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Behind The Camera With Video Director Myster DL

We’re in the age of the music video, and few video directors have been as trusted by real heads as…

We’re in the age of the music video, and few video directors have been as trusted by real heads as Myster DL. Creeping up on his 250th video, he’s worked with acts like Redman, Sean Price, Styles P, Chuck D, Cormega, and more. That’s on top of film/TV, and commercial work that’s helped make ILL Mannered Films such a bankable brand in the game.

His demo reel speaks for itself.

The 36-year-old director recently sat with AAHH for an exclusive interview, fresh off of the release of his latest video for Kool G Rap, “Running.”

How did you get involved in directing videos?

In the height of my music career, I started doing music videos in 2011. I always had an eye for photos, and I took a video editing course in college but only to fulfill course requirements. I took to it instantly and got a 100% as a grade. This did not inspire my career it’s just a fun fact. About seven years after that I was on set for a music video, and the director didn’t show up, so I said to the artist “give me the camera I’ll shoot it.” Everyone had a chuckle, and I filmed it, edited on iMovie in a few hours and we put it out. It took off right away.

About ten videos later I was shooting videos for Sean Price, Cormega, Sticky Fingaz and more. When I say right away, I mean it. My film career took off quick because I already had a name and had made so many legendary connections during my music career it was easy to approach artists because I had already produced records for most of them.

Who was someone you looked up to when getting into the game?

My all time biggest influence was and is Cypress Hill. Without Cypress Hill, I doubt there would be a Myster DL. I might be someone completely different. I always enjoyed Hip Hop, but Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday album made me want to create it. The music eventually turned into making music videos which turned into making films. Cypress Hill appeared in my 1st film, and I consider them friends and peers. Eric Bobo and I have a few projects, and B-Real is on my next album.

What have been career highlights for you?

My highlight was defiantly my 1st film A Sea of Green. I spent three years working on that movie. I wrote, directed, filmed, edit, produced and even acted in it and it features a slew of legendary rappers. Another moment that comes to mind is my mom seeing my name on HBO and of course directing videos for iconic MCs like Sean Price, Chuck D, LOX, and Redman.

Tell me about the concept for your latest visual for Kool G Rap.

I filmed three videos that day. It was a 19-hour ordeal, 10 of which was traveling back and forth. We did videos for songs with Kool G Rap, Freeway, Lil Fame, Term & Saigon. The “Running” video was supposed to come out 2nd, but things got moved around, and we went with “Running” 1st. I knew instantly I would incorporate running into the video. I didn’t want the video to be a too gangster because the 1st video we shot was a gangster movie set to a beat with all the rappers acting. So for “Running” I wanted to tell a story using bits and pieces of the MCs lyrics and manipulating it into a story about struggle.

Do you have any crazy on-set stories (from any shoots)?

I have a lot but will try not be incriminating. I’ve been on set with some big rappers that were mostly cool and some that we had to put in their place. One of my most memorable on-set memories was Chuck D driving me through Brooklyn telling me stories about the early days of Hip Hop and how he helped Ice Cube deal with his fame. I rarely pose for pictures, but I took a few that day. On the set of the Kool G Rap “Wiseguys” video, the NYPD took control of my drone and crashed it because we must have been in a restricted no fly zone.

I was arrested in Brownsville, Brooklyn shooting a video for Rock of Heltah Skeltah and was locked up in the 73rd (peep my Words) for a few days over a half ounce of weed. When I got out I called Rock and said “hey man sorry I got arrested, ” and he said “no sh*t.” It took us years to finally do that video. Multiple film sets have had the police gearing up ready to take us down because they got so many calls of people brandishing guns. In our defense, they were props — mostly.

What advice do you have for up and coming directors?

Put out quality work and brand yourself. Start and end every video with your logo or info. All my videos start with my ILL Mannered Films logo, and if you don’t want it to start that way, there is a lot of other good directors you can get. In an age where everything is visual, and blogs are sustained by videos, I’m surprised they rarely credit directors. By the way, this goes for nonfamous producers also.

The rapper gets all the credit for the concepts and the quality of the videos. This has happened to me countless time. You know what the rapper does? Raps. Sometimes not even that as a lot don’t know their rhymes and the director has to make the viewer not realize that. These blogs aren’t going to give you your credit so give it to yourself. I’ve done 235 music videos, and sometimes blogs still leave my name out.

