Troy “Smack” Mitchell: Lights, Camera, Action

B ack in 2002, Troy “Smack” Mitchell probably never thought that his DVD magazine would become a phenomenon in Hip-Hop culture. But some element of belief kept him tapping rappers on the shoulders, and begging them for a voyeuristic look at the lives of the lyricist. Everything about the S.M.A.C.K. DVDs captures that “fly on […]


ack in 2002, Troy “Smack” Mitchell probably never thought that his DVD magazine would become a phenomenon in Hip-Hop culture. But some element of belief kept him tapping rappers on the shoulders, and begging them for a voyeuristic look at the lives of the lyricist.

Everything about the S.M.A.C.K. DVDs captures that “fly on the wall” authenticity. The camera does not lie, as the editor determines what’s best for the DVD, the rapper, and the culture at large. Perhaps that’s why more than 750,000 copies later, along with recognition in countries all over the world, Mitchell is ready to take this phenomenon to new heights.

Recently, Mitchell joined with Koch Records for distribution of the newest edition. The latest series, S.M.A.C.K The Album: Volume 1, features a full length video for every cut on the corresponding CD. Years after begging for cosigns, Young Jeezy, Fat Joe, Bun B, B.G., Juvenile and others obliged to contribute. Smack looks at his brand, its humble roots, and the infinite possibility as the video medium met rappers in their element. When you first came up with the S.M.A.C.K. concept, and when you made your very first DVD, did you automatically try to get distribution? Or did you go directly to the streets?

Smack: I did 11 titles, and didn’t approach one major company. I wanted to put in my work first, and build my foundation before I sat down at any table. It gives you stronger negotiations when you have your own fan base and there’s a buzz out there about what you do. That’s what I was focused on. I wanted to take my time and build my brand, so I just went straight to the streets. By doin’ that, I was very successful. I got my DVDs in different territories around the world: places like Japan, London, France, South Africa. These are territories that a lot of people who love Hip-Hop don’t even know exist. I was fortunate to focus on those different territories and get my brand out there. How did this distribution deal with Koch Records come to play?

Smack: Actually, I was at my man, Cam’ron’s house, and we were doing something for the regular street title: S.M.A.C.K DVD. He had a marketing meeting that day when I was there, regarding one of his projects that he had with them at the time. He introduced me to some of the execs that were there, and they were already familiar with my brand, and they were in tune with my whole movement. So we sat, talked, and it came up that they wanted to do a joint venture with me. That’s basically how everything played out. For many other companies that put out DVD magazines, even though it is competition, you are all working towards the same common goal. Have you though of collaborating with a company that you feel you can produce something major with?

Smack: I’m just trying to perfect my craft you know, and create my identity in the game. I felt that I did [that] for the last 11 titles that I’ve put out on the streets. I look at all street DVDs that come out, and I haven’t really seen one company that I would want to jump the band with as yet. I was thinking about collaborating with up-and-comers [in the DVD production industry], but honestly, I ain’t really seen any creativity out there yet. Everybody’s trying to run with the same format. When I did it back in 2002, I had to come up with my own formula and format for the DVD. I had to put out three DVDs before I really developed my format that would form my audience. I had to put all the secrets of video in a certain way, so my audience could enjoy it. Like, you would be sitting watching a S.M.A.C.K. DVD for an hour and a half and you don’t even realize it, you know what I’m saying? When it comes to putting S.M.A.C.K together, is it spontaneous… Or do you actually plan out which artists’ you want featured for each volume?

Smack: At this point yeah, I plan it out, but it depends on what’s going on at the time. It could be a promotion for a real big product that they have coming out. So this will [help] increase awareness for their project. That’s how I build my roster for up-and-coming DVDs. They can get a chance to showcase their talent and solidify a situation that they might be tryin’ to get involved with. I [might] throw in some artists’ that you haven’t seen in a while, but their still doin’ their thing.

At the beginning, it was more spontaneous, and more renegade. I had to run up on the scene and prove myself to all of the artists’. ‘Cause you know, when you are running around with a camera, and nobody really knows who you are, they’re kinda nervous. At the end of the day, it’s real! There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that’s real in the Hip-Hop game. So when I first came through, they were definitely weary, and I had to prove myself, ’cause nobody knew who Smack was. [I had to] show them that I could do something that could benefit them. Once they saw what I was doing with other artists’, they started respecting that like, “Yo, there’s Smack, he give us good business, and good looks so we can link up wit ’em.” Technically, you can call yourself a Video Journalist, and as journalists’ we are always at risk of something. Can you recall one particular day things just went completely wrong?

Smack: That’s everyday! [laughs] Lights, goin’ to a shoot without a tape in the camera. I’ve been to shoots where I get the footage, come back to the studio and as it turns out, while I was shootin’ the camera was dropping frames! So, the footage is there, but it’s all choppy and not usable. Even with this latest project, my camera for some reason was dropping’ frames. You know the X-ray machines at the airport where you put your bags through, I don’t know if that messes up the tape… I just don’t know! I have lost so much footage on this last project that it’s crazy! But that’s what happens when you do production. Anything that could go wrong will go wrong. But I’m experienced, and I know how to get around certain things and when I come across situations, but ah man! Based on what you’re saying, it’s little things here and there, but what about one situation like getting chased by dogs, or getting caught trying to jump a fence…

Smack: Stuff like that too! I fought Security Guards for being on the stage at the National Coliseum, while 50 Cent was performing. They didn’t want promoters to film, but this is my life. They tried to confiscate my tape, but you know that wasn’t goin’ down. I’m with them at the shows, but I’m doin’ what I do. And I take my work serious too! Once I’m filming, this is money, especially when you got an artist like 50 Cent or whoever, performing in a major arena. We got kicked out of the arena, but I still got my footage and I still got my tapes! But that’s just part of the game. Not even with the rappers. Have you ever been placed in a threatening situation because you have some footage that someone wants just because they know you have it? Even though you know and they know that you edit the production.

Smack: I’m a real dude at the end of the day, and the streets is real. And like I said, I’m not gonna put a rapper in a situation that can jeopardize their freedom. I respect them. Everything I do is outta pocket, and I have lost money not putting out projects that I wanted to do. But me being a real dude, I won’t put it out. My audience will come to me and be like “Yo, what’s up with that DVD you promoted, when are you gonna put it out?” But I’m not gonna do anything that will not make anyone look good. Considering that you do music videos for your dvd, are doing big budget music videos the next step?

Smack: That’s definitely my next step, and movies too. That’s the path that I’m gonna take. Will you be opening other ventures outside of film production?

Smack: Yeah [my team is] trying to expand the brand, “Streets, Music, Arts, Culture, Knowledge.” We’re tryin’ to have S.M.A.C.K clothes, DVDs, drinks. Once we get situated in the game, sky is the limit. But we’re just gonna do what makes sense at the time. S.M.A.C.K. has turned into a Hip-Hop phenomenon for what it is. But now that it’s at its highest peak, have you graduated? Will there be a last S.M.A.C.K. series?

Smack: It’s hard to say ’cause the streets need me, you know what I mean. I’m all over America man, and my fans really appreciate my work. Once I come out with my DVD, they’re hype for a week! From the first week that I drop a series, they be waitin’ for the next one. And they don’t really know that it takes a long time to put these productions together. When dealing with rappers, that’s like a whole different time zone, so it’s hard. But my audience loves it, and they just want more. So, the streets need me and I’m focused, but at the same time, I’m tryin’ to broaden my horizons. I’m just not tryin’ to do DVDs my whole life, I want to take it to new levels. That’s why I did this project with Koch, because it will give me more exposure on a national scale and open other opportunities for me.