Interview
Photo courtesy of the director.

Félicity Ben Rejeb Price.

Interview: How Félicity Ben Rejeb Price Is Reinventing the Afro-French Music Video

Félicity is the Tunisian music video director birthing a new aesthetic for urban French culture.

Félicity Ben Rejeb Price represents a new generation of imagery in Afro-French hip-hop culture, with clients including top French acts like Dadju, Aya Nakamura, Gims, Niska, SCH and Soolking. She also has a growing catalogue of editorial campaigns for the likes of Adidas, Uber and Converse.

Her current role is a combination of everything she's done so far. A jack of many trades, she's played her hand as an interior decorator, publicist, set designer, stylist, casting director, photographer, and ultimately, artistic director. The detail-oriented Félicity relishes at being able to select the location, models, styling, and the method of filming for her projects.

Félicity dominates a masculine industry with illustrations that go beyond the typical rap video starter pack—comprised of cars, scantily-clad women, alcohol, and money. Her formula is: film music videos that are mini-films where women such as herself are treated as equals rather than objectified, while also sprinkling in a number of lights and colors.

It's Saturday afternoon in Arizona, where Félicity is shooting a new music video. She pauses to speak with us on the phone about the trajectory of her career.

The article below has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Niska - Bâtiment (Clip officiel) youtu.be

Before having worked with Dadju and others, were you a fan of French rap?

Not really. That's the funny part about it. I got my start in photography as an art director. I happened upon the rap industry. I think that's what makes me different. I grew up listening to Motown, because my mom is English. That is more my vibe. I thought rap music was very interesting but I wanted to add something more artistic to it. The fact that I was naive made it so that I didn't feel like I had to match the codes because I didn't know them… I think I brought something more artistic and poetic that didn't exist at the time. This was like six to seven years ago.

In France, rap music isn't as common as it is in the states. In the states, they go very big on the music videos and they're really about the looksthey mix streetwear, bling,, and rock-n-roll. In France, at a time, the image was about straight streetwear.

What's your background?

I'm half-Tunisian and half-English. As a director, it was important to me to add an African vibe to my work. I'm happy that I've worked with as many African artists as I have and will continue to do so.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everywhere. I travel a lot. I try not to look at other music videos, rather get inspiration from the source. I would rather take inspiration from movies than copying other music videos. I think it's more fresh.

Aya Nakamura - 40% (Clip officiel) youtu.be

You consider your music videos mini-films?

Yes, I do. I like it when there's a story. The music is already a story. The cool thing is to make another one with a video. It's challenging to give another meaning to the music and when it works well it's fulfilling. Where some people think a music video is meant to add images onto lyrics, I think it's more than that. I think it's meant to tell another story.

What role has social media played in your journey?

I peruse Instagram and Pinterest day-to-day. Instagram is a great place to draw inspiration because it's a portal into the whole world.

You have a background as photographer, stylist, and artistic director. What would you say is your favorite of all those hats you've worn?

I would say art director. Art directing is all-encompassing. You could have a hand in set design. I think I really like styling, this is something I am still very particular about. I admit I'm really annoying about small details.

What sort of styling do you have a penchant for?

Looks and outfits matter a lot to me. I like to reinvent style. I use streetwear but with a contemporary twist. Diamonds and bling, for example, are always going to look cool. I also like when things are eccentric.

DADJU - Lionne (Clip Officiel) www.youtube.com

Who are your favorite video directors?

I really like Dave Myers, who directed all of Travis Scott's music videos. Every music video he creates is just 'wow.' I feel like he doesn't have any limits. Despite everything he does not always making sense, it's very exciting to watch. When you watch one of his videos, you know it's one of his videos.

Would you say you have a particular style that allows for people to identify you in the same way?

I was initially afraid about being too eccentric in French rap, because I thought people wouldn't understand my aesthetic and messaging. Now I'm happy because people are not only open to it but they also recognize my work. My videos are eccentric and full of possibilities. I really like playing with colors and lights. I guess I can attribute this to me being African—funky, fresh, and colorful.

What's your creative process? How long does it take you to come up with a concept?

