Flexin’ On ‘Em: Behind The Lens With Migos’ “Bad And Boujee” Director Daps, The Flex God
A number one song like “Bad & Boujee” needs a hit video to go right along with it and most times, the release of the video pushes the song over the top of the success mountain. This is certainly the case when Atlanta’s hit-making trio Migos needs to get visuals to the people, and the person they call is music director Daps “The Flex God.” Born in Nigeria and raised in London, Oladapo Fagbenle (aka Daps) tries to explain what happens when your vivid visuals start to become popular. “It’s funny. People are comparing Migo’s ‘T-Shirt’ video to ‘The Revenant,’” he said. “Someone really went on IMDB and changed the director’s name to mine.” Fagbenle sports a flawless smile, which produces a very prominent English accent when he speaks. Although African in origin and spending his youth in London, Daps found himself in the U.S., playing high school and college basketball. The competitive nature helped mature a tireless work ethic which fuels his creative projects. “I’m just appreciative of everyone paying attention, and appreciating the hard work, because a lot goes into it.”
So, who is the man behind the lens? Well, his resume includes working with the legendary music video master, Director (Little) X, and artists like Iggy Azalea, T.I, Kendrick Lamar, Rita Ora, Jordin Sparks and 2 Chainz, just to name a few. Here, we find out the source of his success.
VIBE: What inspired you to become a director?
Daps: I started producing music videos for my brother’s company, Luti Media. I was living in New Jersey for eight months after I got my Masters degree in Communications and Bachelors in Business. I was running around wild. Didn’t get caught for anything, but I was doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I can literally write a memoir called “New Jersey Nights.” Stressful times. He saved me, my brother, because sh*t was getting real deep, and one day he was like, “Hey, there’s a video in New York, do you wanna produce it?” And I was like, what does that mean? He said, “I’m transferring money the into your account. Google it and figure it out.” I was just thrown in with no training, no nothing, just had no clue what I was doing. But after producing for a while I got a little disgruntled. I realized it wasn’t really creative enough for me. So while I was producing for other directors, I learned how to direct.
What was it like mentoring under (or shadowing) Director X, and how did that come about?
In 2012, I was back home in London and we did a documentary for Kanye West called “60 Days to Paris” when he was doing his Paris fashion show. I was one of the main producers on that. I was with Kanye everyday for two months, and I’m just soaking in all the creatives around him: photographers, creative directors, stylists…Kanye himself. That same year I stopped working full time for my brother at Luti Media, and I started producing freelance for him while I was working on a clothing line that I started by myself and with my own money called BIFLI (Because I Feel Like It). I was working on that in London and it didn’t really take off, but I learned a lot by the failure. After I was done with my clothing line, I started trying to direct, but your first job directing is just so hard to get because to book a job you need a job to show you can do the job. But how can you do a job if you don’t have a job? It’s like a catch 22, and no one is looking at me. Unbeknownst to you, before basketball, before directing, before anything I was always making music the whole time when I was young. Even throughout college and high school, always music. So I was like f**k it, I’m going to start rapping again. I started making music to create my own videos for myself. I made my own video for myself that I directed called “Ian Wright”. Ian Wright is a big soccer player back home in London. Thereafter, I directed a few more videos for myself while I was pitching on different artist stuff. I was literally pitching like 30 to 40 videos in a row [with] no one booking me. Not one. I don’t think you know how hard it is to pitch 30 to 40 things in a row and no one saying, “Yea let’s use you!”
Director X is signed to Luti Media. My brother is his European rep. He was geared up to do Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” video and I wrote the concept for it. My brother came to L.A. to produce the video for Director X, I came with him. X said, “I love your videos. From now on you should start working with me.” I started writing different video concepts for him. Then I wrote the concept for the “Black Widow” video. We shot it in L.A. back in 2014. Big three-day shoot. Huge budget. The whole time I was just on set chillin’. Then on day three, it’s coming to the end of the shoot. We have no performance of Iggy whatsoever. We were running out of time. We happened to have two camera units, and there was a huddle on the side with all the producers and the client. They were like, “Listen, X needs to go shoot Iggy’s performance. Who’s going to go direct the scene with Rita Ora and TI?” and X said, “Oh, Daps will do it.” It was really cool. I wasn’t really nervous because him having that much faith in me made me comfortable to do it.
How do you come up with your video concepts? What’s your creative ritual?
The song dictates everything I think, depending on the tempo, depending on content. Is it angry, is it sad, is it about love, or is it street sh*t? That normally determines the vibe of the video. Then I usually ask people’s opinion about a song like, “When you hear this what do you think?” Sometimes all I need is someone to give me an idea and then I know that that’s what I don’t want to do, and that helps me think of what I do want to do. But just in general, I’m into making cool looking sh*t, even if it doesn’t make sense. I just play the song over and over again. Put the song on repeat and just think about it. It sounds weird, but what do the sounds look like? Certain sounds and instruments mean something to me visually.
