When We Interviewed Shareef Stradford At Picture Studios Last Month, Freaky T Had Amassed 3 Million Views. By The Time Of Publishing, It Was At 4 Million Plus. Needless To Say, The Video Has Been Immensely Successful And Helped Push The Music Career Of TiaCorine To New Heights. Likewise, It Has Made People See Shareef aka WHOISREEF In A Whole New Light As Both A Director And Businessman. In The Paragraphs That Follow, We Learn About His Early Musical Influences And Why His Foray Into Directing Music Videos Is Only The Beginning Of His March To The Top.

Where were you born and what was your childhood like?

I was born in Rock Hill, SC. My childhood was just regular everyday stuff. Just playing with friends on some cool vibes. Other than music and photography, my other hobbies would be playing 2K. I think I was around 8 or 9 years old when I discovered my love for music. Maybe even younger than that. I used to listen to Souljah Boy all of the time. All of his albums and dancing and stuff like that.

Where you have you been able to travel in your career so far?

So far, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, New York and both of the Carolinas of course.

Why is music from the Carolinas so popular right now?

Honestly, it’s just a really slept on state. When we get people’s attention, the music is so different that people gravitate to you. It’s unlike anything they have seen or heard before.

What was your first camera and lens combination?

Right now, I use a Sony A7 R4 and a 35 mm or 50 mm lens. I don’t really have anything that is top of the line. My first camera and lens combination was a Canon SX520 with a kit lens. I got that in like 2012 or 2013. My dad gave it to me for Christmas one year so shout out to my dad.

What was it like to get published by a magazine for the first time?

To get published for the first time was something I always dreamed of as a kid. Just seeing something that thousands of people can read everyday and that I could show my parents and friends would be cool to see.

How is event photography different than music videos?

With event photography, you have to be very precise with what angles you’re shooting at. You have to be precise on what moments you have to capture. I definitely vibe with the energy in the room. If the vibe is off, I might just stand off to the side. But if the vibe is good, I’m gonna add what I can to it. With the editing process, music videos can take a lot longer to edit. You can edit photos in seconds. With video editing, there is usually a long thought process behind it. Editing videos came natural to me though. I have been editing videos since 2009 doing Call of Duty edits on Youtube as a kid.

How is the business of music videos different than photography?

The business side is very different because you have to write out a budget breakdown for your videos. Obviously with photography, you plan ahead of time. But usually with music videos, it’s a more detailed process behind the videos because you have to send invoices. There are lot of things that I’m still learning myself.

Freaky T has over 3 million views on YouTube, are you surprised?

I am not surprised at all. I just had a feeling before I even shot the video. You can even see in the BTS that my boy T Law recorded, there is a clip of me saying that it’s going to be North Carolina history. This is one for the bookings. I just knew.

Tell us about the day you found out you were chosen to direct it.

I think I just got a message from one of my boys Darius who works for South Coast Music Group. We have been locked in for a couple of years. I had done a couple of videos for them a few months prior to the Freaky T shoot. I got a text on my phone, and it said, “Yo! We want you to shoot the video. Tia saw your work and she wants to work with you.” Then he sent me the song and it was HARD. I had already listened to the album, and I thought, “Man, I’d love to do this”. Maybe a week or two after I got the confirmation, I saw it just going up on TikTok and I knew it was about to be one of them ones.

Where did you shoot it and how did you put together a crew?

I shot the video in Winston-Salem, NC at a basketball court near a park. A couple of my friends have been shooting for a couple of years, so I decided to bring them along for the shoot. I needed the proper assistance. This was the first time that I needed to assemble a team. I just decided to get a couple of my friends that were super talented to help me out instead of just hiring random people that I didn’t know.

Can you tell us about the energy on the set?

The energy on the set was insane. It was something like I had never even felt before. Tia had posted a flyer a couple of days before the video shoot telling everyone from Winston-Salem to come out. And when I tell you the CITY came out for TIA, I mean the city CAME OUT. It was insane. We had Jabbawockeez. If you look at the video, it’s really diverse. You’ll see every type of black person that you can think of. You got some nerds. You got some alternative people. You got the hood people. It’s like everybody in North Carolina combined into one for the video.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would just tell him to keep going and stay focused. Don’t worry about what anybody else has to say because your path is going to be way different than anybody else’s. Just keep doing you and stay focused.

What do you want to accomplish by the age of 30?

I just want to make a good impact on the world. I want to pay stuff forward. So many have done things for me, so I just want to give back as much as possible.

Tia had posted a flyer a couple of days before the video shoot telling everyone from Winston-Salem to come out. And when I tell you the CITY came out for TIA, I mean the city CAME OUT. It was insane.