On Monday night, Young Thug released the video for "Best Friends" and the clip is easily his most involved production to-date. There are a number of costume changes, choreographed dances, advanced special effects, but on top of that it finds Thugger out of his shell and engaged with the camera.
"I just wanted it to be different," director Be El Be explained to The FADER over the phone from his office in Atlanta shortly after the video's release. Below, Be El Be on the white face, the cereal feast, and what it all means.
The video is intended to be a little bit befuddling:
Be El Be: "First thing he told me: 'I want a random video, I don’t wanna do nothing with the song, so let’s just think of something random.' Actually, his sister Dolly White—she’s the one at the table who hit that little dab—was like, 'Thug, you should have your head all over the video!' And we just started building off that, throwing things out there like mechanics."
But it has a deeper meaning, too:
"If [Young Thug is] his own butler, if he’s catching himself with himself, making love to himself, if he’s in the bathroom getting changed and it’s just him and him—it’s showing his best friend is himself. That self-esteem! He’s a very stylish young man, so I would say that the inside meaning of that is that he is his own best friend."
Young Thug is his own best friend, and his own stylist:
"Our first video, for “Stoner,” when I showed up to that shoot, he was like, 'Where’s my stylist?' That was a curveball. Now, he’s his own stylist and he comes up with these dope outfits. The outfit he wore when he was walking through the grass—that patent leather, peachy-pink outfit—he put that on. I don’t know where that was in the closet. He had the pants and the Givenchy Air Forces and the hat, and he put the American flag underneath it. He had two Apple Watches that he put $20,000 on each bezel—he was going crazy on that one [laughs]. That was my favorite look, because he’s tall but it was a wide-angle shot so he looks even taller."
Young Thug's best friends, his sisters Dolly and Dora, are in the video:
"Thug is real close to his family, very, very close to his family. He has 11 brothers and sisters, but is especially his two sisters: Dolly, who was sitting on the right of him, and the girl who was sitting on the left of him, Dora. I wanted to do that just to incorporate his family, symbolically to show that these are also his best friends as well. It don’t matter where we go, like we went to Rihanna’s party with Travi$ Scott, his sisters is there. On the tour—his sisters there. It don’t matter where he go, his sister’s there. Dora and Dolly, that’s his best friends"
The video depicts a lesser-seen "Real Atlanta":
"Thug really comes from Atlanta, so that whole ATL culture, the dress and the styling, so for people to see an artist embrace that—y’know guys like T.I., he was more on the cool side, T.I.’s not gonna do everything Thug’ll do. It looks so random, like, 'What is Thug doing walking in the woods, cooking venison?' That’s Atlanta, though, You got guys in Atlanta that dance, but play with ‘em if you want to, talk crazy to them, you gon’ see a whole ‘nother side come out. It’ll go down. Don’t be thinking that because they be dancing, they soft. That’s why I wanted to incorporate a lot of different elements with Atlanta, like the woods scene."
Lucky Charms and Young Thug is what's for breakfast:
"[The feast] could’ve been, like, soul food, but I wanted it to be cereal. He makes a reference in the song to cereal, when he says, My lil' sister Dora eating Lucky Charms and give me luck. So I was like, it’d be good if we just made it a cereal scene. And plus: when we travel, Thug packs ramen noodles and cereal, like he’s the only person I’ve ever seen who’ll be on the road eating a cup of cereal and some ramen noodles, nothing else. Everybody else eating Subway, he’s eating cereal and ramen noodles. I should've thrown that in there, I forgot about the ramen noodles, that’s what I shoulda put in the little pot when I lifted it up instead of orange apples, ‘cuause when we went to Europe he packed a whole suitcase full of ramen noodles.
And at the end, they pull off the top, and Thug’s head is there—What’re we having for breakfast? Young Thug! So there was still a bunch of Young Thugs."
Young Thug was supposed to be painted entirely white, but they were short on time:
"I wanted him to be a different person. I’m a big fan of Eddie Murphy, so I’m definitely inspired by Coming to America with that one. You know the scene with the old guy who was in the barbershop talking about Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier? It was basically inspired by that guy. I actually wanted Thug to be completely white, but he was kinda running late and he was like, 'it look good the way it is!' It worked out like that cause he had the white dreads so he already looked like an older person."
It wasn't easy getting Young Thug out of his shell:
"You know what the funny thing is? If you look at 'Danny Glover' I made the screen flip and cut scene to scene real fast because he wasn’t really rapping at all. He was just sitting there, and I had all these big-ass techno-cranes, lights, and all these people looking at him like, 'What is he doin’?' He’s just standing there. 'Givenchy' is the video where he started showing more dancing and he started saying stuff like, 'Be, I want a wide [shot].' Now if you get Thug in front of a camera, he gon’ wanna see his whole outfit, you gotta get all the dance-moves, and everything."
Young Thug is a very hands-on co-director:
"When it says co-directed by Young Thug, he’s not just an artist who wanted to slap a name on it—he really was involved with it. He actually sits through he hard part, which is the editing. That’s why I had to buy a faster computer, because he be like, 'What’s going on?' He doesn’t understand it’s loading, and I’m like, 'Dude, you not know thirty years ago you had to wait a month for this stuff to transfer?'"
Those special effects were hard to pull off:
"The [hardest effect to pull off] was the bathroom scene. I’ll say stuff that I could do that I know damn well I can’t do—I’m not allowed to be doin’ that. I was like, 'Yeah, we gonna have you in the bathroom with yourself.' And I’m sitting back like, “Damn, I do not know how to do this." I sat there for two days in a hot-ass studio, AC broke, and edited that and finally got it. I was surprised, like 'Ay, it worked!'
"The other hardest one was the one was when I put his face on the girl [that's on top of him in the beginning of the video]. I thought I had to go to a green screen place, but then when we went on tour I wasn’t able to get the shot. I was like, 'Dang, I dunno if we’ll be able to do it.' So I had just filmed a quick shot in the house and had him sit in the same spot and then act like lifting back up. When I showed it to him, man! He looked at me like, 'Yo, you mothafucka! You got my face on a girl head! They gon’ be on my ass, that shit really look like it’s a female on me!" And I was just like, 'Yeah, that’s what you said, right?' Sometimes that crazy stuff that y’all be seeing don’t really come down to him, sometimes it’ll be me."