Steadily working his way up the music video ladder over the past ten years, Los Angeles-based director Calmatic has produced standout work for the likes of Anderson Paak and Tyler, The Creator. Then came the video that may well define a decade. Here the visionary tells Andy Hermann how it happened.Photos by Nico Young.The first time video director Calmatic heard Old Town Road, he had the same reaction nearly everyone did. “I literally responded — is this a joke?”But Columbia Records, the label that had sent him the track, wasn’t kidding around.

They had just signed Lil Nas X, the 20-year-old Atlanta rapper behind the offbeat country/hip-hop hybrid. At the time, the song’s only video was a bunch of clips Lil Nas edited together from Red Dead Redemption 2, a Wild West video game. Clearly, with Old Town Road rapidly climbing the charts, something more official was needed.Columbia chose wisely when they hired Calmatic. Over a prolific career spanning less than a decade, the Los Angeles director has shot witty, eye-popping clips for the likes of Anderson Paak, Vince Staples, Lizzo, Zayn Malik, The Internet and Tyler, the Creator. Along the way, he’s developed an instantly recognizable visual vocabulary, one that combines his hyper-kinetic camera work and editing style with the whimsy of Spike Jonze (one of his heroes) and the lushness of Paul Hunter (another hero, also a mentor since Calmatic signed to Hunter’s Prettybird creative agency in 2017).
Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Calmatic grew up steeped in hip-hop culture. Originally he wanted to produce beats. But his skill set eventually led him down another path.“I was a computer nerd. That kinda became my reputation,” he says, kicking back in the small, cluttered office space he keeps in L.A.’s Highland Park neighborhood. An old Super 8 camera rests on a corner table; Mekhi Phifer and Cam’ron glare down from a framed Paid in Full poster hanging over his desk. The director still lives in South Central, but rented out this office a few years ago to be closer to the action; the rapidly gentrifying Highland Park has become a hub for L.A. creatives. Celebrated hip-hop label Stones Throw is just down the block; Black Dynamite and Luke Cage soundtrack composer Adrian Younge owns the combination record shop and hair salon next door.Calmatic credits his technical proficiency to the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center in South Central, which hosted after-school and summer programs that kept him off the streets and gave him his first taste of surfing the web — still a novel experience for a 10-year-old in the mid-‘90s. “There was a computer lab that had AOL on it,” he says. “I remember going to Dodgers.com and Oprah.com ‘cause those were the only websites I knew.”

No items found.

Ben Hutton for Sandqvist

Ben travelled to Paris where he was the face of Sandqvist's men's classics campaign. Sandqvist pride themselves on sustainable bags made to last.

More +

Steadily working his way up the music video ladder over the past ten years, Los Angeles-based director Calmatic has produced standout work for the likes of Anderson Paak and Tyler, The Creator. Then came the video that may well define a decade. Here the visionary tells Andy Hermann how it happened.Photos by Nico Young.The first time video director Calmatic heard Old Town Road, he had the same reaction nearly everyone did. “I literally responded — is this a joke?”But Columbia Records, the label that had sent him the track, wasn’t kidding around.

They had just signed Lil Nas X, the 20-year-old Atlanta rapper behind the offbeat country/hip-hop hybrid. At the time, the song’s only video was a bunch of clips Lil Nas edited together from Red Dead Redemption 2, a Wild West video game. Clearly, with Old Town Road rapidly climbing the charts, something more official was needed.Columbia chose wisely when they hired Calmatic. Over a prolific career spanning less than a decade, the Los Angeles director has shot witty, eye-popping clips for the likes of Anderson Paak, Vince Staples, Lizzo, Zayn Malik, The Internet and Tyler, the Creator. Along the way, he’s developed an instantly recognizable visual vocabulary, one that combines his hyper-kinetic camera work and editing style with the whimsy of Spike Jonze (one of his heroes) and the lushness of Paul Hunter (another hero, also a mentor since Calmatic signed to Hunter’s Prettybird creative agency in 2017).
Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Calmatic grew up steeped in hip-hop culture. Originally he wanted to produce beats. But his skill set eventually led him down another path.“I was a computer nerd. That kinda became my reputation,” he says, kicking back in the small, cluttered office space he keeps in L.A.’s Highland Park neighborhood. An old Super 8 camera rests on a corner table; Mekhi Phifer and Cam’ron glare down from a framed Paid in Full poster hanging over his desk. The director still lives in South Central, but rented out this office a few years ago to be closer to the action; the rapidly gentrifying Highland Park has become a hub for L.A. creatives. Celebrated hip-hop label Stones Throw is just down the block; Black Dynamite and Luke Cage soundtrack composer Adrian Younge owns the combination record shop and hair salon next door.Calmatic credits his technical proficiency to the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center in South Central, which hosted after-school and summer programs that kept him off the streets and gave him his first taste of surfing the web — still a novel experience for a 10-year-old in the mid-‘90s. “There was a computer lab that had AOL on it,” he says. “I remember going to Dodgers.com and Oprah.com ‘cause those were the only websites I knew.”

No items found.

Ben Hutton for Sandqvist

Ben travelled to Paris where he was the face of Sandqvist's men's classics campaign. Sandqvist pride themselves on sustainable bags made to last.

More +