Since today’s all about the videos, thought it was a fitting time to peek behind the scenes on the best clip most definitely not getting VMA love. When Philly party-rap crew Plastic Little dropped the “Dopeness” video a few weeks back, we were intrigued — and sorta grossed out. Something about the whole “three dudes giving birth” thing. And so we sent our resident videophile Jon McMillan to investigate. He spoke with director Ted Passon about rap video clichés, the Philadelphia scene, and finding the appropriate amount of birth fluid to use on a fake crotch. First, homework…
STEREOGUM: You claim on your website that “Dopeness” is the first instance of a rap group giving birth to themselves in a video. Is this something you can prove?
TED PASSON: Is this something you can disprove?
STEREOGUM: Touché. How did you come up with the idea?
TP: I feel like of all genres of music videos rap videos tend to be the most formulaic, so I wanted to do something different. I was also trying to play with the macho veneer of rap personas and trying to find the least masculine thing for the guys to do and have them still pretend to be tough dudes. I don’t think many other rap groups would have consented to a birth scene.
STEREOGUM: I don’t know, this seems right up Kool Keith’s alley. How did you go about shooting the scene?
TP: The actual process was fairly simple. First we made three sets of fake hairy crotches (I wanted the crotches to be nebulous hairy messes), which were just black underwear with hair weaves sewn on (I still have one if anyone wants to buy it) and shot the action as you see it in the video. Then we set-up a green screen on a frame with a slit cut out of the middle and had the guys pop their heads through while rapping. Then we comped the elements together and our effects guy, Jason Fetz, had to scale the heads to match the camera move.
STEREOGUM: That doesn’t sound very simple. Were you happy with the way the scene turned out?
TP: I think the actual birthing turned out looking better than I thought it would. It’s funny cause I never thought it would look so gnarly. In my mind it was kind of cute but we probably went a bit overboard with the “birth fluids.” I didn’t really intend to use the takes with the fluid but when you’re in a situation where you’re having fun getting to put gross shit all over your friends’ heads it’s easy to get carried away.
STEREOGUM: How about the location. Was this shot in an actual hospital?
TP: Yeah we found this abandoned hospital just outside of Philadelphia that is open but just waiting to be sold. The guy who runs it was super cool and let us shoot there and do rehearsals. He also let us paint it but then when he saw the pink he was like “I didn’t know it was gonna be pink” and made us paint over it when we were done.
STEREOGUM: At one point Kurt shares a calzone with one of the nurses. What kind of calzone was it?
TP: Calzone? We didn’t have that kinda money. It’s funny –everyone thinks that it’s something different but it’s actually just a peanut butter sandwich. I guess the exchange is so sexy that it just makes it seem like a more exotic food item.
STEREOGUM: No cheesesteak?
TP: I’m vegan.
STEREOGUM: Okay, a soy cheese sandwich then. I noticed the teacher from “Finger Bangin’” is one of the patients in the hospital. What’s his deal?
TP: That guy is famed Philly artist Andrew Jeffrey Wright, one of the founders of Space 1026. Plastic Little did a video for their track “The Jump Off” (directed by Erich Weiss) where they used Andrew as this character that we started calling “The Professor.” When I was making the “Finger Bangin'” video for Sweatheart and needed a teacher we asked Andrew to re-visit the role. Now it’s become a bit of a running joke to see how many videos we can squeeze him into.
STEREOGUM: He seems to be having a good time, all the time. And he looks like Will Ferrell. Is Philadelphia always this much fun?
STEREOGUM: That does sound ridiculous. I’ll definitely have to check it out. So what’s next for Ted Passon? Any more videos in the works?
TP: I’ve got a bunch of stuff lined up. I’m just about to finish a music video for Peggy Honeywell (Clare Rojas’ music project). Andrew Jeffrey Wright directed, and I produced and edited. It looks my next music video will probably be for the A-Sides. Other than that I’m trying to finish up a documentary about this band in Philly called “The Motherfucking Clash,” and a longer documentary about Space 1026.
STEREOGUM: Will any of those projects involve giant crotches or self-birthing?
TP: Yeah, but not in front of the camera.