LOUIEKNOWS His Worth | A Conversation With One of Rap’s Celebrated Historians


LOUIEKNOWS is more than a director, he’s a beacon of hope for creatives worldwide. In 2016, the storied success of a hungry PA (Production Assistant) who dreamt beyond working small gigs started with finessing a Wale music video. With some help from DPG (Dog Pound Gangstaz), Wale released “Gangsta Boogie,” which is often considered LOUIEKNOWS’ directorial debut. Admittedly, LOUIE knows that wasn’t his best work, but it was a start – and above all, it turned a profit.

Before LOUIEKNOWS befriended your favorite artist and became one of rap’s most sought after creatives, he was building his own buzz off the strength of pure effort. Since then, his branded logo has changed the game, citing video credit for the likes of Trippie Redd, Rich The Kid, Blueface, and most recently Birdman & Roddy Ricch’s “STUNNAMAN” single featuring Lil Wayne.

LOUIEKNOWS’ rapport with the hip-hop community has afforded him the opportunity to test the boundaries of visual effects. He’s constantly pushing the envelope beyond the range of your standard run-and-gun production. But the bigger the bag, the bigger the compromise. Even growth (on all levels) comes with an adjustment period, a moment where you potentially may have to relinquish full creative control, especially when you’re trying to stay in-budget. “It’s a catch-22 because me being able to be adaptive and work with the punches makes clients feel confident in bringing me to set,” he says. “But when you’re known for that, when you’re known for being able to make anything work, I feel like that hinders you from getting bigger projects.”

LOUIEKNOWS is damn near a rap historian at this point, accounting for a plethora of unreleased NBA Youngboy content that’s rumored to never see the light of day. He’s documented intimate behind the scenes moments for some of the biggest names in the game. Beyond the lens, LOUIEKNOWS wants to position his brand to be a full-service provider, capable of delivering “any sense of visual branding.”

All these years later, the L.A. based cinematographer is still fighting for credibility. For LOUIE, the key to a fulfilling and rewarding career lies in three factors: play your position, save your money, and challenge yourself to keep learning and growing. While working without the heightened expectation of receiving applause is just as crucial as creating for the sake of content, don’t misconstrue passion for hobby, LOUIEKNOWS his worth.

That’s a cool dog bro.

Thanks bro. Jefe, I got him from Coi Leray. I met Coi through Trippie a minute ago, we’ve always kept it friendly. She’s been tweeting about this dog, months ago. I had met the dog one time. She’s just tweeting about how taking care of him was getting more difficult for her and one day she posted “I need someone to take care of Jefe.” My girl had seen it and she told me to hit Coi. I’m thinking to myself, “hell nah, I don’t need no fucking dog.” But I ended up getting him and falling in love with lil’ bro, and now he’s my dog. 

When did you first meet Trippie Redd? 

I first met Trippie, I wanna say back in 2017 probably, maybe 2018, around there. It was through a mutual artist that we both knew. It was basically how I always meet artists, “Oh, so and so wanna shoot with you.” Someone say Trippie Redd back in 2018 and it’s like of course bro! Even today. So, that’s how that happened. Me and Tripp have probably shot five or six videos but I truthfully only think one or two of ‘em have ever come out. A few of ‘em have hit Instagram, and the preview clips – a bunch of fans still ask me about them – but yeah, I think only one video with Tripp has come out. That’s my dawg. I know at some point we’re going to get a super dope creative video in. 

I can’t fathom the extent of LOUIEKNOWS archives. I know you have so much unreleased content tucked away.

There’s so much shit in there bro. Some unreleased Rich The Kid and Famous Dex videos, dating back to 2016-17, around there. Definitely some unreleased Youngboy videos that probably will never see the light of day. There’s a few of those. Actually, a couple of the songs that we have for YB are not even out. We did shoot a video for “Ranada” that never came out. The video is done and he liked it, but with certain things that were going on at that time in his life, it just didn’t make sense to release the video. So there’s that unreleased shit in the vault. It’s so many different clips and everything. 

As a director, how do you get past documenting what may be considered incriminating content? Granted, artists live a certain type of lifestyle, but I know at times it can be an in-the-moment decision to cover that lens. 

