The Bullitts Speaks On Working With Jay-Z On "The Great Gatsby Soundtrack"
Exclusive: James "The Bullitts" Samuel explains his ability to think musically and cinematically at once. He also reveals that frequent collaborator Jay Electronica was his link to Jay-Z.
Film and music are art. Often, successful musicians or actors will try their hand at the other, achieving varying levels of success. From Will Smith to Justin Timberlake to David Bowie, some of the world’s biggest celebrities have experienced success as both film and music stars, equally. Rarely though, do music producers and film directors journey away from what they know best.
The Bullitts Discuss The Great Gatsby Soundtrack
Enter Jeymes Samuel; a Hip Hop producer and film director. His professional moniker, “The Bullitts” is the alias for all of Samuel’s art. Most recently, Jay-Z made him the Executive Music Consultant for the formation of The Great Gatsby soundtrack. Many producers envy Samuel’s promotion, but it takes a true artistic savant to earn the respect of Jay-Z and renowned film director Baz Luhrmann. “I was always doing both: I’ve always been music, I’ve always been film. I suppose I’m a rare entity that speaks two languages fluently,” Samuel confidently states. “They have the exact same discipline. I think they’re just perceived as much different than they actually are.
Samuel may be lesser known among Jay-Z’s biggest fans, but that’s no indication of his personal clout with the Jigga Man. “[Jay-Z] and I have been friends for a while now through Jay Electronica,” explains Samuel. “We did the song 'Dinner At Tiffanys (The Shiny Suit Theory)' together.” After the track was released, Samuel stayed in touch with Jay-Z, building a creative friendship that has begun paying dividends. Besides the obvious payday that’s to be expected, Samuel was able to meet director Baz Luhrmann via Jay-Z and establish a great working relationship. “Jay-Z is the greatest rapper of all-time, bar none…and then along with Baz Luhrmann, who’s another genius, it’s just amazing, man. Super, super, super dope.”
Though he couldn’t provide HipHopDX with too much information about The Great Gatsby, Samuel had nothing but positives to say. Asked how he, Luhrmann and Jay-Z were able to take the 1920s storyline and combine it with contemporary music, Samuel says, “I think what Baz has done is genius: seamlessly woven the old with the new. And it shows, it’s more like an energy thing.” But his praise doesn’t stop at Luhrmann. “To me, the marriage between Jay-Z and 'Jay Gatsby' is perfect. He’s a cultural Jay Gatsby,” Samuel asserts. “Jay Gatsby was a beautiful, genius mind. That’s like Jay-Z today. I think the marriage today of both of those elements is perfect, and seamless.”
The Bullitts Details Short-Film They Die By Dawn
While his work on The Great Gatsby Soundtrack is likely his greatest personal accomplishment to date, it won’t be long before Samuel one-ups himself. Once the summer rolls around, he’ll not only release his debut short-film, They Die By Dawn, he’ll begin work on his first feature-length film. “They Die By Dawn is a 50-minute short film, but it’s grand in scale. It’s Part I of a feature-length film I start shooting this summer called The Notorious Nine…It’s a Western, and it shows all of these characters (cowboys) that really existed that history has just swept under the rug.” They Die By Dawn will be accompanied by The Bullitts album They Die By Dawn & Other Short Stories. The lead single and title-track, features Jay Electronica and Yasiin Bey (a/k/a Mos Def). “Lucy Liu narrates the whole album. She plays the character on death row, and she narrates the whole album, the songs weave in and out of her narrative,” Samuel explains. “That’s my album, that’s how I see and here: I see and hear music, and I see and hear film, so to speak.”
Seeing and hearing both film and music is easier said than done. Anyone can do it, but to master it takes true cunning. For Samuel though, it’s nothing more than routine. “Writing a script is like writing a song, but scoring it, I score a lot when I watch actors go back-and-forth with each other and I get musical ideas. So it takes place in one sphere in my brain, and that’s why they’re exactly the same,” suggests Samuel.
Samuel may admit that They Die By Dawn is the epitome of him thinking musically and cinematically at once. He also admits, however, that rewriting American History was an important driving force in the film and album’s creation. “Think of it this way: Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in 1865, right? But Wyatt Earp, the cowboy/gunfighter, OK Corral, he died in 1929. Look how many decades there were of Black people being free,” says Samuel. “It’s a myth showing that we were all slaves during the Old West.”