Video Chats: Matt Alonzo on 'Celebration' by Game ft. Chris Brown, Tyga, Wiz Khalifa & Lil Wayne
Posted by Doug Klinger on November 13, 2012 in Interviews
Nothin But A G Thang by Snoop and Dr. Dre is among the most iconic videos in hip-hop, if not pop culture in general. So when Game wanted to recreate it for his Celebration music video, he turned to director Matt Alonzo to make it happen. We talked to Matt about coordinating a video with five big name artist, making three days seem like one, and the benefits of censorship.
Doug: This video features a lot of big name artists, and they all actually make an appearance in the video, which Im sure is a difficult thing to coordinate. How did that work out?
Matt: That was my biggest concern when shooting this video, making sure all the artists were there. I also wanted to make them seem like they were all there on the same day, because we actually shot three different days at two different parks. Everyone is a super star, so they all needed their own time. But, for the most part everyone was really good. Wayne had some BET stuff to do, so he actually didnt make it to the main day, and Chris Brown was in Paris. We basically shot Game, the BBQ scene, Tyga, and Wiz one day; the next day we shot Game and Chris Brown, and the driving stuff; and then a week later we shot Wayne at the skate park, and all the other skate park stuff. We shot everything so separately, but I wanted to make it feel like they were all there together.
Doug: How involved are you personally with scheduling the artists and arranging that stuff?
Matt: We have an AD and producers, and my EP Tara Razavi handles pretty much all the stuff with the label. At the same time, I need to know whre theyre going to be there and what time theyre going to be there. I think Wayne wanted to come a bit later, but I knew we had to catch sunlight with him. We couldnt shoot it at night, it would make completely no sense. I was very adamant about him getting there before the sun went down, and luckily he got there maybe an hour before the sun went down, so it all worked out. But, I was as hands on as I needed to be, but they pretty much took care of that. If you noticed in the video, I tried to shoot a lot of the same type of shots for each artist to make it feel subconsciously to the viewer that it was all the same day or all the same time. I shot a lot of sky performances and a lot of straight on stuff. I didnt go crazy and switch angles and lenses with each artist.
Doug: The video has a lot of elements in it that remind me of the Snoop and Dre Nothin' But a G Thang video. Drop tops, volleyball, BBQ, a girl getting sprayed down by a bunch of 40s, another girl getting her top pulled down. All that stuff can be found in "G Thang." Were you guys looking to recreate that video in a way?
Matt: Yeah, Game basically called me and said, Hey, here is my new record. I wanna shoot Nothin But A G Thang 2012. So, I just took it from there. I tried to include a little bit of now, with the snapbacks and the trendier clothing, but still keep the vibe the same. With the cars and some of the activities we definitely wanted to pay homage to a couple of those scenes that some of the younger generation have no idea about. They were probably very young when that video came out, even I was very young. So, yeah, we just wanted to bring Nothin But A G Thang into 2012, bring it back to that old school, west coast rap. Thats what he though this record would do, bring music back to the west coast because its been a long time.
Doug: Have most people picked up on those callbacks to the original?
Matt: The older generation, yeah. Obviously, some of the younger generation probably thinks its brand new. But, yeah, I got a lot of tweets and a lot of messages of people saying watching this video is just like watching Nothin But A G Thang for the first time when I was 9-years-old. That was cool. Those shots and scenes are so significant in hip-hop history that I think most people picked up on them.
Doug: How do you choose between what to bring from the original video and what to update?
Matt: When I think about that video, there were three things that stood out to me: the topless part, the girl getting sprayed, and Warren G holding up something and having it blurred out. We actually had Warren G come, but he showed up a bit later so we had in in the BBQ scene. But, those were the scenes the stood out to me from that video, so those are the ones I wanted to recreate. But it was fun because Game wasnt aware of it until he got there.
Doug: You surprised Game with Warren G?
Matt: It was more of I called Warren that day just to see if he would come and do that part. Game just said he wanted Nothin But A G Thang 2012," he didnt say he wanted this scene or that scene. It was more like go ahead and take that, Matt. Game usually just tells me a little bit of what he wants and then lets me run with it and any direction.
Doug: Im really glad that you guys kept the blurred stuff in there. Since the video gets released online you could have easily not blurred out the topless scenes, but the elements like that really sell it for me. I feel like censorship like that is so significant from that era.
Matt: Exactly, thats what I remembered. I wanted to keep that, but I didnt want it to be to tacky or X-rated. None of my visuals that have ever come out have been very graphic, I dont mind showing nudity as long as its in some sort of artist way and not just hey, heres my boobs. I wanted to stay away from that because I also knew there would be ton of kids watching this, and thats the last thing Id want kids to be watching. But, thats what I was going for, thats also why I wanted Warren G to hold up his hands. I guess in the original he was rolling up a blunt or something. Those are the things that I remembered, maybe because I was a kid and I always wanted to know what he was doing that was blurred out. I was so stuck on the blur.
Doug: I used to always wonder, too. And then years later Id look it up on YouTube and it ends up just being a Nike logo.
Matt: Yeah, I know, it's never as cool. Exactly, it was so mystifying like, what is that? There were a couple of kids when I put the video up that tweeted me saying, Why didnt you take the blur out? We wanted to see the boobs! But, I definitely think it worked out a lot better the way it was.
celebration, chris brown, lil wayne, matt alonzo, the game, tyga, video chats, wiz khalifa
Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.
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