Benny Boom Talks About Directing Nicki Minaj’s ‘High School’ Video (Ft. Lil Wayne)

As hip-hop continues to live in the “straight to Internet” music video age, artists are finding it tougher to make events out of their visual releases. The budgets are smaller and the viewers’ attention spans are shorter.
You can blame the music industry, the influx of amateur quality vids flooding Youtube every minute, or the Internet itself. However, pointing fingers won’t change a thing—but true music aficionados can breathe a bit easier knowing that veteran directors like Benny Boom are determined to make sure it’s still “quality over quantity.”

This past Tuesday (Mar. 2), Nicki Minaj released her Lil Wayne-assisted video for “High School” to an overwhelming response. The flick included steamy bedroom scenes with Weezy—real enough to be mistaken for a sextape. While it wasn’t raunchy in the least bit, their chemistry sold the show. From the director’s chair, Benny guided the production while making sure every second of the flick oozed with authenticity. To get a better sense of things really went down, VIBE corralled the director to break down the process.

VIBE: Benny, you’ve worked with Nicki on past videos. Who came up with the concept this time?
Benny Boom: In this case, I had a different concept than what you see, and I sent it to her and she was like ‘Well what if we did something a little more narrative and a little more story driven.’ So the video you see now is kind of where we wound up based on ideas that we collaborated on conceptually.

How did the storyline come together?
Before the video was even done—there was a lot of chat online about possibly doing something in a high school or something high school related, but I know she wasn’t really thinking of that in terms of the visuals. The idea of the song is that they are no longer in high school and they are pretty much grown so they can do what they want so that’s how we approached it. I found that house on a website. No one had ever shot there. What we shot in the video is pretty much a fraction of what that location had to offer.

Nicki and Wayne genuinely seemed like they were having a ball on set. And, that bedroom scene…
[Laughs] It was interesting. I mean what we captured on film—was much like in a movie when you have two actors that are friends and they have to do a love scene together—it can be awkward. It was just sort of this awkward moment between two friends having to do something so personal for the video. Honestly, it was difficult for them to get through it without laughing but it was fun. It came off right. The way we lit the set and the way that we shot it came off very tasteful, and that was the approach that we wanted.

Wayne is definitely a confident person and isn’t afraid of the camera, but did he have any “shy” moments on set?
It was less about being shy and more about him being respectful. It was just like the three of us talking, because it was pretty much a closed set at that point so he’s asking me questions like: ‘Okay so, how do you want to frame this?’ and you know ‘What should we do?’ And it wasn’t him, like, man-handling and pawing. None of that was going on. It was a very respectful situation from both of them, and I wouldn’t say he was being shy at all.

How did you end up catching the kiss scene though, did they really lock lips or did you just cut it right there at the last minute?
[Laughs] We wanted to shoot something that gave you that feeling of like old Hollywood romance novel covers so each of those moments were sort of staged. We kind of choreographed them, believe it or not.

You were saying the video shoot had some time constraints. Unfortunately, I know during the very beginning of the shoot is when Lil Wayne had his seizure attack. Were you guys on set when you heard the news?
That actually didn’t happen on this set. He was shooting another video the very next day, I think the ”Tap Out” song with Birdman. But the day that we shot, Weezy was in perfect health. He was great. He came into the city that day but the next day is when he had the health scare. On our shoot, he was fine and healthy.