This week’s music video is for the song “Welcome 2 Cali!”

AVAILABLE ON A.P.T’S “WELCOME 2 CALI MIXTAPE!” Click HERE for download info!

INSIGHT INTO A SONG

When I came up with the idea to do a “Welcome 2 Cali” mixtape, I knew I wanted to do a title track.

I had downloaded a litany of albums with instrumentals from the most current songs out, and was shuffling through them to pick a beat for the opening. My original choice was a Rick Ross beat I had heard; I also liked some of the 50 Cent beats on those albums (ironic, considering those two rappers are beefing each other right now). I actually had a rap I was going to write, and I knew I wanted it to be something about going from living in VA to being in Cali within the span of 2 years’ time.

Just as I was about to write the song, though, I looked at the other tracks on the album, and realized there was one thing missing: a song that was NOT a rap song. Yes, I like to rap, but I also like to have at least one or two songs where I’m harmonizing, or doing something with a rock edge to it – just something so the album won’t be so monotonous.

As luck would have it, one of the instrumentals on one of the albums happen to be a rock beat! And as I heard it, I automatically started going into rock and roll mode, and crooning out lyrics that, while not rapped, sounded GREAT with the track!

Oh, and guess what the instrumental track was? “Prom Queen,” by Lil’ Wayne!

Yes. So, once again, I found another Lil Wayne beat that I had no choice but to make a song to (this is song number 3, after “Obama Milli” and “A Time 4 Change.” Luckily, I had only heard “Prom Queen” once, and didn’t remember what it sounded like, so I was able to make a completely new-sounding track without having to worry about copying his style.

The lyrics of the song, like all good rock songs, are simple but effective: I talk about how hard I worked to try and make it and how, once I got the opportunity to move to Cali (which, for the record, I NEVER thought would happen as quickly as it did), I jumped on it. That’s the first verse; in the second verse, I talk about how happy I am now that I’m out here, and that speaking your goals into existence actually CAN work.

Again, very simple in terms of lyrics, but sometimes something smart can be said w/o having to say so damn much!

Some Interesting Song Tidbits:

1. Contrary to what the song says, I did not almost “cry” when I thought I’d be able to move to Cali. I’m pretty sure I screamed, though :)

2. In case the last part of the chorus sounds like I’m repeating myself, the words I’m saying are: “I never thought I’d be here/And I’m so glad I made it here.”

3. In the second verse I say I was “taken away at 5, I wasn’t lovin’ that.” When I was 6 months old my Dad moved us out to Stockton, CA, where I lived until I was 5-1/2 years old. I’ve been trying to get back to this state ever since, and now that I’m here… I’m just so damn happy. Like, EVERY DAY. It’s amazing how much happier your life becomes when you’re living where you want to live and doing what you want to do!

INSIGHT INTO A VIDEO SHOOT

So, as you all know, I’ve turned video #52 into a three-part video. Why? Because, due to having two weeks where I made additional videos I technically had 2 more weeks of videos I needed to make. I guess this counts as video 53, but it’s MY project, so screw you!

Anyway, I finally came up with a concept as to how I can tie all these videos together, which is simply by making it a saga about how I went from living in Virginia at my Mom’s house, to ending up in California. Last week’s video, “I Need a Job and I’m BROKE (Mobb Deep Freestyle),” showed me at my Mom’s house doing a freestyle on my computer about the despair I felt that life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to.

For THIS week’s video, I wanted to move it up two years to a very important date in the A.P.T. Success & Progress timeline: Saturday, June 20, 2008. This is the date I decided to film a video for song #5 which, at the time, was simply called “Obama Obama.”

But wait! How do I jump ahead two years without first letting people know how I got to that point? What about the move to Atlanta? How did I get out of my Mom’s house??

I knew I had to let people know those details… but luckily, I already made a song for “The O-bama Mixtape” that detailed it for me! In the first part of “I Put On Remix,” I talk about leaving my Mom’s house. I figured I would just work that part of the song into the video so people would hear it and say, “Oh, so THAT’s how he got out of there.”

But WAIT! How to actually SHOW that??

I couldn’t just type it up and have the music play, and that be it. NO! Luckily, again… last July, when I went to visit my Mom and brother for their birthdays, I filmed some footage of Mom driving me to the bus station, and also asked her to let me get footage of her waving to me saying, “Good Luck!” I was going to use the footage – along with some other footage I took of me on the bus ride back to ATL – for another video, but never did. Who knew that footage would eventually come in handy! (Plus, I wanted to include her in this video since it’s dropping on Mother’s Day. Love ya, Ma!)

