Story and interview by Matthew Shack
((( Audio Interview Below )))
John D. Tucker aka Dr. Teeth is one of the most requested andinnovative music video directors in the business.
Does he sell "diamond-crusted custom platinum grillz", too?
He's nicknamed “Dr. Teeth” for his infectious smile, but his music videos are as platinum as his client and good friend, Paul Wall's mouth.
In 2005, he introduced you to some of your favorite southern MC’s, Mike Jones, Slim Thug, & Paul Wall with his video, "Still Tippin" which was nominated for a MTV2 VMA People's Choice Award.
Other videos include, Lil KeKe's "Chunk Up the Duce",Juvenile's "Way I Be Leaning", Notorious B.I.G's, " Spit Your Game", T.I.'s "Front, Back, Side to Side”, Slim Thug's“Diamonds”, Pitbull's "Everybody Stand", Mike Jones' ”Back Then”, Paul Wall's “Sittin Sideways” feat. Big Pokey, Webbie“Bad Chick” and Trina's “Don’t Trip.”
"Teeth" was also responsible of redeveloping BET’s "Rap City”into "Rap City, Tha Bassment", and his major contribution is the Popular "booth/Restroom" that all the famous MC’s perform in at the end of each and every show.
The Flow's own, Matthew Shack catches up with Dr. Teeth between takes, and shoots up major music video game.
TFM: What is your process for constructing a hit video for artists such as Mike Jones, Slim Thug & Paul Wall?
Dr. Teeth: The first thing that I like to do is, well it’s almost kind of easy for me with Mike and them because I understand the music and the culture. My mind set is that I try to establish star power for them. Because they were new artists, although in the region they have been around and are established artists but to the world they were new. So, it was important for me to establish their star power and to place the music where it could be respected. Now when I do videos for them, I try to continue that thought process because in a sense, I am the gatekeeper of their image.
TFM: How groundbreaking was the “Still Tippin’” video and why, in your opinion?
Dr. Teeth: Actually, I was with Slim two days ago. We we’re all standing around, he pulled up in a Bentley. [Laughs] So he jumps out the Bentley with Damon (John) from FUBU and we were talking about the position all of us were in and how “Still Tippin”helped all of us, including myself. With that, that video and that visual single-handedly started the whole "Houston explosion",because though that video we were able to come to the homes of people throughout the world and throughout the country. And it also established the landscape for the Houston artist. So that was a very important visual. It catapulted Mike’s career, it catapultedPaul Wall’s career, it catapulted Slim’s and it catapulted my career.
TFM: Explain your influence at BET during your tenure,
Dr. Teeth: I was highly influential when I was at BET; I’m one of the co-creators of Rap City’s The Basement. And while I was there, I worked at CBS prior [to that] and I learned a lot of the true ways of preparing and organizing and producing for television. When I got to BET, their style was a little different. So I was able to take my creativity with the structure that I had learned at CBS and I was allowed to take some of the liberties to do some of the things that I wanted to do.
Dr. Teeth: One of the persons over there that was real influential with me was a guy named Craig Henry. Craig was a music video director who directed the first Craig Mack, “Flavor in Your Ear”video. So he would teach me about tapping into the vain of projects that you’re doing. He was the one who kind of turned me on to "the four elements of hip hop" with the whole mind set and history behind the culture of hip-hop. So BET, I’m really proud of that.
Dr. Teeth: Bille Woodruff worked at BET, Gil Green worked at BET, Keith Paschal was one of the executive producers was with me. And we had a production company together. There are so many people would came through [BET], I just feel honored to be a part of that brotherhood and family.
TFM: You mentioned Bille Woodruff. You have Bryan Barber, Lil’ X, Hype Williams, Benny Boom and Dave Meyers who are all legends in the game and you’re making your mark. How do you differ to them in your visual creativity in comparison to them?
Dr. Teeth: If you look at the urban videos that I do, I don’t "Glam" it. I don’t glam up the visual, I shoot what I see. I don’t take model chicks and put them into an urban visual in regard to like an edgy rap song. If I shoot it, I shoot it the way it is. If I cast a girl, it’s nine times out of ten; I’ll cast a girl that you will see in your neighborhood. The "around the way dime piece" and not the"fantasized video girl".
Dr. Teeth: I try to come up with things that will kind of strike a nerve in the viewers that are watching. Because I thing that in this business there are a lot of cookie cutter processes that a lot of us as directors are held to because that’s what some of the artists are requesting. Some of the labels are requesting. So when I talk to some of the other guys that you’ve mentioned, that is something that we struggle with and you can really lose your identity if you allow that, you know? I think that my connection with the viewers[enhance that]. I get a lot of love and a lot of people see my work and they really love it. I don’t shoot a lot of video girls and I think they like the truth. I think that I strike a cord within them.
