Rising director and photographer Munachi Osegbu might be the most astute judge on the matter. Through his collaborations with up-and-coming rapper Megan Thee Stallion, Osegbu has spun the ideology into an aesthetic, articulating and broadcasting the essence of Hot Girl Shit to the masses.
Megan’s identity, which seems to morph and evolve with every new release, is what differentiates her in the the now-swelling wave of female rap talents. Meg has carved out a space for herself in the notoriously male-dominated discipline through her boisterous bangers and clever, cutting lyricism. But while her personas are liable to change—as is customary with rappers—they all center around sexual autonomy and satisfaction, unabashed hedonism, and a specific strain of subversive humor. It all coalesces into startlingly singular artist—one the collective conscience just can’t quit.
Having collaborated with her on editorials, album promotions, and, as of late, video direction, Osegbu is at least partly responsible for Megan’s internet-breaking success. Surface spoke with Osegbu about his work with Megan, his “Afrofuturistic” perspective, and how resourcefulness has been central to his career.
[Portrait at top by Munachi Osegbu]
How did you start working with Meg?
It’s a weird, crazy coincidence. In October, I got invited to a dinner for 300 Entertainment. It was an astrology-themed dinner, they sat us by our sun/rising/moon signs, and did readings for each table. And I met Rayna Bass, who became the SVP of marketing shortly after that.
Unrelated, a month later, I got hit up to shoot Megan for Refinery29. But she had actually signed to that label the day before our shoot. After we did the Refinery29 shoot, Rayna reached out to me and was like, “I heard you just shot Meghan. I would love for us to do a shoot. We’re filming videos for these songs if you want to write a treatment.” So I wrote one.
I had been writing treatments for videos for a year or so at that point, but had never gotten one. Later, she texted me saying that I had gotten the video and asked me where I wanted to shoot it. After we did that first video, we just kept collaborating.
What was the inspiration behind the “Big Ole Freak” video?
I guess my inspiration for that video—and all of my videos and everything I’ll do—it’s really just the 2000s. I would wake up every morning as a kid really early and watch the MTV and VH1 countdowns. I just remember how elated and happy I felt when I would be waiting for a certain video to come on. For example, I would wait for “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani and Eve video to come on, and for me, I always felt so happy when I finally got to see it. So I guess that Y2K, campy fantasy has always been an inspiration to me, as well as J-pop and K-pop. It kind of [references] a combination of different countries over different time periods.
I’m obsessed with the aesthetics in that video, particularly the inflatable tub situation. I’m wondering how you sourced the props and fabricated the scenes. Or is it mostly green screen?
That has no green screen. We just built four different sets within one studio. Yasmina Khan was the set designer for that video, and she sourced the tub from, I think, Craigslist and then just painted it. It was really cool to see the way everything came together.
So Refinery was your first time working with her in general, which led to “Big Ole Freak” and “Realer.” I’m wondering how your working relationship has developed or matured in the time since you first started working together.
I think I know now more of what she likes and what she wants to see, and we have a great work flow. I’m repped by a production company called EverybodyNeedsUs; it’s an all-female production company. They’ve been such an amazing source of help and guidance for me and have really made these video’s possible. You know, this is my first time really doing this kind of stuff. And they’ve been working for 10 or 11 years, and really took me on. They dedicate a lot of time to making sure my vision is honored and that these things run smoothly. I’m developing my working relationship with Megan, but they really have helped shaped me [and supported me].
With regard to the process, I’m wondering to what extent these projects are collaborative with Megan?
Yeah, it’s definitely a collaboration in terms of like the concepts and the ideas. Like I would say, as the director, I’m flushing out and specifying her vision. If that makes sense.
“Realer” is also so incredible. I’ve read that it was inspired by blaxploitation, if you can elaborate on how that drove the narrative.
I envisioned it as basically a trailer for a blaxploitation film in 1971. Like early ’70s, kind of funky tribute to those like Pam Grier and Foxy Brown, because they actually are super important for black people in entertainment, cinema, and art. I felt really honored to make a project that referenced that period. Because last year, when I was still in college, I wrote an entire thesis paper on blaxploitation, so it was amazing to be able to [apply it in my work].
In the same vein of narrative autonomy, I’d like to touch on your like personal body of work, which is often through the lens of what you call Afrofuturism.
Afrofuturism is basically just a reconceptualization of the past, present, and future for the African diaspora. So when you think of science fiction, every book or film has something in common, which is mankind’s reaction to and relationship with the technological revolution, and this idea of humanity almost trying to adapt or co-exist with that when it’s not natural. And so [I connect that] with black people and these diasporas of people who have been thrown into these different worlds. It is hard to sort of change their ideals, their religions, these things that are so ancient to us; it’s almost like modified genetic DNA. So it [echoes] this idea of blackness in the West being the same sort of adjustment as [that of] a technological revolution and the general human diaspora in science. I hope I’m explaining that in a way that makes sense.
I know it’s very complex topic, especially to explain, which is partly what I think makes your perspective so interesting.
I’ve always made my work based on the idea that our reality isn’t necessarily real, and it’s like a concept. I feel like I can freely tell these stories, and create these narratives, because our whole entire existence in the West is fabricated and controlled by other people, you know what I mean? Like criminology, ethnography, all these ways of surveying and looking at black people are literally just made up. So I want to kind of retell these all stories and create a new kind of ethnography that’s rooted in science fiction and fantasy.
It’s really exciting to see someone as dynamic and unique as Megan ascend to such heights so quickly. I’m wondering how it feels to be working with a rising rapper and help her craft her visual identity in that way?
I feel like I always dreamed of doing this. I’m just grateful for the opportunity, and I really don’t think it could have been with a better artist. She’s such a joy and pleasure to work with. And I’m also helping build my artist identity and that part of my art. I guess I’m just excited to see how she develops visually—and even without me. Because, you know, you are not going to work with the same director for your entire career. I’m excited to see everything that she does, and everything that she accomplishes, and I’m so proud of her. I’m also excited to work with other artists and do things that are different for other artists, if that makes sense. Because when I start working with other artists, my videos aren’t going to look the same as they do with Megan. Obviously, the color those things will still be an element because it’s an element in all my work, but I’m excited to see what this experience helps me to do in the future also.
Anything else you want to use this time to talk about?
I always want people to know that I’m just a normal, random person, you know what I mean? A lot of the work on my website was shot before I graduated in my classrooms at NYU. I spent a lot time putting together shoots with my own money, with my friends on the weekends. So all this that is happening is literally a product of a DIY, a space of queer people and women who have wanted to create and help me with my vision. This is really just all because of passion and resourcefulness. It’s really just a testament that you don’t have be in the industry with a lot connections or a lot of money. You just need to have a desire and a will to create.