Yesterday, the latest in a series of unofficial, superhero-inspired underground hip-hop videos hit the internet via Dallas Penn. Despite the minimal production value and considerably kitschy theme, we almost thought the video was the real thing, instigating some curiosity about why exactly Dallas goes through so much effort to make these splendidly simple creations. The man is certainly pressed for time: his other endeavors include working a full-time job, blogging and writing, teaming up with Rafi Kam for his critically acclaimed Internets Celebrities web shorts, and copping as many sneakers as possible.
Hive reached out to Penn and got a few insights behind his line of action figure videos, the politics of the Hulk and his role as a hip-hop trickster.
Whose dolls are those in your music videos?
These are my action figures.
What inspires these action figure videos?
Just some music I like listening to at the moment. I always found, just from my life, rappers are superheroes. They are my superheroes as much as any superhero is. How guys will twist words and create words, make imagery from words — that’s kind of magical. I’ve always been a big comic book fan. I intertwine the music that I like with the other types of art that I consume. It started for me with Ghostface Killah’s relationship with Tony Stark. He’s referencing Tony Stark, Iron Man. So you know, at the time I had a bunch of Marvel Legend’s Iron Man figures because I used to read the books. And then the Ghostface connection to that made me tune into his music more. So I started doing that for joints of his I enjoyed, then started doing it for other artists too. It made me go to Doom. Then came the association with artists who don’t even reference comics really, but just, you know, have big personalities.
In this latest video for Action Bronson, you have Hulk wearing a Che Guevara shirt.
Yea, the Hulk has a Che shirt on. There is one scene where he has a Russian solider’s winter hat and he’s even got some battle dress cargoes, you know. Why can’t the Hulk have shit that fits?
Yeah, that fits. When the Hulk becomes the Hulk, the pants get all ripped at the bottom but the Hulk is never really naked.
But is it meant to be political at all?
For the community. That’s what communism should be, right? Community!
Do you consider yourself an activist?
It seems like you play a lot of roles these days.
Let me give you my definition of who I aspire to be. I aspire to be the trickster griot, okay? The griot is, in African culture, the story teller who came to a village at night and would get around the campfire and would give you a parable about the world you live in. The griot was the guy who told the stories about the tortoise and the hare. You can find the moral or meaning of the story wherever you find it, but he’s here to tell you a story about the world you live in. I say trickster because, this is the most important part, the stories I’m telling are for people to survive. I have to sometimes put tricks on those stories because most people can’t handle the truth about the world they live in. Most people would get upset if they learned how complicit they were in their demise and destruction and exploitation. So the trickster has to play a little trick with words, with the parable, so he doesn’t offend the listener and frankly drive the listener crazy. If all of us knew how complicit we were in our own deaths, we’d probably go crazy.