In a studio room full of people running around, setting up lighting and stacking props, junior media arts and design major Youssef Nasr stands calmly amid the chaos, filming behind-the-scenes shots and recording the music video in action. After recording and editing, his finished product reveals a clean-cut video to promote his client.
Nasr is a self-taught videographer from Egypt who began his career at the age of 14 working as a photography and videography assistant for the Egyptian company Celebratori, which hosts events like school proms and graduations. After traveling to the states to continue his education at JMU, Nasr decided to start a career using his videography skills by filming videos for clients, taking a special interest in local hip-hop artists.
“Almost all the music videos I do are hip-hop based,” Nasr said. “I feel like it’s my style. I don’t like to do simple, elegant videos. I just like to throw in effects.”
Nasr’s video-editing style is different from the traditional hip-hop scene. His videos deviate from the “old school” hip-hop style that he considers “slow” by using a modern approach that allows him to implement more edits and new ideas for mumble rap hip-hop videos. Rather than using the same tropes that billboard videos use, such as flexing money and cars, he wants to put more of a story into it.
“All of his music videos, they just suit the content so well, and he makes some really creative editing choices,” Addison Bry, a sophomore studio art major and photographer, said. “He’s not competing with the actual music and artist for attention as far as the content, because you have these subtle transitions and really smooth camera work, so it kind of brings more out of the video rather than taking away from it.”
Beyond his spin on hip-hop, Nasr’s videos are also different because of his Egyptian background. Having begun his career with Celebratori and learning to edit in his home country, his works have adopted an Arabic style. The effects he uses in the videos, as well as some of the techniques and transitions, have a purposeful flair that honors his home country.
“When I moved here, I brought all of my equipment, but I also brought like the vibe or the culture that I used to do there,” Nasr said. “I just try to use some of what my people do in their videos. It’s just like different transitions that we use, different color grading. Everything just looks different from what most people do here.”
While his main focus is on hip-hop music videos, Nasr also does other videography work around JMU and Harrisonburg. He’s created a business commercial for Poke Alakai, a restaurant on Reservoir Street, and will cover events on campus for student organizations and clubs. He also started an Arabic vlog a year ago sporting #jointhebattalion, where he posts personal and music videos. With ‘battalion’ meaning ‘followers’ in Arabic, Nasr wants to tribute his supporters as he continues the vlog — though its production has been halted for the time-being.
Many of the connections he’s made in the community with students and local artists come from word of mouth and his position as the marketing chair for the Student Hip-Hop Organization. Bry and Nasr met through SHHO and collaborated during a start-up company gig, shooting videos and behind-the-scenes footage.
It was also in this organization where Nasr met Zach Taylor, a sophomore finances major who DJs at Backcountry. Taylor has had Nasr film his own DJ experiences and helped him find more clients in the hip-hop scene. They’ve collaborated on several projects together and became friends in the process.
“It’s really easy working with him. He’s super easy to communicate with and talk to,” Taylor said. “When I’m working with him, the way the film is going to turn out is good because it’s his ability, not really my direction. A lot of times I’m taking input from him. I’ll let him direct me to do something.”
Taylor plans on bringing Youssef as his media personnel to his DJing event for the National ShamrockFest on March 24 in Washington, D.C. While Nasr’s career is just taking off, Taylor has full confidence in his editing and videography skills. Nasr has recently upgraded all of his video equipment with the hope of continuously improving and getting his name out there.
“The thing about videography is, you will never just reach an epitome where you’re the best at it — this will never happen. You will always improve,” Nasr said. “I hope that one day I wake up and I get a phone call from like Lil Baby or Lil Wayne or somebody, and they’re like ‘Yo, let’s shoot a music video,’ and then we do it and the video gets like 10 million views. That’s my goal — to get bigger.”
Contact Brittany Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.