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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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkzaB9lXnf0

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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#IndieSpotlight: N’awlins Rapper A. Levy Is Proclaiming Positivity Through His Music

“It’s a great time…even better it’s the best time of my career thus far.”

New Orleans rapper A. Levy wears many hats: hip-hop artist, audio engineer, t-shirt brand owner, father, and husband. His music is a mixture of lyrical storytelling, and golden era aesthetics, and contemporary production. “I’m influenced by a lot of things and try to touch on subjects I feel are neglected,” he tells AAHH in an interview.

The celebrated emcee started off his career making parodies and remixes of radio songs. “I’m from New Orleans,” he says, “so Mac, Fiend, Mystikal, No Limit and the Cash Money camp influenced me,” he says, also naming Nas, Outkast, and Kendrick Lamar who give him inspiration from to pen songs.

His journey has been long, with many drops along the way. “To date, I’ve released too many projects to remember,” he says with a laugh. “I started off under the name Young Duece. After a conversation with a local radio personality, I changed it to the most natural thing I could think of … my name.” Some of his past projects include Commercial Break, Best You Never Heard Of, Crashed Harddrive, Super Ugly, Crescent City Classic, and a few others.

“Right now, I’m working on collecting original production with no samples,” he reveals. “My heart tells me to do samples, but financially that’s not the wisest move when it’s time for radio, tv, movie and video game placements.”

He’s received a ton of recognition thus far. “The Source has covered me, XXL, 2DopeBoyz, BBC, performed in Thailand, London, Aruba and successfully did three national tours all in the last three years.” That has all been independent, too. “I’ve [also] been nominated for and won a few NOLA music awards,” he says proudly.

“I record mix and master my music,” he adds. “I book my shows and do my PR, all while holding down a full-time job. My studio — The Hut Studios –has been a local staple for the last decade for some of the best indie artists in the area. In addition to all that I also throw monthly showcases and festivals in the states.”

He is quick to note his primary goal as amassing as much influence as possible. “I want to put my city in the best and most accurate light possible. We’re a city full of lyricists, pop artist, and street artist, but to date, only one part of our story has been told prominently. I want to be a part of spreading positivity.”

“I’m signed to myself. I don’t foresee myself signing any major label deals. I’ve personally had horror stories and heard twice as many from my peers,” he says. Next up is more touring. Bigger and better stages. Festivals, TV, and radio are all in play right now.”

“It’s a great time…even better it’s the best time of my career thus far.”

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“Ye” Fails To Reintroduce Mr. West

At times, Kanye West’s polarizing media posturing is his strongest attribute. We can’t wait for the next idiotic gem to…

At times, Kanye West’s polarizing media posturing is his strongest attribute. We can’t wait for the next idiotic gem to rattle between his ears and tumble from his lips. That noise is great content; filling blog pages and gossip sites, sparking debate across social media and music platforms. But after a casual listen to Ye, his newest disaster, does his brand of pigeonholed creativity matter anymore?

This perpetual media circus is where Kanye operates best. He’s a freewheeling spirit; a madman at the boards, a producer with infinite vision and a MC with a caustic tongue. He’s a master at manipulating a turn of phrase while simultaneously dumping the world upside down-remember when he flippantly suggested that slavery was a choice? This sort of buffoonery is exactly what West has spoon-fed the public for the past few years; and still the world anticipates his every chess move with a panicked FOMO that only Kanye can induce.

West has mastered the art of celebrity, where nothing is sacred or left to our imagination. He lays low only long enough to manifest his next move. The past few months have been no exception. He’s been holed up in Wyoming and Utah crafting a series of projects aimed for release this month. Among them is a collaborative record with Kid Cudi, Ye,  Pusha-T’s Daytona, and an as-yet-untitled record from Nas. Kanye is apparently producing seven songs for each project, digging for samples through some 2,000 vinyl records he purchased and shipped out west.

This most recent version of Kanye is the one we cannot stop talking about. These days we’re constantly confronted by Kanye the enigma- the uncanny fool who can’t dislodge his foot from his mouth- until he releases new music. His art has a timely way of silencing the shit talking; of zeroing the critics back to his inevitable genius — which brings us up to speed in 2018.

Kanye’s production on Daytona will be ranked as some of the year’s best. On the flip side, his newest offering — the slim and trim Ye — is an unbalanced and easily forgotten mess. At a running time of twenty-three minutes it’s chaotic and disconnected, attempting to borrow the best working bits of The Life Of Pablo and Yeezus while ignoring any of the soulful introspection and self-depreciation that made us fall in love with the Old Kanye ages ago.

