J. Cole Explores Surrealist World in “ATM” Video
Arts, Music, Review

J. Cole Explores Surrealist World in “ATM” Video



Cole finds himself trapped in a surrealist world in the clouds in his video for “ATM,” a track off his recently released album KOD. The video opens with children flying through the purple-blue clouds atop sled-sized pill bottles while reaching for a dollar baited on a fishing line held by Cole, who floats on a throne with a regal, gold crown placed on his head just feet away. Cole twists the heavenly imagery of the opening scene with the accompanying lyrics that compare money to a “slice of devil’s pie” and the unraveling events that detail the impending fall of the rapper from riches to rags.

Descending into the madness of a world that looks like it was imagined by Salvador Dalí himself, Cole shuffles through stacks of money in a red walled room and struggles in a black leather straight jacket in a room covered in bills from floor to ceiling. Cole reaches into a money bag to find a miniature version of himself guarding the money with a knife that pricks Cole’s finger upon entrance. In a visually striking scene, the rapper is chased down a black and white checkerboard floor by the children.

The rapper fixates on the seduction of riches in a scene that portrays Cole losing all his money in a casino. The video silently pans to people on the ground, watching with their dollar sign eyes fixed on Cole in the clouds before finally lifting off the ground to reach for the wealth hidden in those clouds. ATM noises and a countdown in Spanish by the kingly version of Cole reintroduce the music when the video finds the rapper at a car lot. In order to purchase a classic red car to transport him and his female sidekick, the rapper detaches his plastic mannequin-like arm and gives it to the salesman, also played by Cole, who gladly accepts it.

Cole uses the red chariot to drive fast through a rocky desert in the hopes of reaching the clouds once again. Cole defies gravity and the car lifts off like a jet to rocket back into the sky, where he joins the children in the chase for the dollar bill. When the car runs out of fuel, however, it nosedives to the ground. The camera follows the car’s quick descent to the desert below to find Cole and his female counterpart in mangled mess of car parts. The final shot is of Cole’s lifeless one-armed body with his glazed eyes fixed on the heavens above.

Cole and director Scott Lazer pay attention to details throughout the video to create the perfect abstract setting for the short film. Colorful misshapen doors and windows and massive ATM machines create a fitting background for the rapper to convey his criticism of the disillusionment of the pursuit of wealth.

Featured Image by Dreamville Records

Kaylie is the Arts Editor for The Heights. She is the funniest person you will ever meet because if you are reading this bio you have absolutely no chance of meeting Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. She can only be reached on AIM.

April 22, 2018
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