What do you have coming up?

I have an ongoing documentary web series that is currently out called “Rewind The Scenes” where I look back at some of my biggest videos and go in depth on how we made them. I have episodes for over 30 legendary acts so far. I have a 10 episode comedy TV show coming out soon called The Weekend Warriors, which is wild and also features so hip hop heavyweights in some hilarious situations. I am also beginning production on my 2nd full-length film. It is an urban crime drama called As Thick As Thieves, and of course I am approaching my 250th video. Who will it be?

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
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“My Dear Melancholy” is Bone-Chillingly Beautiful

Judging from the dark subject matter that has typified Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye’s catalogue to date–which includes rampant drug abuse,…

Judging from the dark subject matter that has typified Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye’s catalogue to date–which includes rampant drug abuse, his struggles as a homeless young-adult, and suicidal thoughts–few could have guessed that it would be his short stint with a former Disney Channel star that would leave him at his lowest. The Starboy crooner leaves little to speculation on his latest commercial release, My Dear Melancholy, a succinct six-song EP inarguably based on the fallout after his recent fling with pop star Selena Gomez. 

While The Weeknd’s anguish seems genuine and makes you feel for the guy, it’s impossible to ignore the glaring irony in his recent complaints, one, given Gomez’ goody-two-shoes persona, and even more so given the overtly misogynistic lyrics that Tesfaye is so well known for. Here are a few in case you need a reminder (no pun intended):

From the track “Party Monster” off of Starboy: “Woke up by a girl I don’t even know her name.”

From the smash hit “The Hills” off of the 2015 release Beauty Behind the Madness: “I only call you when it’s half past five, the only time I’d ever call you mine.”

Later on the same track, “I just fucked two bitches ‘fore I saw you.” 

Lastly, on the track “Reminder,” also off of Starboy: “When I travel ’round the globe, make a couple mil’ a show, and I come back to my city, I fuck every girl I know.” 

With that being said, musically, My Dear Melancholy is bone-chillingly beautiful. The Weeknd returns to his dark and cavernous House of Balloons roots on the project while still maintaining his newfound pop sensibilities. Rattling bass, slow, driving percussion, and subtle, haunting synths and keys cproductions. The production on most of My Dear Melancholy leaves room for Tesfaye’s vocals to take the driver’s seat, unlike that of the brighter and grandiose Starboy. From a lyrical standpoint, the EP is peppered with moving, weighty bars:

Off of “Wasted Times:” “I don’t wanna wake up if you ain’t laying next to me.”

Off of “Call Out My Name,” the opener: “I almost cut a piece of myself for your life,” a reference to Gomez’ recent search for a kidney donor

Tesfaye saves the best for last, providing the most melodically beautiful and lyrically clever portion of the EP on the closing track “Privilege,” as he repeats in a despondent, Vocoder-enhanced tone: “I got two red pills, to take the blues away.”

It is hard to deny the allure of much of The Weeknd’s work, regardless of lyrical content, due to the singer’s angelic voice and cutting-edge production. On My Dear Melancholy, Tesfaye achieves success from both a melodic and lyrical standpoint, substituting (for the most part) tales of apathetic sexual encounters for raw, vulnerable descriptions of his recent struggle with heartbreak. The Weeknd has finally found the middle ground between his groundbreaking, alt-R&B House of Balloons project and the poppy, Funk-infused Starboy. Lastly, to those Weeknd Stans worried about the Toronto star returning to normalcy, the singer explains on “Privilege:” 

“And I’ma fuck the pain away, and I know I’ll be okay…But I’ma drink the pain away, I’ll be back to my old ways.” 

Not to worry people; the Abel we’ve come to know, and love isn’t going anywhere.

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Cardi B’s Debut Album “Invasion of Privacy” Is Out Now

It’s almost a week since Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy dropped. Her fans, the Bardi Gang, are more than…

It’s almost a week since Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy dropped. Her fans, the Bardi Gang, are more than pleased with the LP, which has aldo managed to make those who weren’t fans, into new ones..

