Directed by...

Posted by Chris Black on September 12, 2014 in Taped Before A Live Studio Audience

Contributor Post

Hey imvdb heads! It's ya boy, Yung Parker Lewis Can't Lose! Bringing you another installment relating to all things Music Videos. Just want to thank y'all for the love!

So today we'll be talking about artists "directing" their own videos.

Let me share a story with you...

Back in 2011, I produced the ASAP Rocky video "PESO" for my boy Abteen Bagheri.

Prior to shooting, I had met with Rocky and his then manager to discuss the video. Abteen had a treatment on deck and I had shared it with Rocky. He thought it was dope, but he wanted to use what we wrote for another song. Cool. We still get to shoot this idea that we thought of but for a different track... not a complete loss. Sadly, the original idea we had pitched, that we were excited about, never happened. But looking back, it was an alright idea.

In that meeting, Rocky had told me his idea for "Peso." He said he wanted blunts, 40's, and to be posted up in front of the bodega and the Chinese fast food restaurant spot. As a director and a producer, we cringed at that idea. Abteen and I thought of ways to improve upon Rocky's idea.

The night before the shoot, Abteen, Isaac Bauman (phat shouts!), and I met up with Rocky at 3 am in Harlem in a tiny apartment. Blunt smoked filled the air. Abteen told Rocky his new idea and Rocky insisted on only having blunts, 40's, the bodega, and the Chinese restaurant.

3 a.m. in Harlem

We left that meeting feeling slightly defeated. In order to save the creative aspect, all we could do was to have Isaac kill it on the DP tip.

We shot the video and it came out and blew up. It blew Rocky up! It launched Abteen and Isaac's career and mine as well.


We checked the view count religiously! Peso had been viewed a significant amount of times more with each visit to the video. But we noticed something that was... off.

The credits had read, "Directed by Abteen Bagheri and ASAP Rocky."

We were shocked and pissed! We had worked really hard to do this video that blew up this artist and now he's attaching his name as director?!?! Fuck that!

We wondered if he did anything that would justify the credit. All we could think of was him being insistent on his idea. As you all well know... directing is more than just conceiving an idea. Never on set did Rocky give any lensing suggestions, or inquired about composition of shots, or even had any shots planned. That was all Abteen! So you can understand the frustration.

I've said this many times, but...Tyler the Creator ruined it for us directors. Here's another story, albeit quicker than the last one. After AG and I did the Earl Sweatshirt video, we were going to do another one for Domo Genesis. I remember talking to Taco and he said, "Tyler said we're doing everything in-house from now on."

Up until the Earl video, Tyler did their videos. When his debut album dropped, he directed the video for his first single, "Yonkers." Fast forward to 2013, Tyler and I were apart of this panel discussion featuring black music video directors. He told us that when it was time for him to do a video, he had no idea and said what came to his mind. And there you have "Yonkers."

Since then he's directed a handful of Odd Future's videos.

Tyler and Odd Future coming from that DIY style, solidified their self-determined brand. It also influenced other artists to take control of every aspect of their brand. Listen y'all, we're living in a time when it's not enough to be an artist. You’ve got to sing, act, direct, design, etc. Being celebrated for your artistry alone is boring these days.

This is the plight of the music video director. Not only are budgets low, but now we have to contend with artists throwing their names on videos as directors. You’d think labels and artists would let us at least have a little shine considering we rarely make a living from music videos. But in this day and age, it’s all about views baby!!! What’s going to get the video MORE views, the fact that Chris Black directed a Lady Gaga video, or the fact that Lady Gaga directed a Lady Gaga video? Shout out to those that said me directing would get more views.

Artists fail to realize that sometimes the creativity of being an artist doesn’t extend itself well to other mediums. Meaning, I can’t say I’ve seen a really dope video that an artist directed. One of my favorites however is the self-directed MIA video for "Double Bubble Trouble," which you will be seeing on my year end list of best music videos. This is a video that you know MIA imagined and told someone specific shots she wants (I don’t know that for sure). Another series of videos that probably goes without saying are the Woodkid videos. This is lowkey a cheat code, because I’d consider Yoanne Lemoine a director first.

Look, I'm not saying that artist's shouldn't have a specific vision or control of their brand. The problem is when they say they've "directed" a video when the real directors are out here, grinding and slaving away to increase your profile. Just because you've seen Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 a million times, or that you can name more than 3 Hollywood directors, doesn't mean that you're fit to call yourself a director. Let's be honest, a lot of artists have bad taste. I understand that the music industry and music videos have changed significantly, but I personally still believe in the hierarchy. If you take music videos away from the directors then all we have left are our Vimeo accounts and film school student loans.

Black, out.

Chris Black is a music video director and producer. He's got the cool of Zack Morris with Mr. Belding's haircut. He's highly intellexual and hella urban. When he's not talking about rap, he's discussing the music video form. He's got Alfalfa dreams, but Buckwheat realities. Check him out on twitter (@theblack) or peep his website (

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