on Wednesday (August 24). The Chris Robinson-directed clip is filled with drama and social commentary, telling the story of a beautiful young woman who stumbles into every imaginable pitfall.
The video opens in an abortion clinic, where a woman lies in a gown on the operating table. Suddenly she changes her mind and flies off the table and through the clinic’s hall, choosing to keep her child. Shortly after that, the song’s acoustic guitar licks drop in and we see a shirtless Wayne alone in a dimly lit hallway, singing, “You had a lot of crooks try to steal your heart, never really had luck, could never figure out how to love.”
It is then that the distressed woman’s story begins to unspool. We first see her being abused by her boyfriend, thrown to the ground in her bedroom while her infant, sitting in a car seat nearby, cries.
Fast-forward a few years later, and the mother is in a prison visiting room, talking to her incarcerated boyfriend through a glass panel while her daughter, now a toddler, sits in her lap.
A boyfriend in prison is just the tip of the iceberg. Things get disturbing as her daughter, who now appears to be a preteen, becomes a victim of child molestation. The scene starts just as Tunechi belts out, “When you were just a young’un, your looks were so precious.” Cash Money and company clearly pulled no punches. We see the young girl sitting in pigtails as her mother’s boyfriend approaches her while unfastening his belt and putting his fingers to his lips, an indication that she should keep quiet as she tries to fight him off. In the following sequences, the young girl, now all grown up (and played by video actress Chanta Patton), has become overly promiscuous.
The message is deep, and in the video Wayne plays second fiddle, not letting his performance shots get in the way of Robinson’s story-telling. Together they illustrate a domino effect. Forget going from bad to worse: During the course of the five-minute clip things go from tragic to abysmal. The young woman’s eventual career as a stripper begets prostitution, and it is her life as a prostitute that ultimately leads to devastating consequences. At approximately the three-minute mark the music cuts out and we see the principal character in a doctor’s office similar to the one shown in the first scene, only this time she isn’t able to run from the results. “Your blood results came back positive,” the doctor tells her. When she asks, “Positive for what?,” he replies, “HIV.”
Maybe the message is dramatically overdone, but with the clip Wayne — who will be performing at the Video Music Awards and dropping his album at midnight afterwards — sparks discussion much like TLC did with their cautionary 1995 video for “Waterfalls.”
There is hope, however; in a rewind sequence the victim’s life is redone. In an alternate reality, the domestic violence her mother originally faced is erased. Instead, she marries in a church ceremony, and with no abuse or prison visits to speak of, her daughter’s life is now set right. Consequently, Patton’s character endures no molestation, nor does she resort to stripping or prostitution. Instead she graduates from high school and enrolls in beauty school. Eventually, she winds up in the same doctor’s office seen earlier in the clip — only this time the news is good: The beauty school grad finds out she’s pregnant and reacts with a joyous sigh, before turning to her mother to say, “Thank you, just thank you for being there for me and teaching me how to love.”
It wasn’t just the guitar strings that Weezy plucked at with this single; he was clearly tugging at the heartstrings as well.
The 28th annual MTV Video Music Awards will air live Sunday, August 28, from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following the Selena Gomez-hosted pre-show at 8. See the list of nominees, revisit last year’s highlights and vote for Best New Artist by visiting VMA.MTV.com.