On Thursday evening, a bipartisan House select committee launched a blockbuster set of hearings on the Jan. 6 attack and efforts to change the results of the 2020 election. The prime-time presentation aired in full on all three major broadcast networks and (almost) every major cable news channel. Among the several star witnesses was an award-winning British filmmaker and documentarian named Nick Quested.
Following President Donald Trump’s defeat, Quested set forth on a new project to document the division in the United States surrounding the election and how the Republican Party became the party of Trump. To get to the crux of it all, he embedded with the Proud Boys, a group of far-right extremists that has been charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attacks. Quested began following around and filming members of the organization for a documentary, not knowing that he’d wind up collecting seeds of evidence chronicling one of the ugliest days in our nation’s history.
On Thursday, Quested presented shocking footage that included a meeting between the leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, an extreme-right militia, the day before the Capitol riot. But Quested isn’t just a random director who stumbled into history. In addition to work documenting war and drug violence, he’s notable for another reason: He cut his teeth in the film and direction game in the late ’90s and early 2000s by directing music videos—the vast majority of them hip-hop videos. But not for no-name up-and-comers. He was in the director’s chair for some of the most iconic names in New York and Southern rap history. Here is some of his most important work.
Capone-N-Noreaga feat. Mobb Deep and Tragedy Khadafi, “L.A., L.A.” (1997)
Nick Quested was already about a year deep into his music video phase when he was called on to sketch the visuals for a song that was a response to Tha Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” during the height of the tensions between East Coast and West Coast rap artists fueled by the beef between the Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac. He got right to work by staging a kidnapping that culminates with a body-shaped plastic bag being hurled off the Queensboro Bridge. Alrighty.
DMX, “Stop Being Greedy” (1998)
1998 was the Year of the Dog. DMX’s debut album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot would go quadruple platinum off the strength of four scorching singles, with “Stop Being Greedy” as the second of the set. DMX raps in two different voices, depicting his good and bad consciences battling for supremacy over a production that sounds like a haunted house tour. Quested understands the assignment and splits DMX into two people to illustrate the theme, throwing in a manhunt in the woods for good measure.
Big Tymers, “Get Your Roll On” (2000)
Cash Money Records had a diamond-encrusted grip on music in the early 2000s and a very specific aesthetic that paid tribute to the city that raised them: New Orleans. Baby (CEO of the label) and Mannie Fresh (its in-house producer) formed a duo called Big Tymers and sought out Quested to film the video for their exotic car anthem “Get Your Roll On.” The smoke machine and bandanna budget was healthy.
G-Dep, “Special Delivery” (2001)
The crown jewel in Quested’s music video filmography is “Special Delivery” by G-Dep, depicting a very literal translation of the song title. Not only was this one of the biggest songs of the year (on Diddy’s Bad Boy label), but it’s the most important archive of a dance called the Harlem Shake, a dance that I still can’t do properly to this day.
Trick Daddy, “I’m a Thug” (2001)
You couldn’t escape 2001 without hearing the infectious, young, and carefree melody of Trick Daddy’s “I’m a Thug.” Quested sets out to capture Trick on a zany day meeting the family of his girlfriend, while still making time to connect with a bevy of other miscellaneous lady friends, hit the streets in his emerald green spaceship, and buy the neighborhood kids ice cream. Notably, Trick Daddy would go on to tap Quested again for “Take It to Da House,” which includes lyrics that reveal his winning formula: “Gimme a break, and a beat I can vibe wit / a Nick Quested video and a fine b****.”