Take the album opener, “I Thought About Killing You”, for exactly what it is and you won’t be let down. West, the egomaniac, nervously vents about his punishing mental illness and nagging insecurities while never allowing the listener a second to process or feel what he’s living through. The song serves as a false entrance to a world that’s as contrived as the album cover, and hardly as deep as the internet will lead you to believe. Is Kanye really the poster boy that mental health is looking for? He certainly wants you to believe so.

For the album’s actual release, West invited hundreds of “influencers” to Wyoming for a listening party- the industry’s equivalent to a real time gallery walk. Kanye took his show on the road, and in the meantime alienated himself further from the culture he’s spent years crafting and molding into something people once truly believed in. Rather than hitting any impactfulmark by relocating his camp to The Equality State, he created an even larger gap between us and them.

Ye can’t help but put a serious divide between Kanye and his fans. There are moments that work, like the beautifully crafted “Ghost Town”, featuring a rejuvenated Kid Cudi and an incredible hook courtesy of 070 Shake (a star in the making), and the bouncy and biting “All Mine”, which contains plenty of chuckle-worthy bars like “I love your titties because they prove I can focus on two things at once”. But those moments of silly bliss are buried beneath cringe-induced, head scratching blunders which normally aren’t the defining moments of any Yeezy album.

By the time you get to the albums final three minutes, where Kanye recognizes his role as a father to little girls on “Violent Crimes”, you desperately want to believe in Ye, but the damage is done. Kanye West doesn’t want to get out of his own way, andhe might be too far gone trying to create, recreate, and monetize his Calabasas world to make something we can honestly believe in as common folks in 2018.

Kanye’s fall from grace is a marvel; complete with a public breakdown in 2016, a few hobo-chic fashion interludes, and a baffling reemergence into our consciousness with a pledging of love for Donald Trump. It’s without a doubt one of the strangest stories in all of popular culture. The problem is, Ye fails to captivate us as a re-introduction to Kanye West and this new chapter in his saga. It’s lackluster at best, which is a bar that’s far too low for one of hip-hop’s true trend setters.

Ye comes and goes without a single memorable moment. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Instead of debating the quality of the final product like we have so many times with Kanye releases in the past, we’re left with a mediocre soundtrack and the hollow images of famous people in Wyoming dancing around a bonfire.

 

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REVIEW: A$AP Rocky’s “TESTING”

Lifelong rapper, artist, and fashion mogul A$AP Rocky has at long last delivered his third album: TESTING. The project was…

Lifelong rapper, artist, and fashion mogul A$AP Rocky has at long last delivered his third album: TESTING. The project was quickly overshadowed by Pusha T’s synchronized drop that sparked beef with Drake, but still maintained relevancy with mixed reactions from fans and reviewers.

The project opens with an uncharacteristic bang on “Distorted Records,” and then settles in with a feature heavy remix of “A$AP Forever.” The next three tracks feel like a return to his previous album with trademark Rocky flows that lead into an interesting acoustic track featuring Kodak Black through a prison phone. The rest of the album seems to find its own voice and ends on a strong note with Flacko and Frank Ocean rapping over a distorted Lauryn Hill sample. Most had a positive reaction to Testing but some people claimed it was overhyped and even disappointing.

At first listen Testing is honestly hard to get through; it’s a dense project. This may have caused some people to write it off as lacking much progression from his prior work. But Testing is only dense because it’s Rocky’s most mature project to date. At 29 it seems as if the rap legend has finally honed in on his “too cool for you” style without even having any super notable lyrics. Flacko nails his verses on more experimental songs with consistency and swagger in place of lyricism. On tracks like “Brotha Man” and “Purity,” Rocky can be heard spitting/singing with the help of notoriously experimental artists Frank Ocean and Dean Blunt, but reels listeners back in with slaps like “Praise the Lord” and “OG Beeper.” The intro song to the album, “Distorted,” doesn’t seem to fit the project or introduce its vibe too well, but as a stand alone song it’s pretty decent.

And despite the awkward first track, once you’re a few songs deep the album does become cohesive. Rocky makes sure to pay his tribute to Bone Thugs and Three Six Mafia by blending in some chopped and screwed instrumentals, and somehow complements them with acoustic guitar and singing. It was this combo that really made Testing distinct from his previous work.

Overall, compared to Rocky’s electric, Ciroc infused debut album LONG LIVE A$AP, this project is more like a fine wine. I predict Testing will age better than his first two records because it’s scattered with gems that will easily skip your radar in the first few listens.

My favorite songs from the project are: “Praise The Lord (Da Shine),” “Brotha Man,” and “Purity.”

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HSVN – Changes (LP)

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