KarmaloopTV’s team received their biggest job yet this year, when Beyonce tapped @LILINTERNET to direct her music video for “No Angel.“ Our guy insisted on an 8 day shoot in order for the team to truly immerse themselves in Houston. Meeting with the city’s hip hop legends Bun B, Paul Wall, Scarface, Slim Thug, Kirko Bangz, Willie D and Z-Ro, KarmaloopTV’s crew explored deep in Houston’s 3rd and 4th wards, capturing the unadulterated beauty of the people and environment they saw. The following is an introduction to our team and photos taken by cinematographer Thuan Tran, with stories from the whole crew.
@LILINTERNET- Director – KarmaloopTV’s first hire 6 year ago, @LILINTERNET is a music producer (Azealia Banks‘ “Yung Rapunxel“) and video director, breaking into the spotlight with his viral video for Diplo‘s “Express Yourself” which started the past year’s twerk mania. It was the attention to the people and landscape of New Orleans in “Express Yourself” which attracted Beyonce to request his directorial vision for “No Angel.”
Ben Solomon aka @KINGS0L0M0N- Producer - A long time friend of @LILINTERNET and born and raised downtown New Yorker, Ben has directed and produced videos for Supreme and Fool’s Gold as well as “Captured,” a full length film about legendary Lower East Side photographer Clayton Patterson.
Shomi Patwary aka @illusivemedia – Director of Photograpy – An accomplished director himself with videos such as A$AP Ferg’s “Work,” A$AP Mob’s “Bath Salts“, and Lupe Fiasco’s I’m Beamin’, Shomi Patwary lensed Diplo’s “Express Yourself,” and teamed up with @LILINTERNET again for Beyonce’s “No Angel.”
Thuan Tran aka @onlunchbreak – Director of Photograpy - Thuan was pulled out of college by @LILINTERNET to work for KarmaloopTV after seeing his incredible talent that suggested he should probably be teaching his professors. He then went on to be responsible for videos such as Wale & Stalley’s Home to You, Spenzo’s Heaven Can Wait, and the most recent Capital Steez video for “47 Piiirates.” Proving that he’s just as nice with the stills, Thuan also captured all the beautiful photos you see here. Oh, and he’s only 21 years old.
We sat down with the team to get their first-hand account of how everything went down during their week in H-Town, and reveal the stories behind the images in Beyonce’s “No Angel.”
“I want to tell y’all about Quick Stop Scott. It was a few days into our trip and we were riding around town, looking for people and places to film. We were specifically looking for people rocking real OG Houston shirts, like airbrushed tall tees and stuff. We finally found a little shopping complex, and lo and behold it has a t-shirt shop. We walk in and are immediately greeted by Quick Stop Scott, a man as friendly as he is big. He was super down to be in the video and help us out any way he could. The only small problem was, right after we showed up, a few guys in front of the store seemed to be arguing about something and it seemed like a fight was about to go down. Honestly, I was a little worried that we were gonna have to get outta there ASAP because these dudes seemed like they were definitely about that life, not to mention with conceal and carry laws nearly everyone in Houston is strapped. Thankfully, Scott intervened and calmed them down and we were back to business.
It was really dope to be able to connect with some of the local characters there. I remember watching an old Paul Wall video years ago where he mentioned being wary about out of towners coming to Houston and trying to co-opt the culture, but we didn’t have that mentality and the city showed us a lot of love the entire time.”
“We were in the 4th ward for the day, with Paul Wall as our host. We spent the majority of the day inside a little trap chilling and talking with the dudes from the neighborhood. Everyone in Houston is on some real cool shit, so they were letting us shoot freely and just vibe out, they brought the slabs (cars) out into this little patch of grass in the middle of the block. The corner store up the block was this huuuge spot with barely anything in it. One fridge with drinks, couple candy bars and a bag of Lays, but, they had a little written in chalk menu offering “fish” and a few other things.
My man Scottie, who is from H-town and was working as a PA but really more as a tour guide and adviser asked the kid behind the counter if they made “SPREAD.” For a second I’m thinking WTF? Like a mayo sandwich? Right as the gears were clicking in my brain Scottie looks at me and says “Beeen (Htown accent), you know what spread is?” I said “I think so, but put me on regardless.” He proceeds to order spread, WITH chips, and then broke it down:
“Spread is jail food. It’s what inmates cook for themselves outside of the mess hall, utilizing any and all ingredients that may be available. For $2.50, the extra 50 cents for the added Fritos, this 12 year old kid running the store whipped up what I would describe as nothing short of a rec room gourmet feast. Two packs of ramen, including the flavor powder, heated with water in microwave. As the noodles soften, he added canned chili, another pack of ramen flavor and sliced American cheese. Mix it thoroughly and back in the microwave to finish. It was delicious. Crazy to think that one would willingly order a jail snack on the outside, but next time you’re in the hood in H-town, drop 2.50 on spread with the chips and tell me it isn’t good. Like really good. Damn, that shit was mad good.”
As you can imagine, walking around the 3rd Ward with $50K worth of camera gear isn’t the easiest thing to do. But from the moment we entered the small apartment complex and met “Young Dad” who was sitting in his car with his own music blasting, we knew we would find friends here. Right away he knew what we were about. He agreed to let us film him and his family & friends for the low price of…one of his CDs. Of course, he was a natural and and his son was more than willing to flex in front of the camera as well. There was a point where little boy grabbed my camera and refused to give it back to me, haha. His mother ,who was a beautiful young girl, found it hilarious that we would want to film her “dirty” son, and insisted that he put some clothes on before we shot him. Before we knew it, everyone from the neighborhood emerged and everyone was trying to get their shine.
“All the kids we met were loving the camera. Lil man above was a natural, flexing his muscles and putting on a mean mug like a boss. We got so many amazing shots of him it was hard to pick which ones to use. The little girls from the 4th ward were a trip too, following us around the whole day singing, dancing, posing – there might be some future stars in that group. We got a tip that we should get a shot of “cool cups,” which is a Houston thing, frozen Kool-Aid in a plastic cup with a spoon. It was all silver toothed smiles and cool cups with these little ladies – the silver teeth perhaps the result of too many cavities from too many cool cups!
Texas still feels a little wild. The conceal and carry law means a lot of people always have heat in a holster – modern day cowboys. We were in a lot of places a couple of New York film makers likely don’t belong, but we never felt threatened. Most everyone was open to our lens, and I think our attention to our craft and determination to capture a true portrait of the city showed through, and people respected it. We couldn’t even tell people what we were shooting, as the album was kept strictly secret. They showed love regardless, and certainly the greatest aspect of Houston is the people and their unique culture. We were outsiders looking in, but we refused to be tourists. We spent time in the streets and dug beneath the surface. Hopefully what we captured will serve as a time capsule for this particular era of Houston’s culture, and hopefully we captured it well. All in all, we are deeply thankful to Beyonce for the opportunity, and to everyone who were exceptional in helping us – Paul Wall, Bun B, Bun’s brother Trucker, and Scottie our guide.”
Keep scrolling to see more dope pictures from the team’s trip. Thanks again to Beyonce and the whole city of Houston!