By Courtney E. Smith
How do you get a hip-hop video that looks nothing at all like most hip-hop videos? Hire a guy who cut his teeth directing for indie acts. That’s exactly what J. Cole did for “She Knows” by tapping Sam Pilling, the auteur behind similarly unsettling clips for The Weeknd, SBTRKT, WULYF and Mikky Ekko — although he did take dark dives for Usher’s “Climax” and Juicy J’s “One of Those Nights” as well.
It’s a smart match for “She Knows,” which features Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman and samples indie rockers Cults. What’s remarkable about it as a video is that it’s shot as a day in the life with an amazing emotional center that could happen to literally anyone. It’s set in a generic middle class neighborhood, and yet Pilling manages to get at the point with a cast completely devoid of the usual assortment of white faces.
Given the content of the song, the viewer only gets the feeling after the emotional reveal that it could be about the mom in this story, giving the impression that you’re watching an alternative point of view shot in a bigger universe of intertwined narratives.