Words by: Hallway Jay
Edited & Intro by: Mike Waxx
DanTheMan is a talented film maker out of Brooklyn, New York. Having worked with the likes of 50 Cent, Prodigy, J.R. Writer, Termanology and Lloyd Banks among tons of others, Dan is one of the few directors in the industry that consistently create quality videos on a regular basic. Getting his start by working with DJ Whoo Kidd and G-Unit, DanTheMan also did the videos that were featured on The Massacre Special Edition. Be sure to check out his work and keep your eye on this guy.illRoots: First off I have to start off and thank you for the interview, it is definitely a pleasure just to be talking to you.
DanTheMan: My pleasure as well man.
illRoots: What would say is the biggest problem in Hip-Hop from a Director’s point of view?
DanTheMan: For me my biggest problem is always money, budgets, lack of sales [Laughs]. Those are the three biggest problems in hip-hop for me. If I was doing what I do now on the level that I’m doing it ten years ago i’d probably be making 3 to 10 times as much money as I do know.
Kia Shine - WOW
illRoots: Yeah, its definitely a downfall.
DanTheMan: Yea, like "shit, where’s my yacht?" [Laughs]
illRoots: Who is your biggest influence as a music video director?
DanTheMan: I wouldn’t even pick a rap music video director, I would have to go with Michelle Goundry with the Bjork and rock and roll videos. [They] are really trying to push the boundaries as far as music video film making.
illRoots: What is the hardest part of your day?
DanTheMan: The hardest part of my day is just the music video process itself, it’s a very painful process. You know its like, its painful, you know, 14 hours of shooting, 14-18 hours of the day at a video shoot. Although I’m not gonna complain, I’m privileged to do what and I’m not gonna get on here and complain and shit on anyone. Yet there is always an issue of um…..you know… “timely payment”.
illRoots: What do you think is the biggest influence in hip-hop?
DanTheMan: I don’t want to date myself but I’m a child of the golden era. You know, the Big Daddy Kanes, the Krs-Ones, the EPMD’s, the Tribe Called Quests, and that whole movement. You know EPMD’s first two albums, Big Daddy Kane’s, Rakim, I grew up to that and that whole thing just sparked my interest as a child.
illRoots: What artists have you worked with?
DanTheMan: I worked on The Massacre DVD which was like 20 videos for 50 Cent's album, I directed a bunch of videos for M.O.P, you know before they were signed with G-Unit, I did a bunch of videos for AZ, bunch of videos for Prodigy, as well as a bunch of videos for a lot of independent artists, you know etc., etc…
illRoots: What person that you haven’t worked with would you love to work with in the future?
DanTheMan: Obviously Jay and Nas. Those are two people that I would love to work with. Nas got his lyrics and I really think that it would go well with my sensibility and visually.
illRoots: What “Classic” hip-hop video would you have redone?
DanTheMan: I would have redone “In Da Club” by 50 Cent, 'cause that was his first smash hit and he was at the peak of his career at that point.
illRoots: How would you have redone that?
DanTheMan: I would have just made it a lot more interesting, the impact it could had visually.
illRoots: The RIAA- What’s your opinion on the whole censoring art?
DanTheMan: I come from a mixtape background in case you didn’t know. I come from an engineering background and I actually did the Pro Tools work, I made the first G-Unit series 1 through like 23, I made those mixtapes personally. I have a lot of stake in that game. Whoo Kisds a very close personal friend of mine, and you know I work with him hand in hand. I’ve seen the ups and downs of the mixtape game. I personally feel like it’s a double-edged sword in terms of the hypocrisy of the labels but you know they feed these dj’s songs and then you know that they need promotion for and then they want to also get paid off what they do to.
Prodigy - ABC
illRoots: You said you come from an engineering background?
DanTheMan: Yeah, I got into this game for the love for the music. I went to the Institute of Audio Research, and I don’t want to date myself but that was pre-Pro Tools. That was back when we were cutting like a clean mix of “Funky Town” on a fucking reel to reel. So you know I come from that background and I had an SP1200 and an ASR-10 and I was on the producer end of it. I had to put food on my plate you know. I never had that rich family or that basement to live in or anything like that. So through my music thing on the side I did that in order to eat and yet still not compromise my integrity and go fucking work at an office or at a fucking Wendy’s or a fucking shoe store. You know I wanted to work in the game and maintain. I started with the engineering tip and then what I saw was that engineers bust their asses. Some of them even do a lot of production for these albums, but then get no real credit. I did it for along time, I busted my ass I engineered for some of the greats from Eminem to RUN-DMC to Jay-Z etc..
illRoots: So you engineered for a lot of these people?
DanTheMan: Yeah, back in the day what I used to do was work for this thing called 88 Hip Hop, basically it was like a streaming radio/tv station for the internet. I did a lot of live sound in the clubs when I was like 18, 19. I was doing a lot of live sound you know not mixing albums but for radio and club shit. Then later I started getting more into the album mixing shit, that’s when I started to fall back from that and started doing some of the video things. Honestly the money was there but the props weren’t and its hard for me to really make a big name for myself, I want my shit to be accounted for more.
illRoots: So you said that you were pretty much instrumental in the G-Unit mixtapes?
