Put Daps on Your Music Map: He’s Directed Videos for Cardi B, Migos and Lil Baby

‘I take a street concept and I elevate it. I make street art palatable to a non-street audience.’

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Director Daps works with Cardi B and Yung Miami on set. / 20K Visuals

When it comes to music videos, Daps is music label Quality Control’s quality control.

The filmmaker has ensured a pristine look on explicit realities for the fledgling label’s videos for such artists as Migos, City Girls and Lil Baby. Two of the last videos Daps has directed—City Girls and Cardi B's “Twerk” as well as Migos and Drake’s “Walk It Talk It”—have amassed 345 million combined YouTube views.  Being in the industry since 2010, Daps has learned under the tutelage of Director X, the trailblazing director who made Usher larger than life and he mentored Drake’s go-to director Karena Evans (“God’s Plan,” “Nice For What,” “In My Feelings”). He's combined that knowledge and his own talents to direct videos with Nicki Minaj, A Boogie and others.

Daps spoke with ONE37pm about the feminist ideals in City Girls and Cardi B’s “Twerk” video, the money he’s spent to turn a vision into reality and more.

What is your talent as a music director?

Daps: I think I make the streets look good. I think that’s what I do the best. I take a street concept and I elevate it. I make street art palatable to a non-street audience. Right now, we’re in an era where hip-hop music is the most consumed music in the world. It’s the first time that's ever happened. But, we’re on the forefront of that. It’s a blessing to be part of that conversation and put artists on a certain platform. My style is very photographic. I like to think my style is more like pictures in motion.

You’ve done nearly every video for Quality Control, the record label for Migos, Lil Baby and City Girls. How did you develop this relationship with that label and maintain it?

Daps: It’s definitely been a blessing. The [Migos] are very loyal. QC is very loyal. The first video I did for them was called “Cocoon.” That was when they were in London. We just happened to cross paths while we were out there, scheduling-wise. They liked how it turned out. After that, we knocked out “Bad and Boujee.” After that, it’s been history. We managed to knock out things back to back. So, like I said, these guys are very loyal. When they lock in, they lock in.

The song “Bad and Boujee” changed Migos’s career from burgeoning stars to full-fledged international superstars. How did the video affect your career?

Daps: That was the beginning of the beginning. The song did well, and the video matched it. My career coincided with their rise. So, that video was the start of a lot of things and it put the eyes on me. But when the eyes are on you, it's now up to you to keep on producing. Anyone can do it once. Can you do it twice or three times? Can you do it for a month, a year or two years? When you’re given the opportunity you have to make sure you run with it properly. Thankfully, I was able to do that.

One of my favorite videos from you is the video for City Girls and Cardi B’s “Twerk” song.

Daps:  (Laughs) I wonder why you like that one.

Oh, obviously for the cinematic quality (laughs). Whose idea was it for them to be painted up as zebras and lions?

Daps: I think it might’ve been Cardi’s and [City Girls rapper] Yung Miami.

The video is very fun and sexy. Were there any shots you had to take out because it might’ve been too racy?

Daps: Not really, actually. There was nothing in there that was like, “Whoa, we can’t use that.” I don’t remember saying that during the editing. At the same time, It's not a sexual video. It's the first time in rap history where we’ve seen that many women on camera doing wild shit without any men around. If you add men to it, it becomes seedy and sexual. If you have one man slap one butt, or one credit card swipe, or one champagne pour, it becomes something else. But you can do what you want when it’s all girls. There was not one man in sight, the whole video, period. That was purposely done. It was a creative decision that everyone going into it knew what we were going to do.

It was highly anticipated in a way music videos normally aren’t anymore after the decline of music videos on television. Did you feel any pressure while the anticipation was rising?

Daps: Nah. After it’s edited and I hand it over, thatÆs it. I have no control when it comes out. It was a two-day shoot. We shot it, edited it and handed it over. Obviously, they have their marketing schedule and have to go through legal and all of that stuff.

[Cardi B is] really funny in person. She’s mad cool and really humble. She’s definitely about her business, that’s why she’s great. When it’s grind time, it’s grind time.

- Daps

What’s Cardi B’s personality like on set?

Daps: She’s really funny in person. She’s mad cool and really humble. She’s definitely about her business, that’s why she’s great. When it’s grind time, it’s grind time.

People might see these music videos and think it’s all glamour and booty shaking. What’s the most unglamorous thing you do?

Daps: The prep work isnt really glamorous. Youre on your laptop a lot. Youre writing up concepts, youre getting turned down, you're location scouting, you're dealing with finance and scheduling issues. Thats not glamorous at all. You have one to two weeks to prep a video. No one sees that part. All they see is a three-minute video on YouTube. They dont know what issues you went through, and youll go through issues with every single video. Theres a lot of running around, as well as pre- and post-work. As directors, we're the people there for every step of the process, from beginning to end, whereas some people come to the set just for the day. They come, 12-hour day, they shoot, then go home. They get paid. Bye-bye. Whether it goes wrong or right, theyre good.

Like you said, there will always be problems on a video set. What is an issue you handled that fans would have never known from the final product?