“I like proving niggas wrong, I do what they say I can’t,” raps Cardi B on “I Like It”

I can’t think of an artist that has had as bomb a breakout year as Cardi B has. She gave us the summer 2017 hit, “Bodak Yellow,” and since then, she’s been on the Billboard charts back to back (to back). The last ten months have been especially great to her, let alone this week. After releasing Invasion of Privacy, Cardi revealed her pregnancy with rapper Offset on “Saturday Night Live”; also, she was the first person ever to co-host The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Invasion of Privacy is an upfront look into Cardi’s everyday life. She’s confident, vulnerable and full of witty remarks. Laced into 13 tracks, the newly minted Quality Control management signee made anthems for the rest of the year. “Get Up 10” sets the bar for what’s to come on the project. Inspired by Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” intro, Cardi’s version is also broken into two parts about her ascension to the riches from the rags.

As well, the album includes “Bartier Cardi” with 21 savage, which recently earned platinum certification, and is still doing numbers.


Cardi B money moves on this album show her versatility. She dabbles into the trap sound with “Drip” featuring the Migos, shows her confidence and positive vibes on “Best Life” featuring Chance the Rapper, and gets very personal with “Be Careful,” a track addressing an unfaithful partner/boyfriend. Cardi is not the one to mess with!

Social media pundit-turned reality TV star-turned rapper is a way of saying that this girl from the Bronx, is made of grind and determination. You don’t have to like her music, the way she talks, or her persona, but you have to respect her hustle. She came from the bottom and executed her way to the top.

Listen to Cardi B’s debut album below.

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Scottie Jax Is Prepping Posthumous LP To Drop In 2100

This man is intent on leaving a legacy.

You may not have heard of rapper/producer Scottie Jax, but he’s been on and cracking for the better part of the last decade. His first solo mixtape Plan For Tomorrow (from 2009) was hosted by the illustrious DJ Lazy K and featured verses from some of the game’s most respected: French Montana, Max B, Styles P of the mighty D-Block, and the late Fatal Hussein of the Outlawz. He’s since released numerous projects, beats tapes, and — shit — even a videogame last year entitled Ohio Hustler.

But, Scotty is intent on leaving a legacy.

The largely self-produced artist has a new album in the works, entitled Future History; mysteriously (and cryptically), he refers to is as the “Scottie Jax album you will never hear.” He notes in his release details that it’s set to release in the year 2100. “I feel that it’s not about the person who leaves the legacy, but the legacy itself,” he writes. “I will no longer be living, so the least I can try to do is make the world a better place than it was when I was living on it.” There is no word on the platform he will choose for this LP — as there’s no telling if they will still be around. We can only hope he drops the LP long before that.

In the meantime (the very long meantime) you can check out a large portion of his catalog via Soundcloud.

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Kaiju The Unconquerable Returns With Ultraman Visual

Kaiju The Unconquerable is an alumnus of my #indiespotlight series from last year when he released “Episode 6″—a dope mini-movie…

Kaiju The Unconquerable is an alumnus of my #indiespotlight series from last year when he released “Episode 6″—a dope mini-movie that anyone into Anime/comics/ninja type shit should revisit. He just sent “Episode 7: Ultraman” my way, and it’s fantastic.

Related: #IndieSpotlight: Kaiju The Unconquerable Releases New Short Film

This time around, the story centers on Zenith, a 27-year-old Ultraman stationed in the US. He became an Ultraman after his father attempted to tamper with the gene and ultimately ended up dying in an attempt to distill and use its power. Fast forward; Zenith is the only one with this power (on this side of the world), and—in the course of the six-minute mini film fights a deadly alien, lighting up the NYC skyline in the process.

It’s, literally as rad as it sounds. From his Ultraman arms and mask—which are insanely cool—to his Ultraman letterman jacket, which I would kill for, the visual is engaging, not unlike his past material. He also directed it, which needs to be acknowledged.

Much like his previous work, which I discussed before, Kaiju’s image and music play off of each other but don’t depend on each other, at all. DOOM is DOOM, that’s his character. This song, for example, is a really dope song as a stand-alone; if you were to listen to just the song, you might take Ultraman as a metaphor–among many others in the lyrically dense track–and rock with it.

The video is what makes it literal. “Ultraman” is a really (really) good song, I can’t stress that enough. Kaiju may come across as niche if you peruse through his catalog, but he’s extremely accessible.

Recommend content—really sit with this one. Early!

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