Nathan James Tettey only started making videos in 2017 – now he’s one of the leading names.
He got into directing music videos accidently as the director who was booked for the question time music video found out on the day of the shoot that he had been double booked – so Nathan who had commissioned the film had to step in.
And that was how he came about been a music video director, he’s been behind the camera for Dave’s ‘Question Time’, ‘No Words’, ’Funky Friday’, ‘Black’ and ‘Streatham’, helping shape the Mercury Prize winner’s visual output for the past couple of years.
Speaking to BBC 1xtra, he narrated how it all happened.
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Video creative Nathan James Tettey talks about directing music videos for @santandave and @headieone as part of our #BlackHistoryMonth series charting the evolution of the Black British experience. Keep an eye on our IGTV section for more #BHM Visual Histories dropping throughout October.
A twist of fate shaped his career
Tettey was already in Dave’s team before working on ‘Question Time’, but his career took a turn when he directed a video for the stunning, political track. Across just a handful of shots, zoning in on Dave, he creates a gloomy backdrop in which the rapper shares his forthright views.
The original director “double-booked himself,” says Tettey, which ended up being a “key moment” in his career. Other directors, who Tettey tried to book last minute, couldn’t get their head around the concept. So Dave’s management asked Tettey: ‘“Why don’t you do it?”’
He took on the challenge, alongside producer Stephanie Paeplow, and the rest is history.
He brings a versatile approach to rap videos
After ‘Question Time’, Tettey took on more of Dave’s videos, including the ambitious film for ‘Black’, which was shot in Nigeria and London, starring the likes of footballer Raheem Sterling and 1Xtra’s Tiffany Calver.
“’Black’ “fundamentally shows a few sides of Black British culture, whereas ‘Question Time’ is the viewpoint of a young black man. You need to listen,” he says.
His recent video for Headie One’s ‘18HUNNA’, meanwhile, is a completely different vibe. “There’s some flamboyance that I’m presenting, an artistic side from two rappers that people might not have seen before.” Not to mention the live, slithering snake that Tettey had to film.
His most recent work is a co-direct with Dave for ‘Streatham’, with shots of fast cars being mixed with glimpses of old boarded-up buildings from the south London district.
He wants his breakthrough to inspire others
Tettey wasn’t a music video director before late 2017. Now he’s one of the most talked-about directors in the UK.
“The position that I’m in… It’s an example for people to look at…” he says.
“I do know why we haven’t inhibited these spaces before: Those doors simply weren’t open to us before,” he adds. “Black people have only been in this country for a certain amount of time. You start making your own cultural inroads. Within the creative arts, it was gonna take a minute for black people to get in senior positions to influence how people are employed, especially people like me.”
And he believes the doors are now open for young, self-starting creatives to apply their talent to making music & film. “The urban industry has developed quite a lot in the last five years. Places that were making money from other genres have now looked at UK rap, AfroBeat, AfroSwing, all the different iterations, and gone: ‘We can make some money out of this.’”
Nathan has big career goals, which is just as well, as he firmly believes that fortune favours the brave.