In this age of self-censorship, where many artists are too scared or too constrained to give an opinion, a video of the likes of ‘We Don’t Wanna Be’ is pretty refreshing. But who would expect anything less from Drew Cox the defiant South African director known for his socially conscious style of film making. Add Maverick Sabre, an Irishman not known to shy away from difficult subjects, bring in Joey Bada$$, the American whose most recent video deals with the injustice of the shooting of unarmed black men in the US, and the result was never going to be lacking in opinion.
With this melting pot of nationalities, each one not short of its own problems, we chat to Drew about how they all connected through shared disillusionment with current world systems, and how they managed to channel this anger into a video.
Word Is Cheap: The video is like a slightly twisted love letter to Hackney, revealing both its violence and grime but also its beauty and power, with neither Maverick Sabre and Joey Bada$$ being from London, where did the initial concept come from?
The concept came directly from the music and discussions with Mav who had a basic idea of what he wanted the video to feel like. Both Mav and I have lived in East London for the last 10 years and it’s where we met so made sense to shoot it there. I heard the song a while back when the producer of the track New Machine played it for me after a session with Maverick and introduced me. I was hooked and was like if this thing ever materialises into a visual I have to create something for it.
I got the call from New machine and then spoke with Maverick the day before Joey was in London and there was a window to try and shoot some performance footage with them for a few hours.
That was all I needed. I got on the blower with my producer @Oddboyfilm and told him to get his Quadcopter skills down to East London.
We met Mav, New Machine and Joey the next night and it all just flowed.
Kindred spirits the three of them and I couldn’t wait to capture the moment on film.
We had a brief chat in the bar about possible locations around there area and having lived there, I had a few previous spots I knew that would look good to try and create this almost NY / London cross over feel to the visual to really try and capture what those videos in 90’s looked and felt like. Raw, real people, handheld shots, always moving, high contrast, wide lenses and low angles. Just using their environment to creat sets and show the rest of the world that London isn’t just Buckingham palace, Oxford Circus and Big Ben.
We found some cool locations to shoot around Hackney, Bricklane and Shoreditch and just shot through the night until about 4am.
I then came up a few weeks later and we broke into a building with Mav and Odd Boy. I had been scoping this place for a shoot for years, it has the most amazing aerial views of the city, the East London trainline and the empty gas containers, which just make such interesting silhouettes in the London skyline as you can see through the building. In and out no scuffles.
Your video involves a lot of archival news footage I wonder how that affected the process of making the video, and whether you enjoyed finding the footage you needed?
The stock footage / documentary side of the video was really important to capture a global message and show the context of the lyrics on a broader scale.
I started shooting bits off the TV, I shot some documentary stuff on the streets, stock footage on YouTube, newspaper clippings, etc and then tried contacting the different channels and individuals to ask for permission just to get a visual moodboard of sorts, of the kind of footage I wanted to incorporate. But no one was coming back to me in the stock footage front and by this stage the label had seen the edit and were loving the video and wanting to release as the single had dropped already, but concerned about the legal implications of the stock footage. So I had to re-edit it with a whole new set of stock footage from ITN source. The original cut was insane but the final film turned in some completely new surprises in the edit and I think I managed to recapture the same energy from the 1st edit through to the 22nd edit. Every detail was thought out and there are a lot of subtleties within the video for people to watch over and decipher.
The live performance footage of Mav and Joey on stage was shot by one of the pro era photographers shout out to @deeknows_ who was sound enough to donate it for the project.
The gasworks aerial shot is strangely mesmerizing, how did you shoot it?
The gas container shot was sick.
I have never seen that perspective before and the opportunity to fly down inside it and shoot up out with the Quadcopter creates this interesting optical effect as the perspective changes and the lines of the container move past your eye until you see the final circle and the environment is revealed.
What is the overall message that you want people to take from the video?
The overall message of the video for me is we don’t want to be part of your system of organisations and politics, the tabloids and media, governments and police, religion, wars, guns, banks, skin colour, class, whatever, it doesn’t mean anything. Its all failed time and time again. But why do we just accept it?
It’s also about positivity and connecting with each other again as people. We all have the same basic needs in life. Specific systems create barriers between our communication and progress. It’s like the Tower of Babel effect.