Maybe if they were raised by Hype Williams. Regardless, Verluxe have become the go-to visual production team for Chicago’s rap scene…
The music video/art collective known as Verluxe sit on the floor of their northern suburbs Chicago apartment. The pad is walking distance from Northwestern University, one of the more well-respected universities in the Midwest. Despite the prestige, the three women, Eva, Danielle and Sofia are sitting on a blanket on the floor. “Sorry,” Eva apologises, eating chips and salsa while preparing a hookah, “my roommate moved out and took most of the furniture.”
It’s a Tuesday night and it’s freezing outside. I ask how 2013 treated them and they all exhale. Danielle speaks first, “Hopefully 2014 is better.” She is certainly the most talkative of the three, but she’s happily aware of it. “A lot of work,” Eva reflects. “And no money,” Danielle continues. “We worked so hard. We’ve never worked that hard in our lives. It was mentally satisfying.”
“You gotta grind,” Eva adds. “It’s not like it’ll fall on our laps. But it’s not really work ‘cause we super fuck with it. We will shoot from nine am to five am and love it.”
“We take dance breaks,” Sofia adds. “Like, ‘I wanna die, but let’s dance instead’.”
Verluxe are currently taking aim at the hip hop scene, hoping to leave their permanent mark on Chicago’s sprawling culture and, eventually, the world. They started the hustle back in early 2013 and have since made some of the biggest music videos to come out of Chicago. For artists like Chance The Rapper, Twista, Sir Michael Rocks, King Louie, Katie Got Bandz and, most recently, Leather Corduroys; the SaveMoney duo composed of stunning lyricists Joey Purp and Kami de Chukwu.
A few hours prior to Viper’s interview, their Leather Corduroys video for ‘Still Alive’ had dropped. While Verluxe are familiar with directing videos that have seen over a million views, they insist it’s rewarding every time a music video receives a good response. Especially when it’s with SaveMoney artists that Danielle went to high school with. “It’s interesting to see the people you grow up with take different paths. Maybe you didn’t talk much in high school, but now you’re working together. I knew where they were coming from; Similar vision, same parties. We first started with King Louie but with SaveMoney, it became organic. We admired what they were doing.”
By the time we finish the interview, ‘Still Alive’ has reached over 10,000 views and been re-blogged on virtually every hip hop site on the net. And the video deserves it; a smoked-out shadowy haze of SaveMoney members puffing away and tweaking. Dally Auston can be seen in producer Peter Cottontale’s attic playing a guitar in slow motion. Dressed in a Bape hoodie, Tokyo Shawn continues to fall asleep at the wheel of a car. The video represents the colour and energy of Chicago outlets. Groups that embrace the shine, who wear feather earrings and purple shoes; Fashion is in the Windy City air.
Eva says, “I got a text from a friend who said ‘’Still Alive’ is unreal’. Always a proud moment. Like, ‘It’s out. Cool.’ It’s validation. After [Tokyo Shawn’s] ‘World Turning’ came out, Shia LaBeouf started following us on Twitter. When the videos drop is when we get some love back and when new artists hit us up.”
They talk about ‘Still Alive’ and how the first attempt at filming the video was halted after they were robbed at gunpoint. “It was about a year ago,” Danielle says, “Definitely cold outside. We were at a friend’s place. He doesn’t live in the best area, but he has a really nice place, so we didn’t think anything of it. When we were filming the car scene, we had the garage door open, we didn’t think it would be a problem. I remember thinking, ‘You should close the door’, but I just said, ‘Fuck it’. 30 minutes later this dude in a ski mask, who had walked past us earlier, came up behind me and the camera and put a gun to my head. At first, I thought it was my friend, but when I saw everyone’s face I thought, ‘This is a serious issue right now’. All he got was empty wallets and broken iPhones, but he smashed the light bulb we needed to shoot, which was the only reason we stopped.”