With a title like “DeadBeat,” you might think the new video from Grammy-winning rapper Sirah is a diss at her dad. Instead, the L.A.-based artist says the clip, premiering exclusively on EW, is actually the opposite: a tribute to her father, who died of a heroin overdose when she was 12 years old. “This is not because my dad was a deadbeat, but more about how his death impacted me and how I changed as a result of that,” Sirah, 29, tells EW over email. “I also wanted to honor him because this month is the anniversary of his death.” (It’s also why the video opens with tender, archival footage of Sirah’s family in the ‘80s: “I wanted to add the home video so people wouldn’t get confused about my father being a deadbeat,” she adds.)
Despite the serious subject matter, Sirah (born Sara Elizabeth Mitchell) says making the video was hardly a heavy experience. Shot in one day with director David Forehand, the clip is a nod to her upbringing. “The video is shot in South Central because I come from poverty and one of the few positive role models I have in L.A. owns the house,” she explains. “I met the dancers in an alley the day before and thought it would be a great tribute to the hip-hop and R&B I was raised on.”
Sirah also called in a quick favor from her pal Demi Lovato, who makes a memorable cameo. “I called and told her I was going to come by in lingerie with a shirtless man wearing a dog leash and throw money on her in the most intimate location possible: her bedroom,” Sirah explains. Lovato, however, was actually instrumental in the song’s creation: Sirah says she wrote “DeadBeat” after returning home from a trip to Kenya with Lovato and a few other friends, and Lovato was one of the first people she played the track for. “The trip changed my life,” she says. “I realized I needed to tell the full truth in my songs.” (Sirah says her shout-out to “baddies with daddy issues” was inspired by Lovato, who later recorded a song called “Daddy Issues” for her most recent album, Tell Me You Love Me.)
Lovato isn’t the only star involved in the making of the video, either. Though he doesn’t appear in the clip, Skrillex produced and is featured on the track, and their fruitful partnership goes way back: Skrillex and Sirah won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording back in 2013 for their collaboration “Bangarang,” beating out the likes of Avicci and Swedish House Mafia for the award.
Watch the video for “DeadBeat” above.