Are you completely hands-on with the whole process of creating the video?
I see over everything in general and give the final thumbs up about everything. But what I try to do now is have everyone from each department bring their own wave forward. That’s when you get the best final content. There’s no point in hiring someone for the job if you’re going to tell them what to do every step of the way. For example, for the Migos “T-Shirt” video, the art director brought certain things forward that I didn’t think about. All I need to do is give them the template and say, this is what we are trying to achieve in the end. Go off then come back to me and tell me how you’re going to help us achieve that and bring your own wave to that.
What’s the hardest part about directing a video for you?
There are just so many moving cogs. You have like 20 to 30 people on set. If one person messes up, it just disrupts the whole process. It could be the smallest person or the biggest person. So synergy, smoothness and timeliness is always a huge problem.
Are you particular with who you have on your team?
Oh yea, I’m very particular. I don’t necessarily have the same people on every set, but for example, I try to keep the same core people for certain clients now. Like if something went wrong with one client I won’t use that core person again. But if something goes right with a core person I try to keep them for that client. Like for Migos the “Bad and Boujee” video wasn’t a smooth experience for me because some things were missing, some things were late. So I told myself I’m not going to use certain people again. And not that I wouldn’t use them ever again in life, but they didn’t necessarily merge well for this client. So moving forward I know what kind of client or producer to use for them. With that being said, the Director of Photography on “Bad and Boujee” did a good job, so I have other DOPs that I could use but I just kept him on for all the other Migos [“T-Shirt,” “Deadz,” “What’s The Price”] videos because he did a good job on the “Bad and Boujee” video.
How did you get connected with Migos?
I did a video last year for a singer, Niykee Heaton, and they were featured on the song. We were all in LA. My first time meeting them, and I guess they liked how I worked, so while we’re on set they were like, “Listen, our next video you’re going to shoot it.” I just thought that was just Hollywood industry talk. Everyone says that. Then they happened to be on tour in Europe and I was in London. I can’t remember what I was doing there at the same time. I direct messaged Takeoff, because I realized they were coming to London for some shows. But I DM’d him on some regular, like what’s up bro? What’s good? He hit me back like, “Oh you’re in London.” I’m like, yea. Then their manager Rel hit me up like listen, let’s shoot a video. Like two days notice. Wrote the treatment for the song called “Cocoon” and then that’s it. They sent me the budget, I sent them the treatment. They came from Spain from the airport straight to set. Long drive, they went to the wrong airport. The promoter booked them for some far away airport. They had to drive like two hours to set. Got to set, and they were on set for like two and a half hours. Knocked the video out. Put it out. Crazy. Then after that, came back to L.A. and they were like listen we got this song called “Bad and Boujee”, let’s do it.
Out of all the artists you have worked with so far, who is your favorite to work with?
The overall easiest experience maybe Stormzy. He’s back in London. But in terms of just like pure performance with cameras on and I don’t have to say much, Migos. They could be having a great day, slow day, sh*tty day, high day, whatever it is once you press record it’s on. It’s show time.
Who do you want to work with? Top 3?
I need to do a video for Beyoncé. I need to do a video for Taylor Swift, she does some really cool videos. And then maybe Drake. Other than that, a lot of rappers. I’m a rap head, so I have a lot of rap people that I always listen to.
On your IG account your name is @FlexGodDaps. Where did the name Flex God come from?
Me and my boy back home. We started doing this whole thing like regal royalty thing while keeping it street. And because we were in England we made up these old English names and sh*t, and I was the Duke of Flexfordshire and he was like Lord Flexington. We just liked flexin. We did this whole flex thing with this whole godliness. We came up with Godric Von Flex. Then someone said Malcolm Flex. So we had all these silly flex names. So were all like, flex flex flex, and the epitome of flexing is if you’re a flex god. So one day I just changed my name to Flex God.
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
“You live once, then you die forever.” So basically what that means to me is you only got one shot. Do what you want to do. There is no one living your life for you. You’re living it. Doesn’t matter who’s against you, or who’s looking down on you. I don’t give a sh*t if my own family doesn’t like, they better get with the program. ‘Cause I will go out on a limb by myself. You ain’t living my life. I live my life for me. Do what you want to do and do it well because there is no second chances. When you die that’s it.
Are you still rapping?
Not really. I write a little bit for fun, but not really.
So what’s next?
Rap was a stepping stone for me. Music videos is a stepping stone. You have to keep on moving. Keep on reinventing yourself. Keep doing things you are interested in. Keep challenging yourself. Me, personally, I just like creating stuff in general. I got a fashion project that I’m working on. That’s coming soon. I’m trying to do TV. I’m trying to write TV, I’m trying to direct and write movies. So in terms of what’s next. Just look out, really. That’s it. Keep a look out for Daps.