It’s fair to say that we’ve all, at one point or another, had dreams of becoming a musician. Whether it was the allure of rocking out in front of a crowd, singing a duet with Rihanna, or even rapping while “making it rain,” these fantasies were often born from what we watched in music videos.
For many of us (myself included), the pipe dream of becoming an international superstar went down the drain with the sound of our shower acapella, best sung behind a waterproof curtain.
But, Adam Palmer gets to experience just that. Instead of being in front of camera though, he’s behind it, orchestrating some of the most recognizable music videos in pop culture. Don’t believe me? Call 1-800-HotlineBling.
As a self-proclaimed music junkie, Adam and his team at Popp Rok have worked with everyone from Iggy Azalea to, you guessed it, the 6 God: Drake. Adam’s job sounds relatively simple, make music videos that transcend culture. But the work that goes into making a video like God’s Plan is anything but simple.
So, how does he do it? We met up with pop culture’s head of production, Adam, at Garrisons Barbershop to chat about how he got his start in the industry, what it’s like to work with celebrities, his signature hairstyle, and of course, his impeccable fashion sense.
Tell us a bit about your start and how Popp Rok came to be.
Well, I actually came into the industry 20 years ago, fresh out school. I studied the technical aspects of the job at Mohawk College TV Broadcasting school and went into television in the tape rooms. I then did visual effects, which was a lot of making sure things were lit the way we wanted them to be so that the post production team could edit it properly. That quickly followed with building crews to work with for the various shoots we needed. My role became more managerial and that allowed me to, dare I say it, “mentor” people.
I did some work for my now business partners, Director X and Taj Critchlow, and the three of us hit it off. We thought that together, we could create a company that told the stories that brands and musicians wanted to tell through a medium we all worked on; video. Thus Popp Rok was born.
Why the music industry?
Ever since I can remember music has always been a big a part of my life. Growing up in Hamilton, my parents exposed me to a wide variety of music. We would listen to everything from Led Zeppelin, to Tina Tuner, Neil Young, Blue Rodeo, and the list goes on.
My grandmother actually lived in Toronto and whenever we would visit her I would bring my bike and ride around to all the record stores in the area, picking up different pieces of music to bring home with me. My dad used to joke with me on how many needles I broke on his record player.
When I got into high school I started to become infatuated with hip hop culture. People would definitely pin me as a hip hop nerd and it’s a title I’m proud of. I started DJing different parties on occasion, really just to allow people to hear my mixtapes. In college, I also worked at the Mohawk radio show which allowed me to explore music even more, as my assignments would be to find the latest and greatest tracks to put on air.
But above all, my desire for creative work has been one of the strongest motivating factors to get involved in music. I’ve always been a visual learner so I definitely wanted to experiment with music and film to see how I could push my boundaries and integrate these two areas of art into work.
Who and what are some of the artists and projects you’ve worked on?
We’re definitely most well-known for a lot of Drake’s music videos, including Hotline Bling, God’s Plan, Nice for What, and In My Feelings. Outside of that, we have worked with Miguel on his Sky Walker track, French Montana’s Famous video, Rihanna’s infamous Work video, Alessia Cara’s Not Today video, City and Color and the list goes on.
I’ve also got the opportunity to work on some other interesting pieces for brands like Alexander Wang, Cineplex, Roots, Bud Light, Nike, DAZN, the CFL and many more.
What has been your most memorable project?
One that stands out is Drake and Rihanna’s Work music video, shot at The Real Jerk here in Toronto. It was leading up to the day of the shoot and we had still not gotten final approvals from the city. So, to try and avoid paparazzi and the commotion of the city, we bused the crew and extras to a secret location before transitioning over to the Real Jerk. Most Torontonians know how small the Real Jerk is, and to have the two biggest stars in the world there without anyone knowing, we thought it would have been difficult, but pulled it off! The shoot was 18 hours long and came up on pretty short notice, which were used to, so it was all hands on deck for an exciting challenge.
How would you describe your personal style?
This may sound weird but I think that with music being such an integral part of the culture, and clothing being one way to communicate that culture, my style would be a kind of preppy hip hop. I like mixing classic menswear with something that would seem very new and modern. For example, I love rocking tailored suits with high-tops Adidas.
What originally piqued your interest in style?
I always wanted to wear things that people didn’t have. My parents and I would go shopping in the States for new clothes before the school year, and I would always pick up a baseball hat from an obscure college or football team. And the test was really to see if I could get reactions from classmates to certify that what I was rocking was fresh! If girls laughed at your jokes and liked your outfit you were doing just fine as a young guy.
How has music influenced your style?
When I was growing up, especially in high school, you choose your friend group by what you were interested in. At my school, you were either with the punk rockers, the smokers, the skateboarders, and of course the hip hop kids. Growing up in the ’80s, being a part of the hip hop crew had a huge influence on the way I dressed. I grew up wanting to be a Beastie Boy. They were inventive and innovative, mixing and matching all kinds of different styles – which is something I’ve tried to incorporate into my own style sense.
How do you approach getting dressed every day?
I feel like all good looks start with a fresh pair of shoes and are defined by a great jacket. I also never leave the house without a belt. It’s really just a functional piece not for style but can impart a sense of ‘togetherness’ to your style.
What’s your sartorial pet peeve?
Well, I don’t own a pair of jogging pants and you won’t catch me dead in flip-flops. ‘Casual’ doesn’t necessarily have to be synonymous with lazy.
What do you feel your best wearing?
You can’t go wrong with a crisp white tee and a new pair of kicks. Again, fashion isn’t necessarily synonymous with fancy.
It seems like kicks are your style staple. What are your favorite pairs of sneakers?
They sure are. My wife always teases me that I have too many. I honestly don’t keep any of my shoes in a box or anything like that. I wear them and when I’m done with them I donate them. As for my favourites, that’s tough. The Jordan 1 or 2’s gotta be it, but I love rocking a classic pair of Adidas Stan Smiths for versatility.
Favourite brand or retailer?
Winners! Laugh all you want, you can always get some good pieces there. All the compliments I have gotten on items recently have come from things I got there.
It’s actually from Garrisons. It’s the aftershave by Crown Shaving Company. I get compliments on it non-stop.
What keeps you coming back to Alex from Garrisons Barbershop?
Alex and I vibed from day 1. I came in as a walk-in and he knew exactly what I wanted without me explaining it. As I played around with the length of my hair, Alex always found a way to take my ideas and and translate them for my look. Outside of a great cut, he’s more than my barber, he’s become a good friend. Every two weeks we chat about everything from our personal challenges, to work stuff and often just dumb shit we can have a laugh about. It’s a an occasion I look forward to.