How Cole Bennett Built His Own World on ‘All Is Yellow’

Cole Bennett might be the most connected guy in the hip-hop industry – and probably the only guy to get Kid Cudi and Lil Durk on a song and music video together in matching three-piece suits. The man behind Lyrical Lemonade even gathered 34 artists for the multimedia collective’s long-awaited debut album, All Is Yellow

From OG Lyrical Lemonade homies like Lil Tecca, Lil Skies and Ski Mask The Slump God to some of Bennett’s most revered “musical pioneers” – Lil B, Cudi and Juicy J – All Is Yellow is an immersive audiovisual experience, one that makes stops at genres beyond Lyrical Lemonade’s standard scope and pairs musicians whom you’d never find on a track together anywhere else.

After a year of coordinating worldwide shoots (bringing Jack Harlow to London to shoot with Dave) filled with lots of late nights spent coloring clips (cutting it close to the next morning’s shoot) and curtain maneuvering in the most strenuous of climates (one of those being a literal flood), the project is finally here. Bennett and his three lieutenants  – head of production Krista Worby, art director Cody Fusina, and photography director Franklin Ricart – talked with Hypebeast about how the small Lyrical Lemonade team brought a world of this caliber to life.

What has it been like seeing the yellow tie become your visual trademark?

Cole Bennett: It took some time for our audience to fully realize what it meant. After the first few videos, people started noticing “Oh, wait, Dave’s outfit here is the same one from the Cudi and Durk video,’” or “Tracy and Kray copied Cordae and Juice [WRLD].” It was fun to watch people start to catch on, and then to get to a point where we post a photo with no caption, no context that has a yellow tie or yellow curtain and everyone would automatically know what it was. The whole process was really gratifying because it let me know that we’ve stayed true to this vision and theme and our audience understands what it means. What’s understood doesn’t always need to be said.

You’ve frequently discussed how the yellow curtain symbolizes continuity across all 14 of All Is Yellow’s videos. How did you land on the curtain?

Cole: The curtain stemmed from my short film whyrush?, which was a note to self and everyone here. I knew I wanted to include a backdrop. I knew I wanted it to have elements of a music video with beautiful framing and consistent coloring. Cody was the one who brought me this latex green curtain. I fell in love with it immediately. When the album came around, I was trying to think of a way we could have a moving set so we could create a cohesive theme across all videos regardless of where we were shooting it. So I called Cody and asked, “Do you think we could get that same curtain in yellow?” 

Cody Fusina: When we started working with the curtain during whyrush? we were all just drawn to the uniqueness of the fabric. What we were trying to do with the curtain, was something that hadn’t been done before. We wanted to create a liminal space that the viewer could interpret however they wanted.

Cole: I want you guys to go on a quick rant about how difficult the curtain has been. We happened to pick the most difficult curtain to work with. It smells bad. It’s hard to light. It has the most difficult folds and creases… but everyone has found their own unique relationship with it.

Cody: The curtain is one of a kind for sure. We went back and forth through different colors, thicknesses and sheens. Cole went through every little detail you could think of with a microscope and ensured it was perfect. 

Krista Worby: We shipped the curtain across the country to shoot videos in New York, Atlanta and Florida. We had to overnight it places. We had to buy a big suitcase to get it to London … It also weighs 100 pounds. It looks great but I’m excited to retire the curtain.

Cole: We’re just bringing back another colorway next time. You’re never getting away from the curtain. 

Krista: We bought so many curtains for the album – it’s not just one. We’d cut it for one video and then need a bigger curtain for the next one. It’s rolls and rolls of this fabric in a storage unit. Or in the back of my car. 

Franklin Ricart: I’ve got some rolls in my mom’s house in Jersey. 

Cody: I go through my laundry and still find little fabric swatches in my back pockets.

Cole: I actually have my first swatch ever nailed on my wall right here. Cody would come over every day and we’d go through different swatches until we landed on a certain thickness and color. 

