Imagine telling the hottest, cutest, pop icon on the planet to make a record about you. I was kinda joking, but also dead serious. “Fab 5 Freddy told me everybody’s fly”, she sang. That name drop on “Rapture” became my international calling card and the s**t would soon hit the fan, and hard! Chris Stein and Debbie Harry from Blondie were among my first supporters and patrons. The cultural exchange we set up created bridges that we both used to venture into new creative worlds.
KRS-ONE “My Philosophy”
This was the first video I directed back in 1988, a pivotal year for Hip Hop culture. KRS ONE had become a rising force on the NY Hip Hop scene in 1987 and later that year his partner in Rap, Scott LaRock was tragically gunned down in the Bronx. Many felt they were so close KRS would not be able to continue. I’d been campaigning to get to direct a video for the then new group Public Enemy but it never happened. However, an A&R angel from Jive Records, Anne Carli, heard I was trying to direct a P.E. video and asked me to do one for KRS. A lot of the visual concepts and attitude I would have used for a Public Enemy video all went into this video for “My Philosophy”.
Gang Starr – “Just to get a Rep”
When Premiere from Gang Starr first played me this song, I just knew I had to do this video but the budget was mad low. By this point in the game, the early 90’s, the West Coast had a lock on the tough gritty cinematic depiction of ghetto street life and I saw this video as a chance for me to balance things out a little bit, from one coast to another. The content of this song was something I knew about having grown up rough and ready on the streets of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn where lots of guys then specialized in taking what wasn’t theirs. This song was the perfect script for what still is one of my favorite videos I directed. “He did it just to get a rep…”
Queen Latifah – “Ladies First”
Aside from being an artist I was instrumental in getting signed to Tommy boy records, I directed her first two music videos. “Dance For Me” and “Ladies first”. I love both of these videos but “Ladies First” was a film making triumph for me because although the song says nothing about the apartheid struggles at the time in South Africa, I was able to execute a concept that placed her as one of the leaders of that struggle and raise awareness among rap fans about those issues.
Shabba Ranks – “Mr. Lover Man”
This was the 2nd video I directed for the Grammy winning Shabba Ranks after my first for him, “Trailer Load Of Girls”. Having grown up in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn around all types of West Indian people I was familiar with a lot of W.I. culture. This video was a first at the time where we saw a black artist from another culture and country doing it all in a totally different style then what was typically seen on MTV or BET by black acts. I saw an opportunity to make something special for Mr Loverman right in his back yard, Jamaica. This is the ‘mature’ version with a little nudity so if your under 18, don’t watch!
NAS – “One Love”
When I first listened to the “Illmatic” album by the then rap prodigy NAS, I knew it was going into the pantheon of greatest rap albums of all time. So when Nas expressed interest in me directing the video for his song, “One Love”, I was ready to get busy! Along with the way he sampled a scene from my film, “Wild Style” for the albums intro skit, I felt he knew I understood what he wanted and needed at that time video wise. Up to that point I felt his first couple of video’s had lackluster performances as the first directors seemed so in awe of his talent, they were not able to direct him to perform to a level on par with his amazing songs. I fixed that problem as you’ll see with, “One Love”.
Snoop Dogg – “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)”
Dr. Dre and I were chillin at one his notorious pool party / BBQ’s after interviewing him for YO! MTV Raps when he asked me to direct Snoop’s debut video. “Gin & Juice” was one of two songs recorded definitely slated for the album but Dre was sure he wanted, “Whats My Name”, for the first single and video. “Lets keep it comical & funny” Dre would say and I replied, “No Problem”. I came up with the idea to use the still-new morphing technology to turn Snoop and the Dogg Pound into, real dogs. What should have been a few weeks at the most to conceive, shoot and edit ended up taking almost that entire summer as I became Dre’s invited house guest while he finished producing Snoops album. We partied hard at Dre’s mansion, chronic style, in between shooting scenes for the video here and there and eventually, getting it all done. Unfortunately, there was a big scene of Snoop morphing into a dog I never got to shoot because a 187 took place, or should I say, “Murder Was the Case….”
