Jamaican superstar group T.O.K (Alex, Flexx, Bay-C and Craigy T.) who has been hailed by the New York Times as "the world's greatest dancehall-reggae boy band," have garnered their first U.S. crossover hit and second Vibe Music Award nomination in the Boomshot category with the socially conscious song "Footprints." The video for "Footprints," premiered October 21st on BET 106th & Park as the "New Joint Of The Day," and make its debut on MTV's Direct Effect Countdown shortly. While the video networks jump on board with heavy rotation on MTV Jams and MTVU, the song has been embraced by radio for its message of hope and is getting over 1,100 spins weekly.
While the story behind the song is quite inspirational, the journey that this video has taken to the small screen is a story board of its own. Dedicated to Alex's brother who was killed by a stray bullet in Jamaica, the group themselves were the unwitting victims of foul play. The original video for the single, from their latest CD, Unknown Language, was in video director Jay Will's Toyota Corolla parked on Constant Spring Road in St. Andrew, Jamaica when thieves stole the car and all its contents, including one year's worth of video footage, a digital camera, and computer equipment.
Distraught over the video's disappearance (especially since it was filmed while Alex, Bay-C, Craigy T, and Flexx were still struggling with the loss), T.O.K. went on Jamaican national TV to appeal for its return. The perpetrators were moved and anonymously turned the video master into the local precinct, but kept the car and the remainder of the stolen items.
With time their perspective changed; they unanimously decided to move forward with the re-shoot of the video in hopes of creating one that would maintain the group's strong message against senseless violence and also reach out to the mothers who lost their sons to war and the tragic life that extreme poverty inflicts. They enrolled director Kevin De Freitas to recreate a video that would capture the raw emotions of the original and be more universal in scope.
The lyrics, "Hurry up and come back was the last thing she said to her son, the day his life was taken, she didn't know he wouldn't come back, he died from the bullet of a gun, and now her little boy is gone," originally written to speak out against the senseless violence in Jamaica, takes a different meaning for a mother who has lost her son in the Iraqi War.
Director Kevin De Freitas uses several interesting visual effects to deliver the message, incorporating T.O.K. as narrators into three main scenes which play out the lyrics of "Footprints." In the first, De Freitas uses a technique called "split screen morph," which juxtaposes two different scenes into one frame. In the left frame, you see a mother grieving for her son, a casualty of war, while on the right, a soldier salutes and hands her the folded U.S. flag. Another interesting visual effect is set against T.O.K.'s lyrics, "Another baby left homeless, abandoned when he was two so the street side kids at the shopping mall was the family he knew. It's not easy being homeless, sometimes you have to do what you have to do and he didn't have a mom or dad to help him get through." In this scene, a homeless man transforms into a young child demonstrating the humanity and vulnerability of the homeless, and showing how the boy never had the support he needed to make it through as an adult. The video's strong message against senseless violence is depicted in the climactic closing scene where a bystander is hit by gunfire after a fight breaks out in a club. The message comes full circle as the faces of the onlookers change signifying that none of us, really, are immune.
Whether it's violence from war in the streets or abroad, or the reality of extreme poverty, T.O.K.'s lyrics, "When you cry I cry, I cry along with you, when you smile, I smi