HomeWorld NewsMusic Video Casting That Got Shady, From Keke Palmer to Drake & … – Billboard
Music Video Casting That Got Shady, From Keke Palmer to Drake & … – Billboard
August 29, 2023
For years, musicians pretty much had just one artistic outlet for dissing their enemies: through song. That would all change for good circa 1981, however, when the modern music video was born — bringing with it a whole new way for singers and rappers to creatively dunk on their haters, exes, backstabbers, copycats and everyone else in between.
One of the best things about the format is that you can be as subtle or as obvious as you want. On one side of the spectrum, for instance, there’s the Taylor Swift method of hiding cryptic Easter eggs seemingly directed at her nemeses (see: “The Man,” “Look What You Made Me Do,” etc.). But on the other hand, there’s just full-blown pettiness, achieved through nail-on-the-head creative choices such as, say, casting people that you know are going to get a reaction out of someone special (or not so special).
It’s on the latter side of the spectrum where the artists on this list — Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Justin Timberlake, Usher and more — like to dabble. These artists know no fear when it comes to assembling music video casts that are sure to send fans and social media into a tailspin, whether it’s through recruiting an enemy’s enemy or an adversary’s doppelgänger for four-ish minutes of onscreen shade set to music.
Without further ado, here are eight times artists used casting choices to take digs at someone else through their music videos. Bring along a flashlight, though — it’s about to get shady.
Artist: Usher feat. Keke Palmer
Supposed shade target: Darius Jackson
In summer 2023, Darius Jackson made headlines for publicly shaming his then-girlfriend Keke Palmer, with whom he shares a son, for wearing a sexy dress to an Usher concert and dancing up close with the R&B singer on Twitter. “You a mom,” he’d written accusingly, amongst other comments. But it was Palmer who got the last laugh.
The Nope actress went on to star as Usher’s leading lady in the musician’s “Boyfriend” music video, the duo looking like a glamorous couple onscreen and busting out some epic group choreography together. All the while, Usher taunts in his lyrics: “Somebody said that your boyfriend is looking for me, that’s cool/ He should know I’m pretty easy to find/ Just look for me wherever he sees you.”
Then, at the very end, Palmer takes one last dig at Jackson’s comments about her motherhood: “S–t, I’m so tired… I am a mother, after all,” she says, winking at the camera.
Artist: Taylor Swift
Supposed shade target: Katy Perry
Swift’s 1989 single “Bad Blood” from 2014 was widely believed to be about her beef with Perry. And while there’s no particular casting choice in the single’s star-studded music video that directly shades the “Firework” singer, the clip features a stacked cast of prominent female celebrities. It’s arguably saying, Look at everyone who’s on my side and not on yours. Neener, neener.
Not to worry, though; the two pop stars eventually buried the hatchet, and Perry herself later guest-starred in another of Swift’s celebrity-packed music videos. Catch them hugging it out on camera in matching burger and fries costumes in the “You Need to Calm Down” video here.
Artist: Katy Perry
Supposed shade target: Taylor Swift
Before the two stars made amends, however, Perry seemingly shot back at Swift with her 2017 single “Swish Swish.” The “Dark Horse” musician even took it one step further by including Nicki Minaj on the track and casting the rapper in a starring role in its corresponding video.
Why does this matter? Minaj and Swift once had beef of their own, sparked by a misunderstanding over a couple 2015 VMAs-related tweets (Swift had received a video of the year nod, ironically for “Bad Blood”; meanwhile, Minaj’s “Anaconda” was snubbed). While the two hashed it out online, Swift implied that Minaj was trying to “pit women against each other,” leading a disgruntled Perry to jump into the fray.
“Finding it ironic to parade the pit women against other women argument about as one unmeasurably capitalizes on the take down of a woman…,” Perry tweeted, after which Minaj sent her a kissy face emoji.
You could also argue that Perry’s basketball opponents’ mascot in the video — a wolf wearing a sheepskin — is also petty casting, given what Perry had previously tweeted allegedly about Swift in 2014: “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…”
“Cry Me a River”
Artist: Justin Timberlake
Supposed shade target: Britney Spears
If there was any doubt left in the minds of the public about who Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” was written for, the 2000s pop icon made it clear in his transparently shady music video for the song. Casting a dead ringer lookalike for your former girlfriend — who, in this case, was fellow superstar Britney Spears — for a song about being betrayed by a hypocritical ex? That’s Petty 101. Like, come on: they even styled the lookalike in Britney-esque clothing, right down to the then-trendy pageboy cap.
“I Hit It First”
Artist: Ray J
Supposed shade target: Kim Kardashian, Kanye West
Ray J just couldn’t resist shading his ex-girlfriend Kim Kardashian after she started dating future ex-husband Kanye West, seven years after she and the “Sexy Can I” singer broke up. Not only did Ray J slam her relationship with Ye in the lyrics — “She might move on the ballers and rappers / but everyone knows I hit it first” — but he also took a page out of Justin Timberlake’s textbook by casting a Kim K lookalike in the song’s April 2013 music video.
Even though the lookalike was styled to match Kardashian’s signature look at the time — curve-hugging dress, slick black ponytail and heavy, neutral-toned makeup — Ray J later insisted that people were “digging into it too deep” by connecting the video to the reality star. “It’s a song, we just having fun,” he said at the time. “I’m not trying to create no war. It’s all love.”
Sure, Ray J. Sure.
Artist: Bhad Bhabie
Supposed shade target: Kylie Jenner
Bhad Bhabie has been throwing figurative punches since the beginning of her music career, but what can you expect from the girl who first got famous for screaming “Cash me outside” on Dr. Phil? Then 14 years old, Danielle Bregoli came out swinging in the music video for her debut song “These Heaux,” showing a Kylie Jenner lookalike getting large injections in her lips and butt as the teen rapper warned listeners not to compare her to “fake” h–s.
Artist: Nicki Minaj
Supposed shade target: Cardi B
The Queen of Rap just couldn’t help herself, could she? In the midst of the two ladies’ long-running feud, Nicki fully shaded Cardi B in her “Good Form” music video featuring Lil Wayne, simply by casting sisters Baddie Gi and Jade… aka, the alleged victims Cardi was charged with assaulting at a strip club in 2018.
In 2022, Cardi accepted a plea deal regarding the incident, agreeing to 15 days of community service.