Digi-clusives: Weekly EXCLUSIVE (and no, not one of those phony exclusives where everyone is reposting the same thing) interview features with movers and shakers within the Music Industry; Artists, Producers, Label Reps, DJs - hell maybe even Video Chicks :-).....
This Week's Exclusive: Video and Photographer, Taj Stansberry (@taj_mahall), known by many as just Taj or Taj Mahall. The Oakland, California native is one of the youngest in the video directing game but his client list stacks high, if not higher, compared to some of his friendly competitors. With two major projects dropping as soon as this up and coming week and weeks ahead, get to know the man behind the camera of Ryan Leslie and The Dream's future work.
Digiwaxx: Taj!! First off, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. As I stated before, I have been following YOU for a while now, dating back to when you were rapping and in a group with I.V.A.N. and Jimmie Reign, I also know you did photography at that time. Rocking three hats (rapping, photography and director) what made you push ahead with directing?
Taj Stansberry: With the rap world, I was basically weighing it out; whats the chance of making money doing it - quick money? Photography was doing it but I needed more. So I picked up a camera and started shooting videos. I hit up groups and asked to film them in hopes that people would see it and soon want to pay me and it happened. My first major project was shooting Rihanna in Europe and then I signed to an agency and began getting recognition.
D.W.: Originally from the Bay Area, Oakland to be exact, did you select Los Angeles as your choice of residence for opportunity?
Taj: I moved to New York when I was 18, I liked it but it wasn't for me so I chose L.A. to live close to home. Plus my agency is in L.A. It just seemed like the place to be. I met a few producers to network and produce with and jobs just came in.
D.W.: And who have you worked with exactly?
Taj: Nas ("Hero"), Ne-Yo ("Part of the List"), Rihanna ("Don't Stop The Music"), Usher, Musiq Soulchild ("So Beautiful"), Lil Wayne, Electric Red, Jada Kiss ("Who's Real"), Swizz Beats, Ryan Leslie, Fabolous and The Dream, to name a few.
D.W.: Being young and in the game, who do you look up to? Do such directors like Hype, Dr. Teeth or Boomtown inspire you?
Taj: I've always looked up to Hype. His eye is great, movement is amazing and dynamic. He is very unique and deserves all the credit he gets. Overall, our styles are different. I'm more narrative. Anthony Mandler (Jay Z - "D.O.A.", "Run This Town", Rihanna - "Russian Roulette", "Wait Your Turn" and more) took me under his wing and showed me the way. Showed me other things.
D.W.: How does it feel to see your work on BET/MTV?
Taj: I'm numb because I've seen the video so many times during the editing process, and I don't watch a lot of TV. I was there and looking at it shot by shot. I want to be excited. When I saw Musiq Soulchild's video I was very excited about it and it was a solid piece of of film making. I do enjoy the process and get more excitement creating it verses seeing it. I love the creativity process.
D.W.: Some would say that you actually love what you're doing if that's the case. With that being said, who would you like to work with that you haven't yet?
Taj: Well the obvious and everyone asks when it will happen; Jay Z. We've gone back and forth on a few projects but just have yet to seal a deal. He's a great artist. Nas is number two. I have done a video for him and working with him was amazing. Sade, Coldplay, POD, Kanye, Cinematic Orchestra are others. I want to take it against the grain and have a different feel, work with someone like Britney (Spears) and make things raw. Let's do some sh*t where you like I've never seen of her where she is acting and narrative; bad girl verses stripper girl type of work.
Photo by Gab The Producer
D.W.: So what's next? I recall on twitter, you spoke of a project with Ryan Leslie and The Dream.
Taj: Ryan Leslie just released his new album, "Transition", and we did a short film for it, "Making of Transition", a 30 to 45 minute film. It's a great love story, based on real life, with a guy who is an over achiever and when it comes to this one woman he tries to use the same attitude but learns the same rules do not apply. It was an honor to have him ask me to capture it. It's a true story. Great person to work with. He is cool with you personally while on the set but also grinding. It releases probably, December 6th, 2009.
I was set to shoot The Dream's "Fancy" video but things switched up last minute and we shot a video for "Sweat It Out", which should be dropping next week sometime (this week).
D.W.: Sounds like your plate is full. Well, I appreciate your time, once again. Any last words for the people?
Taj: I have a new blog, www.sleepingonmars.com - check it out! I've been working on it. I'm still young and black. I'm trying to brand myself because when on set I look like the artist verses the director and I'm often looked at as that, an artist. I have the tattoo's and dress in hip hop attire. It's a marketing game no matter what and I just want people to know I have it. My blog allows people to get in my head - its my diary.
Check out Taj online: www.twitter.com/Taj_Mahall - www.myspace.com/TajStansberry - www.thepopularkids.com - www.sleepingonmars.com