What is the music industry? A land of opportunity or a difficult-to-navigate minefield of betrayal? Are the artists that navigate through it winners or victims? Denzel Curry's new video for "Black Balloons" (also stylized as "13LACK 13ALLOONS") gives a unique look at what his industry experience is like — and it's a wild, retro, pre-aughts festival of sci-fi feels. It may be a sneaky business for him, but it looks like one hell of a good time.
Curry sits at a table as the video begins. A mischievous suit-and-tie stands in front of him, an all-knowing grin on his face. He can smell a sucker in front of him. "Where do you see yourself in five years?" he asks before sliding a contract and pen across the table with the force of a runaway shopping cart down the hill. "Sign." He holds the pen in front of Curry's face as the environment outside of the window burns. The rapper's world is about to come crashing down and it's all going to be of his doing. The page gets inked in red.
The building cracks, the path to a lavish, Soylent Green-esque world of sands and floating buildings opens up. The suit-and-tie drives a jeep across the vast, empty terrain and acts as a guide to the industry shenanigans that follow. There's a catered party by barefoot, shawl clad waiters that's overseen by the suit-and-tie who looks particularly annoyed. Along for the ride is Twelve'Len who sings the chorus and is clearly enjoying himself. Goldlink appears for a scene-stealing verse that's delivered in a rattan throne chair while, in the midst of his sermon, there's a plot dump. The suit-and-tie now has a clown's face and sends over a beautiful woman to seduce an unsuspecting Curry who's all smiles. He falls to a kiss; the next time we see his face, he has a clown's face too.
The rapper then watches a silent cartoon short called "Clout Circus" that comments on the deception. Curry and Twelve'Len spend the entire video dancing, and, in the short, their look-alike avatars get their shucking and jiving on. As a monstrous tent with a malevolent grin watches in the background, a title card takes up the screen: "IT'S A SHOW AND WE'RE THE STARS!" When the cartoon is over and the message sinks into Curry's skin, it's revealed to be too late. He's now locked in a prison with others that look somewhat similar to them. The clown faced, suit-and-tie puts on a ringleader's jacket and laughs. He wins.
"Black Balloons" appears on Curry's 2018 album, Ta13oo. The LP had an interesting release strategy, with each of its three parts – Light, Gray, and Dark – being released over the course of three days.
Take a look at the imaginative video up above.