Life Is Good is Nas’ most transcendent album to date. It’s a mature and accomplished work that ends on a note of clarity and acceptance.* That ending comes courtesy of the open farewell letter to Kelis, “Bye Baby.” The song’s straightforward storytelling and vivid imagery make it ideal for the music video treatment. Filmmaker Aristotle has been charged with bringing that potential to fruition. Thankfully, he is able to deliver in spades.
The video for “Bye Baby” is a production in every sense of the word, if only on a small scale. Aristotle treats the lyrics as if they were the shooting script for a feature film. Everything unfolds according to the story as it appears on the page. He crafts a trio of scenarios, each one specifically tailored to its accompanying verse. The production design evolves throughout. The first act is awash in “Neo-Noir” artifice, while the second owes much to the ambience of Blue note Jazz. New Jack Swing icon Aaron Hall makes something of a cameo appearance during each refrain of the hook.
Interspersed throughout these vignettes is the video’s definitive shot. It’s a tight close-up that gradually transitions to a wide shot in one unbroken take. It ultimately reveals a flawless recreation of the cover art for Life Is Good. The image is of a pensive and somewhat shell-shocked Nas, sitting in a “Thinker” pose with his ex-wife’s wedding dress draped across his lap. Aristotle not only incorporates this image into the video, but provides the album’s narrative with something of an epilogue: Nas gets up and walks away, leaving the dress behind. Bye baby, indeed.
With the video for Bye Baby, Aristotle breathes cinematic life into a musical poem. He allows viewers to not only hear Nas’ pain, but to actually watch it play out as a drama. Film is a visual medium, while rap music is an aural one. Both represent a marriage of sorts. The former is of images to sounds, while the latter is of lyrics to music. “Bye Baby” is an amalgam of all of these, thus representing the perfect union. If only Nas and Kelis could have been so lucky. However, if their marriage had worked out, this song and video wouldn’t exist. Neither, for that matter, would Life Is Good.
* I’m referring specifically to the standard retail version, not the Deluxe or itunes versions.