DanTheMan: Yeah, when I was working with G-Unit, I was working there full time for and Whoo Kidd’s my boy. I was doing the video thing for G-Unit but at the same time I would be doing all of there mixtapes as well. I worked full-time at G-Unit. We were on the Rock the Mic Tour, the Anger Management Tour and I was like the only one who knew how to work Pro Tools on that tour. It was basically me and Whoo Kidd, and we would be going into a hotel room and I would have like a microphone and our laptop with Pro Tools 001 and we would record freestyles from like T.I. to like Fabolous. Actually I videotaped all that stuff too. If you ever saw that hip hop dvd “Rewind” and “Sadapop TV” both of those DVD’s actually had a lot of that footage and what I was doing was recording them rapping like I was doing the Pro Tools and also had a camera recording while they were rhyming. So you would like go to our hotel room and we would throw the beds against the wall, I would put my lighting in there so it would look like some crazy production spots. That’s basically how I got into the music video game. I did “Rewind” with my own camera, I learned how to edit. Doing these DVD’s this was way before any of these DVD’s got started to where they are know. The Rewind DVD got distribution through KOCH and this was before 50 Cent got signed. We sold 36,000 units out the gate, our first week number 34 on the Billboard Pop Charts and after that they were like "that’s the guy from that DVD, shit he’s ill". From there they were like "why don’t we have him do a video" and that was actually the first video I did for KOCH. From there 50 had like the same idea "maybe this kid could do a video", so I started doing all his little like hood videos, straight to YouTube type videos.
illRoots: That’s great man to see the progression in your work and transitioning from one the other.
DanTheMan: Gonestly growing up, film and all this wasn’t as popular because it wasn’t as obtainable as it is now. When I was growing up, everybody wanted to be a producer or a rapper, not a director. That was so Hollywood and so far beyond the grasp of a regular person like how am going to buy a camera. If you told me “Dan you gonna be music video director” at like 18, I would have been like “get the fuck outta here, what are you talking about?”
illRoots: So where are you from?
DanTheMan: I was born in Russia, but I grew up in Jersey City, the only white kid in the hood. I went to a high school in Manhattan 'cause the school around my way was real fucked up. My parents sent me to like rich kid school and I got to see the best of both worlds. I got a lot of contacts from these rich kids and I was on the scene in NY but at the same time my roots were in Jersey City in the hood. I kinda like fused those two elements. It’s a real classic New York hustle. I was totally immersed in a really crucial time in hip hop. I remember I engineered for Jay-Z at a live sound gig at this club called Expo. That was when Foxy had the hit and Jay was touring with her off of her buzz that was 'Ain’t No N..'. Basically Foxy wasn’t even there, they even said Foxy was there and put a mic on stage, I mean those are the types of stories that I have. I remember when I was engineering for Eminem and this guy would not stop rapping for like a thousand bars and I was like this kid is retarded he is the future and low and behold he was. I was around during all these crucial times I engineered for Big L, Big Pun…
illRoots: Whoa, Whoa, Whoa..Lamont Coleman dog?
DanTheman: Yeah man, I was around during that time period when all these people were around. First of all 88 Hip Hop was where I was Chief Engineering stuff, everybody came through there, like back then if you had an album that was hot, to promote it on the internet, that’s where you went there was no other place to go. In a sense it was kind of like the 106 & Park for the Internet at the time
illRoots: That’s crazy, Big L and Big Pun are like my two favorite rappers, I remember getting “Lifestylez of Da Poor and Dangerous” on cassette tape.
DanTheMan: Oh yeah, they both frequented 88 Hip-Hop, I worked with them several times. You name anyone from Wu-Tang to Eminem, anyone in that era, that’s where they went.
illRoots: I love the new AZ feat. Styles video, that shit was crazy.
Dan: Let me give a little back story on that video. The video originated when I had this idea where I wanted to do like the Matrix effect with open shutter time lapse. I did the research and I found out in order to rent like a major rig kinda thing costs like $100,000 a day and only Hollywood has it. So me and my dude did, we started doing research on it. Basically what I ended up doing was I bought 24 point and shoot cameras. Most of the budget of the video was on those cameras. We put these tripods are like a semi-circle and we connected all the shutters of the cameras together, all 24 of them into this box and dubbed it the “Ghetto Matrix”. I was working with Graffiti Research Labs and was like “What else can I do that would be like painting with light?” Which is what I called this whole project, “Painting with Light”. I’ve always been inspired by there laser tag series. So I reached out to them and there really anti-corporate, they really love my “Straight-to-YouTube-Fuck-Everyone” sensibility. We got down and they really wanted to showcase there shit in a video. I thought this would be a perfect thing that fit the song and there technology is basically the laser pointer with the projector that you can write on buildings. So they also helped me out with the technical side of the “Ghetto Matrix”. The guy James from there helped me build the ghetto matrix brain. The actual box that we bought from Radioshack and put together. So basically it enables you to, with one button, enable all 24 cameras to take a picture at one time. That’s why when you see Styles and he’s breathing fire, like there’s no other way to capture fire like that. What I did was create a bunch of time lapse’s that I did. So if you think about it was done super dooper dooper dooper cheap. But the production value carries through because conceptually it was so strong. That comes back to me saying “I’m not just a dude that has a camera”. I don’t want to do a video just to get a check. I consider myself an artist. A lot of the video’s I’ve got only 10g’s to spend and you gotta spend that shit wisely. Because you gotta eat to. Yet a lot of times when your painted into that corner its either a tragedy or sometimes you work with your limited means and your actually a lot more creative than you could be with that 150 grand.
AZ - The Hardest (Ft. Styles P & Large Professor)
illRoots: But thanks Big Homie this whole convo was more than informative.
DanTheMan: Oh yeah, shout out to illRoots.com. Keep doing your thing.