Earl Sweatshirt's Off Top mixes animation and found footage
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Earl Sweatshirt's Off Top music video combines chaotic animation and found footage

Music: found footage and animation come together to form provocative anti-establishment imagery in Earl Sweatshirt's Off Top music video, directed by Taylor Johnson (+ movie).

Earl Sweatshirt Off Top music video animation

The collaboration began when Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, AKA Earl Sweatshirt, saw a video that Johnson had directed for fellow rapper Isaiah Toothtaker.

Earl Sweatshirt Off Top music video animation

Kgositsile and Johnson exchanged ideas before deciding on "an animated Ralph Bakshi-esque video" – referring to the style of the cult American director responsible for infamous 1970s adult animation Fritz the Cat, and a 1978 cartoon version of The Lord of the Rings.

Earl Sweatshirt Off Top music video animation

Spending about a month on the project, Johnson worked in partnership with animator Alex Barrella, sharing detailed storyboards and character ideas over email.

Earl Sweatshirt Off Top music video animation

The film opens on quintessential American imagery, with footage of the Stars and Stripes flag overlaid with an animated depiction of a police car in flames.

Hand-drawn type made of burning bricks introduces the track title, before Earl Sweatshirt in animated format falls through the frame.

Earl Sweatshirt Off Top music video animation

"I tried to convey how I felt about the song and its tone without it being a narrative storyline that follows what Earl was saying," Johnson told Dezeen. "That being said I did tie in little pieces that followed some lyrics, but I didn't want it to affect the loose, chaotic storyline."

Earl Sweatshirt Off Top music video animation

The film continues to juxtapose found footage with animation, showing the rapper being swallowed by a disembodied lipsticked mouth before a subway train bursts through the background.

Sudden animated explosions are spliced with footage of flames, and the film's protagonist is shown being chased by a giant dog before taking part in a fist fight.

Earl Sweatshirt Off Top music video animation

The closing scene of the film shows the demonic pig-like face of a policeman laughing into the camera.

Earl Sweatshirt Off Top music video animation

"The song and the whole album is pretty dark to me," Johnson said. "I wanted to match the tone and a surreal nightmarish landscape fit best to me."

"The story is very loose, dealing with feelings of depression, frustration and wanting to scream 'f*** the police' at the top of your lungs. I tried to express that with Earl trying to run out and escape this hellish animated world with hope of finding something better."

Earl Sweatshirt Off Top music video animation

Off Top is taken from Earl Sweatshirt's album I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, which was released on 23 March 2015.