In this interview from 2018, director Karam Gill talks about his debut feature film – G-Funk. Karam has since gone on to direct Ice Cold, Supervillain: The Making of Tekashi 6ix9ine and Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby.
G-Funk follows the rise of a hip-hop sub-genre. When did you realise this was a story you wanted to tell?
I was around 20 at the time and was handling all the creative direction for Warren’s brand (rapper Warren G, Warren Griffin 111).
One day, Warren and I were hanging out with Snoop Dogg and all of a sudden they started playing the Isley Brothers, Curtis Mayfield and other classics that they had either sampled or drawn inspiration from in the past.
These were the songs that influenced the creation of G-Funk as a genre – and I was fascinated. Over the next year, I began writing the G-Funk story as I got to know Warren and his collaborators. While piecing it together, I was shocked at how important this movement was in helping commercialize hip hop and bring the genre to the mainstream.
What mood did you want to capture and how did you go about achieving this?
I really wanted the film to feel authentic and true to the artists who lived G-Funk and those who came before it. Everyone we interviewed participated solely out of an appreciation of the genre and their love for Warren. A large part in achieving this was handpicking the music and relying heavily on original tracks from the 70s/80s that helped evoke nostalgia and connected to African-American culture.
You worked closely with Warren G on the film. How was your relationship and what qualities did he bring to the project?
Warren and I are very close. I met him when I was 19 – he gave me the opportunity to travel with him and jumpstart my creative career. He is so well-respected throughout hip-hop and that was really the biggest asset to have for this project. Through him, we were able to get extended interviews and moments with top-tier talent which ultimately brought a wide range of perspectives to the film.
G Funk has been praised for capturing the nostalgia of the period. What are your early memories of the genre and why did you connect with it?
I grew up in LA so G-Funk was a huge part of my introduction to hip-hop. However the main reason I actually connected to the project was because of my parents.
As a child, my dad would play Motown, Funk and R&B every night from this big speaker in our living room. When I began hanging around Warren and Snoop, I heard how heavily that same music had influenced them and felt a strong connection to the film.
YouTube stars such as Jake Paul and Danielle Bregoli are making a big mark on the current landscape. What do you make of the state of hip-hop?
I think hip-hop has become so mainstream now – to the point where the barrier to entry is so low that anyone can really do it.
In the past, the genre had a preconceived stigma where you had to either be a ‘gangster’, ‘street’ or have some sort of edgy prerequisite that would allow you to be taken seriously. Like you said, we are seeing YouTube stars putting out music now which just shows how much the game has changed.
What has been the secret to your success at just 23 years old?
My mentality towards things – for better or for worse – is very all-or-nothing. When I find something I am passionate about, I genuinely dedicate every ounce of energy towards it and put all other aspects of life aside to fulfil it.
For example, G-Funk went into production while I was still an undergraduate. Looking back, I remember blocking out everything else I had going on to bring the story to life. I think that when you find a project you are passionate about and approach it with this mentality, you are guaranteed success.
Where does your passion for filmmaking come from?
My father. He was a documentary filmmaker and introduced me to docs at a very young age. It was all I watched growing up as a kid and pretty much most of what I watch today.
What are your ambitions for the future? What kind of stories would you like to tell?
I am taking it project-by-project right now. I definitely want to make a name for myself in the documentary world and tell stories through ideas I connect with.
I love projects that incorporate strong societal commentary but through a pop culture visibility and lens. Pop culture drives a ton of attention to a project and is an amazing avenue to bring forth impactful messaging about the society we live in.
Lastly, can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
I am currently in production for my next feature film with Universal Music Group and Mass Appeal. I am also working on some really exciting digital campaigns and branding projects with Marshmello and Fujifilm through my creative agency, MGX Creative.