This is the plot of the music video for “Gravel Pit”: The members of Wu-Tang Clan all pile into a magic elevator and travel back in time to the period when dinosaurs roamed the earth, then they put on fur coats and give themselves new nicknames and perform the song inside a Flinstones-like rock quarry. If that sounds like the greatest possible premise for a music video to you, it’s because it definitely is, and if you disagree with that you are stupid and wrong. The end.
Wait, no. Not the end. We are going to have to talk about this video some more. A lot more. I mean, I didn’t even tell you about the all-out ninja fight yet. That simply won’t do. Here’s the plan: You watch the video, take a few minutes to try to wrap your head around what the hell you just saw, then meet me back here for a thorough breakdown of all that took place. Hang on tight, people. This one’s quite a ride.
The video starts off, as I mentioned, with Wu-Tang piling into an elevator, which turns out to be a magic, time-traveling elevator. Obviously. My favorite part of this is that it just, like, happens. There’s no explanation of how the elevator can travel through time: no lightning strike hitting it as the doors close, no mysterious janitor tinkering with the gears, no demonic attendant standing in there with them and flashing a devious smile at the camera, nothing. They just push a button and are whisked away to a land filled with dinosaurs. It’s like the director said “THERE’S NO TIME FOR PLOT I HAVE CGI PTERODACTYLS TO MAKE,” which is an excellent course of action that should be utilized more often in cinema.
In a somewhat unrelated matter, if this screencap is to be believed, Wu-Tang doesn’t even leave for the club until 4:30 a.m. Rappers live fascinating lives.
In an 1889 letter to a colleague, Russian playwright Anton Chekhov wrote “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” His point was that you shouldn’t show the audience something dramatic and potentially destructive — like a gun, or a nuclear bomb, or a mysterious character who may or may not be up to no good — unless you actually plan on using it at some point. This theory of foreshadowing is now popularly referred to as “Chekhov’s gun,” and is taught in storytelling classes around the world.
Point being, let’s just call this screengrab “Chekhov’s Tyrannosaurus.”
I don’t want to spend too much time discussing Wu-Tang mastermind RZA here, seeing as he was covered extensively in the breakdown I did of the video for “The Baddest Man Alive,” but I really can’t just skip over the fact that he’s sitting at a table covered with diamonds and bags of money with dollar signs on them, and talking on what appears to be a cell phone made out of stone. These are important things that deserve to be noted.
Method Man, who has given himself the nickname Joe Quarry, handles the first verse while wearing fur overalls and carrying a large wooden club that he occasionally holds in front of his groin like a giant phallus. These are also important things that deserve to be noted.
Just so we’re all clear on this: This music video features Wu-Tang Clan performing inside a rock quarry, on a stage that is surrounding by a moat and wooly mammoth tusks. I want this to happen so bad I can feel it in my bones. Wu-Tang Clan Live At The Quarry, it could be called, and you could film it and show the whole thing on pay-per-view as part of their 20th anniversary celebration.
NOTE: I will trade this idea for a ticket to the show.
I am incredibly sad that Ol’ Dirty Bastard was in prison while this video was being filmed. I think it’s nice that they tried to include him anyway, but, I mean, I really think ODB would have liked hanging out with CGI dinosaurs. It probably would have confused the holy hell out of him, based on this video of him talking with John Norris about E.T., but I still think he would have liked it.
If you look closely, you’ll see that “Crystal Diamonds,” who is performing the hook in the video while chained to palm trees and flanked by human skulls, is actually played by Tamala Jones from Can’t Hardly Wait and Castle. You are welcome for this helpful and useful bit of information.
List of things in the world that are better than Ghostface Killah giving himself the nickname Frank Stoney and performing his verse while wearing head-to-toe white fur:
Oh, and here’s something else we learn during Ghostface’s verse: The quarry also contains card tables and slot machines. So, to recap, in addition to apparently being a working rock quarry staffed by dinosaurs with large baskets strapped to their backs, this location also features a stage, a jail, and games of chance, and is located in a place that 1) gets good rock cell phone reception, 2) is cool enough that Ghostface isn’t sweating in his fur hat, and 3) is also warm enough that the girls in bikinis aren’t shivering.
The architect who designed this place deserves an award. Any award will do.
So … okay.
Rap videos — and music videos in general — are not always the most female-friendly forms of artistic expression (as you may have noticed by the fact that the most prominent female character in this video is a bikini-clad prisoner who seems to be performing for the crowd’s enjoyment). Given that history, the fact that this video tries to play the whole “cave lady getting knocked unconscious and dragged off by her hair” thing for laughs is … well, it’s not the proudest moment in the history of music videos. There’s plenty to love here, and we are about to get to one of my favorite video moments in history, but I probably could have done without this particular scene.
I’m sorry for being a buzzkill a second ago. Here is a GIF of Ghostface eating an apple.
Around the 4:15 mark the song starts winding down and we see a bunch of shots that seem to imply things are wrapping up. This is all well and good, except for the fact that the video is a full six minutes long, which raises an important question: What are they going to do with the remaining 90 seconds? If you guessed “surprise evil ninja attack followed by a battle to the death in the middle of the quarry,” then you are both correct and really, really good at guessing.
“But wait,” you ask, if you guessed something that didn’t involve an evil ninja attack. “What’s the point of tacking what is basically a very short martial arts film onto the end of a music video featuring dinosaurs and Flinstones-style imagery?”
Well, I have two answers for you: 1) Shut up, and 2) Stop asking questions.
The battle starts out, as all good ninja battles do, with dozens of nameless, faceless, Foot Soldier-esque minions meeting in an open area and clanging swords while their leaders observe from the high ground. This only last for a minute or so, though, as things begin to escalate very quickly. Let’s take this one step at a time.
First, RZA (aka Bobby Boulders) and his nemesis Bo Rockhard run across the top of battle by stepping on their soldiers’ heads and proceed to fight while hovering in mid-air like someone up and changed the title of this song to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dinosaur…
… then they separate and RZA flies through the air doing spinsies and flips until he reaches the top of the quarry, grabs the bow and arrows thrown to him by one of his injured warriors, and fires a number of arrows at once, all of which end up in the hearts of his enemies.
Bo Rockhard remains unharmed, and he attempts to escape the battle by doing a backflip out of the quarry. Fortunately for the good guys…
… BOOM TYRANNOSAURUS SNEAK ATTACK. FADE TO BLACK. END OF VIDEO.
There are not nearly enough music videos that end with an evil ninja getting eaten by a dinosaur. Just my opinion.