Tag Archives: hip-hop

“NPR” by Can’t Stop Won’t Stop – Puppet Rap!

If you ever have an opportunity to make a rap video starring custom puppets, I hope you take that opportunity.

Background

When Can’t Stop Won’t Stop released their LP “Wildebeest” in 2013, I pinged the group about doing a music video for a song on the album. They were 100% interested, and the plan was to film something when I was next in Los Angeles. Over the next two years it felt that my work in L.A. either didn’t line up with times when they were in town or I didn’t have time to tag on an extra project while down in California.

Eventually a window aligned when the group was sort of available at the same time that I was sort of available, but during that week, none of the vocalists would be in the same city – they were scattered all over the USA. My first though: make an animated music video! My second thought: use puppets! The band was down with the idea, so I began putting out feelers for excellent puppeteers.

My brother Morgan helped me find Randall McNair of Widgets, Inc., who is basically a reincarnation of Jim Henson. He and his wife Lucy proved to be amazing people to work with. They brought a lot of creative juice to the mix and were total professionals in every way. They have a fair amount of film experience, as well as tons of live theater experience, and they were patient with the rest of us while we worked through the learning curve of filming puppets in action.

Shooting the “NPR” video today and tomorrow with the homie @garrettgibbons – Is my nose really that green tho?! A photo posted by CANT STOP WONT STOP (@cswsmusic) on

 

Production

We began filming in Utah, near where Randall and Lucy live (they had just come back from a few weeks working on a show in Alaska). Filming was relatively straightforward once I started figuring out how to film a puppet in action. The train footage was hilarious to film because people kept walking through the aisle, and they had to step over Randy and Lucy, who were laying in the aisle with their arms raised between the seats to operate the puppets. One security guard just casually stepped over them without batting an eyelid. I guess they see far weirder things on those trains.

We filmed the first verse in front of David Eff’s pink truck that sells frozen bananas, and put out a call to fans to invite them to come and dance it up. Here’s a behind-the-scenes video clip of Randy and Lucy in action, obviously rapping along with nearly every word from the song:

My favorite setup was the recording studio (June Audio Recording Studios in Provo, Utah), which was a shot I had previsualized early in the creative process, and was thrilled to see the footage turn out almost exactly as I had originally envisioned. Normally, during the development process things change and evolve, and the process is a journey that leads somewhere I hadn’t initially planned. When this happens, though, and the strong initial vision is brought to fruition without mitigation, it feels great.

The Mercedes SLK 500 was a blast to work with, as well. David Eff found this car and its owner at a local car show a few weeks before production began. He wasn’t entirely sure what he was committing to, but there’s something special about being able to turn to an elderly gentleman and say, “Sir, can we have this puppet drive your car?”

Never fear! Our puppet rap video has a Benz and gold chains. A photo posted by Garrett Gibbons (@garrettgibbons) on

We filmed the green screen footage in a park, using one pink bike that I bought from a thrift store for $5 the morning we filmed it. I wanted to harness the cheesy chroma key composite feel of early-90s Sesame Street, and I feel like it turned out just right.

All in all, this project was a blast to work on. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop have a huge amount of energy; I hope to be able to work with them and the McNairs in the future! Enjoy the video!

NPR music video

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“Sharper Tool; Bigger Weapon” – The RA Scion redux

Last Fall, Seattle Hip-hop artist RA Scion worked with a Brooklyn-based producer named Rodney Hazard and gave us all an album that defied expectations and elevated Hip-hop music. “The Sickle and The Sword” generated a ton of well-deserved buzz, but was quickly cut off due to some legal confusion and drama on behalf of the producer. The producer demanded that the album not be sold or distributed, and the album was cut off short.

Not so easily defeated, RA Scion and his team began searching for a new producer to bring to life the vocal tracks that had been abandoned by Hazard’s beats. Vox Mod‘s work caught RA’s attention, and “Sharper Tool; Bigger Weapon” was born.

Here are links to the album:

I’ve spent the last week listening to the new album. The old version was one of my favorite albums to come out of Seattle, and I’ve been apprehensive about what the new sound and the new take on this beloved material might be. Not knowing what to expect, I abandoned expectations and dove in.

