Creating UK rap music videos with Zim-born KLVDR; worked with Stormzy and done campaigns for Beats by Dre, Daimler

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Kalvadour Peterson – more widely known as KLVDR was engrossed in music, art and culture as long as he can remember. Moving between Zimbabwe and England, and soaking up the creative scenes of both countries, Kal knew from early age he wanted to pursue a career in the creative world.
Prioritising the relationships he’s created with musical artists, KLVDR has directed numerous music videos for UK rap and grime artists, including the likes of Stormzy, J Hus, Skepta and Giggs, and has created concert visuals for the likes of Krept & Konan, Sean Paul, and Mr Eazi. His latest project is the viral hit for Stormzy’s ‘Mel Made Me Do It’ video, which features José Mourinho, Usain Bolt, Dina Asher-Smith, and a wide range of other Black creatives, music artists and influential figures from the UK. But KLVDR hasn’t stopped there. He’s also created ad campaigns for Beats by Dre, Daimler and the NBA, and now he’s keen to develop his style through longer form projects.
Sitting down with LBB’s Nisna Mahtani, KLVDR shares his journey and inspirations, reminding us that ‘Every project is an opportunity, so you have to enjoy the process.’

LBB: Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell us about some of your creative influences growing up?

KLVDR: No one in my family does anything creative, except one uncle of mine. A lot of my creative influences come from how much I moved as a child. I moved from Harare, Zimbabwe to England when I was 11, so I saw a lot through the brief period before I was a teenager.
My biggest influence was from understanding the different cities and cultures that I saw. Seeing how people communicate and gaining an insight into both African and western music made me keen to know more. Being a music head is a part of the reason why I create music videos – it celebrates people coming together. It’s an avenue for happiness.

LBB: You started out studying graphic design before going into stage design, live visuals and branding. How did you start your career in the creative industry?

KLVDR: When I was younger, I always knew I wanted to make stuff. However, what that stuff was, I wasn’t clear on. It actually started with me wanting to be an architect, but when I dove deeper, it was a lot of years… and then some architects don’t even get to work on the buildings! So, I decided to pursue something else. I fell in love with furniture design, but that also wasn’t giving me enough. That’s when I stumbled into graphics.
I went to university and studied graphic design, it gave me the base skills I needed to fall in the direction I did. I actually ended up picking up a camera and doing photography because people would give me rubbish pictures. When a friend of mine passed away, I decided to make a tribute video. After that, people started asking me to do more videos. I didn’t ever think I was going to be a director, it was just a natural progression. It then kept growing and growing, and here I am.
The funny thing is, the stage designs and visuals came after I started directing music videos. I end up dipping in and dipping out of it as artists get me to work on their videos, and then want me to be involved in the whole project.

LBB: Do you remember any formative pieces of work which lead you down the path and made you want to create something similar?

KLVDR: I had a friend who was in a music group and the director had let her down. She asked me if I could jump in and shoot the video, to which I said OK. The next thing I knew, it had Wretch 32 in it. For my second video, I felt like I shouldn’t have landed something like that!
From there, I met a few artists on set, and the biggest thing for me became the relationships I developed with the people I worked with. So, it turned into friendships and we ended up as collaborators. That’s how it grows and that’s how it’s been since I started my career. It’s a personal thing rather than being on a project-by-project basis.
Also, the relationships I have with SBTV, GRM Daily and Link Up TV are the ones which lead me to bigger opportunities, because someone will let them down and they’ll give me a call. It’s random, but it’s the way it’s been. I’m not in control of it – things happen and you have to go with the flow, to say the least.

LBB: How did you land on the pseudonym KLVDR to use as your director’s stage name?

KLVDR: It comes from when I started as a designer. At the time, I didn’t like how my full name sat when it was written out. So, I took all of the vowels out, made it capital, and thought, ‘now I’m happy!’. I’m never really sure how people should read it – as KLVDR or Kalvadour – but people just used the abbreviation and I went with it. From a purely visual point of view, I like the way it looks.

LBB: If you had to describe your filmmaking style, what are some of the ways that you would characterise it?

KLVDR: I just try to make the best and truest visual representation of an artist. Around 80% of the artists, I’d say I know quite well. I have some sort of bond with them, I’m familiar with their influences and what palette to approach each project with. I’d say my style doesn’t have a cap, it’s a made-to-fit approach which depends on the person I’m working with.
Moving forward, such as with commercials and long-form projects, I think when I do more of them, I’ll see a clearer style defined for myself. Music videos are a collaboration, it’s not about the director.

LBB: We recently spoke to you about Stormzy’s ‘Mel Made Me Do It’ music video, which blew up on social media. Why do you think this piece of work in particular resonated so well with the audience?

KLVDR: I feel like it had a big response because the majority of the time in rap and hip-hop music videos, it tends to be a love story or a display of ego. That’s not to say there aren’t other ways to convey the genre – I do feel like some creatives take the genre somewhere else – but most of it is ego driven, so it’s stripped back, basic and straightforward. For this, it was personal. It was a statement.
Representing how far we’ve all come, the video represents the journey. It’s not just about Stormzy, it’s a snippet showing how someone came from a place where they didn’t think they’d get to where they are now, and how there’s a totally different life. It could resonate with anyone who has any career path or people from any ethnicity who faced a struggle and made it through. It’s about breaking through the people who came before you. Obviously, there are celebrities, but it feels like a celebration.
It was great to see [American rapper] Drake post the video on socials because you get a taste of who Mike is, rather than who Stormzy is.

LBB: Would you say ‘Mel Made Me Do It’ is the project which has had the biggest impact on your career so far?

KLVDR: This one has definitely had the most reactions. It was a nine month process. No one really takes nine months to make a music video! I was working with ‘Storms’ and we felt like this one had more purpose. We wanted to go with the flow and give it the time it needed.
I’ve definitely had different conversations after this project. Looking back, every video I’ve directed has played a part, and there isn’t one that’s more important than the other. They’ve all been stages and lessons in growth.

LBB: Is there anyone whose filmmaking style inspires you?

KLVDR:  I’ve always been a massive Hype Williams fan, which helped shape my style and how I approached things. He’s very unapologetic when he makes videos – you can see his style, as well as the fact that people still pay homage to his work. He’s one of the most iconic music video directors that’s ever existed. He’s played a very big part in inspiring me.
There’s also the Martin Scorsese and Quintin Tarantino work, and the Wes Anderson films which I’ve been a fan of. It’s the colour palette, camera styles, dynamic movement and strong points of reference which make videos great and gives them an iconic moment. I lean into anything that is visually bold and unapologetically itself. Those directors are my favourites.

LBB: What’s the biggest lesson or piece of advice you’ve gained through the process?

KLVDR: Every project is an opportunity, so you have to enjoy the process. I always feel like working on music videos is like going to the gym: you get sharper and sharper. I feel like it’s all an exercise for you to be a better creative – you learn to adapt and that you can’t control everything. You have to be strong in what your creative vision is, but also be adaptable. Flexibility is important!