Benny Boom: The Boom Box

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As much as Benny Boom loves his hometown, the Philadelphia-bred director had to move to New York City to propel his career. After graduating from Temple University’s School of Radio, Television, and Film, he got an internship at Spike Lee’s production company 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks where he got to work on the 1995 crime-drama film Clockers, which he admits was his introduction to the movie business. But before fully venturing into the big screen, Benny dabbled in directing music videos and he had Hype Williams to thank for it. “He was the person who took me under his wing and put me in a place right next to him. I was traveling with him and he would put me in big jobs,” relays Benny. “I learned the craft of directing music videos from him. During the late ‘90s, there was nobody better than Hype; he was the greatest at that time.” His music video catalog is very impressive. A self-confessed kid of hip-hop and R&B, he has directed videos for the titans of these music genres, including 50 Cent, Keyshia Cole, Lil’ Kim, LL Cool J, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Nelly, P.Diddy, and more. His recent project would be Nicki Minaj’s “No Frauds,” which also features Drake and Lil Wayne. “Some of these new artists look at me as an old hat, which is just normal because it’s the generation gap. But from time to time, I’d get the opportunity to do something for brand new artists,” shares Benny. Speaking of newcomers, he also shot two music videos for Kehlani, which brought him back to the time when he did music videos for then-newbies Ciara and Keyshia Cole.

Director Benny Boom on the set of ALL EYEZ ON ME. 
Photo: Quantrell Colbert

“I’m now at a place in my life wherein I’ve shown interest a lot more in directing movies. The reason is that music is not the same as it used to be.”

Starring Donald Faison, Mike Epps, and Mos Def, his first full-length film called Next Day Air was a comedy about the drug game in Philly, a subject matter that he admits to be very familiar with. When asked what he currently enjoys doing the most, Benny answers, “I think timing is everything. I’m now at a place in my life wherein I’ve shown interest a lot more in directing movies. The reason is that music is not the same as it used to be.” At the moment, he’s at the helm of All Eyez on Me, a biopic of rap icon Tupac “2Pac” Shakur that will be played by Demetrius Shipp Jr. who’s a splitting image of the late rapper. It took two directors to jumpstart what seemed to be a laborious movie before Benny took the reins, but it wasn’t until when the production house officially let go of the last director that he was able to wrap his head around on what he was set to do to finish the film. “The good thing is that Tupac is somebody to me who’s very much in my mind. He’s probably one of the biggest icons that we’ve had in hip-hop, and I’ve been a fan of his since forever. It was a no-brainer for me to jump into the director’s chair,” admits Benny.

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“This is the only movie of Tupac that you have, so what we would like is to get the impact of something that will respect his legacy and uphold the great artist and man that he was and continues to be.”

Since Tupac’s life and death have always been something of a continuous discussion, what’s factual, fiction, buzz, and legalities pose as hindrance for this movie to even be produced, but Benny is confident that this movie will open the minds of everyone who have doubts regarding Tupac’s role in revolutionizing rap music. “Going in, I knew that there are going to be some issues with making this movie. But once I understood the script and made the changes that I wanted to do, I got to a phase where I felt that the story was strong. All the other stuff about making a biopic are just afterthought. I didn’t really want to put that kind of pressure on myself,” shares Benny. “I already had Tupac in my heart, so I’m coming from a proper state that the script was right. They casted the right people and we had the right team around us to make this film great, so those elements are there.”

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“I already had Tupac in my heart, so I’m coming from a proper state that the script was right. They casted the right people and we had the right team around us to make this film great, so those elements are there.”

It won’t be long until everyone could set their sights on All Eyez on Me. It’s scheduled to be released on June 26, Tupac’s 46th birthday. Love, hate, and criticisms about the biopic, Benny is geared up and ready for all of them. “Not everybody is going to be happy with some of the things we did in the movie, and that’s okay. We chose to make the film that we wanted to make. There’s nowhere in the world that says some other director can’t go and make his own Tupac movie, but right now, this is the one,” admits Benny. He can only wish that people can walk away and see how determined everyone was working on the film and have a clearer understanding on how Tupac captured the minds of a lot of people through his songs and life after seeing the film. “This is the only movie of Tupac that you have, so what we would like is to get the impact of something that will respect his legacy and uphold the great artist and man that he was and continues to be.”
 

Published in STATUS Magazine, June 2017

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