It was a bright and sunny April day on the West Side of Chicago. The streets were filled with scattered groups of people talking shop and car rims. Children chasing each other through oncoming traffic, all while dope boys pushed product to strung out customers. Just another day in the hood. The weather was unbelievably nice yet there was a sort of thickness in the air... tension. The type of tension that comes from being in K-Town, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago.
This is the place where J'son decided to shoot the video for his upcoming single "Goon" featuring Pastor AD3 and Thi'sl. The song is a plea to self-proclaimed goons (drug dealers, gangsters, etc.) to reconsider who they are in light of the fact, they are made in God's image. AD3 croons an infectious hook telling listeners You are not a goooon..., while J'son and Thi'sl recount their gritty past in hopes of warning would be thugs from going the same route.
The Traffic Jammers Production team set up in the West Side hood swiftly and strategically, grabbing guys, commandeering cars, and stopping traffic somewhat illegally (hence the name). When I got there they had already been shooting for a couple of hours. A single noisy power generator fueled the amps blaring J'son's unreleased (and soon to be smash hit) single. When I arrived they were transitioning from a scene shot on an overpass above I 90/94, to the front of a cheaply painted rundown corner store.
It was great to see the artist amidst the people. Interacting with youth from the neighborhood, and giving daps to those who would be peddling drugs on the set if the cameras weren't there. People say there is no hospitality in Urban America but the locals did everything but roll out the red carpet for J'son and company. People from the neighborhood smiled, asked questions, and even volunteered to be extras in the video. They seemed to be honored to have the artists there because they never thought anyone would want to use their neighborhood as a set for a music video. J'son and Thi'sl even had a chance to share the gospel with a couple of people from their neighborhood who seemed fairly receptive. Producer Veronica Kirkland was also very proud of the impact the artist was able to have on the area.
J'son was very involved with the video shoot from the very beginning, barking orders to the extras like a head coach on Sunday, to keep things moving. He told the guys from the hood to act natural. In one scene he said "talk on the phone like your sellin' work, do what you would normally do." They complied, hopping on their phones, shooting dice, and counting hundred dollar bills. When asked about his hands-on approach J'son simply stated "it's part of my personality, wherever I am I like to be involved with what's going on." When asked about a future career as a video director J'son laughed and said that he doesn't have the patience for it.
Good thing director Brin Hill does have the patience for it. When this young director was asked how he dealt with the unpredictable work environment and small video crew, he said the artists attitudes helped tremendously. He confessed "I have never worked with artists as passionate and selfless as [J'son, Pastor AD3, and Thi'sl]. They were the nicest guys and some of the only artist [I know] who would carry a tri-pod if necessary." Veronica Kirkland echoed this sentiment by complimenting the artists for being incredibly professional and energetic from the moment cameras started rolling at 8:30AM until the end of the shoot at 7:30PM. She was thrilled to see the vision God gave her, to shoot a video for Json, almost a year ago come off without a hitch.
Hill and his video team were small, yet efficient as they transitioned between countless shots in front of the red corner store and later a local community center. One of the best shots of the day was Thisl and Pastor AD3 pulling up to the aforementioned corner store in a gorgeous Olive green Cadillac. There was also an unbelievable shot with J'son in front of a bunch of dudes he had mean mug the camera and do their best to look "ugly." The extras all gave menacing looks as they ice-grilled cinematographer Justin Cameron while J'son rapped his first verse, the energy of this scene is breathe taking. Props to producer Veronica Kirkland, director Brin Hill, and Traffic Jammer Productions for putting together an awesome video shoot with a small budget and limited resources. We look forward to seeing the end product very soon.
The "Goon" music video is slated to make an appearance on a website near you in early summer. If what I saw was any indication of the end product, be prepared to have your jaw drop onto your keyboard when you see this. Follow J'son on Twitter @json116.