Franklin: I fell in love with this constant challenge of trying to make this curtain look different but still represent the same thing. We had to learn how to shoot it in different environments – with a full studio lighting setup, with no lighting at all, in harsh sunlight, on a cloudy day – and we had to learn how the curtain reacts to every type of color temperature. There was also the challenge of how we could use it in different ways. With Yachty’s verse of “Say Ya Grace,” I actually grabbed a piece of the curtain and made it into a tube, and we shot through the inside of it like a probe lens. Every shoot is Cole, Cody and myself trying to figure out what else we can do.

Cole: I think it’s challenged us all to find ways to keep the curtain exciting and to continue being creative. We don’t just want to set the artist in front of it and shoot them every time. We’ve shot almost every perspective and lit the curtain in almost every way you can imagine. It’s been a challenge but I think it’s pushed us all to become better as creatives and friends.

Were there any key visual inspirations for this album?

Cole: Aside from “Fly Away,” which was inspired by a specific movie scene, this album is a new chapter. By that, I mean it’s a chapter of taking on new things and Lyrical Lemonade coming together and growing closer. As I spoke about, the curtain and its identity stemmed from whyrush? and I carried many themes from the film into the album. For example, the ladder chair that Teezo sits on in whyrush? is the same chair Ski Mask sits on in “Fly Away.” 

You’ve got a lot of old collaborators on this album – Lil Skies, Ski Mask The Slump God, Lil Tecca – what was it like linking back up with them?

Cole: There was a list of people I wanted to include on the album, but if we didn’t end up landing on a song that fit for the artist, I was okay with leaving them off. Lil Skies, Ski [Mask the Slump God], [Lil]Tecca and [The Kid] LAROI were all people I wanted on there. I also wanted [Famous] Dex on there A lot of the songs took multiple takes. Skies’ verse on “This My Life” is a 16 [bar verse], but I had him lay down two 32s – a ton of music – just to land at a 16 I felt comfortable with. But I knew if he and I were gonna share this moment together, it needed to make sense. It wasn’t just “Oh, let’s turn in a verse and put it out.” We had to pay attention to detail for it to feel like an authentic reunion. 

This idea of unity in rap music and bringing all 30 of these talented artists together is what this album is about. The wardrobe and the suits act as the formal approach to this. Growing up, it was my favorite thing to see artists from different worlds come together, or artists who hadn’t been seen together in a long time reunite. I want Lyrical Lemonade to be that glue that connects these artists, and to act as this umbrella where everyone can gather underneath and be warm.

This is a loaded question, but could you briefly run me through the production process – you make a beat, and then what?

Cole: It is a loaded question and it’s different for every song. I wanted to make sure every song had its own feeling. I probably won’t do another album; this process was just something I wanted to try out once, so I wanted to make sure I got out as much as possible when it came to my imagination. I wanted to break the rules. I’ve had my hand in a lot of songs that I’ve done videos for in the past, but I’m coming in like “What if we did this here, and flipped this here,” and my team would be like “Well, Cole we’re technically breaking structure there,” but we just tried everything out. Looking back on it, sure there are moments I would have structured differently, but everything was intentional. Nothing was an accident. 

Does the song or video come first?

Cole: A few songs on the album were made with the video in mind. Before the beat was built out to “Fly Away,” I knew what I wanted the video to look like. I knew I wanted a gradual build-up. I knew I wanted Sheck Wes sprinting through the desert as he exited the big curtain tent. I knew exactly what I wanted it to be before the song went into any production. “First Night” is another example – all I could think about was the music video as we were putting the pieces of this song together. For “Fallout” I was like “Gus [Dapperton] needs to be laying in blood here, and then when the beat drops he needs to pop up and it’s going to start pouring,” and then I bring these crazy ideas to Cody, Krista and Franklin. 

Any other on-set stories?

Cole: “Equilibrium” was finished 10 minutes before we started shooting the video. Last minute, I realized I wanted G Herbo and BabyTron to lay extra vocals and go back and forth on the chorus, so we literally set up a studio on set and had them doing vocals right before the video. We mixed and bounced that and then played it while shooting.

You pulled artists from all across the industry and all across the world for this album. What were the biggest challenges with such a small team at Lyrical Lemonade?

