I would like to preface my article with a brief warning: I know very little about music. The thoughts and opinions shared here are not the work of a nuanced critic, but rather of a casual Spotify listener. I endeavor to offer you a layman’s analysis of Big Sean’s I Don’t Fuck With You music video. Keep in mind as you read that I had no idea who Big Sean was before this song became popular. I will not be commenting on his alleged misogynistic or homophobic leanings outside of the context of this particular song, or any of his other beliefs for that matter. I do not even know Sean’s last name.
From the first shot, director Lawrence Lamont immerses the viewer in a world of sports media. A man stands clutching a microphone and a newspaper. He is a reporter covering the semi-finals for the high school state championship. This is surprising. I had previously been under the impression that this song had more do with fucking/ not fucking (with) girls than it had to do with organized sports. But no, our extremely well-dressed reporter (seems a bit impractical to wear a silky black suit to an athletic event!) informs us that this is the story of a young man trying to lead his team to victory and win scholarships. Well, that sounds wholesome.
But, alas, it seems our brave quarterback is down on his luck. In fact, he is literally down on the ground, rolling around in his Adidas gear. (This marks the first product placement.) The scoreboard reveals that the Pirates are beating Sean’s team, the Lions, by ten points. Big Sean’s name appears, followed by “E-40.” At first, I thought E-40 might be some sort of football score, but Google reveals it to be Earl Stevens, “an American rapper, entrepreneur, and investor from Vellejo, California.” Having released over twenty albums, he seems quite impressive, and I look forward to listening to some of his music later. Next, “IDFWU” flashes across the screen as football players clash. The entire I Don’t Fuck With You title was apparently deemed too long to hold the viewer’s attention. This could be a comment on the proliferation of abbreviated text language in our culture. Or maybe the people who made the music video actually do not know how to spell. Then, we see something else “flash” across the screen: a Pirates fan’s breasts. I don’t think I have ever seen that kind of behavior at a high school football game. Where are her parents? Why isn’t she wearing any kind of bra? Who paid for that boob job? Why does nobody in the crowd look surprised? Does she do this for every game, or just for the semi-finals? The camera quickly pans away, leaving all my questions unanswered.
This shock is quickly replaced by another: the Pirates score a touchdown and Kanye West looks at the camera in disbelief. That’s right, Kanye is the coach of the Lions. Is this also product placement? I actually find this cameo rather distracting. Why is he in this music video? Is he a football fan? Is Kanye a fan of anything? Is this part of his contract with Adidas? Regardless of why he’s there, Kanye plays the part of pissed coach well. He shakes his head and frowns (though that may just be his default expression). Big Sean takes off his helmet in anger and begins to rap. The Lions fans are upset; the fluffy mascot covers his eyes with his paws. A Pirates fan wearing Beats by Dr. Dre cheers (cue product placement number three). Sean sits on the bench and speaks of “dodging the bullet from a crazy bitch.” Is this why they are losing? Is it because Sean is thinking about some girl when he is supposed to be thinking about football? While Sean tries to pep up his team, a pretty girl (played by Teyana Taylor) from the Pirates school walks by and runs her hand through her hair, and he stares. Suddenly, the music slows and said pretty girl appears behind the wheel of a car, late at night. A whole montage of the two follows as the vocals intone, “Say you love me” over and over. Is this a daydream or a memory? Is this the “stupid ass bitch” he speaks of? Kanye snaps Sean out of the reverie with a softly whispered, “Focus;” the beat returns, play continues, and Sean goes back to pretending not to give a fuck about a girl he very clearly gives fucks about.
E-40 takes over the narrative (signaled by the switching on of a Dr. Dre speaker), and we are confronted with another product placement, this time a player guzzles MateFit. What is MateFit, you ask? It is a “modern herbal tea company,” seeking to make tea-drinking a part of every athlete’s routine. Good luck with that. While E-40 talks vaguely about his success and sexual prowess from the announcer’s booth, the game continues. The viewer sees more MateFit, more poorly-staged football, and more glimpses of the pretty girl in the stands (and a new product: Red Bull!). Big Sean brings back the chorus, and a new character appears. Another female Pirates fan, played by Vine celebrity Simone Shepard, surfaces in the crowd and is heard saying, “Maybe I do fuck with him,” and proceeds to check her eyebrows in a compact. Everyone is thinking about sex. Sean has spent more time giving sultry glances than actually playing football. Surprisingly, Kanye seems to be the only one with his head in the game.
The scoreboard indicates that time is running out. There are more football shots and close-ups of Big Sean, as he moves into the third verse and (spoiler alert!) scores the winning touchdown. A sad looking Pirate discards his feathered hat. I think the only person giving less fucks than Big Sean right now is me. Both of the women interested in Big Sean rush to the field, but he brushes them aside. The same fan from the beginning flashes her boobs, and Sean signs them rather nonchalantly. In the final shot, the camera pans to an updated front page of the newspaper. The main picture features Big Sean waving a football in the air, smiling. A happy ending, kind of.
I know many listeners have suggested the lyrics of this song are degrading to women, and I am not arguing with that. However, watching this video has made me think that this song has a lot more to do with caring than not caring. Sure, in the end, Sean both ignores women and wins the game, but along the way, he seems to spend most of his time convincing himself that he doesn’t give a fuck, while stealing glances at the girl of his dreams. When the second girl literally throws herself at him, he brushes her off. Let’s assume the dream-sequence girl is his ex-girlfriend. If that’s true, this music video has lot more to do with hurt than with genuine women hating. Sean denies his feelings, which messes up his game. In the end, after the third verse, which is particularly emotional and revealing (“That shit can break you down if you lose a good girl”), Sean is able to clear his head and secure a victory. This song is more about getting over exes than it is about football or boobs or Pirates or MateFit. That is not to say that this is a good music video. It is long, repetitive, and gimmicky. The football setting seems rather random, and, if it is a metaphor for “the game of love,” just gag me now. But maybe, somewhere, under all the product placements, poorly-executed football plays, and rapping bravado, this music video is more about pain than victory, and maybe that makes its worth a second watch.