Respected by Chip and Stormzy, Toju Bello is a multi-talented videographer. Founder of Pree Your Boy Teaj Productions, his work with Lotto Boyzz, Ramz and Saint Jhn has recently established the creative as a key mover within the scene. Things get deep, so prepare for some real wisdom…
Soundchecks are all about checking out new sounds behind the scenes. In these exclusive chats with bands, producers, rappers, singers and musicians, those upcoming artists that deserve the spotlight get a chance to shine.
“I never saw ‘living your dreams’ as an unattainable goal.”
What has been the greatest moment of your journey so far?
“Wow, that’s hard to decide but I would probably pick the day I was invited to attend Chip’s album listening party for ‘League of My Own 2’. Chip is one of my favourite artists and I have always followed his movements/songs. So to end up winning a competition that led to me receiving free Cash Motto clothing as well as being invited to his album listening party was definitely one of the major highlights of my journey so far. I have had the chance to meet a number of artists but what makes Chip stand out is how he goes the extra mile of making days like that possible and actually connecting with his fans on a one-to-one level.
“A number of people say that you wouldn’t want to meet your favourite stars because they aren’t always how they seem. My experience has been totally different, seeing Chip with his team, friends and a few fans just showed how human he really is! Instead of trying to understand him through the digital wall of media that paints its own image of a person. I was able to see him as the true human he is in person. Experiencing this and spending the day with him made me fully understand that becoming a top class rapper/an expert in your industry is attainable and it is not some sort of fairy tale, since everyone that has done great things like he has is just as human too but worked ten times harder than everyone else.
“Make something of yourself or don’t, it’s that simple.”
“He said a number of influential things during the interview that took place that day and coming from a rapper like him that has done so much, starting from a very young age further proves that your life is in your hands. Make something of yourself or don’t, it’s that simple. I could go on forever if I go into detail so I will stop there however it will forever be a day to remember.”
Do you think social media hinders or benefits young people’s productivity?
“I believe it does both, it all depends on how you use it. For example, I have used Instagram to: market my work, collaborate with several different brands and artists consequently leading to numerous jobs. At the same time, I know people who just use social media to: follow unnecessary distracting trends, stalk people they wish they could trade lives with, suffer from insecurity due to taking other people’s opinions to heart, and waste money to gain followers/likes etc.
“There are 100 ways to use social media to benefit you but most of the time people prefer to choose the 100 ways it can hinder their productivity. The main issue that I want to draw upon, (which I will definitely repeat later), is stop caring about how many followers or likes you are getting! I will always use my page as an example, scroll through my page and you’ll see that some posts have under 40 likes and under 100 views. Yet this same page secured contracts with me working for: O2, Yves Saint Laurent, Lotto Boyzz Records etc. Because 1,000 likes on social media does not mean anything if the content is just average. Therefore, an amazing picture with 10 likes is still an amazing picture, when you try to work with big brands do you think they ask you how many likes your videos get? Of course not. They want to know if you can make good videos. If you can then you would get the job done whether or not you have 1,000 likes or no likes.
“One like can be more important than 1,000 likes.”
“So another reason I have been able to do well with the use of social media is because I noticed from the start, what is the meaning of 1,000 likes if it is just liked by your friends, bots and some random people that don’t have the power to elevate you? If you look through some of my likes, I could have twenty likes but one of those likes would be the person who made the song I used in the background because they loved the video so much they liked it and possibly followed me in order to keep in contact. The irony of how that one like can be more important than 1,000 likes.”
What’s it like filming for Afro-Bashment stars Lotto Boyzz?
“I’m a major fan of all sorts of music and concerts are one of my favourite events to attend. So instead of being the madman getting gassed in the crowd, being able to be on stage with the artists and capture the moment live is another amazing experience. I grew up in Mill Hill, (which is North West London), so to be working with Birmingham based artists I had to get used to understanding the accent. Other than that, working with the Lotto Boyzz provided me with an even deeper insight into the life of musicians and how certain things work in the industry.
“The best part has been filming their Afrobbean Tour and my favourite date was their sold out show in Birmingham. Everyone knows that the best concert date for any musician is in their hometown, so the vibe was sensational. There were around 2,000 people there on that date and that created its own unique atmosphere that can’t be replicated anywhere else, so I can only imagine what it must be like to perform in a huge stadium like the O2 etc.”
What’s the story behind PYBT Productions?
“My whole life has had an influence on the creation of my company Pree Your Boy Teaj Productions (PYBT Productions), so it is too diverse to sum up into a number of lines. Although, some key points that can be addressed are that I have always loved movies and filming over anything else e.g. games and consoles (or at least I did by the age of 16ish), due to being blessed by God with many talents: dancing, rapping, drawing and poetry.
“I have always been eager to do so much and keep myself busy especially because I get bored easily too. This is why I ended up publishing my first book around the age of 16, (written at age 13). Since I had all that going on as well as all my other talents that I always did in my spare time and for competitions, I knew I would do great things. I never saw ‘living your dreams’ as an unattainable goal so I knew I was going to make something of myself.
“I never saw ‘living your dreams’ as an unattainable goal.”
