All of September, Nitehawk is spotlighting films directed by women, and this weekend we’ll be screening director Tamra Davis’s gangsta comedy CB4. Her second feature and first comedy, Davis got the CB4 gig because of her early career spent directing music videos for groups like N.W.A., The Beastie Boys, Black Flag and more.
As a woman trying to crack into the directing game, Davis found the economy of music videos more welcoming of a female voice. Fresh off of directing CB4 in 1993, Davis told the Los Angeles Times ‘There’s much less sexism in the video world and they’re open to women,” before concluding “I’m getting offered a lot of movies right now, but because of ‘CB4,’ most of them are comedies and the last thing I want to do is another comedy,” she says. “I’m determined to make another movie about a strong female character.”
Her next film was Billy Madison.
On to the videos.
Sonic Youth – “100%” (1992)
A dual narrative video (I guess, who can tell with these things?) about a skateboarder who goes to a flop house full of cool kids hanging out, being kind of chill, listening to Sonic Youth play really loudly in the middle of their living room. While Thurston towers over everyone and Kim wears the hell out of a Rolling Stones shirt, the sad skateboarder gazes out the window as he thinks back on his Thrasher days with pro-skater, turned actor, turned Scientologist Jason Lee, who gets killed somehow. Maybe by the police — maybe a broken neck. A bummer either way. He shakes out the cobwebs and goes off to get laid somewhere (presumably).
Faith No More – “Anne’s Song” (1988)
Chuck Mosely (with some pretty doo-doo locks) is really into this girl Anne. He goes on a date with her, and hangs out in… a bicycle factory (?) with his band, while singing into a banana. Two versions of guitarist Jim Martin shreds with himself in front of a cheap fog machine, which is by far the best part.
Young MC – “Bust a Move” (1989)
Tamra Davis directed her fair share of cornball hip hop hits, the cornballiest of which is ‘Bust a Move,” a factory-made VH1 party jam. The song’s pretty garbage, about stepping up to the plate with a fly girl when she shows interest – even if you’re kind of fat, or a white dude with a bad haircut. Still, a lot of great tumblr-fashion on showcase in this vid, including Flea, who shows up wearing pants made out of stuffed animals.
MC Lyte – “Cha Cha Cha” (1989)
A stone cold classic from Brooklyn-raised rapper, feminist and badass MC Lyte, who recorded “Cha Cha Cha” when she was 17. Davis’s video paints her like a rap game Nino Brown, riding around in Porsches and kidnapping haters, then they’re off to a warehouse where she tortures them by spitting superior rhymes right in their dumb faces.
If you can’t tell by this point, Tamra Davis has a thing for black-and-white photography.
Sonic Youth – Dirty Boots (1990)
More Sonic Youth, more cool kid antics at a Sonic Youth show. One guy tries to make it with a girl, he gets real aggro about it, and then gets shut down. He tries it again with another girl, but she’s a little more down. They make out on stage. Sonic Youth doesn’t seem to care. Just another show with the cool kids.
Wild Thing – Tone Loc (1988)
This video cost $500 to produce. Let’s see if you can tell.
Sonic Youth – “Kool Thing”
Probably the best of Davis’s Sonic Youth videos, “Kool Thing” is like a middle-school love letter to beret wearing, white people scaring 60s radicals. Kim rolls around her aluminum-foil covered bedroom, singing seductively to her cat, asking Chuck D to help free her from male, white corporate oppression. Speaking of male, white corporate oppression, Kim wanted to wear a beret and parade around with an Uzi in this video, but the stiffs at Geffen shot her down. Fear of a female planet, indeed.
The D.O.C. – It’s Funky Enough
After falling out with his Dallas-based group Fila Fresh Crew, The D.O.C. hopped a plane to Los Angeles where he got signed to Easy-E’s Ruthless Records and became part of N.W.A.’s running crew. Smart move. In the video, D.O.C. kicks it around the L.A. canals while Dre spins his, frankly, tight ass beat — all of it shot, naturally, in black and white.
MMMBop – Hanson (1997)
CURVE BALL. Tamra Davis’s video career wasn’t only defined by kicking it with Indie superstars, groundbreaking feminist rappers and goddamn N.W.A., she also got down with Hanson. It doesn’t end there either, not only did Davis direct this cute boys and sunshine superstorm; she also directed the feature length debut of Britney Spears: Crossroads.