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Music Video Director Dave Meyers (Missy Elliot, Outkast, Jay Z etc)

Music Video Director Dave Meyers (Missy Elliot, Outkast, Jay Z etc)

Dave Meyers’ frenetic imagination has conjured some of this era’s most recognizable music videos. Active since the 90s, his resume consists of over 200 projects with a genre-spanning list of artists from Jay-Z to Mick Jagger. 

A chance meeting with Good Will Hunting filmmaker Gus Van Sant inspired Meyers to pursue videos and he landed his first MTV slot in 1997 with underground Oakland duo The Whoridas. The Californian director’s most iconic work includes eleven of Missy Elliot’s career defining videos as well as visuals for Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad” and “So Fresh, So Clean.” He won a best video Grammy Award in 2005 for Elliot’s “Lose Control” and has also received eleven MTV Awards. 

Meyers recently took a three-year sabbatical to pursue film and advertising, but is now diving back into capturing music. During more than an hour of conversation, we discussed a fraction of his filmography and thoughts on industry issues such as lower budgets and product placement. He discussed early interactions with Kanye West, shooting with Nas, making 44 videos in one year and a whole lot more.  

Do you think music videos have worth in 2015 or are they in danger of becoming content for content’s sake?

They certainly have regained value for me. I took a three or four year break there and focused on commercials. What I’ve learned with the reach of a music video, especially to it’s fans, is there’s nothing quite like it other than maybe Jurassic Park [laughs]. It’s a very strong connection that artists still maintain with their fans, even more so than ever, because of the way the Internet is. To be part of that and to be a creative entity associated with that is kind of the purpose of filmmaking, or my particular passion. I’ve reached out to all of the folks you’d expect me to reach out to and we’re brewing some cool stuff that is coming our way. You’ll hopefully see some collaboration later this year with Missy [Elliot], Janet [Jackson] and there are a variety of things that might be coming. My passion for videos is alive and well and as I think the artists have sort of gotten used to the lower budgets, the resulting climate is a push for creativity.

Hype Williams Ain’t Walking Through That Door: The Demise of Contemporary Rap Videos

missy elliot

Originally written for Passionweiss

Modern rap videos seem to direct themselves. They have 2-3 scenes. The artist does their best frowny face and points a finger gun at the camera. There’s a cool rented car, a gritty urban backdrop, a seductive vixen and an appearance from another popular artist. You submit one view to YouTube and the hip-hop bots tirelessly start the next project on the content assembly line.

As major rap labels edge closer to the precipice of irrelevance, creativity is the first casualty in their Soundscan scramble. Like Doc Zeus stated in his article on Jeezy’s recentcolourless album, labels are trying to stay profitable by relying on unchanging methods. Popular guests are recycled as Chris Brown cashes another check for singing “the ladies track” and artists collaborate with the same dependable producers in pursuit of that Billboard debut. This clinical formula for success has sucked the life out of music videos, and often the visual art form is reduced to a few cliché scenes hastily packaged into a marketing plan.

The 90s golden era is largely an invention of nostalgia and there’s plenty of cringeworthy examples from the past too, but it’s undeniable that budget cuts have impacted the quality of music videos. The days of feeding supermodels champagne by the crateduring a million dollar trip to the Trinidad Carnival are long gone. But money shouldn’t limit creativity. The best clips can be shot with no budget on a stolen camcorder or a third-hand smartphone. Chief Keef rapping in his mother’s kitchen or flashing a UZI is more exciting than French Montana dapping Rick Ross for the sixth time.

A depressingly relevant illustration is Juicy J’s single “Ice.” The uninspired video fails to capitalise on three of the most charismatic major players in rap. The legendary Memphis misogynist rhyming alongside Dungeon Family’s emotional cyborg Future and the A$AP Mob’s sole creative Ferg sounds vibrant in theory. Unfortunately the clip, which premiered on Worldstar, doesn’t feature a frostbitten Future surrounded by mean-mugging snowmen. Cold, sterile and coma inducing, it barely packs anything interesting at all.

The trio unexplainably recite verses in a disused warehouse and on neon lit stairs. They fulfil the metaphor of wearing diamond-frosted jewellery (ice, geddit?) and for some reason lingerie babes pose seductively between scenes. In a storyboard that any armchair rap fan would have conjured in five minutes, the only quirky surprise is Juicy’s Brazzers t-shirt and a quick glimpse of celebrity jeweller TV Johnny.

Posted on popular blogs and delegated to page two within half a day, a new uninspired video is released as quickly as yesterday’s is forgotten. Nicki Minaj’s cartoonish booty showcase “Anaconda” sabotages attempted creativity by including excessive product placement. The hypersexual clip randomly features dancers in front of a huge sign for fruit-infused Moscato brand MYX Fusions, the detox tea MateFit, a Beats Pill speaker and VSX workout gear.

G-Unit might have gone independent, but they’re not doing much better. On recent track “Watch Me,” Eif Rivera resorts to his familiar method of using quick cut scene changes to disguise zero interesting concepts. Nausea inducing editing can’t compensate for the rapping in a hallway cliché or the cheesy drummer pretending to play the “rock inspired” beat.
Some modern artists do get it right though. Missy Elliot, involved in some of the most bizarre and well-choreographed visuals of all time, has recently directed two great flicks for her artist Sharaya J. Vice nailed a potential video of the year for Action Bronson’s “Easy Rider”.

What most rap videos are missing is some unpredictability – a cool surprise or the willingness of the director to push the artist to do something different. Despite our unlimited appetite for content, some images don’t fade once the press cycle is finished. We remember Ghostface’s hatT.I rapping in front of Shawty Lo’s projects and Pimp C burning dollar bills. Music videos should be treated as an art form not a necessary rehash of the same ideas.