Daps: Getting shut down and having to find another location real quick. Even off-camera stuff, legal issues that I cant even speak about because some people are on probation. I may be able to fix a situation for someone, legally, where someone may go to jail. That's not part of my job, but I do it because I look at my clients like theyre my people. So Im looking out, as well. So, some of the stuff is beyond music. Where Ive done real life stuff that I can't even say what it is. (Laughs)

Thats on the big end. On the small end, we deal with so much. For example, I couldn’t tell you when I last earned my full rate for a music video. The clients don't know I go into my personal pockets to put back into the video. It’s not part of the job. I care about the project more than the money. Obviously bills are due and rent’s due. But I go in my pockets every single video. Facts.

Back to Migoss “Bad & Boujee” video for a second. I remember the single art was of a woman in a nice dress eating Ramen noodles. Was that your idea?

Daps: Well, what’s funny is that picture was already out before the Bad & Boujee video came out. I saw that picture and I thought, “You know what? That’s a real moment.” The whole noodles idea in the diner was Quavo’s idea. He might have got that from the picture, for all I know. But yeah, seeing that picture spurred on some things in me. I’m like, “She looks bougie wearing the dress, but she’s eating noodles. Hold on a minute.” That picture definitely spurred on a lot of my thought processes.

Quavo is very hands-on with his music. Which video would you say he was the most hands-on for?

Daps: The music video for [Migos’s] “Narcos” was his concept. I was [the executive producer] on that project, and it was run through my company. He was very hands-on with that one.

How did the Soul Train-themed “Walk It Like I Talk It” video come about? Who came up with that concept?

Daps: I think it was [Quality Control’s co-founder and chief operating officer] Coach K. Or it was Coach K and [Migos]. That was a really smooth day on set, even though it was a really short turnaround. The label confirmed the video on a Tuesday and we shot it on like a Friday. Even then, everyone locked in. Easy day. No drama. It was stress-free. We had a lot of big talent on set. Jamie Foxx. Drake. Migos. Everyone pulled together. Everyone loved it.

You also learned from legendary hip-hop producer Director X. What did he teach you?

Daps: The most important thing I’ve learned from X is controlling the set in general. You have a lot of moving parts, sometimes 40 to 50 individuals working at the same time to create one product. How do you handle all of those personalities, keep your clients happy, keep the artists happy, keep your spirits high and basically be that conductor? You can’t learn that in film school. You can’t learn that on YouTube. You can’t learn on those platforms how to be a people person, how to conduct a set and have people listen to you and respect you. Also, how to listen to people and take in what they’re saying.

Now anyone can do a video. I can take my phone out right now, shoot a video, put it on my laptop and boom, free distribution on YouTube.

- Daps

Director X was one of the preeminent directors during a time of the most expensive hip-hop music videos. Now that the music industrys revenue has been cut by half since the heyday of the late 1990s, how have music videos changed over the past 20 years?

Daps: It’s been cut by more than half on our side. On the budget side, it's probably 10-fold. I’m serious. It’s 10-fold. That’s the biggest difference. Back then, there were probably fewer videos out. Now anyone can do a video. I can take my phone out right now, shoot a video, put it on my laptop and boom, free distribution on YouTube. I think back then it was more controlled and more of an all-boys club. It was probably harder to get into. It was probably more professional, where you had to go to film school. Back then, they were shooting on film a lot, too. At the same time, I think now, there might be more creativity in hip-hop, even though back then videos had a certain look to them and film quality. Right now, people take more risks. Back then, people would only record videos if they looked a certain way. They had the cars, the women, the champagne. We still have that now, but we also have people doing quirky things. Not saying they weren’t doing it then, either. Busta Rhymes did a bunch of cool stuff. Hype [Williams], X, Dave Meyers, they all did cool stuff back then. But in general, I think creativity is spread more now. There’s also more bullshit now, too.

I grew up in MTVs Making the Video era where those directors used to shine on. What is the funniest moment you can remember on the set of a video?

Daps: The funniest moment was on the set of the video for Migos’s “What The Price?” It was a long day. For some reason, at the end of it, there was this funny character at the diner. I don’t know what happened, but everyone started having a laughing fit in the diner (laughs). They thought he was super cool or whatever. One person started laughing, then another person started laughing, then Migos were laughing. We really shot a ten-minute laughing fit. We couldn’t film a scene. We had to wrap early because people had a laughing fit and we couldn’t finish filming. Shit was crazy, man.

In those moments, when things go against the schedule, what do you do? Do you try to get them back in order or do you roll with it?

Daps: It depends on what it is and how many shots we have left. Do I really need one more shot or is it a bonus shot? Are we in overtime? But you basically try to roll with the punches. You can’t fight the tide in life, in general. You try to fight the tide and you’ll drown. The best thing to do is, although you might not like the tide, you grab a raft and ride it. There’s no point in fighting it. As I said, it’s situational.  

Have you ever shot a scene that, when you saw it, you were blown away that you were able to get the shot?

Daps: I’m not going to lie to you. The very first shot of the [Migos] “T-Shirt” video, we turn the camera on and it was Offset solo performance on the top of the mountains. I was in awe. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It looked fake. It looked like green screen. We were in Lake Tahoe; he had a fox head on. I have never seen something like that in my life where we turned the camera on and it looked fake. I was mesmerized.

Whos the one artist you still want to shoot a video for?

Daps: Be-Yon-Cé! You give me that Beyoncé plug and we’re going to create a masterpiece.

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