Videohead: Tamra Davis’s Inspired Career

Davis discusses directing Sonic Youth, Eazy-E, Hanson, Lou Reed, CB4, and Britney’s ‘Crossroads’

Fresh out of art school in the early '80s, Tamra Davis turned her video camera on her friends and ended up one of the most influential music video directors of all time. Her early work with Tone Loc, Young MC, MC Lyte, and Eazy-E set the standard for low-budget rap videos. She also did groundbreaking work for bands like Sonic Youth, The Lemonheads, and Hanson ("MMMBop" and "Where's the Love"), and she was the first person to put a camera in Spike Jonze's hand (in Sonic Youth's "100%").

In addition to her music video work, Tamra Davis is the director you call when a comedian is about to break out. She directed Chris Rock in CB4, Adam Sandler in Billy Madison, and Dave Chappelle in Half Baked. She also directed Britney Spears's movie Crossroads.

Tamra now works as a TV director and recently directed the documentary Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child. She invited Videohead to her home in Malibu, where we discussed her career and her time working with Cher, Lou Reed, New Kids on the Block, and Bette Midler.

And here's a follow-along playlist of songs that Davis directed videos for: