Mr. Serv-On, Big Punisher Kick It At Video Shoot

Clip for rap single shows hip-hoppers relaxing at club; behind scenes, it's all business.

NEW YORK -- Before cameras rolled inside the Tunnel, a Manhattan nightclub, Thursday, rapper Mr. Serv-On sat in his trailer, dressed in jeans and a personalized Tar Heels-blue basketball jersey.

He was in waiting mode: anticipating his cue to star in the video for his new single, "New York to New Orleans," off his upcoming album Da Next Level.

Inside the club, his co-star, Puerto Rican-American hip-hop artist Big Punisher, sat and sipped from a bottle of beer, which looked more like a bottle of cold medicine in proportion to his massive, rotund figure.

Around them, the production crew from No Limit Films, a venture begun by rap impresario and No Limit label head Master P last year, readied the sound and camera equipment.

The club's back room -- a multicolored, lava lamp-filled, fur-laden, hot tub-featuring affair -- had what video producer Taj Lewis described as "an Austin Powers 1970s feel, baby." But it also was arrayed with the paraphernalia of video production: grips, trucks, dollies, wires, cameras and microphones.

Early in the afternoon, it was hard to imagine this as a scene in a video on the virtues of club life. This was hard work, a logistical challenge and a waiting game for the stars and about 75 extras.

Overall, though, Mr. Serv-On (born Corey Smith) said the exhausting process of making a video is worth it, especially the one he endured Thursday.

"This is a business," said Mr. Serv-On, who is at work on his second album. "But you can make it at times pleasurable. And it was a pleasure for me -- it was an honor to do the song with [Big Pun]. I'm glad I did it."

The song is the men's ode to their hometowns -- Serv-On hails from New Orleans originally -- and to night life. The video, bolstered by the club's expansive atmosphere, shows them hanging out in Big Pun's domain, all the while surrounded by attractive women.

"New York to New Orleans" is featured on Serv-On's upcoming album, Da Next Level, which is scheduled for a Feb. 16 release.

Big Pun (born Christopher Rios) said representatives of Serv-On's label, No Limit Records, contacted him about doing the song. He said he was more than happy to contribute.

"We wanted to show our similarities, you know what I mean?" Pun said.

Serv-On said the track means a lot to him as well. "Basically, it was important in the sense that I like [Big Pun]. I wanted to do a song with him," he said. "I was already [established]. He's established now. Why not make a connection like that?"

Big Pun achieved success in 1997 with his single "Still Not a Player" (RealAudio excerpt), his laid-back salute to sexual intercourse.

For the 50 No Limit crew members, making the connection meant a 3,000-mile journey from Los Angeles and three days in the often unfriendly terrain of New York. But Lewis said the crew is used to a grueling schedule -- it has overseen production of two films, 30 commercials and at least 15 music videos since August.

Lewis had no complaints. "I love to work. I love to keep busy. A video a week is nothing," he said.

The production had its lighter moments, though. The crew and the extras enjoyed a Cuban-style meal on cafeteria-style benches set up along the club's dance floor. Serv-On wore a matching banana-yellow leather outfit, to the amusement and astonishment of the shoot's bystanders.

And most everyone in the building grooved to the playback of the song, which features a heavy drum backdrop and an early 1980s-style keyboard loop.

"The song is dope," an approving Big Pun said. He then took a swig of beer and waited patiently for his call to the "set."