“So I started PYBT Productions to film my music videos, dances, drawings, spoken word and to promote my book through videos and pictures. The reason I called it Pree Your Boy Teaj Productions is because that basically means ‘watch your boy Teaj’ (since ‘pree’ means ‘to watch’). Because I knew I would do a number of creative things with it, I was basically telling everyone in advance ‘Watch Your Boy’. A lot of people supported it but only a few have supported it from day one up until now.
“If you check my YouTube channel or scroll to the beginning of my Instagram page, you can literally watch my whole journey so far because I have never deleted a post from either accounts since that’s the whole point of my brand. ‘Pree Your Boy Teaj’, watch me do it and know you can do it too. You should know that everything I post is never to brag and only to inspire.”
You said: “Treat my pictures like Frankenstein, I bring them to life”. How has drawing fed into your other creative outlets?
“Since drawing has always been something I do in my free time, I have progressively developed it in my own way over time with no end goal whatsoever. So I get to be purely creative not worrying about making it appeal to a certain brand for a job or needing it to attract a target audience as I just do it for fun. That is why I can easily make a video for any of my drawings because I make them for fun and because I take interest in whatever I’m drawing.
“Therefore, drawing has fed my other creative outlets through being a unique way for me to articulate my interest without any influential factor taking part. This in turn enhances my creative mind-set and helps me stay open to new ideas/methods.”
Who are your top UK artists to look out for?
“In terms of my favourite UK artists I would say: Chip, Wretch 32 and Dappy. While the artists that have not fully blown up but I believe have so much more in store for us are: Octavian, Jorja Smith and Ama Lou.”
Who inspires your videography work?
“I have always been in love with movies and high quality series, so directors such as John M. Chu and Christopher Nolan keep me wanting to develop even better productions. This includes better visuals, emotional engagement in the videos and story-lines.”
What advice do you have for up-and-coming creatives?
“One of the most important things I have mentioned before is that as an up-and-coming creative, you should never worry about things such as social media likes. The amount of likes and engagement people have with your work does not determine the quality of the work you are producing. So spend more time mastering your craft and improving your skills by practicing what you are trying to make it in, instead of worrying about pointless things such as likes.
“Secondly, be sure that you are doing what you love. That’s the only way you will be satisfied with working even if you are not getting paid for it because during the come up not every job will be paid but some of those unpaid experiences create the pathway for the paid ones, so don’t let money decide your fate. Accept jobs and do things based on how many skills, networking and experiences you believe you can benefit from them. So if it is worth it make sure that you do it.
“Thirdly, not everyone wants to see you win, people are going to tell you your work is rubbish, people in the industry may tell you that you will never make it, when in the end, even if the most successful person in the industry tells you that you can’t make it, it doesn’t mean jack unless you believe it too. Belief is a key part, if not the most important part in your success. Every new innovation/successful person only made it to where they are now because they believed in themselves. I put my faith in God and the rest in me, that’s why I am never worried about making it because I know I will and that mind-set is key. If you can’t even believe in yourself, how can you expect other people to?
“I remember when Stormzy invited me to be in the ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ music video, I got the email for it the day of the event and I was three hours away from London at the time so I knew I couldn’t make it. A bunch of my friends felt sorry for me when I told them but I was chilling and not worried at all because it was out of my hands. I would always reply saying “It’s calm though, even better things are on route” and one of my friends asked me “How do you know?”, so I replied “Because I know, just pree your boy”. A few months later, I was in Birmingham signing a contract to work with Lotto Boyzz Records. So never let other people’s thoughts determine your character because there are so many creative adults trapped in the system of a 9-5 job for life, not because they aren’t good enough but because they gave up too soon.
“If you can’t even believe in yourself, how can you expect other people to?”
“Another thing I would like to mention, is that for people that know me well, they know I do whatever I want. If I want to be calm I’ll be calm, if I want to turn up I will, if I want to chill while most people are going out, I will happily be chilling. Since I have always gone against what people generally do, I have been able to try everything I wanted to in every situation and this relates to everything in life. This has led to benefits in some situations and some lessons learnt in others, but due to living my life like that I know what I want to do with my life and I know the type of people I want to be around.
“So when people say I act older than my age, it’s because I have taken risks and learnt from so many situations while most people would just follow the crowd and end up making their own decision at a key point in their life in which that decision’s consequence would have an even bigger negative impact. All this comes to show, that you should never follow the crowd, because everyone doesn’t end up living the life they wanted and we all know that’s the people in the crowd, so why are you still following them?
“Success is for those willing to do what everyone else won’t.”
“Find what drives you, find what motivates you, find what you love and live your life doing what you want and learn from everything. Don’t live a life someone else is telling you to live, or do things in a way people say things have to be done because if no one stood out there would never be anything new. Lastly, whenever you feel like giving up remember why you do what you do because success is not for everyone, it’s for those willing to do what everyone else won’t.”
Finally, what projects can we expect from you in the future?
“I can’t tell you the exact future projects so that you can still follow my journey and watch it in reality, but what I can tell you is:
- I’m going to continue working with international models but I won’t just be filming them in the UK, I’ll begin travelling to their home countries in the future.
- I’m going to expand into filming in a wider range of industries other than just musicians, athletes and fashion models.
- I’m going to take on a larger range of charity projects and start my own.
But there are many more things to look out for so just follow my Instagram and be a part of my journey now, or wait to hear about me in the future.”
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe
Images: Toju Bello