When we spoke with Nabil Elderkin, the video auteur who has created works of moving art for the likes of Kanye West, Nas, and Diddy (just to name a few), the filmmaker had an unexpectedly modest way of describing himself: “I like to create visuals. I am almost 29. I grew up in Australia and now live in LA. I am addicted to traveling. Someone keyed my car. I just had it fixed for $2500, not so happy…” he then adds, “Music is inspiration.”
Although he may have shied away from mentioning his incredible talent for film, Elderkin has an astounding knack for creating staggeringly epic music videos. More than your average music video, his creations jump out of the screen like short films scored to great music. Elderkin explained that for him, photography came before film, which accounts for the amazing graphic quality of his moving images.
“Each [project] is an experiment and learning experience for me,” says Elderkin. “I try to push something new creatively for myself every time. They don’t always reach the level I want, but that’s part of learning.” Humbly, he adds, “Sometimes you fail.” After working on three notable videos with Kanye West, Elderkin describes the two artists’ relationship as “Always positive. I appreciate Kanye in that he lets me do my thing,” Elderkin says. “For ‘Coldest Winter’ and ‘Welcome to Heartbreak’ he basically gave me free reign, with ‘Paranoid’ he gave me some constructive feedback and ideas that I implemented and did some extra shooting to get to a point we were both happy with.” Admiring Kanye’s artistic talent, Elderkin continues, “He is obviously a very creative person himself.”
The inspiration for “Patience,” Elderkin’s newest video for Nas and Damian Marley’s Distant Relatives, came straight from the song. “All my concepts come from listening to the song on repeat, or driving with it,” says Elderkin. To include all of the people involved, he traveled from Paris (where he shot iconic Malian artists Amadou and Mariam) to London, and west to LA where he caught Damian and Nas. The clip is based on the end of his “Coldest Winter” video, “when the girl is running on the cliff.” Elderkin says he wanted a feel that was “ancient times meets Apocalypto. I also wanted to follow the lyrics in some way, as they are really intuitive and visually strong on their own.”
“Damian and Nas were great to work with,” explains Elderkin. “I feel I have built some trust working with them over the last couple years. [For ‘Patience’] I told them my idea, and they let me do it. That’s the best for a director. Damian is one of my favorite musicians and Nas is a king.” As for Amadou and Mariam, Elderkin says they “couldn’t have done the video without including them,” explaining, “their track ‘Sabali’ is the foundation for the song.”
As for the future, we are thrilled to mention Elderkin’s powerful documentary, Bouncing Cats, which has been described as “the inspiring story of one man’s attempt to create a better life for the children of Uganda using the unlikely tool of hip-hop with a focus on b-boy culture and breakdance.” The film is narrated by Common with appearances by Mos Def, K’Naan, and Will.I.Am. The documentary will be released this year. And of course, stay tuned for more brilliant music videos from Nabil Elderkin.—Annick Mayer