Director Aristotle on the art of making music videos

african kings

Growing up, music video director Aristotle Torres didn’t have dreams to become one of hip-hop culture’s premiere filmmakers. The Bronx native believed he’d be an attorney.

He was accepted to Georgetown University’s law school in 2003 but chose not to attend.

“I couldn’t afford it,” said Torres.  “I went down there three times hanging out trying to build relationships with people to try and finagle my way in, and I just couldn’t afford it. I had to go to school in state.”

A chance meeting with J. Cole

Sometimes to find yourself, you don’t have to go too far.

Attending St. John’s University in Queens turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Aristotle. It was where he laid the foundation of his media company By Any Means, and also where he met a hungry up-and-coming rapper by the name of J.Cole in 2007.

“I met J. Cole there. I made good relationships there, the people I started this company with, I met there. I might be a lawyer, I might be depressed that I have to read books all f**king day if I didn’t go to St John’s.”

Aristotle cultivated his business partnership with J.Cole by curating his marketing campaign while on campus, which led to the North Carolina emcee to being signed to RocNation, Jay-Z’s record label, and the rest is history. With this being Torres’ first endeavor in the music industry, he was bitten by the creativity bug.

Forced to grow up

Hard times often produce strong people. Torres’ mother passed away when he was 3 years old, and his relationship with his father has been non-existent. He was raised by his grandfather, whom he frequently clashed with.

“Being that I was living with an 80-year-old man, I didn’t watch cartoons all day. I watched the news all day,” said Torres, reminiscing about his grandfather. “I read the paper in the morning…I was forced to grow up very fast.”

Acting as an elder at a young age can be challenging. Aristotle worked multiple jobs through high school and college to support himself even while interning at Def Jam. Yet Torres hit a wall in his career development. He became frustrated, but also motivated to improve his lot in life.

“When I left home at 15, it was a situation where I had to grow up even more quickly or it was either wind up dead or in jail. But it was a gift for my independence, and a curse because I didn’t get to have a full broad childhood,” he recalled.

Fascinated with legacy

Parlaying his ties to Def Jam, led Aristotle to creating music videos from the likes of Fabolous, Ludacris, and even Nas at a young age. Not to be satisfied, Aristotle says that this is beginning of his artistic growth and he never can never really enjoy his success.

“Yeah I don’t realize it. Aristotle from five years ago would be very impressed where he’s at right now. ”

“I’m a rap music director, what does that mean? That means nothing. I’m aware of the work that I have to do. I’m always concerned with my legacy,” he added.

Check out what else Aristotle had to say about his journey in the video and let us know what you think in the comments below.

You can check out Kyle’s musical coverage on theGrio music page, and follow Kyle on Twitter at@HarveyWins.