Doughman got into filming music videos because he had to.
The area music producer was handing out beats to rappers left and right, but they wanted more than just music. They wanted a visual component to match the aural experience created in the recording booth. They wanted music videos.
This was back in 2012 or so, says Doughman, and at the time, there wasn’t really anyone local making music videos for rappers. Doughman had been vlogging some of the studio sessions, and so he took it on.
Since then, other independent filmmakers have joined the rap video hustle, and eight of them (including Doughman) will show their work at this year’s Virginia Film Festival.
Music videos have been vital to hip-hop since MTV aired Run DMC’s “Rap Box” in 1984. Since then, rap videos have had a lasting effect on the music video industry, and on American visual culture as a whole.
But the music video “is more important [now] than it has ever been for hip-hop,” says Cullen “Fellowman” Wade, rapper and co-director of the Charlottesville-based Nine Pillars Hip Hop Cultural Fest. The internet is full of more music videos than MTV could ever air. Wade’s even heard some local rappers say that if they can’t make a music video to share on social media, there’s no use in recording the song in the first place.
Some mainstream, high-budget rap videos have come to be regarded as a form of short film, but that consideration hasn’t extended to their independent, low-budget counterparts, says Wade, who, in addition to his musical pursuits, co-hosts “Arts & Crass: The Highbrow Lowbrow Film Podcast.”
But the opportunity to screen independent rap videos at the Virginia Film Festival—which, in recent years, has hosted Spike Lee (2017) and Allen Hughes (2018), two of the biggest names at the intersection of film and hip-hop—can help bring that sort of credit to the genre, says Wade.
In curating the showcase, Wade asked independent filmmakers in the local hip-hop scene to submit their best work, knowing he’d get different pieces that together demonstrate a breadth of creativity and vision.
Paul Dixon (aka NOXID), a music producer who’s new to filmmaking, submitted the video for “Teach You,” a track by Las Vegas rapper J. Ran featuring Charlottesville duo EquallyOpposite.
Throughout the song, J. Ran tries to woo a girl, and the video follows the rapper on his ultimately successful journey. But that alone wouldn’t be much of a film-worthy story, decided Dixon. He wanted a little comic relief.
EquallyOpposite’s Zachary “ZacMac” McMullen and Lamar “Gordo” Gordon go after a girl and get completely, utterly, rejected. Dixon laughs when he talks about it—“they’re so cartoonish, so alive, and animated. It’s kind of perfect.”
Doughman’s submission, his video for Chef G’s freestyle track, “No Hook,” is a completely different type of video—this one sticks out to him for a number of reasons, namely the “gritty feel” that matches the essence of the song.
Chef G is the only person in the “No Hook” video, and he raps in three different locations: sitting on a bike on a street corner, on a broken-down mattress in an overgrown yard, and on the eaves of a yellow house. His presence is constant and his flow inescapable. You can’t help but listen.
And that, says Doughman, is exactly what a video can do for a song, for an artist. “Let’s just say, it’ll give you another look…it’ll make you listen different once you have a vision to it.”
The Nine Pillars Hip Hop Music Video Showcase screens at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Friday, October 25.