When it comes to getting the job done, MTV award winning music video director, Seyi Babatope says there are no ‘sacred cows’. In a no holds barred interview with us, the California State University Cinema and Television graduate talks about his foray into the world of moving pictures.
Tell us about some of your work?
I haven’t done so much but I directed Ikechukwu’s “Wind Am Well” and I got pretty popular a while back and got an MTV MAMA Award, which was pretty cool and I appreciate it, even though I never received the award (laughs). I also did GT da Guitar Man’s “Truly” and Sauce kid’s “Omoge Wa Jo” featuring Mike Okri.
How long have you been directing?
Well, since I was 22 and now I am over 30; pretty old. While I was growing up, I was thinking about either studying Computer Science, Medicine, Engineering or Law but I found myself studying film at the California State University.
Most parents are usually a bit reluctant to let their kids study Film or the Arts, were yours any different?
They wanted me to study Real Estate but I am happy and I can’t lie about the fact that every day for me is a blessing and I am happy.
So what drew you towards film?
Initially, I was unsure what to do with myself, jumping from school to school, Europe to America. It is the one medium that addressed my desires and objectives as an artist and gave me fulfilment. It intellectually challenged me and served as a creative means for me to make contribution to life or society.
Are you strictly a music video director?
No! I’m a filmmaker. Music videos is just the one medium I’m able to express myself for now and what most people pay attention to as a calling card for a director.
We have quite a few music video directors springing up by the day in Nigeria; what sets you apart from the pack?
I don’t do a lot of videos but when I see a song or video that is challenging enough, I do it! I have my own signature style for myself. There are a lot of good directors like DJ Tee, this cat out of London called Sesan and Clarence Peters. But I will say I am pretty original though.
How would you rate the quality of Nigerian music videos?
It’s getting better, I mean, before, they were basically copying American artists or MTV. They say imitation is the ultimate flattery, right? So that in itself has been to an advantage because even though they were copying the bad habits from America, I don’t think it hurts.
I won’t do it either but a whole new crop of filmmakers are definitely making things a lot better. It’s absolutely through the roof but the quality of most videos do not really match the song so sometimes you see an absolutely nice song, then the video and you go ‘why did they just screw everything up?’
I hope they don’t hate me for saying this but 9ice’s “Gongo Aso” was a hot record but the video was not it. So that’s an example of a good song and a not so good video.
Do you think a Nigerian music video can hold its own against a foreign one?
Yes, I think so. During the first MTV MAMA awards, the nominees for the Music Video of the Year were two Nigerian directors: which were my humble self, Jude Okoye and South Africans; and I won! So you can see that I am Nigerian and MTV is an international brand.
What are some of the challenges you face?
Nigerian artists are stubborn, they don’t listen. They want something and they don’t know how to get it and don’t want to trust you to help them get it. I can give you ten thousand things but I won’t.
Can you name the serial culprits?
Actually, the great ones are Omolara, GT da Guitar Man and Sauce Kid. I will leave it at that.
Those are some of the artists you have worked with?
Yes, but I will leave it at that. Look, I want to tell Nigerian artists that they should just do good music and let Directors be directors and just be the artists. It’s meant to be fun! We are meant to create something together and not fight.
What’s been your favourite moment as a director?
That was when I showed a student film to a Hollywood established director and he said, ‘This kid just got my attention.’ I needed validation and those words carried me a very long way.
And your proudest?
That was when I got a text message saying my video won the MTV award for Video of the Year.
Which artists, local or international, are you dying to work with?
I am going to be honest with you, I love MI’s music. I think that kid called MI is a super nova. A girlfriend of mine told me about his record but I didn’t know who he was and I bought five CDS! I had to pass it to everyone. I will like to work with MI and foreign, Jay-Z, maybe because I am reaching for the top.