We recently teamed up with Spank Rock, aka Naeem Juwan, and director Allen Cordell to make a video for "#1 Hit," a song off of Spank Rock's much-anticipated second album, Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar. Here, we talk to Naeem and Allen about creepy characters, the price of fame, and...
that album title.
Naeem, what appealed to you about Allen's treatment for the video?
Naeem Juwan: I think Allen always does a good job of listening to a song, and then taking the subject and warping it a little bit, one step to the left. He's really great about casting as well. The title is "#1 Hit," and it leans toward being a pretty generic pop song, but he was able to be inspired by the music in a dark kind of way.
Allen, what about the song triggered your ideas for the video?
Allen Cordell: I always thought it would be funny to do a video where someone's reflection becomes someone else and starts fucking with them. When I heard the song and Naeem keeps saying "I can make you famous," I thought that this might be the perfect opportunity to take this idea and apply it. It sort of has this narrative arc to it.
Naeem, what did you need to do to make yourself extra creepy?
NJ: Allen's sketch and where he pulled his inspiration was creepy enough. As soon as I put the makeup on, I just looked ridiculous. It didn't take much.
AC: The look of the video was sort of inspired by those really weird Skittles commercials. I think those are funny—where a guy's beard is feeding him Skittles during a job interview. And the movie Wild at Heart has this character Bobby Peru, played by Willem Dafoe, who is just really weird.
NJ: I thought the treatment was pretty amazing and I trusted his vision and I love the other videos he's done. I just really wanted to try my best to step into his world and give it my all.
Allen, are there any hallmarks you try to give all of your videos?
AC: I feel like all of my videos are sort of surreal, and are sort of exaggerated depictions of reality. To me, it's almost like another story taking place within the same world that all the other videos take place in.
NJ: That's part of why I really like Allen's work as well, because you can't tell where he is pulling his ideas from. It feels familiar, but he creates his own world. I would love to see more of that happen.
Naeem, was the dark side of the song something you were thinking about when you were writing it?
NJ: The song is meant to be pretty lighthearted and superficial, but sometimes things that appear to be glossy and happy and fun can have some dark undertones to them. It was nice to pull the dark spirit out of something that sounds generically magical and popular.
Do you see this video as a nod to the idea of someone selling their soul, or making untoward sacrifices, for fame?
NJ: Not selling their soul, but it seems to be a trend in culture in the past 10 years, with the rise of reality television stars, and then it heightened with the rise of everyday people becoming famous off of YouTube, that a lot of people have aspirations of becoming famous, but without being talented or smart.
I wish our generation put more time into creating new ideas and reaching out to people in their community, instead of obsessing over fame, or trying to take this easy and quick way to feel successful and grab attention. I kind of miss people really rallying around a cause, because it seems like people are rallying around attention seekers.
How did the title of this album come about?
NJ: The title came up because a friend asked me what made me want to make the first album that came out, the Yoyoyoyoyo album. And basically, I was really tired of hip-hop culture, I was really tired of underground hip-hop, I thought it was getting redundant and disingenuous. And at that point, I said I thought that everything was boring and everyone was a liar. And my friend got a big kick out of it, and said I should name the new album that.
Did you worry that it could be alienating?
NJ: When I started getting feedback, people were like, "Don't name it that! Everyone's going to rip you apart. It's so fucking cynical, what makes you think that what you're making is so great?" But it's not really about what I'm making, and I also don't exclude myself from that everyone and everything.
I really do miss creativity. I miss people working and trying to be the best. There are very few artists who are working today who are willing to put themselves out on a ledge and go 110 percent. I just don't feel super-inspired by my peers and what is going on in culture right now. Very few albums I listen to, very few of my friends, push me to get better. And I just want to get better. I want to feel that magic that I felt when I saw Purple Rain for the first time, when I saw Thriller for the first time.
You're putting out Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar on your own label, Bad Blood Records. What's been the most challenging and most exciting about releasing an album DIY?
NJ: It is really, really difficult. And I am not responsible enough, I don't have the organization on my own to really be able to run a tight ship. So it feels crazy, like I don't have enough time, I don't have enough resources, so I'm just kind of crossing my fingers.
But the best part is that I can do what I want. Like the "DTF" video [which has Juwan throwing food at and then punching a square] —if I was on a label, that would have never gotten made. They would have said "That song sucks! That's not the best song on your album. We don't get it!" because it would have been their money they were investing.
So I'm really happy to have the creative freedom, but it's tough and scary trying to run your own business. Like you'll have a $1,000, which isn't enough to make a video, so you're trying to pull all your resources together and then you blow that $1,000 bucks and... it's your money. So you're just eating grilled cheeses that week.
Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar comes out on Bad Blood Records on September 27th. Pre-order at spankrock.com.