Biting the Bullitts
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
The Bullitts wants you to watch his music and listen to his movies. And so do we.
By Eugene S. Robinson
They may be sitting next to you on an airplane. Or waiting in line with you at Starbucks. But with the exception of Dr. Dre or the RZA, most music producers are unseen and content to remain the power behind the throne.
That may not be the case much longer for the Bullitts. The nom de production of Londoner Jeymes Samuel, the Bullitts has been a producer for Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jay Z, Tori Amos and on the highly anticipated, long-awaited release by Jay Electronica. Whether working with others or helming his own creations, the Bullitts is much more about rethinking the box than thinking outside of it. And this year he’s making his presence felt in more ways than one.
“As a kid growing up, I never knew that you’re only supposed to do one thing,” Samuel said in a Life+Times interview. “I always thought you can do what it is you like as long as you do [it] well.”
Which may be why he was able to develop the unique blend of film plus music that distinguishes his work today. Samuel’s doting mother provided all the instruments he cared to play, and when he was 11, Mom sprang for a Super-8 camera. Later she followed it up with a Bolex , and now the rest of us get to enjoy the mix.
He’s rid himself of ’records’ and instead he releases flicks with soundtracks.
The Bullitts doesn’t just release “records” anymore. He’s rid himself of what was a largely unsustainable model and instead releases flicks with soundtracks. His 50-minute movie They Die By Dawn debuted at SXSW this spring and was backed up by his album They Die By Dawn & Other Short Stories soon after. Making a movie to fulfill your musical vision might be more or less easy to do when Jay Z returns your calls. Or Isaiah Washington, Rosario Dawson, Lucy Liu, Giancarlo Esposito, Idris Elba … the list of celebrity appearances goes on. And on.
It would not be larding it on too thick to call the sight and sound of They Die By Dawn both visually and aurally stunning. It displays a creative force that emerged not from a Hollywood system — nor any system that even resembles a Hollywood system — but by a Promethean desire to bring light to the darkness.
Which Samuel has done in spades, in forums big (the sound work on Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby) and small (his YouTube videos), including last year’s viral hit “Supercool,” a mini-movie music video featuring Rosario Dawson.
His sound and vision are a delight for the ears and eyes. “It’s probably a smarter way to make both music and movies,” says Grammy-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli. “Because people who won’t watch will listen, and people who won’t listen might watch.”
What’s next on the docket? The sequel to They Die By Dawn, called The Notorious Nine. Star-packed, jams-stacked and designed to be nothing but.
We can’t wait. But we will. Yes, we will. Eagerly even.