So, after adding the aforementioned into the beginning, it was on to the poignant stuff: the “Obama Obama” video shoot. Basically, what happens in the video at the beginning and end is what happened on that day (with added dialogue for story-moving effect, of course). I call up my friend Charis – (a.k.a. the hot chick that appears in the video) and ask her to send me pics and/or video footage of herself with Obama gear in view. I explain to her that I’m shooting a video for a song about Obama that I couldn’t yet talk about, and ask if she’d participate since she was (and still is) a big Obama supporter.

I needed a way to transition into the song, “Welcome 2 Cali.” Obviously since I wasn’t in Cali at the time I filmed the video, I couldn’t fake like I was – the song would have made sense, but people who know me who know the song know I recorded it AND the video when I was in Atlanta.

I decided to do something simple: while talking to my friend about the song, I’d tell her what my hopes for the song were: namely, that it would get big enough to where I’d be able to tour, make money, and move out to Cali. As I’m telling her this, I gaze off and start thinking about what my life in Cali would be like…

…and BOOM! Now I’m in Cali for a “daydream sequence!” Brilliant, ain’t it?

From then on, the video is similar to video #45, “Y’all Haters Should Know”; it’s basically the parts of Cali I would have filmed for that video… had I not forgotten my camera that time :(

I went to Santa Monica first and got a LOT of beach footage (as you’ll see in the video). Then, I rode the bus all the way to the Pico train station, got some footage there; then I went to Hollywood and Highland Heights, home to the Kodak theatre and a big ol’ outside mall. I took a LOT of pics – even with my digital camera memory, I think I was down to about 4 minutes left of footage I could film or 50 pics I could take before I went home!

On Saturday, I finally filmed the opening and closing parts of the video. Since I was acting like I was calling from the “set” of the “Obama Obama” video, I had to wear the original blue striped shirt I wear when the video first opens. I also needed to have a backdrop of me in my apartment in Atlanta – yet amazingly, I actually forgot to take pics of my studio apartment sans me in the background when I lived there! It took me all week to think of a background I could plaster onto the green screen once I keyed it out… then, I think on Friday, it popped in my head: just use a pic of the background you used in the video with the blue background and the pics hanging up, DUH!

I filmed it, then headed off to the beach to hang with my friends. This morning, when editing the video together, I came across a problem: keying out – or, getting rid of – the green backdrop in my video was a BIAAAATCH!! My camera isn’t a high-def cam, which means that sometimes the green in the background doesn’t always stay the same green color, which is IMPORTANT in order for a keying session to go quickly. My keying session took a whopping 3 hours before I finally got about 85% satisfied with it (and even now, if you look in the video, you can see traces of green around me. I need an HD camera, people!).

Once I got the video sequences together in the order I wanted them, I went back and added a “dream sequence” effect to the parts where I’m day-dreaming about Cali. After I finished adding it, and processing the video, I went back and asked myself: “I wonder what it would look like with the cartoon effect on it instead?” It was a simple question, but when I tried it… it’s not necessarily that it looked better than the “dream sequence” effect, but it worked for me better. Plus, I already used the DS effect in one of my videos (Video #44, “Hey There, Rihanna”), and I didn’t want to copy-cat the effect. I used the cartoon effect once this week on my album review for Eminem’s “Relapse” LP and I liked the way it looked.

This is my biggest video to date, and I’m talking in terms of memory size – because I published it in HD format, it clocked in at 461.3 megabytes. (As a comparison, the video I did for “Obama Obama” (re-dubbed “Obama Milli Remix” by the public at LARGE) was 29.5 megabytes.) It’s also a video I’m very, VERY proud of, mostly because it’s taken me all day to edit, re-edit, and post it up!

Some Interesting Video Shoot Tidbits:

1. I actually filmed this video early in the week! My roommate was off work last Monday and, since he (a) was cleaning our bathroom with bleach (which started to hurt my eyes since the bathroom is right next to my room) and (b) rarely gets time in the apartment by himself since I work from home, I decided to venture out to Santa Monica. I figured since I had a whole day to myself, I should bring my camera and film/take pics of everything I could while I was out so I could use it for a video later!

2. I also ended up going to the beach with friends on Saturday. I took film footage and pics there as well, but ended up not using it in the final video, as I didn’t think it went well with the footage I had already shot Monday. Plus, it was cloudy at the beach I went to on Saturday, and night-time filming… well, it didn’t turn out too good :(

3. There are parts of the video where it looks like the camera is looking back while I’m walking forward, but no one is there. I had plan to green-screen myself singing the song in the same clothes I wore to the beach (which I did film) and have these be my moving backgrounds. However, after spending 3 hours just trying to get in the “Obama Obama” background, I said “screw it!”