TFM: You were just talking about “around the way” girls, One of our good friends and October ’05 Face Of The Flow, Miss Lyrictold me directly that "you casted her in her first video back in 2000." She spoke very highly of you and she has a lot of love for you. How did casting her all come about?
Dr. Teeth: Lyric and I have been friends since the late ‘90’s and her look is that of a beautiful girl that is approachable. She’s a girl that you would see and could relate to. I’ve seen her in some other videos and they make her a goddess. She’s a very beautiful girl but when I saw her she has real strong natural talent and she’s not afraid of the camera. She takes really great direction. And a lot of time, people don’t know that with these girls they really have to be able to take direction and play to the camera. And she’s very smart and very talented.
Dr. Teeth: Once we worked together the first time, she just took off, man. Cats were recognizing her, she started her calendar and then I saw her in a couple other videos. Then I turned her on toJessy Terrero and Jessy casted her. Lyric is a real talent and she’s one of the reasons that I am what I am.
TFM: How do you go about casting some of the most beautiful models in the game for your videos?
Dr. Teeth: I look for girls that are not divas. They’ll tell you, I always say, “I’m not waiting on them, they wait on me,” it’s simple as that. There’s a lot of “ hurry up and wait” so when they come to the set they know that we’re going to work and we’re going to do something really good to help their career. So I look for girls that don’t have any diva-esque type of mindsets and that’s open to do no job too big, no job too small. Whatever is going to make the visual, hot! Those are the girls I look for first.
Dr. Teeth: You can really pretty or you could be “that girl” and then I get you on the set and then I have a lot of complications with you and you slow down production and I can’t get what I need to shoot. And a lot of these girls, they want the leads on some of these videos, I might try them out in a lesser role as an extra and I watch them on the set. You can always “glam” a person up but you can’t always get that performance out of them. I look at attitude first.
TFM: You directed the Biggie video, “Spit Your Game” that must have been an honor. I’ve GOT to hear your input on that!!
Dr. Teeth: WHHOOOO!! [Laughs] The Biggie video!! OH MY GOD! I get speechless when I talk about it. If I stop directing…TODAY..I feel like I’ve made my mark. [Laughs] The Biggie video, man…first of all I have to say this, all I ever wanted to do is be a music video director, not a film director, not a sitcom director but a music video director because I am a big fan of the music.
Dr. Teeth: When I got the music for “spit your game”, the music just spoke to me, so strong. I didn’t think I was going to get it. Then when I got the job, I was like a kid in a candy store because this is what it’s all about. To get an artist of that profile, for me a year prior to that nobody knew my name to a year later I’m shooting the last video for Biggie? What Puff (Combs) and Harve (Pierre) told me, "this is the last video in Biggie's catalog and the last single that’s going to be released and album that he’s going to do…THAT’S IT!" And, I got the nod to do that video, so I felt I had to put my foot off in it. And I feel that I accomplished that goal.
Dr. Teeth: To work with Krayzie Bone, Swizz Beats, Twista, 8-Ball &MJG …all of us had the same feeling. For them to be able to spit on a song with Biggie, for me to shoot a video for Biggie. I just wanted to put something in his catalog that’s going to do justice [to him]. When you look at "Juicy" and the other videos that we're done for Biggie, I wanted my video to be something that cats would pull up and want to see, man.
TFM: And you did, too!
Dr. Teeth: It was a MASSIVE honor! [Laughs}
TFM: [Laughs] You’re laughing but I'd laugh too, man.. I’d laugh too, bra…trust me!
Dr. Teeth: I’m still speechless about that I’m VERY happy with that video. I have to thank Puffy and Harve over at Bad Boy for even giving me a shot. Prior to that, I was the "Houston Dude'. I get a lot of my work directly from the artists from that video. LikeT.I., he personally requested me and I’m very appreciative.
TFM: It’s well documented how you got your name "Dr. Teeth"on the basketball court so I’m not going to ask that question but I will ask you this…since you we’re dunking on cats in games what was the best dunk you had on somebody?
Dr. Teeth: WHHOOOO!!! [Laughs] You wouldn’t believe me if I told you because I can’t even do it anymore. I played in a summer league called BCI.Before the game because my hands aren’t really big …I used to palm my hands up with stick-um. [Laughs]
Dr. Teeth: I was on the break..as soon as the ball hit the rim, I would be taking off for the line and running down court. And this cat shot like a deep 3 [pointer] and one of my teammates got the rebound and I was the first one on the break. It was perfectly set because I’m left-handed. And I was on the left side of the lane. I was already to half-court before anyone turned around. The guy closest to me was the guy who shot the three. And he was on the right side of the court.
((( Audio Interview Below )))