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JayJay Thakar has been transforming the local underground music scene ever since he created the video production company Moshpxt in 2017. He’s directed, edited, and shot more than 100 music videos for hip-hop artists throughout the DMV and other metro areas. But here, his distinct visuals paired with creative storylines have made him a favorite videographer among local creatives such as Shy Glizzy, Gleesh, Baby Fifty, Q Da Fool, and Big Flock.
Thakar’s unpredictable style contributes to his growing popularity. Every video contains new visual elements, including 3D animations, comic book layouts, intense green screens, or digital Lego characters. They also have intricate plotlines that span multiple videos, and can be as comical as they are genius.
I spoke with Thakar, a Silver Spring native, at his friend’s apartment in Koreatown, while we were both visiting Los Angeles in October.
The laid-back videographer greeted me at the door wearing a shirt with “MOSH’’ across the chest, a Ralph Lauren jacket, and a glistening yellow B.B. Simon belt. He brought me to a two-monitor setup, where he was in the middle of editing a music video he shot a couple days prior for the artist CLIP while he was in New York. Thakar flew from the East Coast city to L.A. for another project with rappers Yeat and DMV native Yung Kayo. Despite being on the West Coast, we quickly returned to Thakar’s roots. He grew up in the Maryland suburbs just outside D.C., and says he felt removed from city life. “The further you go from any city, to be honest, the influence of the culture from that city just fades away,” says Thakar.
“I lived deeper in Silver Spring, not on the border, but still like 20 minutes from D.C.,” Thakar adds. “Where I’m specifically from, there was no public transportation. We were close to D.C., so we got a lot of influence from there, but I didn’t have direct access into the city because it’s hard to get to certain places on the Metro as a kid.”
Although he wasn’t able to explore the city, young Thakar was still an active traveler. “In third grade, I went to India,” he says, noting his Indian American roots. “I also went to Europe, Canada, and other parts of Asia. It made me feel like I was always on the move. Even now, I always feel like I have to be outside traveling and doing something. I don’t feel comfortable being in one place.”
Despite seeing different parts of the world, Thakar was a sheltered child. He had limited exposure to American music, cinema, and the general culture. “Before high school, I was one of those kids whose parents always tried to look out for their best interest,” he says. “I’m the oldest kid, I have two younger siblings, so I had to be a role model, but I didn’t like having that type of pressure on me.”
After he graduated from high school, Thakar began experimenting with vlogging car videos. “I was really into JDM [Japanese domestic market] culture back in the day, and I still am,” he says. “[It’s] definitely a time period in my life that I draw a lot of inspiration from to this day.”
When Thakar decided to start shooting music videos, he asked his friend KashnDoja for connections. “He told me he knew this rapper named WifiGawd that needed some music videos, and he tapped me in on Twitter,” Thakar says. “Mind you, I never did a music video.”
Thakar shot the video with a friend’s camera that he didn’t know how to use. “[The footage] was all blue, I didn’t know about white balance … I tried to edit it, but I didn’t know how to edit like that,” he says. So he went online to learn editing techniques, and continued making more music videos. “I learned a lot more about music, culture, and everything happening in the city and the world,” he adds. “Making videos became an outlet for me.”
Thakar found a passion in music videos during a time when he was struggling to find a purpose. In college, he couldn’t decide on a degree and found himself working numerous odd jobs. None of them worked out, he says, but music videos connected him to the community.
“One day I quit my job and stopped going to school and decided to go all in with making music videos,” he says.
Afterward, Thakar elevated his work ethic. But what stood out to his contemporaries was his genuine personality. Hailing from uptown D.C., rapper The Khan was one of Thakar’s first collaborators. “I met JayJay in the summer of 2017,” the rapper tells City Paper over the phone. “I had a song with WifiGawd and he shot the music video for us.” The two continued collaborating—forming a friendship. “[JayJay] became a close friend of mine. I’d have him come to L.A. and New York with me to meet different artists. I saw how culturally important his position could be among artists. So I pushed for that.”
Another artist who locked in with Thakar at the beginning of his career was Rockville rapper Lil Xelly. Thakar liked Xelly’s song “OK” so much that he reached out to shoot a video for it. It became the very first music video posted on the Moshpxt YouTube page. “At the time nobody was paying me for videos, and he was the first person to pay me,” Thakar says of Xelly. “We started flooding endless videos and it became a really good relationship because we were both hungry and trying to prove something.”