I listen to a song for days if I really want to feel the music. Sometimes, it will just come to my mind. Other times, I'll stare at pictures and one image can inspire a whole video. The thing about imagination is that it's something you can't control. It's kind of weird but sometimes an idea can come up in one hour and sometimes it can come in five days.

I've learned to be fast because everything is always so fast, today. I'm always traveling, researching and looking for new ideas. I also turn down projects I know I'm not the best fit for. You want to do things with intent. Every project is a baby. It has to be something we do together. Everything I do is something I put all my energy in and I couldn't do that if it didn't align with my vision.

DADJU - Django ft. Franglish (Clip Officiel) www.youtube.com

It appears it's important for women to appear in the visual stories you tell. Would you consider yourself a feminist?

I believe in gender equality. I'm a bit more focused on putting women in different roles in my music videos because they have been so objectified in the rap industry. I just want to make things fair and equal. I want to empower them a little bit more. They've been put down for so many years and it's important for me to put them back on an even playing field.

What is essential in the stories you tell?

I'm very focussed on casting, because I've been a casting director. I like diversity. I don't like having what one would say is the typical model. I like to mix different ethnicities. I just like all around diversity. I feel like it's more real. The more you get close to real life, the more people can identify themselves in your work. Where the story and bling-bling in your videos are fake, people have to be able to see and imagine themselves in your video somehow.

Drea Dury - Brutal feat. will.i.am (Official Video) [Ultra Music] www.youtube.com

What's your favorite music video to date?

My first one was pretty amazing for me. "Django" with Dadju was the first time my ideas became reality. My first experiences will never be beaten by others even if I love them. It was the first time. It was so intense. I could never get that feeling back!

What's next for you?

I have a music video for Drea Dury and Will.i.am "Brutal" out now. My most exciting project is more personal. I'm going to Niamey, Niger to shoot a co-ed school, with a focus on girls. In Niger 93% of girls leave school after elementary school due to early marriages, or because they can't afford to stay in school. We are going there to shoot and show the world what's happening in an effort to raise funds.

We will even make videos because shedding light on things shouldn't just be for amusement. It's something near and dear to me. We have to use the lights we have shone on us for things that are essential. It's a more concrete manner of changing things for women and African continent that I'm passionate about. I've had the pleasure of working with the top-selling and most talented artists in France and I'm looking forward to doing the same with different countries across the world.

Interview
Photo: Shawn Theodore via Schure Media Group/Roc Nation

Interview: Buju Banton Is a Lyrical Purveyor of African Truth

A candid conversation with the Jamaican icon about his new album, Upside Down 2020, his influence on afrobeats, and the new generation of dancehall.

Devout fans of reggae music have been longing for new musical offerings from Mark Anthony Myrie, widely-known as the iconic reggae superstar Buju Banton. A shining son of Jamaican soil, with humble beginnings as one of 15 siblings in the close-knit community of Salt Lane, Kingston, the 46-year-old musician is now a legend in his own right.

Buju Banton has 12 albums under his belt, one Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album, numerous classic hits and a 30-year domination of the industry. His larger-than-life persona, however, is more than just the string of accolades that follow in the shadows of his career. It is his dutiful, authentic style of Caribbean storytelling that has captured the minds and hearts of those who have joined him on this long career ride.

The current socio-economic climate of uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrusted onto the world, coupled with the intensified fight against racism throughout the diaspora, have taken centre stage within the last few months. Indubitably, this makes Buju—and by extension, his new album—a timely and familiar voice of reason in a revolution that has called for creative evolution.

With his highly-anticipated album, Upside Down 2020, the stage is set for Gargamel. The title of this latest discography feels nothing short of serendipitous, and with tracks such as "Memories" featuring John Legend and the follow-up dancehall single "Blessed," it's clear that this latest body of work is a rare gem that speaks truth to vision and celebrates our polylithic African heritage in its rich fullness and complexities.

Having had an exclusive listen to some other tracks on the album back in April, our candid one-on-one conversation with Buju Banton journeys through his inspiration, collaboration and direction for Upside Down 2020, African cultural linkages and the next generational wave of dancehall and reggae.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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