Highlighting Key People in Hip-Hop

As video equipment becomes more and more accessible, the job of the video director may seem easy through the eyes of the viewers. Self-taught, Mazi Oyo learned the importance of hard work, studying and relationships early on in his career. After being given an editing program by his brother, this Brooklyn, New Yorker began his quest for knowledge. At the beginning, he used Youtube to research all things related to his craft. After interviewing Dylan Dilinjah from MTV’s Making Da Band for a radio station he worked at, he decided to put his camera skills to use. He asked to shoot a video for the recording artist, which ended up receiving position feedback. Since that first video in 2010, Mazi has gone on to work with French Montana, Raekwon, Chinx Drugs, Lil Kim, Maino, Max B and more. He operates under his parent company, Mazi International, which encompasses several ventures including his video production company, the clothing company Brooklyn FRESH, HardBody Music, a health and fitness life style brand co-owned with rapper Lil Cease and more. Continue reading to find out the keys to Mazi’s success. Take notes.

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You’ve come a long way. How do you connect with these artists?
I’ve been in the industry for 10 years. Before picking up a camera, I was working in other areas. I was at 99.5 FM WBAI for a while and then went into music production and mixtapes. I have love for both of those fields but they didn’t exactly get me to where I wanted to go. But while doing those other things, I met a lot of these artists. Sometimes I’ll meet one artist through another artist. And other times, people just seek me out. In this industry, everybody knows everybody.

Very true, so what role does networking play?
Networking is important. The way the industry is now, relationships are very, very important. So solidifying and holding on to those relationships are a must. With networking, I strongly believe that if you work hard enough, somebody will see your work. If you grind, eventually the right person will see it.


A lot of people are going into videography.
A lot of times, I’ll get directors that contact me, and though I’m pretty new myself, I notice that their motivation isn’t really for the art. They don’t really care about the craft. They do it to pay their car note, to pay their rent and I often tell them, if you’re doing it for that, you’re not going to get very far. I would tell anyone that’s coming into this field that they should focus on the craft and study it more than anything.

Being that you’re pretty fresh when it comes to being behind the camera, what was your strategy?
I have a friend of mine who’s a director, Todd Angkasuwan, and he taught me that in this business, it’s just about shooting. Shoot everything and everyone. Shoot the artists who have no fan base all the way to artists with millions of followers. Shoot a commercial for a corner store. That way, you’ll get your name out. When people look you up, you’ll have some work out there.

That’s great advice. A lot of the time the people with no fanbase get overlooked because they don’t really see how they can benefit.
Exactly. When I started working with Max B, we didn’t get to shoot music videos but we shot a lot of behind the scenes and interview footage. When I started working with him, I was familiar with him but I never listened to his music. It was after I started working with him that I would hear his music in cars passing in the hood and hear people talking about him. At the time, he was basically an indie artist. His music still lives on while he’s in prison right now. Sometimes those are the ones that’s the most creative or who are going to let you be creative.

How important is investing?
I have a friend in California that used to shoot music videos. We were working on a video for Tila Tequila. He had me working on the set. I was surprised when I got there because his set was like a movie set. There were lights everywhere. The crew was humongous. The video turned out well. When I got back to New York, my focused went towards me putting money back into my dream and business. If it’s $100 for a tripod, new lens, or lights, it’s worth it. It’s always good to spend your money on something that’ll make you money.

Great advice. What can we look forward to?
Besides more videos, I’m currently working on a reality show. It involves several rappers, some of which I’ve worked with. I got myself an agent that pitched the show. There is a network that likes the idea and wants me to shoot the pilot. I’m going out of town to shoot two artists and I’ll be back in New York to shoot three artists. I think this is natural progress. Directors, we start off shooting small videos, then the larger videos, then we want to hit the major websites and blogs, then maybe MTV and then after that, maybe it’s time to shoot a movie. Right now, I’m working on an independent urban horror that’ll go straight to DVD. I look forward to venturing into new territory.

-Follow Mazi O on Twiter: @Mazi_O
-Danitha Jones (@LifeLikeJones)

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