If you’ve watched a hot hip-hop music video online in the past two years, chances are it was a production from Ricky Shabazz and the Boom-Bap Boys. We had a chance to sit down with director Nicolas Heller, the brains behind the camera, to find out what goes into to making the of the most creative hip-hop videos in the game today!
What was the first music video you recall ever seeing?
The first music video I can recall seeing is “Getting Jiggy With It” by Will Smith. However, I really want to say it was “My Block” by Scarface because that was the first video that REALLY stuck out to me. Made me realize hip-hop videos could be creative.
When did you decide you wanted to begin shooting music videos?
I decided I wanted to start making music videos my Junior year of college after making 10 short films and hardly getting any recognition from people outside my circle of friends. Music videos were my chance to piggy-back off of a musician’s success.
Which video was your first, and how did it feel going through the video making process for the first time?
My first music video under the Ricky Shabazz and the Boom Bap Boy alias was “Destroy” by C-Rayz Walz. I really lucked out with that one. This was around the time I began feeling very discouraged in regards to my shorts not getting attention. My friend, Will Kowall, who is heavily involved in the underground hip-hop scene brought it to my attention that C-Rayz was going to be in Boston and was looking for someone to shoot a quick video for him. I nervously approached him with a really insane idea where he gets chased down by furries in the wilderness and ultimately gets shot in the face. He dug it. We shot it, and the rest was history.
Now that you’re several dozen videos removed from those early works, what’s one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were starting out?
I REALLY wish I had held off on shooting my more complicated treatments instead of rushing into them with little experience and no budget. I would love to re-shoot a bunch of my old videos. Don’t think the musicians would be too thrilled about that tough.
A few of your videos deal with continuous take shots. What intrigues you about that particular style?
I think it looks badass. My inspiration comes from gangster movies from the 80’s and 90’s. Directors had a tendency of building tension before someone gets the shit kicked out of them by dropping a dope song, and in one continous shot, have the protagonist makes his way over to the antagonist and beat them senseless. I would find those scenes more interesting than any fight scene with cuts every two seconds.
Have any artists ever shown resistance to your concepts? Did they eventually realize you were right all along?
Artists show resistance all the time. It’s really hard to convince these guys to take risks. Especially if they are more established. I am usually able to meet at a common ground though.
Have you shown any of your videos to your family? Which videos are their favorites?
My parents watch all of my videos whether I like it or not. They both follow me on Twitter and Instagram, so it?s pretty hard to hide any projects from them. For the most part, they really enjoy all of them. I think the only one that ever disappointed them was “Grateful Dead of Night” by Moe Pope. In the video, I had a half naked woman chained up by zombies who eventually devour her. They needed to have a talk with me after that one.
Their all time favorite video of mine is “THANX” by Fresh Daily. It’s kind of upsetting considering I shot that two years ago.
What do you believe makes for a quality video?
Damn. A lot. I’ll go with the less obvious answer: Making the artist look cool. You have to approach videos from a consumer’s standpoint. No one is gonna buy an artist’s album if they look foolish in their video. No matter who the musician is, if a filmmaker makes their client look like a cornball, they haven’t done their job properly. It’s tough though. There are a lot of corny musicians out there. I certainly have failed a couple times.
If you could do a video for any hip-hop artist alive or dead, who would it be?
That’s a loaded question. It would really depend on whether or not I had complete creative control. If I had this control, I would like to do videos for Cam’ron, Juicy J, 2 Chainz, Gunplay, Chief Keef, Ghostface Killah, Scarface, Project Pat, etc. However, there is no chance in hell I would be able to get any of those artists to even consider listening to one of my wacky treatment ideas.
Some artists I think I could collaborate really well with would be: Action Bronson, Lil Ugly Mane, Flatbush Zombies, Riff Raff, Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire, El-P, ASAP Ferg… Damn, the list goes on.
Finally, if I got to choose one dead artist to shoot a video for, it would be Eazy-E or Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
What?s one video you would suggest somebody checking your work out for the first should look at to get the best idea of your style?
It was made with a 2 person crew, and $15 budget. But I would suggest everyone watch “GUTS” by Juan Deuce and Falside. This is probably the only video I ever directed where I had 100% creative control. I think it shows. Now imagine giving a treatment like that to Cam’ron… C’mon son.
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