To know Albert “Prodigy” Johnson was to both love and respect him, constantly keeping in mind that every day of his life was lived in pain. Having the SS Type of sickle cell anemia, Prodigy was in and out of the hospital, as the worst strain of the blood disorder would often debilitate him for days on end—sometimes weeks. A true artist, P would channel his painful rage into his music; his classic “You Can Never Feel My Pain” [off H.N.I.C.] is a testament to his unfortunate reality. However, when he joined forces with director Dan “The Man” Melamid, his pain took on a whole new form of art.

Having worked together on a few projects in the past, the pair struck gold between 2007-2008 with three pivotal videos: “Mac 10 Handle,” “ABC,” and “Real Power is People.” The duo visually channeled P’s pain into reality-based horror, even bringing to life his infamous “Keep It Thoro” punchline, “I throw a TV at you, crazy.” From P’s dramatic concepts to Dan’s camera tricks working off a very-limited budget, the two set the standard for horror-based cinematography in today’s hip hop music videos.

Admittedly, it wasn’t the first time that horror found its way into hip hop. Cut to the Gravediggaz and the Flatlinerz for pioneering rap’s ’90s horrorcore movement, as well as later artists like Necro and his Psycho+Logical-Records and Vinnie Paz for bringing their influential gore elements. However, the aforementioned—while geniuses in their own rights—made the horror overt. It was horror for the sake of horror (and still is). It was Friday the 13th while P’s was Helter Skelter: two fundamentally different ways to frighten you. The former is terrifying absurdity; the latter is real-life terror that can and has happened. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that P’s reality was scary. Death was a cloud that constantly hung over him. His art was bound to reflect that in all of its dramatic scariness, violence and manifestations of horror.

Just in time for Halloween, I sat down with Dan “The Man” to talk about our old friend Prodigy, how the two made their magic in visual form, and the inspiration their work offered to today’s legion of rappers. Dan also divulges about a horror film that he and Prodigy had in the works before he passed away.

Talk to me about “Mac 10 Handle.”
The funny story about “Mac 10 Handle” is my longtime gaffer Al Roberts actually put money into that video because he really felt strongly about the narrative and wanted to have a showcase piece for his work. When we came up with the concept it was a month prior, and it’s funny that you’re talking to me about this now, because the video was shot on Halloween.

No way!
Yeah, the reason that the video was the way that it was, was because it was done on Halloween. We went to this party called the Third Ward Party, which was a really infamous hipster Halloween party. It was out of control in kind of like an illegal space. So when you see Prodigy kind of walking around this crazy environment with people in masks, this was the Third Ward Party. We reached out to them like, “Hey, we’re coming to shoot!” They were like, “No problem.” A lot of the other ethos around it—the lyrics and whatnot—lent itself so perfectly to Halloween. All of the Halloween stores were open, we bought buckets of fake blood, we bought a couch [laughs]. It’s an incredibly visual song, and we kind of just did what P said. We tried to recapture that magic time and time again after that. It never really happened, and the reason is because that song is freakin’ incredible. It’s especially incredible when married to visuals; it’s a song that needs a visual in order to be fulfilled. That’s what really makes the whole thing really special. P’s whole style on that album was based on horror, but it really was birthed on Halloween. I mean Gravediggaz and that whole horrorcore genre was way before this and they didn’t have that opportunity to create videos like that.

I call what you made “reality horror” which is very different from what horrorcore was trying to accomplish.
I agree. A lot of what we did was fantasizing about trying to kill. Those fantasies led to very great, cinematic visuals.

But “Mac 10 Handle” definitely set that reality horror tone, even into the modern day.
I was with [A$AP] Yams and Ferg once, and Yams pulled me into the hallway and said, “Dude, me and Rocky studied that video religiously. We really went crazy studying that video.” He really pulled me to the side to specifically tell me that. He said it was a really huge influence on them.