Oladapo Fagbenle, or “Daps,” as he’s known professionally, directs music videos featuring well-known rap and hip-hop acts like Migos, Cardi B and Drake. His Instagram feed is a series of photos from one exotic place after another: Chateau Marmont. Paris. Thailand. London Fashion Week Men’s shows (and himself, there, on the pages of British GQ). He makes success look easy.
But the story of Daps, who earned his Master of Arts in Communication from Bellarmine, is a story of determination, sacrifice and hard work.
Daps, who was born in Nigeria and spent most of his youth in England, came to Bellarmine after receiving a bachelor’s degree in business at Campbell University and playing basketball there for two years. He finished his remaining two years of NCAA eligibility as a Bellarmine Knight and graduated in 2010, then moved to New Jersey with plans to break into the New York music industry.
“My plan was: Graduate, get a job immediately, get paid a ton of money and then on the weekends and evenings, start up my video blog and transport myself from New Jersey to New York to be in that whole rap environment,” Daps said. “That didn’t happen, because I didn’t get hired.” The economic crash in 2008 had changed the job climate.
So, Daps spent some time in sales. He was running dangerously low on funds when his brother, Luti Fagbenle, founder of production company Luti Media, presented him with the opportunity to produce a music video. Luti Fagbenle transferred the necessary funds to Daps and told him: “Figure it out. Google it.” That first experience, Daps said, “was a mess. But the video turned out OK.”
He moved back home to London and continued producing music videos for his brother. But “as I started producing more, I realized it wasn’t really for me,” Daps said. “It wasn’t really creative. But I was producing for directors, so I was learning on the job how to direct.”
He went on to direct some of the most notable hip-hop videos of the past few years, including videos for Migos’ songs Bad and Boujee (featuring Lil Uzi Vert), T-Shirt and Walk It Talk It (featuring Drake), and videos featuring Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Big Shaq and others. Bad and Boujee got particular notice after Donald Glover praised Migos and the song at the Golden Globes in 2017 and the video was nominated for the BET Viewers’ Choice Award that same year.
Daps’ day-to-day activities vary depending on where a video is in the production process, but one thing is relatively constant: He’s always writing. “On the average day, I’m pitching on a project, or thinking of a new idea, or I’m researching, or I’m watching videos and taking notes. That’s the average day, is pitching for your next job,” Daps said. “My average day is writing, or coming up with ideas, or talking about meetings, or actually being in an edit session for a previously shot video. So most of my days, I am not on set.”
It turns out, college can prepare you pretty well for that kind of work.
“The thing that helped me out in my undergrad that stayed with me was just handling workload and multitasking,” Daps said. “The thing that helped me in my master’s degree was actually writing. At Bellarmine, we had to write like one or two essays a week. Every single week you are literally writing and writing and writing. What I realized is that I had become so accustomed to writing, that when it was time to start writing music video treatments, I could churn those treatments out.”
A video treatment is a pitch, by the way. When an artist and their label are ready to make a video for a particular song, a call goes out for directors to pitch their ideas for what they imagine that video looking like, while staying within a certain budget. Daps’ agent funnels him requests, and he decides whether to pitch or pass.
Interestingly, the college experience he said helped him the most was playing basketball at a high level of competition. “College basketball really shaped me for life, you know. Determination, teamwork, sacrifice, hard work and taking the little steps every day to throw yourself at the big goal.”
His advice to dreamers out there who are also hoping to succeed in the industry is to be personable and “to put yourself out there. No one’s just going to hand you anything and say, ‘I select YOU to be awesome!’ No, you have to put yourself out there and make yourself irreplaceable.”
Even with his success, Daps is still working his way up the ladder. “I’m going to get into TV. Movies are my end goal … I’m not necessarily tired of music videos, but I personally can get a little stagnant if I do the same thing for too long.”
For more information about Daps and his work, visit dapsofficial.com or @flexgoddaps on Twitter and Instagram.
By Walter Parker ’15