During the 90’s, one of my favorite things about hip-hop were music videos and how they allowed the viewer to get a sense of an artist’s hometown and community. Bay Area rap has always displayed some elements of our culture such as sideshows and parties, but I have a deep appreciation for visuals that showcase our working class neighborhoods, the sense of community within them, and the brotherhood that exists between Bay Area artists. Recently, Vallejo rap group SOB x RBE has exploded in popularity with their song “Anti”. One of the things that immediately impressed me about the group was not just their catchy lyrics, but the high quality production on their songs, and how their music videos showed a scenic view of my hometown. After scrolling through a few of their videos I noticed a good number of them were directed by BJ Cooper (@BGIGGZ) and he had also directed videos for other Bay Area artists like Nef the Pharaoh and Remedy.
I recently linked with music video director BJ Cooper, who is also a digital media designer, to discuss how he went from curating athletic highlight tapes for his high school friends to directing music videos and creating album artwork for some of your favorite Bay Area artists.
How did you get your start directing music videos?
I started directing music videos in 2010, it started out with me doing highlight tapes for the Vallejo community. From there a few people started asking me to do music videos. That’s how i got my foot in the door.
Who are some of your favorite music video directors or what are some music videos you draw inspiration from?
My favorite directors are Alex Nazari, Aris Jerome, Chris Simmons, Brthr, Azae Productions, Jakob Owens, David Camarena, Julian Edwards, and Bryan Berry.
If there is one Bay Area artist who you could collaborate with, who would it be and why?
Mac Dre. I’m from Vallejo, I grew up in Vallejo and I’ve been listening to his music since I was a kid. I would also say Rexx Life Raj because he’s up and coming and has a positive message in his music.
How did you get connected with SOB x RBE? How has it been working with them as they’ve seen their popularity rise?
It started in high school, I went to school with a couple of them. They played played basketball and they knew I made highlight tapes. Out of nowhere they started rapping and they asked me if I could direct their music videos. Eventually It became an every weekend type of thing.
They told me they didn’t want to go back to school. I told them if they wanted to make this music thing work they’d have to start putting out videos every week.
My favorite video right now is “Blame Em” by Yhung T.O. simply because it makes me think of my high school days. What was it like filming that video?
That day of filming was random, they just called me and said they wanted to shoot a video before they went out of town. We started out in Rancho, and then came back to the Crest. They told me they had a short turnaround because they they had to leave for a show the next day. Everything was pretty much done at a fast pace. I knew it would generate a lot of views because of their following, but I was surprised to see it go over four million views.
I see you designed the cover for Mozzy’s new project 1 Up Top Ahk. Is this a new lane you’re trying to go into?
No, I’ve been doing artwork since the Myspace days, so like ‘06 when I was in middle school. My introduction into all this was Myspace. I didn’t have the money to buy the software programs, so I took it upon myself to figure out the programs, and I taught myself how to do graphics.
I also did the cover for Teeflii’s AnnieRUO’Tay II and III. I worked on some artwork for Show Banga, I also did artwork for the SOB x RBE tape, I shoot a lot of videos for Remedy out of San Francisco. I collaborate with an artist named Gary Junior out of Vallejo. I also did the cover for the The Chang Project by Nef the Pharaoh. I did some Snapchat filters for Vallejo as well.
What new projects do you have coming on the horizon?
I have a video coming out soon for Ryan Hensworth’s song “Hunnid A Day” featuring Yakki and E-40, which was co-directed with Jabari Jackson (Rexx Life Rari). I also just did a music video with Lil Yee from San Francisco, he made a remix to Future’s Mask Off.
I have some stuff coming out with RBC Bugzy, I have one in the works with Mozzy, and a lot more videos with SOB coming out. Also, some short documentary videos about Vallejo showcasing the music scene and people who made it out through sports.