"Music videos themselves are an art form."
SECK x Evan Dale // Aug 24, 2020
Capturing the visual stories of a creative Renaissance is no small feat. But for SECK - an emerging authority in bringing to screens the visual identity of Nashville’s explosive hip-hop scene - it’s a fluid, constant process. Young, sure, but incredibly ahead of his years and of the artistic scene at large, SECK is an adept filmmaker whose creativity is as wide-ranging as the successful risks he takes. Stomping through 2019 and 2020 with an unparalleled schedule of prolificity, he has made videos for a multitude of artists involved in Nashville’s continuous run up the scale of hip-hop culture. And doing so - in a scene as stylistically wide-ranging as rappers and vocalists come - he’s never misstepped in coalescing the entirety of his canon with the tether of his city, and the artistic variance of his collaborators.
RNGLDR: Obviously, Nashville has always been an important cultural hub, but what do you think it is about your generation of artists that’s fostering such an inclusive, creative center around the hip-hop community?
SECK: I feel like recently everyone has been about creating their art. For example, there isn’t this urge to just make anything to be noticed because the scene is “oversaturated “. It’s really just people creating, at least the ones I’ve been around. All for the love of it.
RNGLDR: When concerning hip-hop in particular, what is it that you think separates Nashville not only from Chattanooga and Memphis, but from other cities across the South? And what do you think defines Nashville as an emerging global hip-hop capital?
SECK: Good question. Well, I feel like what’s exciting about Nashville is, let’s say if it was my first time listening to - Chuck, Ron, Brown, Jordan, all in one sitting - I wouldn’t guess they’re all from Nashville. Everyone’s got something to offer, got their own unique style. There isn’t this “default sound” everyone clings to.
RNGLDR: As a photographer and cinematographer capturing and defining the beauty of a city-wide renaissance of sorts, what is it that you try to visually bring to life in a scene mostly driven by sound?
SECK: Best way to put it is, Out-of-the-Box creativity. Music videos themselves are an art form. And all these songs deserve more than just the standard local music video kit.
RNGLDR: And how do you translate the energies of specific artists onto the screen?
SECK: Every artist I’ve worked with, I try to figure what’s their image and just how they brand themselves. Sometimes I want to meet them on that, other times I want to take them out of their element.
RNGLDR: The overarching Nashville music scene seems to be very much a tight-knit crew. But, you work heavily with three artists in particular: Ron Obasi, JORDAN Xx, and Chuck iNDigo. How did you all get introduced to one another? And what is it about your collaborative relationship with each of them that spurs so much fluid creativity?
SECK: Those are my people! We’re all apart of this tribe called Third Eye. I direct all their videos. As far as meeting them, it was most definitely the universe. I was on SoundCloud and played some of Ron’s joints and I reached out to him on IG. Offered to shoot a video for him, free of charge. Worked with Chuck a month later I think. And me and Jordan: ‘illuh’ was the first video we’ve done and that came out in April. But we’ve done like 5-6 videos in between!
I love working with the homies! Like there’s no complexity! We’re all equally fans of each other and the trust is there too! Especially the trust. The artist has to trust you otherwise it won’t work. so with them, it’s always evident the video will be special. I’m always excited to work with them.
RNGLDR: Speaking of Ron Obasi, almost a year ago, you and he collaborated for his Good Rapz music video, introducing a lot of people inside and outside of Nashville to both of your artistries. The thing that could have been said about the both of you at the time, is that for low-budget artists without much of a known following, there was never a lack of professionalism in quality or creativity. And truly, that appears to be a common trait across the Nashville spectrum. For you, how are you able to craft some of the more creatively intriguing music videos in all of hip-hop on limited resources in comparison to bigger pop artists? Do you think that speaks to you, to Nashville at large, or to both?
SECK: It’s really how I got interested in film. back in middle school, I was heavy on the independent film movement of the 90s. So there was always this will to master the ways of creating with limited resources. And that’s really what we do, for now! There’s no budgets. So it’s thinking , how can I make the most with what we’re accessible to. Keyword - the most.
RNGLDR: And on the same line of thought, before the string of video releases over the last year or so, where did you learn and grow your skill set behind the camera and in the editing room? And how did that eventually translate into hip-hop music videos?
SECK: Everything I’ve learned is through trials and errors. I decided to be a filmmaker when I was twelve. In high school, My sister bought me this samsung camcorder and I just started doing homemade short films with it and I’d edit them on Vegas Pro, which I hacked. I used to read a lot of books about filmmaking too. I was so obsessed with it.
Early on, I was heavy into the 90s independent film movement. A lot of the filmmaker I looked up to came out of it and That really shaped my directing style. I was also heavy on the “French New Wave” movement, which emerged in the 50s. They gave no fucks. They were basically making films their own way, there were no rules to it. So off the rip, it’s always been about working outside of the system. Like there’s no rules this. And that’s what I’ve been applying to the visuals. I’m not going for the typical hip hop video, where its all luxury, models, everything’s shot in slow motion, etc.
RNGLDR: When it comes to JORDAN Xx, there are few young artists in all of music whose debut project had a bigger impact on our understanding of the future of hip-hop. Surfing: Highs N Lows is truly a masterpiece, and its predecessing mini-project, Friday Special is what opened the door to it all. You were able to turn Friday Special into a full-length, multi-chapter music video highlighting – with unique setting and editing – the four tracks included in the project. Did you two originally plan to release the videos separately, or was it always planned to be an extended cut? Why?
