With two music videos released in early November, the collaboration between Alex Crossan, better known as Mura Masa, and London-based director Yoni Lappin for Deal Wiv It and No Hope Generation is the latest iteration of their long-running creative partnership. After meeting through Mura Masa’s manager Sam Stubbings, Yoni went on to direct over half a dozen of Mura Masa’s videos. “It was pretty much an instant easy connection between us, love at first sight if you can call it that, and it’s been a dream partnership from my perspective ever since,” Yoni tells It’s Nice That. “We’ve grown into genuine friends and enjoy each other’s company in work and outside of it.” For these two videos, Yoni lists some 90s and early 2000s youth culture classics such as Blur’s Parklife, Spike Jonze’s banned one-take video for Wax, as well as the bowling-themed dream sequence in the Big Lebowski as inspiration.
From shooting an abstract video titled U in a King’s Cross hotel room off the 2014 mixtape Soundrack to a Death, to filming two videos produced by music heavyweights Canada, it’s easy to see how the two have built a trust and grown comfortable with each other creatively. No Hope Generation, set in a dystopian near future features a couple of stoic and unimpressed protagonists travelling across a cold, atmospheric urban landscape. Alternatively, Deal Wiv It features the ever-charming rising star Slowthai running across apartment blocks in a slow-motion weaving of Serbian street scenes before jumping into a convertible to join Mura Masa. Of course, it’s all shot in one take.
So when London-based Sophie Williams was tasked with photographing the behind-the-scenes footage of the two videos, she didn’t want to shoot something that felt too much like a film set. “I was asked quite last minute by our music video producer at Canada to help with production on the music videos, and I’m never not shooting, so this is the end result,” Sophie tells It’s Nice That. “I was really just able to embed myself within the crew and capture some nice details of the process, as well as take some shots that align with the narrative of the promos.” Sophie – who also acted as assistant producer for the two videos – and Canada, have in turn, generously shared some behind-the-scenes photographs from No Hope Generation as well as previously unpublished photography from Deal Wiv It.
Originally hailing from Peterborough in East Anglia, Sophie picked up the medium from her father, a journalist and photographer. “The fact that Alex and Yoni already knew each other so well meant that shooting BTS like this was so easy and fluid,” continues Sophie. “They were both very much on the same page the whole time, which meant that there was never that underlying feeling where two people who don’t know each other very well have creative differences. They both just really seemed to want the same things.”
The resulting photographs became much less about the glitz and the glamour of filmmaking or the music industry, instead, it is an intimate and sensitive series of friends and strangers – rising stars or not – working together for a unified creative vision. In one image, Sophie captures Slowthai’s earnest boyish smile as he sits in a meditative pose on top of a red Zastava. In another, Yoni is shown leaning against home gym equipment, deep in focus. “The main subject of my photos is and always will be humans,” she says. “The moment when we all watched back that one-take shot from Deal Wiv It was so satisfying. Seeing everything we’d planned finally come together at exactly the right moment, just as the sun was going down. We were all gathered around a tiny monitor but the energy was just unreal.”
Marta Bobić, Canada London’s executive producer goes on to add, “Yoni’s known for his Mura Masa videos, which all have a really strong British flavour to them, so taking this to another setting, Serbia, was already going to make it feel different.” Sophie’s currently planning a portrait project around queer identity within family, looking towards more staged portraits while keeping her work’s sincere character. It’s something that Yoni, Mura Masa and Slowthai all have in common. Individually, they look for authenticity in their artistry and Sophie’s candid photography supports and compliments this collective goal with style.
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