As unique as people’s taste in music is, Meji Alabi’s has successfully appealed to the minds of various music audience even when the song does not fall within their favourite genre. London-based Meji has directed music videos for the likes of Skepta, A$AP Ferg, Goldlink, Burna Boy, Yungen, Kojo Funds, Raye, Tory Lanez, Popcaan, and Swizz Beats, and for African artists such as Tiwa Savage, Nasty C, Aṣa, Wizkid, and Davido. His creative footprint leaves a mark on the music industry as he has a plethora of music videos under his belt. He is usually the one to put the spotlight on people with his own camera, but we decided to flip the script and bring him into the spotlight!
Born to Nigerian parents, Meji Alabi is a director largely influenced by diverse cultures having grown up in London, Texas and Lagos. His passion can be summarised in two things – people and his love for film making. With his skill sets spanning across directing music videos, commercials and movies, Meji’s consistent dare to push the boundaries of creativity has already seen him widely tipped to rule the screens for a long time.
“Every time I see a photo, I snap it. Every time I see an advertisement I like, I take a picture. I’m getting into this film phase. I get a lot of ideas from people around me, really. The experiences that I’ve had, they hanging out. Life in itself is probably the best inspiration.” – Meji Alabi
Moreover, his work bridges the gap between African and Western markets, across a range of visual mediums including music video, photography, advertising campaigns, magazine editorials, and artist branding. Self-trained and self-taught, Meji who was recently signed to Black Dog Films in the UK and US — co-founded production company JM Films in 2014, which specialises in creative visuals, music videos, commercials, movies and television. The company, like Meji, has worked with an impressive group of artists including Mr Eazi, Burna Boy and Jorja Smith.
On how he can create different videos for different genres, he says,
“It has been asked many times but the music is what really pushes. Music comes first so we listen to the track and when I hear that… maybe I’ve seen imagery somewhere or I remember something I really liked or something in the lyrics speaks to me…” he explains.
“There is plenty of different places to draw inspiration from but for music videos, it all stems from the music and we work away from there.” – Meji Alabi
Notably, Davido’s “Risky” visual component was also put together by director Meji Alabi. The “Risky” vignette was filmed in London, and is also billed as a tribute to Ronan Bennett’s renowned British TV series Top Boy. The use of historical allusion is one of the aesthetic peculiar to this visuals, alluding to Ronan Benett in a brief and indirect reference to his lifestyle prove the historical, cultural, literary and political richness of the visual.
“As a creative, you have to feed your own soul while feeding your artiste and make sure you are self-serving in the sense of – I want to push this video as hard as I can.” – Meji Alabi
However, Meji’s video for Burna Boy, ‘Pull Up’ taken from the artist’s acclaimed fourth album ‘African Giant’, captures a vintage aesthetic with an array of vivid texture to accompany the lively afro-fusion rhythm. The video also features models Aweng Chuol, Camille Munn, NyaLuak Leth, and Chanel Taylor.
The vibrant music video sees Burna Boy and a group of models all in impeccably stylish looks gallivanting around London, hitting up local spots, driving around in a convertible and simply enjoying themselves. It gives off plenty of chill, yet infectious energy, and makes us wish we were along for the ride too.
For me, a music video should make you feel some type of way, and I think that stands true for art in general. Whether itʼs uneasy, heartbroken, joyful, happy, angry – it must evoke some type of feeling. – Meji Alabi
Subsequently, the use of historical allusion is one of the aesthetic peculiar to the artistry of Meji Alabi, his collaboration with Afrobeat superstar Tiwa Savage on her latest song, 49-99 saw the visual wining the video of the year @SoundcityMVP Awards. The video is a spectacular combination of rich visuals and sharp choreography. One particularly striking scene, for example, features the singer and a group of women dressed in blue uniforms with their hair in threaded styles as one of them counts her money bills.
I have generally enjoyed making films that beautifully represent Africa and Africans from Skepta and Wizkidʼs Bad Energy to Popcaan & Davidoʼs Dun Rich. I love to show Africa, and really anywhere I shoot, in an authentic light. Whether the subject is glossy or gritty, thereʼs an air of authenticity I aim to tap into with every project I do and I think 49-99 falls in line with that. – Meji Alabi
Tiwa sings “I got to get the dollar” while the rest of the women stare at the camera. Meji avers that, is inspired by Eliot Elisofon’s beautiful portraiture series of Congolese school girls taken in 1972, which the filmmaker wanted to celebrate and pay tribute to. The use of historical allusion is one of the aesthetic peculiar to this visual and his artistry.
Alabi attests to this when he says, “You try and push yourself with every video, technically, creatively, physically. Just try and make sure that you do something that is true to you and also represents the artiste in the best way. I guess it is easy to fall into the trap of how to make an Afrobeat video, add some colour, lots of dancing, people have seen that a hundred times so that when they see it again, they go, I know what this is and turn the television off.
He also adds that despite these successes, he is more interested in his creative growth than in money. It is why he is open to and has worked in commercials, rap and pop videos.