Videography is art, a talent we consume and acknowledge but have become desensitized to the intricacies of the sort. This will be a series speaking specifically on the music video directors of the past, moving to their influence on modern-day music video directors, and ending with showcasing some of the most visually appealing videos of the last year. Welcome to the Visually Obsessed Series Pt 1.
Firstly I wanted to highlight some of the first music video directors I noticed and grew up witnessing.
Gun to my head, if you asked me to name three prominent music video directors, I would shout out Hype Williams three times fast like he’s the Candy Man. Williams will always be known as a considerable influence in hip hop imagery during the 90’s/00’s. With over three hundred music video credits under his belt, he is a wonder. Williams carved his way into music video stardom by sticking to specific styles that were hemmed to him until they were no longer fresh and then switched to new techniques. The ’90s saw Williams using a fisheye lens like in Missy’s The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly). Williams switched to a more known style where he placed the subject matter in a widescreen ratio with the top and bottom parts of the video split with a second shot playing, seen in Check On It by Beyonce. Many other specific styles and a hefty list of videos under his belt makes Williams a huge influence within the music video scene.
My personal favourite? Williams has directed one feature film in his career, the 1998 crime drama Belly. While the film isn’t anything crazy (but is definitely a cult classic in black culture), the opening scene is one of the most visually appealing and incredibly shot pieces of cinematography. Williams spent most of the film’s budget on the opening scene, which could have been a stand-alone music video in itself.
I beg, please watch below.
This list would mean nothing if I didn’t add our Canadian content. Director X was born and raised in the GTA and can represent Canadian talent any day of the week. In our small world, X was a protégé of Hype Williams after working with him on several projects. X is a diverse music director, having worked with rappers, bands, pop stars, boy bands, and several UK talents. X has directed a few films, but none marks his talent for visually commanding videos with a large budget and quirky moments like his music videography. One of your favourite videos might one directed by X.
Full Canadian circle here, X directed Drake’s Started From The Bottom, where Drake plays a Shopper’s Drugmart employee with his Canadian homeboys before making it big. (Canadian, director, Canadian rapper & Canadian drugstore chain…full Canadian circle)
I’m not going to lie to you, with a name like Spike Jonze, I thought this man was black… he is very Caucasian. Jonze has directed full-length films, short films, documentaries, commercials, television shows, and music videos (he’s even acted in a few of the previously mentioned). Jonze is an obvious talent with the award-winning film Her under his belt as a writer and director, but Jonze started his directing career with music videos. Jonze has not left directing music videos, with his last music video being released in 2019. While one of my favourite Jonze videos might not be the flashiest it definitely looks like one of the most fun.
Melina Matsoukas has directed over 60 music videos, had her film directorial debut with Queen & Slim, and television credits like Insecure and Master of None. Matsoukas loves to work in contrast with either black/white or vibrancy of colour and incorporating retro looks for the models and artists. Matsoukas has boasted about creating music videos and the merging between the visual and the story the visual creates. It is art. Matsoukas directed Beyonce’s Formation, which has so many interwoven aspects of New Orleans history: Hurricane Katrina, Black Pride, Creole culture, Mardi Gras, beauty standards, black cowboys, police brutality, and plenty more. Each time I watch that visual masterpiece of a music video, I discover a new aspect.
Next week I will be focusing on one of the newer music video directors on the scene. She is young, female and black… can you guess who it is?