Sharissa – “No Half Steppin'”
My good friend, the infamous Jimmy Henchman asked me to direct this video for Sharissa who he managed at the time. For millions of aspiring singers Mary J. Blige is the blue print in the modern day female r&b genre and Sharissa studied her well plus she had the vocal skills and that authentic New York City ’round the way girl’ flavor. As usual, telling a story within the structure of a music video was my strong suit and this video has my man Bryce, from the short lived group “Groove Theory” getting busted for having done some doggy style camera work of his own. He gets not only kicked, but left at the curb by Sharissa in the end of this video.
Stetsasonic – “Talkin’ All that Jazz”
Stetsasonic is one of the most unsung early hip hop groups. They billed themselves as a Hip Hop band and there songs always took a party into high Hip Hop gear. They had raw energy, great songs, mad style and a cool look. And all were coming from Brooklyn. “Talking All That Jazz” was the first song to address the soon to be major issue of sampling as we entered the digital age. In fact, personal computers were far from common as I had my art director concoct what I envisioned a sampling apparatus would look like. I was inspired by the retro / futuristic technology depicted in the film “Brazil”. The Bee Bop jazz scenario and the vintage swing dancing footage are a reflection of my having been exposed to jazz all my life by my parents and it fit the fact that Daddy-O and Stetsasonic felt they were truly making music, something many at the time did not think Hip Hop had any thing to do with. How do you say, Haterz?!
Crucial Conflict – “Hay”
After having directed dozens of music video’s I began to imagine owning or running a label so I could develop the complete image of an act along with the video’s so it would all be in creative sync, like one producer doing most of the songs if it’s working out well. Then I got the opportunity to run a label in the mid 90’s called Pallas Records. We signed Crucial Conflict and this was now my chance to work with a group from the start, developing their logo, album cover concept, the marketing materials and of course, directing the videos. Crucials music sold very well and helped open the doors for the explosion of southern rap back then in 1996 when their music dropped, even though there from the west side of Chicago, one of the cuntriest parts of the country, when your deep in the hood.
Guru & MC Solaar “Le Bien, Le Mal”
In 1982 I was a part of the first Hip Hop tour in Europe where we played about 10 cities in France and a couple of shows in London. It was billed as “New York City Rap”. It was about 30 of us including Africa Bambaatta, Rock Steady Crew break dancers, Rammellzee, Futura 2000, Dondi, Grand Mixer DST and myself all rapping, dancing and spray painting live on stage. The seeds we planted on that tour still bare fruit and turned France into the 2nd biggest market for Hip Hop in the world to this day. MC Solaar was the French/Senegalese rapper who broke it wide open with big record sales in the early 90’s. This song, “LaBien LaMal”, (The Good, The Bad) was a collaboration with Guru (RIP) from Gangstaar doing a solo “Jazzmatazz” project and I jumped at the opportunity to direct this video and also to see what was happening with French Hip Hop. The beginning scene of the video was an idea I once had while riding on the Paris Metro. I’d dozed off and when I woke up I realized I’d missed my stop and I got off at the next station and I thought, “wouldn’t it be weird if I went upstairs and I was back in New York City?” So the intro scene where Guru gets a phone call from Solaar and says to him, “I’ll be right there Solaar”, then runs into the NYC subway and emerges in Paris to start the rap with MC Solaar is how I made that idea in my head come to cinematic fruition.
Fab 5 Freddy visits NWA in Compton
Biggie, Craig Mack & Puffy Interview on YO! MTV Raps
2 Pac Freestyle on YO! MTV Raps
YO! MTV Raps Freestyles
L. Bookie & Wyclef Freestyle
Sting reggae dancehall Jamaica 1992