Acting is a skill. Acting is an art. Actors can have genius in them. But actors often don't have to see beyond the lines they're given, beyond the role they're playing in any given scene. Actors can afford to have tunnel vision. But the director, the director has to be able to keep an entire movie in their head at all times. They have to be able to execute the smallest details of scene - let's move that lamp to the other side of the bed in the opening scene - while simultaneously seeing how that decision might effect the entirety of the movie - in the closing scene, when he darts out of bed to confront the robber, he should knock that lamp over.
Great actors need to be able to see themselves clearly, but great directors need to have vision. In an industry where so many are racing to become the next big actor, the next movie star, Lorenzo Asher is a director.
When I call Lorenzo Asher a director I mean it figuratively, shout out to my metaphor skills, but I also mean it literally. In 2014, video is more important than ever. Where once you had to watch MTV for hours just hoping they'd play your favorite artist, if they played their video, visuals are now often the most immediate and primary touch point for audiences. A single great video can do more to launch a career than a box set full of average albums. So while Asher's music is still the foundation of everything he does, he writes his music as a director would, seeing the music as much as he hears it. As he said during our call:
"The visuals for me are huge. In all of my music I try to tell a story, and if you can't do the same with a visual, the story breaks up. These things are full on short films, and I write them like short films. Before we even shoot I spend hours figuring out casting, shots, movie reference. The visual is the most important part of my music."
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What, you thought it was a coincidence that all of his videos begin with that green MPAA title card? Asher's serious enough about capturing the feeling on his music that he's willing to risk hypothermia filming "Begin" - more than risk, he did get hypothermia - but it'd be a mistake to view his videos as a replacement for his music, or even an extension. The visuals are an extension of the music just like the music is an extension of the visuals and so on into infinity. If that sounds like an unorthodox approach to art it's because it is. Very little about Asher's creative process is orthodox.
As he said, "I rarely plan to write music. I'll be about to go to sleep, an idea will come to me, and I just start to type away." Or when it comes to his production, "I don't really follow any formulas. I don't structure my records the way that most people do. Because in music most people structure their songs in a certain way, and then that dictates the vocals. It's just random. I create sounds and whatever comes out, comes out. "
Asher's last album, Numismatics, is proof of that anything goes-mentality. More than once listening to the project I've been convinced that I must be near the end of the album then realizing I'm only barely past track four. It's almost as if the music creates it's own time zone where things are slowed, where you feel like you've traveled great distances without moving farther than your headphones will take you.
One of the first things Asher says to me is, "I like weird stuff." And like so many before him, Asher's insistence on the unusual prompted a spur of the moment U-Haul move to the welcoming artistics arms of New York City, where he's currently at work on an upcoming EP he plans to make more easily accessible, more appealing to a wider audience. It's an age old trick; lure in the hives with honey and then sneak in some nutrition while their happily shoveling the sugar. While we're constantly brainwashed to buy this thing, don't pay attention to that thing, stay distracted, he calls it, "Brainwashing people to be better, if that's even possible."
But regardless of what form, what structure, what message, his art takes, we can count on Asher's music (and videos) being the truest possible product of himself. And that's why we've selected him as a Top Prospect, because he's not just carrying out his role but bringing a vision to reality. Only time will tell where that vision will lead, even the greatest directors are subject to the time they live in, but if anyone's able to turn the notes and images that swirl through his head into reality, it will be him.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]