Photographer and director Will Robson-Scott might have been born in London but these days he can be found either in Brooklyn, where he now lives, or else off exploring the underbelly of a foreign city. His latest project is a strikingly honest 13 minute visual accompaniment to God Loves Ugly, an upcoming album by rapper G Count and producer Nascent. Will’s film of the same name tells the stories of Chicago’s much ignored east and south side residents. The film opens in a car following road signs to Chicago’s east side. Animated violences are heard through a crackling police radio. In the distance, the city’s celebrated skyscrapers loom against a sky filled with storm clouds. We cut to a basketball court, where a large group of young men are gathered. Two young boys talk directly to camera about the violence which runs through the city, perpetuated by both it’s residents and the police force itself. “You gotta be safe out here to make it”, one of the boys says solemnly.
Before the film launches on Topsafe.tv this week, we managed to catch up with the director between flights to talk about the reality of life in a city bursting with talent and ambition but plagued by drugs and violence. Watch God Loves Ugly exclusively on It’s Nice That until the end of the week, below.
Hi Will. So what took you to Chicago in the first place?
I initially went to Chicago for Vibe magazine to do a photo story on the emerging drill/rap scene. There was a flurry of people getting signed by major labels and Chief Keef was talk of the town. It still amazes me the tales people would tell me and the sadness of the city: it seemed as the south and west side had been forgotten.
How did you first meet G Count and Nascent? And how God Loves Ugly begin?
I initially met G Count when he was in L.E.P Bogus boys who are Chicago legends. Count was my first introduction to the Chicago rap scene, [and] Nascent and him have worked together on numerous music projects. Nascent has a pretty impressive cv, producing for Chance, 50 Cent, [22 year old musician and songwriter] Bibi Bourelly…. Nascent approached me about doing something for their new album called "God Loves Ugly”. Initially, he wanted to do a making-off film, which I wasn’t interested in. Then me and Count spoke about making a piece using real people telling his story of growing up in the south side.
What message, if any, did you and G Count want the film to convey?
I try not to push a message or agenda. This was a film that me and Count spoke about in detail prior to shooting, hopefully giving a voice to some people who haven’t been heard. The reality of growing up in certain areas in Chicago is it’s extremely difficult. Opportunities are scarce. Chicago has mass wealth and affluence, but at the same time the city has just gone over the 500 mark of murders this year. Those murders affect a specific community which is forgotten by the middle and upper classes — from schooling to healthy food, there’s very little on the south side. After I released Chiraq [a short film which won the YDA award at Cannes Lions], I received an email from a lady who lived in Chicago. She was furious that I had made a piece of work that depicted her city this way — she wouldn’t believe this problem existed. That narrow mindedness is the problem, and it’s going to take generations to turn these areas around.