Krista: Pulling together so many artists who are not on the label was very much an independent ask, so we just had to make things happen. Most of the videos have the artists together, but Cole had to figure out how to creatively shoot so many of these in little bits and pieces. 

Franklin: Going back to the “Equilibrium” video, we were supposed to be on-site at 8 a.m. shooting Herbo at 11 a.m., but he missed his flight, so we had to plan for an entirely different time of day. It ended up working perfectly and I can’t even imagine the video looking as good as it does now if it didn’t happen at that exact time. I remember another night, Cole and I were coloring “Fallout” until three in the morning and we had J.I.D. coming for “Fly Away” the next day. We’re perfecting the color, looking at it under a microscope and rendering it to get uploaded. By four in the morning, Cole is working on finalizing the treatment we’re shooting at 10 in the morning and I’m pulling lighting references for how to make the studio look like the desert in the middle of the night. At the same time, we’re pulling even more references for the “With The Fish” video we have to shoot two days later in Miami.

Cole: I think trust was a huge part of this album – trust between us at Lyrical Lemonade and between these artists I’ve been able to build relationships with. J.I.D. flew out to Los Angeles without us having the final creative treatment for his shoot. Him just trusting that when he shows up we’re going to have something he’s into is really special and not a common thing in this industry. 

Favorite collaboration on the album?

Cole: I wasn’t prepared for this question. It always changes. I will say probably right now, “First Night.” It’s a song that’s all over the place. It’s an experiment. I just love how ambitious and otherworldly of a song it is. It’s something I don’t think would have existed outside of this album – and that goes for many songs on here. 

Krista: And the video is crazy.

Cole: Seeing Teezo and Lil B meet was just a beautiful moment. There are so many artists who play such a huge role in the music we listen to today that are on here: Lil B, Black Kray, Juicy J, Kid Cudi. To have Cudi on a Lyrical Lemonade album doesn’t even feel real. That was the first concert I’d ever been to. He really shaped who I am today, and to have him on this album and have him trust me and see him in that yellow tie was crazy. I’m just thankful that all these people got to be together. 

Franklin: I’m literally looking at the tracklist right now. It’d have to be a tie between “Fallout” and “This My Life.” For “Fallout,” Gus, Yachty and Joey Bada$$ are all in three completely different pockets of the industry. Seeing those three artists together was surreal. I don’t know anyone who could’ve pulled them together besides Cole. I think it’s one of those songs that makes people take a step back and realize “Wait, I’m allowed to like this,” even though it’s not a stereotypical Lyrical Lemonade-type rap video or song. Now I’m seeing people in the comments section being first exposed to Gus because of the song. For “This My Life,” it feels like the Lyrical Lemonade freshman class at their graduation. It’s three OG Lyrical Lemonade artists coming back together which was a beautiful thing to witness. 

“I want Lyrical Lemonade to be that glue that connects these artists, and to act as this umbrella where everyone can gather underneath and be warm.”

Cody: It’s like choosing a favorite child. I have to go with “Fallout.” It’s special. 

Krista: “Fallout” is my favorite, too. We filmed it in three different locations in three different months. We started with Gus and then when we went to Atlanta to shoot Yachty, we had to find a location that would sell as the same location, and then we shot Joey in LA. But we knew they all had to coexist in the same world. So I think that’s why we’re all so attached to that video – because we lived with it creatively for so long. It was raining so much and Gus just kept dancing. There was so much rain it blew the lights out. 

Cole: When we shot the Yachty video, the house started to flood from all the rain. There are so many stories. I’ll say one more thing. I’m happy this album allowed me to explore other worlds I haven’t tapped into visually before. Like “Fallout,” I’ve been friends with Gus for four years now and have been wanting to work with him for such a long time. “Hummingbird” is another favorite of mine. UMI’s voice is beautiful and SahBabii’s contribution plus Teezo’s outro – I don’t know if I would’ve been allowed to work on some of this type of music had I not been able to create a world for it to exist in. 

Stream All Is Yellow everywhere now.

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