SECK: Man, Me and Jordan could shoot a video to any song he puts out really. All of the videos we’ve done, with the exception of “illuh”, were really made from scratch. I’ll have an idea for the video and we’ll just go from there. That’s how ‘Friday Special’ came about. “Jorja” was the first one we shot. We did it in like, 20 minutes or so. We were supposed to shoot a promo, but some of the extras called out last minute and we’re like we might as well shoot a video. Then the idea of shooting all four songs came to us.
RNGLDR: Not so simple, however, is your knack for directing, filming, and editing. The Friday Special video is again a perfect example because throughout its run time, a viewer sees so many wide-ranging stylistic uses of the camera and of editing without any of it feeling removed from your creativity that ties it all together. Are you always trying out new things in your editing process to evoke more creative range? And if so, what are some more techniques and ideas you have that we can hope to see in future videos?
SECK: Constantly. My mind never stops thinking of techniques I want to try. I’m currently going through an “experimental” phase. I want to start incorporating surrealism into my work, but blending realism with it.
RNGLDR: Alongside JORDAN Xx’s Surfing: Highs N Lows, Brian Brown’s Journey is another 2020 project pulling into focus the immense creative range of the youthful Nashville hip-hop scene. And from that project – already celebrated and acclaimed by consumers and publications alike – you directed its first video release, Flava. Can you walk us through the creative process of that video in particular, and speak a little bit to what it is that black & white cinematography offers your artistic eye?
SECK: “Flava” happened because of corona (lol). We had planned to do another video that required some extras but it wouldn’t of worked out. That was another video that started from scratch. No treatment, mood board or anything. I just knew I wanted Brown with the speakers blasting through these weak ass gentrified neighborhoods.
I love Black & White! Black people look good in it and it can also hide the “no budget” aspect of the visual sometimes.. the biggest thing though is, it’s the most effective way to force your audience to see the world differently.
RNGLDR: On the other end of the stylistic spectrum musically and cinematographically, are your Yours Truly, Jai visuals for Time. Colors washed by the illusive allure of film, vocals of a silky soulstress on the rise, the Time video is perhaps your director credit that best encapsulates the energies of its track. So, could you walk us through the creative process of it, too? As well as what kind of scouting went into the locations of the shoot, seeing as so many of your videos take place as close to a Nashville artist’s neighborhood as possible?
SECK: For Time, it was all about nature. And Jai definitely helped with the waterfalls location. Whenever I do a video, I try to stick to the treatment as much and that was first video where the vision was really executed.
RNGLDR: And in what ways did working on a video with so much rooted in nature, and working with a soulful vocalist instead of a rapper pull you out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from the whole experience?
SECK: Locations are everything and that was something I felt was missing in the Nashville visuals. There are these go to spots that everyone shoot their videos at and it got tiring. Whenever I drive around, I’m always keeping an eye for some “visually stunning” locations. Sometimes that’s where ideas are born.
RNGLDR: In many ways Chuck iNDigo is an artist that can transcend hip-hop and R&B – raps and vocals. Taken from his 2019 album, iNDigo Café, the visuals for Ugly again take place more in the countryside than in the city. It’s a gorgeous video that sees iNDigo in a number of unique settings: a trainyard, a field, a barbershop, a car, a park, and more. When you’re planning a video, how are you simultaneously thinking of so many location shoots to come together so fluidly? And what do these locations say about Chuck iNDigo, about your eye, and about Nashville’s scene at large?
SECK: For Ugly, it was all about the randomness. Usually How I work, I don’t want the music video to replicate the song. Ugly was my first time trying that. Just letting the video have its own life, different from the song.
RNGLDR: We again see myriad location shoots in the $avvy video for Bag / Purse. But more than anything what we see is a video brimming with quick cuts and vibrant editing. How was it working to bring to life such a fun-loving, unique anthem that in many ways stands out against the rest of the Nashville scene? And what did direct a video with such a unique sound offer you in terms of doing something different with your videography?
SECK: Bag/Purse is definitely one for the books! I want to do more songs/videos like that. I always say this, when fun/humor is on the table, that’s when the creativity really flows out! I love the serious stuff but when I can just do some ignorant shit, it’s a different story. And that video was just that. Just putting random fun ideas together. Definitely want to more of that in the future.
RNGLDR: And that brings us to an important note: where musical artist control the sound and the message of their own musical work, occasionally garnering influence in somebody else’s lane with a featuring verse, you, as a director –as the most prolific director to one of the most exciting scene’s in music right now – get to define visual energies and bring to life visuals stories for a number of artists. Though challenging to simultaneously do justice to the individuality of an artist while keeping your signature appeal intact, what are the feelings attached to having so much collaborative, creative influence on the direction of a scene at large?
SECK: It’s exciting. The main thing is just being selective with who I choose to work with. Pretty much people have this approach with videographers where it’s just “you’re nice with the camera, make me look good, what’s your price?” That’s not the path I’m taking. I want to establish myself as a well respected director in Hollywood, so it’s not about building a clientele but shaping my future. I want to be a household name.
RNGLDR: Ultimately, you’re telling a macro story through visuals that artists are trying to bring to life through the micro lens of their music, and for a scene as rich and exciting as Nashville, you’re in a great spot to continue doing your thing with the accompaniment of so many talented artists for a long time. So, what’s next for SECK? And what’s the ultimate goal for Nashville at large?
SECK: I’ve started writing again. When the time comes, I’ll work on my debut feature film. Also, I’ve had few series ideas that I need to bring to life. Fashion films… documentaries. I love documentaries. And also to keep excelling with the music videos. I enjoy making them and it’s getting my name out there, and i have the opportunity to help shape the Nashville hip hop culture.
For Nashville, I’ll quote Andre 3000: “we got something to say.” Been having something to say really, but we need to be heard. It’s more to this city than country music (lol) and I hate having to say that but you catch my drift.