In the winter of 2018, Xelly says the pair shot a new video every week, making close to 50 music videos together (many remain unreleased). Asked about his collaborations with Thakar, Xelly notes, “[JayJay] was very hardworking. He was with whatever I was trying to do.”
Their collaborations played an important role in Thakar’s development as a videographer. “[Xelly] gave me the space to be creative,” Thakar says. “He never put a cap on what type of video he wanted, he always said ‘Bro, just do you.’”
Thakar taught himself videography that year. Today he’s often the only person who produces a Moshpxt video from shooting through editing. Although he remains fairly independent in his creative process, Thakar is open to collaborations. “Especially with the right people,” he says. “I’ve even tried to teach people to do stuff.” One person who benefited from working with Thakar is Montgomery County videographer KarlwithaK.
“I’ve been making music videos on my own for a year now. But I interned for JayJay for like two years,” KarlwithaK explains. “I just DM’d him one day when I was trying to find mentors. JayJay responded, we linked up, and we got along well.” The two worked on roughly 50 projects together during KarlwithaK’s internship.
“He’s very clear on what needs to be done,” KarlwithaK says. “It’s pretty fluid, even if something goes wrong, he always has the mentality that he can fix everything because he does.”
In the past year, Thakar has pushed the boundaries of his creativity and expanded his reach beyond the D.C. region. He kicked off 2021 by collaborating with Atlanta-based rapper Slimesito and local superproducer Dolan Beatz on their joint mixtape, Out On Bond, directing a four-video series that was released alongside the project.
Thakar met Slimesito in 2019, and the two have continued to work together on and off. Eventually, Slimesito asked him to shoot a music video for the first single off Out On Bond, which received great feedback. It led Thakar to do a video series for the mixtape. “I worked all week long, me and my homie Wavy Dave, we just sat together and went back and forth with so many ideas,” Thakar says. “Then I went back to Sito, and I was like, ‘Let’s continue the story.’”
All four videos were released through WorldStarHipHop. “I wanted each video to be a visual representation of the song, and I wanted it to really hit. I wanted them all to connect and build a story. It’s really hard, but I feel like it worked,” says Thakar, who plans on merging them into one and releasing it as a video.
Dolan Beatz acknowledges Thakar’s presence: “He knew how to take control of the room. He’d be in there saying, ‘You do this, and you do this,’ but in a way that brought the best out of everybody.” He credits Thakar for always getting his vision across: “The finished product came out like movies. He exceeded all my expectations.”
But as the Moshpxt name grows, Thakar has decided to separate himself from the brand. Going by Moshpxt professionally overtook his personal identity too.
“I originally started making videos to escape a lot of problems I was going through in life,” he explains. But he became so invested in the brand’s success that it consumed his personal life. “I was just working 24/7. All the old things I used to care about took a back seat. It was strictly Moshpxt stuff. That’s why I got two phones now. One for my personal life, and one for my work life. It gives me the mental space to deal with both,” he says.
With a new outlook on his relationship to the brand, Thakar went on a cross-country music video tour this summer. Filming took him from D.C. to Atlanta, New York to L.A., and back again. He also visited South Florida to road-trip with Mavi, who was on tour with Babyface Ray and Jack Harlow. Looking back on the past few months, Thakar notes: “I shot over 20 music videos this summer with different artists in every city I went to. That’s not even all the videos I shot this year either, that’s just a section of the year.”
Thakar’s videos often have underlying themes that suggest they’re linked to one another in their own Moshpxt universe. But that universe, Thakar says, feels like a phase.
“I be going through different phases,” he says. “Every artist is different, and every artist has their own signature things that just hit to me. So I want to bring certain elements out of those, and exaggerate it, and make it encompass [that artist’s] entire world.” Today, he wants to focus on what makes an artist stand out, and capture that energy in his videos.
Between nonstop travel and days worth of footage to edit at all times, the work fuels him. The next thing he plans to release is Moshpxt TV: a 24-hour live streaming app for his videos. “You can play it in your background while on your phone, you can use it as an app, you can even go on Instagram and have the videos playing in the top corner of the screen,” he says of the yet-to-be-released outlet.
In the span of four years, Thakar has taken his videography skills to an elite level. But, what sets him apart isn’t just his clean editing, immersive visuals, or the talented roster of people he’s shot, it’s the fact that he genuinely cares about the people he’s working with, and the community that watches his videos.
Thakar’s videos can be accessed through his Moshpxt YouTube Channel.