The surprising news to me is that the essence of the first album has generally been transferred to the new album. Despite the fact that Vox Mod apparently hasn’t heard the old album at all (or at least he hadn’t when The Stranger interviewed him), the album achieves a similar vibe that is conscious, mystic, intelligent, uplifting, challenging, and incredibly clever.

Here’s a track listing that compares the new track titles to the old:

#The Sickle and The SwordSharper Tool; Bigger Weapon
1Ex Oriente LuxPassage to Transience
2Constant (feat. Daniel Blue)Fixed (feat. Daniel Blue)
3In VenerationOpalescent Jetsam
4BackwoodsPlush Portal Stylings
5The Prospector's AppraisalIntrospector
6On Saturnalia Eve (feat. Blake Lewis)Venus in Transit (feat. Blake Lewis)
7MyrrhLaurel & Wine
8Hoof x HornHolly & Oak (Again & Again)
9BloodletterInterceptor
10Woodwalker (feat. Mark Shirtz)Finding Forbearance (feat. Mark Shirtz)
11Hungry Like (feat. Rodney Hazard)Patina Green (feat. GMK and Royce the Choice)
12Black FridayRun One Through
13OurSpace (feat. Romaro Franceswa)Interstellar Parish (feat. Romaro Franceswa)
14Seven Gen. (feat. Greg Cypher)Res Publica (feat. Greg Cypher)

I’m blown away at the contribution that Vox Mod gave to this project. Songs that didn’t quite land with me before, like “Hoof x Horn,” have evolved into some of my favorite tracks. “Holly & Oak (Again & Again)” replaces “Hoof x Horn” and brings far more to the table than the first version was able to bring. Vox Mod’s irresistible beat on that track turn head-nodders into dancers. The track flows and soars and drives through you, building and teasing and rewarding the listener.

Other songs feel so different from the original that I had to go back and listen to the Rodney Hazard versions just to make sure that I was remembering it right. Hazard’s “Seven Gen.” was a positive song but it never really resonated with me. At the Fall 2013 album release party, I was blown away at the energy of the live version and wondered why the recorded version was such a different experience. Its replacement, “Res Publica,” takes the song from a solid song to a classic. As it comes across in its place as the final track on the album, it feels like RA Scion has taken a trip to the future, through deep space, and is now coming back to Seattle with the same pragmatic intelligence that made Common Market so popular. One of my favorite tracks out of all of his work, “Res Publica” feels like coming home to the 21st-century answer to “Tobacco Road.”

RA Scion and Vox Mod

In some cases, I miss beloved tracks from the first album – “Woodwalker” and “On Saturnalia Eve” were two of my favorites. The tracks that replaced them, though they have identical vocal tracks by RA and Blake Lewis (Mark Shirtz recorded new lyrics), have very different feels. They are solid songs, they’re enjoyable to listen to, but I miss my old favorites. It’s bound to happen, and I’m just grateful that I was able to get a download of “The Sickle and The Sword” when I still could.

In the vast majority of instances, however, I can’t think of anything other than what I’m listening to. The album has a maturity, cohesiveness and sense of purpose that the old one never was quite able to achieve. “Sharper Tool; Bigger Weapon” is a start-to-finish journey that rewards listeners who like to sit down and soak in an entire album, start to finish.

“The Sickle and The Sword” was an ode to the harvest, reaping beats from the earth. It carried the mystery and melancholy of Fall, and was released near the Autumnal Equinox. Now we have “Sharper Tool; Bigger Weapon,” released almost exactly on the Vernal Equinox, which somehow takes the same vocal tracks and infuses them with new life. The album has grown, the Spring is here, and we’re all hoping that this new duo will last a long, long time.