Man, that’s a good ass question and I feel like starting off, the real reason why I’m able to work with some of these cool ass artists is because I know their lifestyle or what they got going on on a day-to-day basis. As a creator, my objective is to typically capture everything that’s thrown at me and then you gotta pick and choose what you want the world to see. There are situations where the camera probably should be rolling, but at the same time you want to document everything because in 5, 10 or 15 years, the problem that you may be trying to hide might not be a problem anymore. At the end of the day, it’s kind of simple: it’s about using your mind and understanding what should come out and what shouldn’t. 

It’s been about five years since Wale & DPG’s ‘Gangsta Boogie,’ which is considered your directorial debut. Looking back, do you cringe at the shots that were missed compared to where you are now? 

Oh, yeah 100% bro. I don’t even like looking at that video [laughs]. First of all, Wale’s Wale. I was really into his first music, but as his career progressed, I wasn’t into his music as much. But Wale is Wale. Me being from L.A., DPG [ Dogg Pound Gangstaz] is a group I grew up listening to, since I was a kid. That whole experience was so cool to me at the time. I couldn’t believe I was in the position. Looking back, I’ma keep it a buck: I was broke and I knew Wale’s A&R. Wale’s A&R used to be an artist and back in the day he knew me for blogging and working as a PA. He knew that I knew about music videos and he hit me like, “Yo, Wale needs a music video. I have a thousand bucks. Can we make it happen?” And I’m thinking to myself, a thousand bucks… I ain’t got no bucks. I’ma figure out how to shoot this fucking video, are you shitting me. Shit, that was my only way to make some bread. Mind you, this was a week before my birthday, so I needed to band up. Matter of fact, I shot that video on my birthday. 

The day of your birthday?

The day of my birthday. I wasn’t there on no, “Hey it’s my birthday” shit. I was there to do this job, I need this bread, so let me deliver. And it was my boy Nate, one of my boys that I’ve known since high school, before I had trusted PA’s that would really come through for me. It was just me and my boy. I had this shitty ass old camera, a Canon 7D, a tripod and I had ‘em with a reflector bro. Mind you, I barely understood the basics of frame rates or exposure – I mean, I knew how to expose the picture right, but long story short, I was given this opportunity, had very very brief knowledge of how to shoot video and I didn’t even know how to edit. When I got that footage bro, real shit, I linked with one of my editor homies, and as if I was in school, I had a pen and paper and I literally wrote down notes. He taught me this trick with how to line up audio and organize your bins. The way he organizes his shit, I still organize my shit like that, in my own fashion, but based on what he had shown me. In a nuthell, I was broke as fuck, someone gave me an opportunity and I just forced myself to learn. 

Were you paid that same day or did you have to wait? I know you wanted to celebrate your birthday. 

I think I got paid $750 and then $250 on the backend, but I didn’t even have a tripod. So I’m thinking, “Man lemme go get this tripod,” and I ended up spending $250-300 on that fucking thing. Then it’s like oh shit, I’m already down to $400 dollars.

Was this happening around the same time you were couch surfing and staying with friends? 

Yeah, it was a rough time for me at that moment. I was driving this shitty ass Chrysler, it was crazy. 

Personally, when did video production transition from being a cash grab to a passion play? 

Even before I started directing, I was taking photography classes in college and I was a PA on set. I’ve always loved rap. I’ve always loved the community, the culture, the fashion around it. I never knew how I wanted to penetrate the game. I was even making beats when I was 15-16. I racked up like 100 beats but I would compare them to super-good producers and be like nah, this ain’t it. So I kind of stayed away from that and moved into the visual side. Even when I was broke, even when I was shooting videos for free, I was just happy to be doing it. I wasn’t happy with not having any money. As a businessman, as a man in general, I had to analyze what I was doing and figure out how to monetize it. My route was show the world you can do this shit, make sure your branding is on point, so muhfuckas know what a LOUIEKNOWS video is finna be, so when they see that shit pop up they already know what it is. I just stuck with the core basics that I’ve learned over the years: consistent branding and being consistent. I probably shot videos for free for like two fucking years bro, real shit. $200 here, $300 here or $500 there, and I’d be happy to get $300 bucks. It’s like fuck yeah, $300 bucks, I’ma make it work this week,  go get some gas. Both, go get some gas for my car and some gas to smoke and figure this shit out. Real shit, I shot mad shit for free bro [laughs] a lot of shit.

A lot of people aren’t vocal about that part of the come up. I feel like as a creative, everyone has done something for free at some point. 

