Whether taking the viewer into an intimate white powder world for Pusha T’s “What Dreams Are Made Of,” escorting a suited-up Nas back to the Queensbridge housing projects for “Nasty,” or persuading Kanye West and 88 Keys to dress up as funky old men in the “Stay Up (Viagra)” flick, director Jason Goldwatch has established himself as the go-to guy these days for creative hip-hop videos. But what’s it take for to get a successful hip-hop video made these days? Here Goldwatch steps out from behind the camera and reveals his top tips for executing the perfect rap flick.
1. Inspiration Comes From the Music
I always try and work on songs that I feel emotional about — the inspiration comes from the music. I listen to a song over and over and over again and really live with it for a while. That’s how I work. Sometimes it’s obvious how the video should be, like, “Oh, that sounds like it’s going to be set at night.” Other times you need to focus on the intricacies of a song and try and work your own little angle into it. But inspiration always starts with the music.
2. Have a Sense of Humor
For [Pusha T and Tyler, the Creator's] “Trouble On My Mind” video, I was trying to bring their worlds together. So I wanted to create this mood and sense of concern and impending doom — that gangsta thing — and have them in a car with ski-masks on, but then you throw Tyler into that world so it’s not even remotely a drive-by shooting — it’s them throwing eggs! I think it’s hilarious. We actually went through a bunch of eggs that day. We had eggs and fire-crackers and we kept catching Tyler stealing them so we had to hide them from him!
3. Don’t Sweat the Budget
The most common question I get asked by artists is, “Yo, what’s the cheapest you can do a video for?” I probably get asked that three or four times a week. It’s the wrong question. Great ideas are free. I’ve shot videos for a lot of money and I’ve shot videos for the price of admission — it’s a roller-coaster. I mean, you can shoot a video on an iPhone these days if the idea’s strong enough.
4. Avoid the Clichés
Aren’t rap videos themselves a cliche at this point? I mean, all that rapping and swinging your arms around and kicking your lyrics so hard — that’s pretty silly. I like to think we’re starting to move into films and shorts, like making experimental shorts like they used to do back in the ’80s and ’90s when I first started to get into music videos. A good video should be like a short film, not just some advertisement for some dude.
5. Get the Artists Involved
You have a different relationship with every artist. So with people like Alchemist and Evidence, who are friends, I’ve worked with them all the time and I can pretty much do what I want after I show them the treatment. Other artists tell me they wrote a song about a certain thing and for a certain reason so they want the video to come out a certain way. Generally, they want to be pretty involved. But it’s not an ego thing — I think rappers get a bad rap for that. Once you get down to it and you’re in each others’ worlds, you’re collaborating and everyone gets down and tries to create something great.