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RA Scion – Guttersnipe Bridge (Official Music Video)

Ryan Abeo, AKA RA Scion (of Common Market), and his wife Mariangela are two of my favorite people to work with. My first real music video was for “Soothsayer,” part of RA Scion’s Victor Shade project. I’m still not sure how or why they trusted me to make that video since I was new to the Seattle hip-hop scene. It’s still one of my favorite projects, mostly because of the people I was able to work with, and it was a pleasure to get together again and make something totally different.
RA Scion photo by Garrett Gibbons
“Soothsayer” was very cinematic at times, very theatrical at others, very dramatic, very austere, and filled with insanely specific symbolism. “Guttersnipe Bridge” lies somewhere on the opposite side of that spectrum: it’s stripped-down, candid, friendly, and simple. We see Ryan driving his car through traffic in Seattle, picking up his daughter from ballet practice, and heading to a show at The Crocodile. (Madison gave us a few great casual and beautiful dance moments, fulfilling my secret goal to work dancing into every music video I possibly can.)

In an age of rap videos filled with strippers and cocaine, we really wanted to make something honest, with integrity about the life that the artist leads. I hope you enjoy  it!

“Guttersnipe Bridge” by RA Scion, produced by Todd Sykes. From RA Scion’s new LP, “Adding to the Extra.”

Directed by Garrett Gibbons.
Camera: Canon 5D Mark 3.
Lenses: Canon 24-70 2.8L, Canon 85 1.8, Tokina 11-16 2.8
Camera support: JAG35 Field Runner, RigWheels RigMount X car mount, Glidecam HD-2000
RA Scion photo by Garrett Gibbons

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Theoretics take over Seattle

Theoretics is an Emerald City gem like only Seattle seems to produce. Seven musicians trained in classical, jazz, funk, rock and hip-hop have combined to make an amazing sound.


“Higher” by Theoretics (directed by Garrett Gibbons)

Thematically, my main goal was to convey a feeling of ascension: visually, energetically and emotionally. During  the band sequences I move the camera upward, slowly from the start of the song (where the camera was on the ground) through the end where the camera was often soaring above the band members’ heads. The color palette starts cool and gradually gets warmer throughout the song. The dancers’ stories follow a similar theme, and their solos combine into an ideological improv session as the song reaches its climax climaxing with Brian Ung’s airborne power moves during the song’s final hits.

Production

We filmed this music video quickly and the dancers (Jessica Hu, Mikeskee Huang and Brian Ung) were all wonderful to work with. One of their main challenges was dancing without music. I knew that they would be dancing mostly during the chorus and final outtro but the exact pacing wasn’t set enough to give them musical cues to use for choreography.

Continue reading »

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Victor Shade: “Soothsayer” (Music Video)

From the Forthcoming album, “Victor Shade.”  Produced by MTK.

Starring RA Scion of Common Market and Madison Abeo as the Queen.  Dancing by the Flying Sneakers Crew. Mixed and mastered by Rick LeDoux at London Bridge Studio.

Video produced, directed, filmed and edited by Garrett Wesley Gibbons.

Make-up, wardrobe & production assistant: Mariangela Abeo.

Lighting & production assistant: Jill Andrus Gibbons.

Filmed on Canon 7D. Lenses used:

  • 100mm 2.8L Macro
  • 70-200mm 4L
  • 28-135mm 3.5-5.6
  • 10-22mm 3.5-5.6

Gear used:

  • Kessler Pocket Dolly
  • Bogen/Manfrotto sticks
  • Bogen/Manfrotto 501 head
  • Some old monopod I’ve had for a while

Edited in Final Cut Pro & Color. Titles and compositing in Adobe Photoshop & After Effects.

Special thanks to Seattle Stage Lighting & Equipment and Glazer’s Camera. Special thanks to Jackie Cleveland (and her dog Gracy) for use of their home.

Filmed near Ballard in Seattle, WA.

Update:

Just for fun, I made a color version too:

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Haiti Relief Show at Neumo’s

Sol, Common Market, Khingz, DJ Pryme, Dyno Jamz, Flying Sneakers and The Physics gave an excellent show at Neumo’s last night. The show sold out early, and 100% of the proceeds went to Doctors Without Borders. The music was great, the crowd excellent, and the cause noble. A lot of love was shared for family and friends of performers who have died or who are suffering right now in Haiti.

I was blessed enough to be backstage and onstage as the photographer for the event, and had an amazing experience capturing the show through images. Here’s a link to the full set of galleries, which you can also access by clicking on any picture below.











Update: Here’s UW TV’s piece that they did on the benefit show, featuring the talented SOL who put the show together.

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