I agree. I think a lot of it has to do with egos, especially with this rap shit. If you’re an outsider looking at hip-hop, you’ll probably have this idea in your head that’s not true about how you have to act, how you have to think or how you have to look. From an outsiders perspective, if you ain’t in the game, you gone run through a lot of hoops tryna figure out what this shit is about, or by trying to get people to really fuck with you like that. It wasn’t always about the money. It’s like, lemme show people the product I can deliver and then I’ma start slapping that price tag on it. If I don’t have any content, I can’t charge no price, literally. As a man, how the fuck am I going to charge you for something if I don’t have any fucking videos to even gauge it?

Establishing credibility is important.

I’m a real ass person bro. If I feel like I can’t do it, you gon’ see it in my work. I had to prove to myself that I’m really built for this shit.

We’re living in the digital age where we can’t help but compare and compete because everything’s so connected. With that in mind, is there any sound advice you’d give to someone who succumbs to the pressure of overthinking or being overly hypocritical of their work? 

Real shit bro, cliches exist for a reason. You gotta fake it till you make it. If you don’t know what you’re doing, make it seem like you do. Also, the basic principles I hope we learned as a kid from our parents or someone that we looked up to, save your bread bro. Now, I’m speaking in terms of the hip-hop community and other directors. I be seeing the type of stuff people are into: they wanna act, dress and be a certain way, which is great, but have the product to back it up bro. You see me, nowadays I’ll come to set, not on no flexing shit, but in some Dior with some thousand dollar J’s on, but I’m sweating, my shoes dirty. I’m the hardest fucking working person even if I’m in Dior. Shirt sweaty as hell, dirt all over that bitch, but I know what I’m here for. No matter what I got going on, I play my role and stick to what I’m there for. If I’m around YB bro, muhfuckas know what I’m around YB for, to film videos – but if he ask me to go in the store to grab him some backwoods, you bet your ass I’m finna go in the store and get my bro some backwoods, because why am I there? To film YB. Everything that I can do around him to bring out a better picture or bring out a better mood for YB by getting some backwoods, that’s going to make my job as a creator that much easier. To anyone that’s up-and-coming, play your position, save your money and continuously challenge yourself to keep learning and growing. With those three things, there’s no way you can’t go forward. You’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position to say hey, I don’t know everything but let me learn something. I’ve been in that position where mad people want $1,000 run-and-gun videos, but I’m not tryna shoot those style of videos anymore, so what do I need to do as a creator? Now I need to get $20,000 videos and make them bitches look good.

Throughout the creative highs and lows that come with working in this industry, how do you stay fresh and motivated? 

A lot of weed and a lot of coffee, I’ll tell you that. But man, there’s inspiration everywhere you look. I get so inspired but I can’t always say that it’s 24/7. I’m getting off of doing six videos in four cities for four weeks and I’m down to the very last edit for those videos. I can’t lie to you, on edit four or five, I’m tired bro. I’m in my room, I’ve been in the house for two weeks straight. I’m bored,  I wanna go enjoy my life a little right? And in those moments, you gotta ask yourself, do I wanna finish this edit or go out and have some fun. It comes down to those core principles bro, you gotta be disciplined. I’m the type of person that loves to be outside. I love drinking, I love being at the club, just being on Melrose shopping, but that doesn’t push my brand forward. I fell in love with my brand before any of that shit, [whispers] before I fell in love with my girl. You gotta love this shit. This goes for anybody, you gotta truly love what you’re doing because if you don’t, this ain’t the game for you. The money isn’t going to come fast, I can tell you that much. Even if someone appears to be an overnight success, they were grinding for a minute to achieve that success. But to answer your question about how I do it, it’s looking around me and telling myself, “Nah, you’re not done.” I don’t own a crib, I’m still renting an apartment. My mom’s still working, I need to buy her a crib. My little brother, he’s still tryna find his way in life and I need to be there for him, to guide him.

Have you ever made a creative compromise for the sake of staying in-budget? 

