NEW YORK The rules on the set of AZ's still-untitled short film Sunday night were pretty simple.
If you were one of the thong-wearing girls who walked in stiltlike high heels (talk about professional, one of the ladies even Crip-walked in her boots during downtime), you'd better be backing that thang up and proving to everybody that they ain't ready for your jelly.
If you were one of the gun-toting guys participating in the film's climactic shootout, no aiming at anybody's head and no fooling around.
"There is no reason why any gun should be pointed at anybody," the project's choreographer told the actors as they listened intently at the Carousel, a lower Manhattan strip club. Nobody wanted a replay of the tragic movie-set death of Brandon Lee, who was shot during a stunt in 1993.
"You should assume all guns are loaded," the choreographer continued, standing next to a pole the exotic dancers use to encourage dollar throwing.
Of course the guns which ranged from 9 mm Glocks to Uzis were only loaded with blanks, but a misfire at close enough range could still be deadly.
Anybody within earshot of the film's co-director, Motown CEO Kedar Massenburg, could hear his equally lethal words. This may be AZ's starring vehicle, but it's Massenburg's baby. It was his idea to have Justin "DJ Jus" Spaulding (the smart-mouthed kid in Alicia Keys' "A Woman's Worth" and "How Come You Don't Call Me") playing the Ethan Hawke to AZ's Denzel Washington and taking off of "Training Day."
The story, like the movie, is pretty complex. Spaulding wants to make it in the music industry as a rapper. AZ is his trainer, driving around in a 1971 Monte Carlo, rapping to his song "I'm Back" (the first single from Aziatic, due June 11) and showing him the ropes in less than 24 hours. The day of cruising ends up at the Carousel.
When AZ and his partner walk into the club, two undercover cops suddenly roll up on them. Both parties draw firearms and scare the stuffing out of the dancers and patrons.
The crew had gone through at least five takes in which somebody pulled out too fast or a gun got stuck in somebody's jeans or somebody laughed before AZ finally let out an enthusiastic "Yeah!" thinking they had gotten it right.
"That's not it," Massenburg screamed, bursting everyone's bubble. "That's not the shot."
A few do-overs later, everybody was happy except for a couple of strippers engaged in a cat fight.
The video for "I'm Back" is slated to drop in a couple of weeks, according to AZ's spokesperson. The short film will be released in July.
Besides Aziatic, the man who used to refer to himself as the Visualizer is getting ready to team with Nas. The two plan to record a duet album later this year.