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Crunk Candy

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"Rachel's really cool," observes one Miami-based camera operator who reels off video credits like the "Twelve Days of Christmas" -- "three P. Diddys, four Master P's, two Benzinos, Trick Daddy, Cash Money Millionaires, endless, endless. You wouldn't even be able to come close to affording this crew on [Lil Jon's] budget."

New York-based assistant director Melina Matsoukas agrees. "A lot of people here cut their rates just to do her a favor."

Or this separate, unsolicited testimonial from location scout Allem Moreno, who has secured more than 20 South Florida sites for videos produced by Watanabe-Batton, including the ultra-exclusive Biltmore Hotel and Bal Harbour Shops for Trick Daddy shoots: "I try to work extra hard to get her something extra cool."

The "Play No Games" location is unusual for Miami. No glamour, no glitz, and not a wave in sight.

"No mansions," explains Lil Jon. "We ain't about that boogie shit. We about being regular. In a normal video, you're VIP. You're on the guest list. In [the video for] 'I Don't Give a...,' we get dissed. We aren't on the guest list. We rush the VIP. The average person can't get into the VIP. Fuck that."

"It's real," location scout Moreno says of Lil Jon's choice. "Sometimes in rap, they're so conscious of what people are going to think. They want bling-bling."

Then he looks at a young woman with her privates barely covered by two strips of cloth. "Now if only we could not have all these girls in bikinis," he sighs, as if she can't hear him.

Insulted, the bikini girl gets up and walks away.

Another undressed hoochie makes her way toward the street.

"We need some clothes on you, honey," Moreno calls out. "Go put on a robe or maybe wrap yourself in that flag," he tells her, gesturing to an enormous U.S. flag hanging from the roof. "We can't have you walking around the streets." He shrugs. "It's not that I don't want to see it. It's just this is a neighborhood, not an MGM lot."

"I'm getting tired of rap videos," Moreno adds. He has just returned from his other job as a road manager for cerebral Latin pop group Bacilos. "When I work with a group like Bacilos, I think, 'Why can't they have this kind of budget?'" He shakes his head at the parade of hoochies. "That's what the money goes for."

Trick Daddy is not at all tired of girls in bikinis. He is, however, tired of being on the set all day.

"Hey, Rachel," he yells, "I'm leaving in five minutes."

Engrossed in the task at hand, Watanabe-Batton ignores Trick's tantrum. When he gets no response, the rapper slumps into the director's chair, muttering, "Nobody better call me 'bout no fuckin' thing. No radio show. No TV show. No nothin'." Then he lifts his head and yells into the room at Rachel again: "Somebody say something!"

Finished with the setup, Watanabe-Batton walks calmly to his side.

"I'm not going to talk to you if you're gonna holler at me," she tells him quietly.

"No," sulks Trick, "I'm saying I shouldn't have to holler at you."

She talks to him softly.

He nods his head.

"Whatever you want," he blusters. "But I'm leaving in five minutes."

Lil Jon, who has been standing off to the side, walks over and puts his arm around Trick's shoulders.

When Trick gets up for a tight shot, he delivers his lovelorn rap like he's taking a hit out on somebody, scowling and swiping at the air. When the take is through, he storms out of the house. Jon puts his arm around Rachel as the two watch Trick's furious playback.

"He's done so many videos, it's frustrating when he knows it can move faster," Lil Jon explains as he eats his fast food. "I give him respect because he stayed in here and gave what we needed."

He can't help but be worried, though.

"Was it sexy?" Jon asks the producer about the playback of Trick's scene, which he missed while giving the interview.

"Was it 60?" producer Kareem Johnson asks back.

"I said 'sexy,'" Lil Jon corrects him.

Johnson cracks up and nudges the director of photography beside him. "I thought he said '60,' like he knew what time it was."

Not wanting to be shown up as codirector, Lil Jon insists, "I did."

"He's frontin'," Johnson says to the DP, still laughing.

When Jon protests, Johnson tests him: "60 what?"

"Frames, motherfucker, frames," scowls Jon, ignoring the snickers. "Can I see the playback now?"

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Celeste Fraser Delgado