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?