Jamal Shakir is only 24-years-old and already living out his dreams on the daily. A true creative, the South Central Los Angeles native is an author, filmmaker, producer, director all in one, using his keen sense of storytelling while simultaneously highlighting the nitty gritty reality of life in the streets.
From doing music videos with high-profile artists such as Young Thug and T.I. to now releasing his own television series titled “Land of No Pity,” Shakir is ready to showcase his talents for the rest of the world and beyond. Taking place over 8 parts, the show is inspired directly by the “Land of No Pity” novels written by Toni T. Shakir — showcasing both the tragedies and triumphs of families who reside in these impoverished, underprivileged communities. As the son and nephew of the founders of a segment of the Rollin’ 90s, Shakir has endured a tremendous amount of loss, losing family members to incarceration and gun violence.
Currently being shopped to networks, “Land of No Pity” reels in all-star appearances from T.I., Baron Davis, Ving Rhames, CJ McCollum, Trevor Booker, LaRance Dopson & 1500 or Nothin.
Gang culture of South Central Los Angeles is definitely not a topic for the faint of heart, digging deep into the various characters involved from their personalities to their motivations to their fate.
Jamal Shakir discusses his background in production, roots in South Central Los Angeles, his family calling victim to incarceration, shooting music video, what inspired “Land of No Pity,” the takeaway message, a situation that happened during a protest downtown with his uncle that’s LAPD, who he looks up to, and more!
AllHipHop: You’re so young, how did you get your start in all this?
Jamal Shakir: Really, the story is my family’s story. As far as the media production side of things like TV and film, I started off doing music videos in college. Once I started doing the bigger budget music videos, I said “okay, it’s time to take it to a more narrative level.”
AllHipHop: How was it being born and raised in South Central?
Jamal Shakir: My parents were part of the longest ongoing federal death penalty case in US history. I wound up moving to Georgia. I went to middle school, high school, college, everything, then came back.
AllHipHop: How did that impact you as a child?
Jamal Shakir: It definitely impacted me because my father was sentenced to 24 life sentences and my mother was sentenced to 44 years, so I was bouncing around with my grandma. It was definitely a motivating factor, that’s where Land of No Pity is derived from. That family history, being able to tell the story of adolescence, how we came to the decisions we made and what led us on the path.
AllHipHop: How did you end up in this space where you could direct?
Jamal Shakir: It was more so mainly music videos. I started getting on bigger budget music videos with T.I., Young Thug, etc. in college. I was going to college playing football, and one of my friends was a graphic designer for him. They invited him to a music video shoot. I had to take a Fine Arts elective in college, so I took my camera because I was in photography. Everybody said “Oh you shoot music videos too?” I said “Yeah.” I’d never shot one before, but then I wound up getting an internship based off of that. From there, I was able to work hard, get into more music videos. It was smaller tier artists which is who I was working with first in the internship. Once I graduated from that, it was onto the bigger budget music videos.
AllHipHop: How did you get the idea for “Land of No Pity”?
Jamal Shakir: It is based off of my family’s history, it’s something we’ve all been working on in our own sense by just living it. In 2017, we wrote the first novel, which is “Land of No Pity 1.” We released “Land of No Pity 2” May 31st of this year. It’s our family story, so that’s where it all originated from.
AllHipHop: How impactful is that title?
Jamal Shakir: The title is very impactful. A lot of people in South Central know or coined the term “Land of No Pity,” even before now. Because the story itself instead of following main characters or multiple characters that we’d consider main characters, but the main theme is the setting. South Central, Los Angeles is the actual Land of No Pity. It’s basically this story that gives insight into children and adolescents, why they make the decisions in the paths they wind up going down. Whether it be doctor, lawyer, prison, whatever the case may be, the settings and environments that you come from have a large part to do with that.
AllHipHop: What do you want people to take away from your films?
Jamal Shakir: I want people to take away the redemptive aspect of it. Though my family did come from these circumstances, there’s a silver lining in it all. Eventually, the “Land of No Pity” story leads into my story of being able to have a brick and mortar business, and have a publishing company while also doing TV and film. The silver lining of it all is being able to create more opportunities for people in these situations, the things we’d like to be able to hand out to the rest of the world.
AllHipHop: What’s your favorite part in “Land of No Pity”? I know there’s 8 of them.
Jamal Shakir: What we’re doing now, we’re actually shopping it. I shot a 20-minute test pilot, 20 minutes of the first episode, so now I’m shopping it to networks to get it funded. I attached two Emmy-award winning EPs, Milan Cheylov and Markuann Smith from “Godfather of Harlem,” they’re trying to help me gear it up. That’d be the funnest part of it: going into meetings with execs and trying to drive it home. We slowed down due to COVID, a lot of stuff hasn’t been opened. But being able to get the eyes and the credits of Emmy-award winning EPs is pretty dope.
AllHipHop: How was the premiere in Los Angeles?
Jamal Shakir: We had the LA premiere on October 5th of 2019, it wound up being super dope. But the thing is, we’re not able to fully show what we shot because it is currently being shopped. As long as it’s being shopped: the less eyes that have been on it, the better. We have trailers on YouTube but as far as the 20 minute-test pilot, that was a secure link.
AllHipHop: How did it feel getting T.I., Baron Davis, all these people in your project?
Jamal Shakir: That part of it is dope. Being able to bring big names, LA stars and culture to the film to give me more validation is amazing to say the least. We have people like Baron Davis, Trevor Booker who is another ex-NBA player, CJ McCollum who plays for the Trailblazers right now. T.I. of course, he’s one of the first ones on board, then the two Emmy-award winning EPs and directors. We have a good amount of people that’s known in the industry, have done work and are helpful players that are attached. We’re waiting on the right opportunity right now. Like I said, it’s been hard to get into a ton of meetings because of COVID. Now, we’re looking to drive it home once we get those opportunities.
AllHipHop: What’re you most excited for next?
Jamal Shakir: Definitely trying to get into the Director’s Guild of America. I’m working on another feature film, which is based on slavery in the late 1800’s. I shot a trailer for that as well, it’s called “Lynched By Treason” and it can be seen on my Instagram @TheJamalShakir. I’m finishing up the full feature script for that. Hopefully within the next few months or so, I can start pre-production on that.That will be a full-independent budgeted film so I wouldn’t need funding or have to go to any of the majors or anything. I’d fund that one completely, and go a complete independent route.
AllHipHop: Who do you look up to in this space?
Jamal Shakir: Cary Fukunaga is extremely dope. He did “Beasts of No Nations” and “James Bond.” I like his versatility, not just as a director but he can camera op. He can DP. He’s basically a Swiss Army knife, he’s able to wear a lot of hats on set. That’s what I admire because with my being independent, I have to wear a lot of hats on set as well.
AllHipHop: Anything else people should know about?
Jamal Shakir: I have a pack and ship candy store on Pico and Redondo. We’re here every day, Monday through Saturday, from 8:30a, to 6:30pm.