Yes, every project. Lemme tell you something, every video you’ve seen of mine, I’ve had to make a creative compromise. When I have a video that’s 100% my vision and I don’t have to compromise anything, I’ma send it to you and be like here you go. But every single video I have out – from the Wale vi… well, kind of with the Wale video, they lowkey lessened the whole shit. From that video up until the ‘STUNNAMAN’ video with Roddy Ricch, Lil Wayne and Birdman that I just dropped a week ago, I’ve had to make creative compromises. It’s a catch-22 because me being able to be adaptive and work with the punches makes clients feel confident in bringing me to set, because if they have an artist that they know is a wild card, might show up two hours late or get arrested or fuck around and get in a shoot out, they feel comfortable with me because they know I’ma make it work. I’ma get my three performances and a lil’ bit of b-roll. But when you’re known for that, when you’re known for being able to make anything work, I feel like that hinders you from getting bigger projects. Some clients right now that want me to deliver my standard performance video ain’t really ready to see my extra-creative shit. Literally, all the time I have to make creative compromises and as a creator, what’s your job bro? To deliver the fucking video. It don’t matter if you didn’t get that extra scene with the girl dripping the syrup or if you didn’t get that briefcase shot with the money being revealed at the end. It don’t matter. The goal is to deliver a video, and the kids don’t fucking know the difference bro, I truly believe that. If they like the song, they like the artist, it don’t matter what the video is doing. You can see it in YB’s video. Whatever he’s paying me, Rich Porter or Fly Guy Nick or whoever he’s shooting with, that’s the budget. Make no mistake, there was a budget. A couple of videos YB has done have had big budgets, but the most popular ones, let’s be real, it’s a bunch of run-and-gun shit. And that works for YB, he’s the number one artist on YouTube. He don’t need a one hundred thousand dollar video to get 10 million views.

Talk to me about working with NBA Youngboy. How do you look past that social stigma that has barred him from getting the credit he rightfully deserves? It seems like you have a vested interest in his well-being overall. 

Yeah that’s my dawg bro, I’ll keep it a buck. He’s done so much for my career and we are so much a part of each other’s career that I only wanna see him in a good space. When you work with somebody one time it’s cool, you can be homies after the video, keep up on Instagram and do this and do that. With a guy like YB, he’s not into that industry shit, he doesn’t wanna work with people that he don’t fuck with, forreal. That’s just how he is. When we started kicking it, playing games, smoking gas, just bullshitting, it was great – and when it’s time to work, it’s great too. You wanna make sure that when you’re working with a guy like YB that you’re doing all that you can to make sure the whole day goes smoothly. As a creator, to bring out the best personality in YB, what do you do? Just be a good friend, just vibe. 

He seems so reserved and to himself. 

He’s definitely not much of a talker. But you know, he’s always learning. That’s one thing I’ll tell you about YB. He’s always observing. He might not be speaking, but he’s definitely peeping game and watching how you’re moving or the lil’ things like if you’re cleaning up after yourself or leaving backwoods all over the Airbnb, shit like that. 

If you can humor me for a second, what’s the craziest thing that has happened on set with YB? 

I’m tryna think. One time I waited eight hours for him to show up to a video and we still shot it. That shit was crazy. Some of the girls ended up staying 8 to 10 to 12 hours just to be in the YB video. One time, I forgot what video we were shooting,  but he wanted to get one more scene on the PJ, so I’m like ok bet. We go over the jet to take some pics and then I’m about to get off and he’s like, “You coming with me?” I’m like “Nah,” I’ve been in L.A. for the last two days working, you’re going to expect an edit. And yeah, he ended up going to San Francisco and shit for like three days. I’m thinking to myself, damn if I would’ve gone I would’ve been in the same clothes for three whole days type shit. Even when I was just with him in Utah this most recent time, we shot a video, it didn’t come out (I don’t think it will), but it was just cool being with him in Utah. It was the first time me and him actually ate in a restaurant, which was crazy. Publicly, because it’s Utah and there’s less attention out there. It sounds silly but you remember those things, like damn, we’re actually eating in a restaurant. You don’t really do that shit with YB. I know the type of answer you’re probably looking for, but just know that everything he says in his raps is real. He’s a real person. 

What is LOUIEKNOWS role in entertainment? It’s clear that you’re more than a director. 

