Searching the internet in 2017 may have led you to many URLS filled with content so quickly and cheaply made that after a while it may become hard to differentiate one visual from the next. If one of your search destinations this past year have led you to a hip-hop blog or website, there is a fairly high chance you have seen the work of Cole Bennett. As the founder of his own creative studio Lyrical Lemonade, Cole is at the forefront of the new age of hip hop and the visuals that accompany it. The catchy hooks and quirky beats of ‘Soundcloud rap’ have become intertwined with Cole’s work as he has been the in demand director for the rap sub-genre’s most recognizable names. While ‘Soundcloud rap’ may have received mixed reviews as its popularity skyrocketed this past year, the visuals supplied by Cole for this genre have been met with astounding critical acclaim.
The filming budget of his videos are a fraction of those commissioned by large music labels but the reach and influence of his work rival those that often cost millions to produce. Lyrical Lemonade’s guerrilla productions go hand in hand with the grimy drum patterns and catchy hooks made popular by the very genre of music his name has become attached to.
The work of Cole can be characterized as an almost fluid Pop Art. In his videos you will see flush camera movements alongside cartoon like visual effects that add surreal and fantasy like elements to a genre of music that is already as surreal and out of this world as can be. His signature neon edits are done in a way that does not overpower his framing or the music itself, but rather add to the visuals in a way that has to be seen to be believed.
While he films Lil Pump rapping in a hotel room eating chicken wings in the video for ‘Flex Like Ouu’, his camera is panning to objects littered across the room containing colorful yet subtle illustrated edits that outline and shape them in split second increments. These small additions to his videos do not go unnoticed, and add a whimsical and just plain fun aura to an already fun genre of rap. The subtle edits that have become a signature element of Cole Bennett’s work have helped his company stand out in an internet landscape that sees countless poorly executed music videos released per day. It also certainly helps that Lyrical Lemonade has produced videos for what feels like 90% of the most popular artists of 2017, taking Lyrical Lemonade into the stratosphere alongside the artists themselves. After all, there has to be a reason why some of hip hop’s most talked about and in demand rappers have requested that Cole direct the visuals to their latest releases. He not only brings top notch visuals to the table, but he is also trusted to bring to life the tracks that just need a visual to go viral among the masses. The track record of Lyrical Lemonade speaks volumes for itself and the quality of work in their portfolio. 1,000,000 plus subscribers on Youtube, almost 400,000,000 million views alongside nearly 500,000 social media followers across all platforms. There is no doubt the work of Cole has reached far and wide on the internet landscape, and with the pace he is leading now, there is no telling how much farther he can take it.
They say in order to speak to the youth you have to contain the very essence of youth and it has become evident that the new genre of rap that has percolated from the audio depths of the internet and Soundcloud have done just that. In just a short span of a few years, ‘Soundcloud rap’ has turned music over on its head and changed the very DNA of hip-hop forever, and when you think of the likes of Lil Pump and Famous Dex leading the way, there is no reason you shouldn’t think of Cole Bennett shortly thereafter.
Q + A
How did you get your start directing music videos?
Just messing around with my mom’s digital camera and some friends in high school. I’d shoot music videos for songs we’d make on Garage Band just for fun and then I really just found a passion for it and ran with it. At that point I would do videos for whoever took interest in working with me & seeing where it would take me. I was in high school still, so you know, I was just going with the flow.
What motivated you to start Lyrical Lemonade?
I was deep into rap music my whole life, but my freshman/sophomore year of high school I really got into the local Chicago scene. Right when Chance & Keef were really coming up, the whole Savemoney scene was really big, Alex Wiley, Mick Jenkins, Kids These Days - all that stuff. At this time this was all I was listening to, literally nothing else. Keep in mind I was still doing small music videos here and there at this point, but I wanted to be more involved, so I started the blog Lyrical Lemonade.
What equipment do you take with you to a shoot?
It really depends on the type of shoot + budget we’re working with. Sometimes it’s just my two hands and my Sony A7sii, sometimes it’s a RED Epic with a full light crew, Ronin & a drone. Really just depends.
What is your creative process during a shoot?
Sometimes I go into it with a full concept in mind and base the day off of that, but I really like just having a general location and idea in mind, having some fun and seeing what comes out of it. Moving forward I plan to start getting more serious with the planning.
How do you come up with your treatments for videos?
I’ll sit at my desk, loop the song on repeat. Jot down whatever ideas come to mind, then try to cohesively blend it all together through loose concept.
How did you start your working relationships with the various artists you shoot?
It’s different with every artist, but it always stems from the artist seeing my work from somewhere and we build a work relationship from there. With Dex, we just clicked since day 1 and got to work. With Pump, I had met him at Smokepurpp’s mom’s house and we connected really well and would talk all the time, this is when Pump really had no fanbase at all. I remember one day he showed me D Rose after he recorded it, then we ended up shooting it in LA at my Airbnb one night. The rest was history.
How do you feel in your role as the go-to director for the next generation’s rap superstars?
I view it as we are all just helping each other. I think it’s cool because (for the most part) everyone in the scene gets along very well. So it’s cool being apart of it and being able to contribute to it, we all have fun watching everyone succeed.
How did you come up with your signature editing style?
I was always into intense, colorful music videos growing up. So with that always being an influence to me, eventually I just started playing around with it and seeing how I could add flavor to the videos I was working on. Everything in the underground music video scene at the time was very low-budget, so I viewed it as a way to bring these visuals to life under these given circumstances.