The Chris Robinson-directed clip tells the story of an abused mother, who unintentionally leads her daughter to relive her own vicious cycle. “I have a daughter, Wayne has a daughter, and he really wanted to tell the story,” Robinson told MTV News. “We were talking about statistics of abuse in our community. We were talking about really telling this story for every young woman in the world.”
The video follows the life of a mother, who is beaten by her boyfriend while her baby daughter watches. As the little girl grows older, she visits her father in prison, and then as a preteen, she is molested by one of her mother’s lovers. From there, the young lady, played by model/actress Chanta Patton, grows up to become a stripper and eventual prostitute who contracts HIV.
The cautionary clip is heavy in its message and not necessarily easy to watch. It wasn’t easy to film, either; Robinson talked about the difficulty of filming the molestation scene, where we see the young girl wearing pigtails trying to fight off her adult attacker. “That was a harsh scene; it was difficult for us to shoot,” the director said. “It was necessary, because these are the things that happen in real life. And you can see the trajectory of where that took her.”
The video in some ways is reminiscent of TLC’s 1995 video for “Waterfalls,” in which the song drives a narrative with a deep message. Weezy’s performance shots are almost an afterthought. “Speaking to Wayne, his performance — actually seeing him — was secondary to him,” Robinson explained. “He really wanted to communicate what his thought was, what he really felt when he wrote these lyrics, and that was the priority for us.”
In fact, it was the rapper’s lyrics that drove the story home. Key scenes fell in sync with Tunechi’s rhymes. “For me, I think Wayne’s performance, we really showed him when he said these poignant lines, things that really connected,” the director explained. “The concept is more a narrative. It’s a story about two paths in someone’s life and how one small choice that you make can affect your whole life.”
The 28th annual MTV Video Music Awards will air live Sunday from 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.