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“Do You Know How Hard It Is to Throw a Blunt Upwards in the Air?”: Migos Director DAPS Talks The Group’s Instantly Iconic Videos

Migos‘ Culture is a triumph because it condenses the trio’s best traits—their polychromatic triplets and ear for hooks—into an hourlong project. Also, “T-Shirt” is on there. The Atlanta rappers could’ve just skated on the strength of an early Album of the Year contender, but it helps that they’ve utilized the talents of video director Oladapo Fagbenle, professionally known as DAPS. The Brit—who was the 2nd unit director for Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta” video—directed the video for Migos’ exceptional 2016 single “Cocoon,” and has helmed three out of the four clips to arrive from Culture. After first meeting Migos on the set of Niykee Heaton’s “Bad Intention,” DAPS honed in on the group’s style, reimagining their well-tread local trapping as exotic globetrotting excursions. Pyrex-meets-The Revenant is an innovation that feels specific to Migos.

“A lot of people that happen to be creative don’t get hip hop, and specifically, don’t get trap,” DAPS tells SPIN over the phone. “Then, a lot of people that do get hip-hop and do get trap specifically aren’t necessarily the most creative. So, long story short, I think they probably mess with me maybe because of the balance of I get their music, and I’m a fan of their music.”

A few days after dropping the video to “What the Price”—in which Takeoff, dressed as a biker, punches out some dude out in a sports bar—DAPS spoke with SPIN about being the Migos’ eloquent visual interpreter. He speaks about each of the videos he’s directed for the group below.

Filmed: North London
Released: June 28

All my videos for Migos, if you look at them, there’s a lot of juxtaposition going on. There’s a lot of, “Why are these rappers in these areas?” I think “Cocoon” was the beginning of that. It was like an old victorian home, and I was thinking about how can we shoot Migos in London with limited time, and show that it’s not America, without going to a Big Ben-tourist area—which is what everyone else would do. Then the word “Cocoon” also inspired some of the art: I put them in physical plastic bags, which to me was the “Cocoon.” I guess just playing with a lot of lyrics in the song, and then playing with the British theme.

Quavo started off so he wasn’t in [the plastic bags] for that long. Takeoff went last on the song, so he probably was in there for a couple of minutes. They had one take, because they had to leave.

They only shot for like two hours. They had to go to two shows. I guess that was the catalyst, where it was like “OK, look what we did in two hours,” and we had like one day to produce the video. And also, they liked my quick turnaround in the post production. I guess, in theory, “Cocoon” was one that definitely got the ball rolling, but after “Bad and Boujee” it was like, OK, we’re locked in.

“Bad and Boujee”
Filmed: Atlanta
Released: October 31

The cup of noodles in the diner, that was Quavo’s idea, and going on the billboard was Quavo’s idea. But the general concept of putting bougie looking, high-end chicks in grimy environments, that was me.

I was trying to get Waffle House. I’ll bet they wish they did it now: If anyone at Waffle House can hear me: “Hi, Waffle House.” I had to get on with a diner, and it ended up working good. The whole video, I was just trying to think, “Where are the places you wouldn’t find boujee chicks in fur?” A liquor store, a diner, on the block.

I don’t know what [Takeoff, who doesn’t rap on the song] was doing earlier on in the day, cause I don’t recall seeing him during the Lil Uzi and biker parts. There were like random people there, like OG Maco and Travis Scott, so I assume he wasn’t there. I guess he did come later on for the diner scene, probably the end of the day. Sometimes you’re not even thinking about these things, where it’s like, “Oh shit, now that he’s here, like Takeoff, sit right here.” But we can’t fit him in the booth because it’s a four person booth and it’s already filled so it would be too cramped. So, the only logical option is to put him in the background.

That billboard scene was an impromptu scene. Basically what happened was we ran out of light—that scene was not part of the plan, I was supposed to shoot something else there. We pull up by the diner, and there happened to be a billboard next to it. The billboard happened to have lights and happened to be in a gas station parking lot, and Quavo was like, “I’m getting on the billboard.” I was like, “No, it’s not a good idea. It’s dangerous. Insurance doesn’t know about this. It’s not happening, period.” Quavo was like, “I’m getting on the billboard, we’re shooting on the billboard.”

Me and Quavo came to a compromise. He wanted one scene in the diner that I didn’t want. I was like, “Let’s get on the billboard, but that scene in the diner, we’re not gonna do that.” We pull up the lighting, equipment truck, underneath the ladder of the billboard, he climbs on to this truck to climb onto the ladder and onto the billboard. The model does the same thing, but she’s wearing knee-high boots. So she takes her boots off. We throw her boots up to her, and we throw Quavo’s blunt up to him, which took like 36 attempts. Do you know how hard it is to throw a blunt upwards in the air? And have it lit at the same time?

Filmed: Lake Tahoe
Released: January 6

I had a different idea for the video. I meant to shoot in ATL, and then Quavo said, “Hey, let’s take inspiration from Batman’s Mr. Freeze.” I’m like, God, how do I incorporate Mr. Freeze into this shit?” I get it: white, T-Shirt, frozen. I said to the label if we wanna do something like Batman, Mr. Freeze, it’ll cost jillions to make it look good because that movie had a lot of costumes, custom art direction, and layers. How do you pull it off without looking cheesy if you’re not working with pop budgets? I said, “We can do that, or, fitting with the whole frozen theme, let’s go to Alaska. Where we still use the fur, it’s still cold, the snow is now the white, and I started incorporating, you know, the whole wilderness thing into it. We were supposed to shoot in Alaska. Thank goodness we found an alternative that was really in the woods.

I got Quavo spurred on the idea with certain fur elements and cold and ice, and from that, I built off on it and really honed in on the whole Revenant thing. I thought, “Hold on a minute, wait, this is crazy. People that kill animals for fur are called trappers. Trap music: trap artists, trapping, wearing trapper outfits.” I added the old man, and he’s the new plug. It’s basically like the whole video is a trap universe. I just thought there’s no one in human history who put a pyrex on a campfire. Then Quavo said, “Hey, let’s get an igloo,” because I was gonna use like a teepee or something.

Filmed: Atlanta
Released: February 23

The dead presidents were Quavo’s idea. Quavo showed me a scene from the movie Tales From the Hood, and there were these three guys trying to rob the funeral home or something like that. [Migos] saw themselves in the casket, so we were like, “Yo, instead of ourselves in the caskets, let’s put presidential wax figures in a casket.” 

Apparently wax figures cost a lot more than anyone was assuming, so I had to get presidential lookalikes—which is actually easier to work with because it’s human beings. That’s a really strong theme and concept, so I built that around that.

“What the Price”
Filmed: Atlanta
Released: March 23

Quavo said, “Hey let’s do something to do with bikers.” And I was like, “Yeah, sure, great, what’s the story?” and he was like “Let’s figure it out.” We came up with the story of Migos going to some sort of location and doing something that involves leaving with a girl. I said, “From there, I have to also build a performance scene around it,” so I had to stay in that mode. A lot of rock and roll videos do the whole like open desert aesthetic, with like, things burning, like smoke. I just wanted to capture a little bit of that rock and roll—like new age, 2000s rock and roll—to have the drum sets and microphones in a weird area, capture that aesthetic, and stick with the whole grungy, biker theme.