What I’m doing with my LOUIEKNOWS brand is I’m gonna continue to build out my YouTube channel and use it as a platform for a new discovery of artists that I work with. Then I have KNOWS Studios, a place where you can create music and shoot the video all in the same day. Genius has been shooting there, which is a great look. Shoutout to Genius, shoutout to Adrien, the producer/director over there, a good friend of mine. I’m happy that they are enjoying our space and keep coming back. I keep the prices affordable because I know what it’s like to need a venue to shoot. I also run my studio merch through KNOWS Studios. I’ve always been into fashion so I did two t-shirt drops. I didn’t sell them, just gave ‘em to friends and family. I haven’t even told anybody this yet but I’m doing another drop, probably in June. It’s going to be two t-shirts, two pairs of jeans. I’m going to shoot it with my boy J $tash, he’s a dope ass artist, if you don’t know who he is. He’s going to do the lookbook for us. That should be out in June, no later than July. It’s going to be super fire. Beyond that, dabbling into signing artists, signing producers. I’ve been looking at a couple of artists that I want to sign. Haven’t locked in any just yet. I definitely want to turn the KNOWS’ brand, KNOWS Studios, KNOWS Management, KNOWS Agency and make all of those things a real thing. For management, more or less what a record label does for artists, minus the physical manufacturing and distribution of CD’s, although I could pull that off if I wanted. But it’s 2021 man, you see other brands, shoutout to Cole [Bennett] Lyrical Lemonade, he’s doing something remarkable with that and there’s enough space out here for all of us to eat. That’s basically my vision for LOUIEKNOWS, to transcend into something bigger than me as a director. I want to hone in on any sense of visual branding, whether it’s for an artist, for a corporation, a clothing company, a weed brand, it don’t matter, you can come to me. There’s people that have done it, but I want to have that platform component too with the LOUIEKNOWS YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. My Instagram has been a place to showcase my own work but eventually I want to use that or another page to promote new shit. I see what everybody does: your Complex’s, your Worldstar’s [WorldStarHipHop], your Billboard’s, your Lyrical Lemonade’s: it could all be tied together a lil’ sharper. I worked for this company called Black Diamonds before I started shooting my shit. That’s when I was a PA and a blogger for their website. That’s what we were doing bro, before the The Shade Room, before Worldstar. That’s been my vision for a long time and now I’m in this position where I need to pull the trigger on bringing this platform to the level that I see it. We all have stuff that we need to achieve and we need to challenge ourselves. That’s going to be one of my challenges over the next year or two is growing this shit beyond just Louie as a human, the brand. I wanna do this full-service entertainment shit bro. People take my videos seriously, but I want them to take everything else serious too. 

What prompted you to venture into the field of investing, more specifically with NFT’s? Digital assets are in high demand right now, but an NFT allows the buyer to own the original item they purchased. I know creatives have been kicking the door down for credibility and ownership rights for quite some time now — and you’re willing to give away content for the right price? 

If I can do it once I can do it again. I’m happy you saw what I was going with the NFT. When it comes to this crypto shit and some of these investments, I don’t get married to this shit. Anything that I create, I don’t get married to it. I create for other people to enjoy it, so I guess at the end of the day, me selling my logo that has been seen 1.3 billion times -more than that though, that was only counting YouTube, not Instagram, Twitter etc. – but conservatively, 1.3 billion times. Me selling that logo, I just think it would be cool for someone to own it, someone that really loves my work – or maybe they were going through something in life and they see my logo pop up on they screen and they’d get happy for the day. Everything I do is for other people. I do a lot for myself too, but everything in public, like my videos… they’re not mine, they belong to everybody. I’ma be real with you, it sold, but it didn’t sell for the price that I wanted it to because I didn’t keep it listed long enough or tell enough people. So, I’m buying it back and I’m going to relaunch it and we’ll see how it goes and hopefully I can get a bigger push behind it. Anyone that reads this or whatever, I have succeeded, but to achieve more success I gotta to challenge myself. It’s not easy for me to understand the next move I should make. I don’t even overthink it like that. I just know that if I want to grow I gotta do some shit that makes me uncomfortable, something different. I think everybody should live like that: if it’s getting old, if it’s getting boring, then you’re probably not growing. Once you stop growing, you know what’s next? 


You fucking die [laughs]. 

I’m happy you brought that up earlier though. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about that Wale video bro. I feel like, for all the young creatives, just take a page out of my book and make it work for you. Not saying my path is correct, but if you pay attention to a couple of the steps that I took you might save yourself some time.

About the Author

Derrius Edwards
Derrius is a music industry professional with experience in content strategy and editorial writing, sharing relevant and resonating stories as a conduit for hip-hop culture advancement.

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