Eif Rivera is the walking definition of the rookie and the vet. Despite only getting into the video directing field in 2011, the self-taught Bronx native has worked hard to gain the respect of his hip-hop peers. It took years of perseverance—and an undying love for the craft—to reach the status of being able to rub shoulders with the likes of 50 Cent, Puffy Daddy and Nicki Minaj, to name a few. “I just get along with everyone,” Rivera says. “It’s really about sitting down with the artist and picking their brain. I grew up with hip-hop. I grew up around the shit. I don’t want to give my age away, but I’ve been there since day one.”

Rivera’s humble attitude comes from the many opportunities that have allowed him to build his brand. During his early days, Rivera’s first moves were linking with Fat Joe and Terror Squad for album artwork, working for Loud Records to create the Air Pun logo, and collaborating with Def Jam for Young Jeezy’s Snowman campaign. All of these were necessary stepping stones for him to get the industry noticing his work, which led to big-name collaborations that have strengthened his resume.

Still, Rivera doesn’t want his success to stop him from paying homage to the directors that paved the way. “Hype Williams. Jesse Terrero. Early 2000s. Late '90s," he says. "I'm trying to bring the music videos back to that era. I want people to see different shit.” Just recently, viewers were treated to a high-budget clip for Puff Daddy’s “I Want The Love” that was shot “somewhere in the Swiss Alps” and was packed with cinematic scenes. It was evidence that he’s quickly becoming one of the go-to visionaries for a dope video.

Last week, XXL got on the phone with Eif Rivera to speak about the creative process behind “I Want The Love,” his start in the video world and some of his favorite rappers to work with. Get to know the details behind hip-hop’s most popular video director.—Eric Diep

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