A couple of months ago, I found myself freelancing at a trailer house in Los Angeles working on graphics for a number of #TerminatorDarkFate spots.
Even though the trailer house had spent a lot of time dialing in a very specific look for all of these spots, the client (Paramount) asked for something a bit different, so I was tasked with the job of giving them "something different".
For glitch effects, I typically use a plugin to generate all that glorious glitchy schmootz that exists in a good glitch effect. They couldn't get Red Giant's Holomatrix to work, and they didn't have BorisFX's Continuum or Sapphire, so I was either going to have to use After Effects native plugins or find some kind of stock asset that I could use to solve this creative problem.
As I was going through their library of stock assets, under my breath, I uttered the phrase: "Where my glitches at?" I just about busted out laughing, but since no one heard me, and I would've been laughing at my own joke, I caught myself rather quickly and opted to not make a fool out of myself by laughing.
For the rest of the day, instead of listening to music on my headphones, I had the beginnings of a parody rap song running through my brain.
The chorus of the song came to me first. I had a very distinctive sound rolling around in my head that lent itself quite well to trap music. But since Trap is not my milieu, I needed to get a good understanding of the genre before I could continue, so I dove ears first into all the great audio loop websites like Big Fish Audio, Zero-G, Sounds.com, and Splice. I even combed through my own extensive library of sounds.
I eventually found a couple of sample packs that formed the core sound of what was rolling around in my head, and when combined, they formed a nice solid beat with some orchestral hits that formed a nice cinematic flavor.
Outside of doing the tutorials on my website, I had never recorded myself doing anything let alone singing, or in this case, rapping, but on a whim, I hit record and that was all it took...I knew I needed to make this parody a reality, and I knew that I needed to be the one rapping.
I reached out to a friend and fellow YouTuber, Mr. Preezee. We had been talking about collaborating ever since he contacted me after watching a tutorial that I had done. I thought this might be a perfect opportunity to collaborate. Even though I've been writing music for over 30 years, I've never really done it in any kind of "professional" capacity, and while this was a parody and wasn't going to be a top 40 hit, I wanted it to sound as polished as it could be, and I thought this would be a great exercise in making that happen. I am a HUGE fan of Mr. Preezee's music, so I knew he'd be the perfect person to help me out, and I was right. His encouragement alone was invaluable!
I've never written a rap song before. Sure, I've written tons of EDM and Hip-Hop tracks, but all of those have featured music, not vocals, and it's been a long time since I've written any lyrics. I didn't know where to begin, so I decided to go where a lot of people when they're trying to solve a problem...YouTube!
I literally typed: "How To Write A Rap Song"
This video helped me SOOOOOOOO much and in so many different ways. One of the biggest things I learned from watching this video is that I was overthinking the process and thereby psyching myself into thinking that writing a rap song was somehow different than writing any other type of song. The reality is that a rap song is no different than any other form of storytelling. The structure might be a tad different, but all your doing is telling a story...it just so happens that this story has a rhyming convention.
The video also did a great job of translating this storytelling process into the context of a song, By doing this, I was able to split it up into chunks that were a lot more manageable and allowing me to focus on the story I wanted to tell. Because I was overthinking the song (and even comparing myself to masters like Dr. Dre), I couldn't see the forest through the trees.
Having this structure, all of a sudden gave me a roadmap. I wanted this song to be a universal rallying cry for all creatives who have ever been frustrated with dealing with the seemingly inane "notes" that we get from dealing with clients. It doesn't really matter which creative field your in...all the silly notes and gripes that we have and endure on this creative journey are all basically the same. So I set out to do just that.
I went back to the internet to research some of the most common (and silly) things that clients say to creative professionals...and there were a lot. After making notes and writing things down, I started the process of crafting and structuring the story. Just the process of doing this allowed me to start seeing patterns, phrasings, and rhymes. Over the course of a couple of late nights, I wrote the lyrics and laid down the vocals.
As mentioned above, I asked Mr. Preezee for some help, and he stepped in again and put his producer hat on. He did mix pass and brought the track to the next level. I asked another producer friend of mine to take a stab at mixing the track, and he too made some great producing choices...I took their advice and combined them into yet another mix that incorporated the input from both.
With the track done, and out of the way, it was now time to focus on the video. There was no time to really shoot anything, and since this was a motion graphics related parody video, a friend, Jonathan Winbush suggested doing a lyric video. I happened to mention this idea to my wife and showed her some of the lyric videos for Taylor Swift, she loved the idea...the problem was...I had no idea what I was going to do...I was creatively blocked.
Sometimes when you're blocked, whether it's writer's block or some other kind of creative block, the best thing to do is to do something. At its core, being "blocked" is really just fear...it's your subconscious telling you that you're not good enough or that you're going to fail or both. While this pertains to writing, it's a universal adage that reigns true in every creative endeavor...the best writers are re-writers. Stephen King forces himself to write a certain amount of pages every day, knowing that once he's done with the first draft, it's time to move on to the next draft where he further refines the story...sometimes even throwing out whole chapters and starting from scratch.
That's what I did for this lyric video. I knew the words were going to "type-on" so I started by just laying out the text to the lyrics...not worrying about design or anything other than just putting in the text. As I went through the tedious process of just putting in text, the ideas started to flow. It took a couple of weekends, but I'm so happy with the result, and I hope you are too!