If you’ve ever watched a music video, you know who Director X is. Originally a protege of Hype Williams known as Little X, Director X rose to prominence on his own by working on videos for artists like Sean Paul, Justin Bieber, and pretty much everyone else who’s been on the radio since 2000, directing the visual for everything from Usher's "Yeah" to Drake's "Started From The Bottom". Three weeks ago on New Years Eve, Director X was shot at a party he was attending in Toronto. “In the movies when people get shot, they think it stops. In real life, the bullet goes through shit.” Director X sits across from me, explaining how he ended up with a fragment of metal inside him while he drinks his coffee, seemingly more annoyed than upset about the whole thing. “So some guy got shot, it went through him, just missed his heart. Then it went through another person, then hit me, and stopped in me.”
The way that things like shootings are portrayed in the media is at the top of X’s mind. His own music videos typically shun violence, choosing instead to focus on vividly colourful party scenes shot in the same ambient light that his mentor Hype Williams often employed in his own videos, as well as throughout Belly. Shortly after the incident on New Years, X commented on the shooting on Twitter, where his messages about what happened started off angry, but then became more poignant. Though he doesn’t place the blame on hip-hop as a whole, he does believe that there are issues within the art that help drive violent acts like this shooting. “I’ve been saying this, it’s a larger thing. I don’t know who hit me, but I know the issue that made the thought go into his head, that would make him think about shooting and killing,” says X animatedly. “Think about the lyrics in hip hop culture, the effects these words have on people when you’re always saying it. Especially the generation that listens to nothing else—hip-hop makes you feel indestructible.”
Director X’s argument isn’t one for C Delores Tucker-style censorship. X understands that it wouldn’t make sense for hip-hop to do away with violence in its entirety, since the bravado attached to it is such a vital part of the artform. “My solution is, if you’re a hip-hop artist that doesn’t want to feed into this, every time you would say, ‘I would’ve shot him,’ say ‘I would’ve punched him.’ It’s the same bravado, it’s the same feeling same anger, it’s the same shit. Just stop saying you’ll shoot people. I would much prefer a big brawl at my party than getting shot.” But it’s not just rap music that could benefit from this mindfulness. Director X believes that they key to changing the way society works may be as simple as changing the way the media portrays this society. “People thinks cops are fucked up right now, but it’s not their fault,” says Director X when we meet for the interview. “I mean, do you remember the last time you saw the movie end with the cop arresting the bad guy.”
Noisey: So what happened on New Years?
Director X: I got shot. I was at a party. The bullet went through two people and hit me. He was aiming for someone behind me, I got hit in the back. I didn’t even know I was hit. I thought I was great, just because there was a guy on the ground behind me.
What happened after you got out of the hospital?
I got on Twitter and started talking about hip-hop culture, because it promotes stuff like that happening. Not in the first person. Not under the rules of an artist saying ‘this is me, and do what I say.’ Rock and roll operates on the grounds of ‘I’m singing this song that I wrote and I feel this way about the statements I made.’ But with rap, you can listen to a song where sometimes you’re like ‘oh, that guy’s killer!’ and he might not mean it. We’re asking teenage kids to intellectualize what these words mean. They might understand that this is not a true murderer rapping to them, they might be able to make the conscious argument. But I’m talking about the subconscious effect of continuously talking about what you’re going to do. All these kids want to be rappers too, so these aren’t just songs they listen to, these are lyrics they emulate.
So is there a solution?
The solution is meditation in schools. If you want to get a real world solution, that’s actually it. The art form is going to keep going, it ain’t gonna stop. An actual real world solution is big, but actually simple. If you had kids meditating in school, watch the change. Its not gonna stop everything overnight, but think of a city like Chicago, these are teenagers killing each other.
Not just kids. Make the cops meditate. It’s the beginning steps, it won’t just solve everything but it’s the beginning steps. The enemy needs a fucking thing to do. It’s big. Star Trek big, but that’s why I’m a fucking director. I’m gonna need to put it into a TV show or movie and hope everyone catches up.
Do your kids meditate?
I taught my son today how to meditate. You breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Its just a breathing technique, and how it affects the brain. Breathe in deep and out through your mouth. I do a visualization technique. There’s a bunch of ways to meditate, you can even do that now. Just close your eyes, go into your mental office. Imagine you’re sitting at your desk, doing your work, and organizing your day.
That’s our brain. There’s a reason, somehow, we can do this and why we do this. Prayer and meditation in school. People would freak out about meditation, that’s why, and they’re still caught in the fantasy of religion. So you’d have to call it prayer and meditation.
There’s a 12-year study, Your Brain on God by Andrew Newbert. He’s a neurologist. There are three types of people: people who meditate, people who pray to a loving God, and people that pray to an angry god. The people who pray to a loving, forgiving, wonderful god—they get the same benefits as the meditator. More grey matter, healthier brain, healthier body and why not? When a neurologist cuts a person’s head open and looks at the brains of the geniuses, they see that they had bigger brains. Size matters, the size of grey matter matters. Meditation makes you have a bigger brain. This isn’t the first time I’ve brought this up. I had to get a shot and start yelling at people before people understand.
You think cops would benefit from this too?
Why not? Take this solution, let’s do an experiment with a police station. It only costs time. The way that police shoot their guns now is in direct correlations to the way movies started having cops shoot their guns. When they started shooting way more bullets in the movies, how many bullets do you think the cops shot in real life? They started shooting way more, and where do they got this idea in their head?
But it’s entertainment.
If we’re going to do it, it can still be entertaining. Let’s just deal with the reality. Like if someone got shot and it went through two people. The movies educate us. First time I held I gun I knew exactly how to use it, just from seeing it in movies. I don’t need instructions, I had an instructor. There’s a million fucking people doing it in movies.
Hip-hop people don’t want to hear that their music is influencing kids, and the movie people don’t want to hear that their movies are fucking up cops. But it’s true. You curse around your kids, they’ll curse. People are impressionable.
Slava Pastuk is not impressionable. Unless you tell him otherwise. @SlavaP