4. Speaking of the “Obama Obama” background: I didn’t actually have a picture of it (that I could find), just the video itself. Luckily, I have software on my PC that allows me to take stills from videos and use them as pics. Now that I think about it, though, I have the same ability to do that on my MAC. Dang it!

5. The opening segment and the song don’t exactly match up. In the song, I mention how I got my own car and left my Mom’s house to move down South, which is what actually happened. Unfortunately, as soon as I got down to Atlanta, I drove to Alabama the next day to stay with my aunt and uncle… and my car died. Which is why, in the video, my Mom is just driving me to the bus station.

6. Also, that footage of my Mom driving me to the station was shot last summer, not in 2006.

7. The Thai restaurant in the video? What had happen was, when I got to Santa Monica, I was hungry ’cause I hadn’t eaten breakfast. On the corner was a P.F. Changs. I was going to eat there, and when I walked up to the restaurant, I saw some businesses across the street that had red curtaining for its signs. So, I said, “I’ll walk down this small part of the sidewalk and get a side shot of me walking by these lil’ businesses, then I’ll go eat.” One of the places was a Thai food place, and I have been wanting to try Thai food for the LONGEST time! I went in, saw they had a $7.95 lunch special, and figured I could eat & film there at the same time! (I ordered the Mongolian Beef.)

8. For the “beach-to-water” shot (the one where the camera zooms really fast from the sand to the ocean), I had to film 2 minutes and 7 seconds of me running my butt off with the camera in front of me. In post-edit, I squeezed the time down to 6 seconds.

9. That big “statue” thing I circled around is actually a time capsule! I took pics of me in front of it, but I didn’t feel the need to put them in the video, as it would have been repetitious.

10. This is what I call an “I always get my shot” moment. I don’t have a camera person besides myself, and I wanted to get a shot of me playing in the water at the beach without having to ask anyone. What is one to do? Answer: I build up a mound in the sand, lay my book-bag on it, then place my camera on it. Because the mound is up while the sand below it angles downward as it gets toward the water, it makes for a straight shot, which works even better when the water you’re trying to film yourself in is far away!

11. There is only one part of the video where I mouth the words. I didn’t have a stereo or anything with me, so I just sang the part I wanted to sing and prayed to God it would match the actual tempo/wording of the song later. And it did!

12. For the “congested highway” line, I actually DID film a highway… but it wasn’t congested. I figured watching a passing train would have a similar effect…?

13. Another “I always get my shot” moment: I’m in Kodak theatre, and in the middle of it they have a sidewalk fountain, where they have various holes sprouting water out of them for people to run through. How do I get a shot of myself fighting the water without asking someone else to film me? Answer: I look across from the fountain and see a set of steps with a ledge sticking out the side, put the camera on the ledge and zoom in, then run to do stupid stuff!

14. In the Kodak theatre, they have this thing called “The Road to Hollywood” where they have various quotes from anonymous people giving short quips about how they made it to Hollywood, plastered in tiles in the sidewalk from the start of the Kodak all the way to the end where you can see the “Hollywood” sign in the distance. I actually went through and took pics of most of the tiles, but the one I have in the video is the one I can relate to the most. It says: “I went through a period of rejection, getting close on things but not getting them, having no money, leeching off friends and losing lovers because they thought I was a no-good bum. Eventually things got better. – TV Star”

15. In the “Obama Obama” video, I was clean-shaven and had shorter hair than I do now. At the moment I’m not shaving my facial hair due to a commitment I made to myself not to do so until my next project is launched (which will be very soon). In order to not be questioned about why I had a beard in this video yet not back then, for continuity’s sake I had to add the line in where I say, “I’m about to shave and get a quick hair cut.” Ha ha ha! It’s like that line at the end of Star Wars Episode III where Lucas added in the line about erasing the robot’s memory so they wouldn’t know the events that took place, but only so that fans wouldn’t be asking how they didn’t know about the stuff that happened to Anikan in Star Wars IV, which was actually the first one Lucas shot. Dang, I’m getting good at this!

16. Editing for this video was a bitch, if only because trying to take out the green in the green screen took almost 3 hours. All in all, the video took about 6 hours total to edit. And, because it’s in HD, it took another 2 hours to load up onto YouTube.

That’s all for now – next week is the absolute, FINAL video in this year-long saga, and the conclusion of “Video Wars: From VA to Cali!” See ya next Sunday!

-A.P.T.