Our family over at Cassuis Life had the pleasure of chopping it up with one of rap’s G.O.A.T.’s, Jadakiss. The brands solicited some of our favorite brothers to be apart of the conversation, including our Co-Creator, Rae Holliday, our Photographer/Editor, Bernard Smalls and The Deputy Editor for Cassius Life, Bruce Goodwin. During the interview, the room discusses Kobe Bryant’s legacy, Michael Jordan for President, and Jada’s new album. The best part however, is Rae and Jada’s hilarious one-on-one over a game of pool, in which Rae has never played before. The results are priceless. Watch the video below, and of course, give us your thoughts.
Miami songbird Ms. Karoline is gearing up for the release of her debut EP Elephant In A Song this fall. The Colombian Florida native has always had an affinity for the arts, but it wasn’t until 3 years ago that she picked up a pen and tried her hand at songwriting. Since then, the soulful singer has been honing her craft while simultaneously channeling her ups and downs into her music. SFPL sat down with the songstress to discuss her upcoming EP, some of her favorite artists, and other projects.
Hey, thank you so much for chatting with me. Your upcoming EP is titled Elephant In A Song, can you tell me more about it?
Elephant In A Song is an 8 track EP and each song is about a different person or relationship. “Elephant In A Song” is a record about an ex while “What If” is about my relationship with my father and how things would’ve been if things had gone differently.
What’s the main message you want people to leave with after listening to your EP?
I think honesty and vulnerability. To get the vibe of going from a place of fear to being like this is who I am. I have gone through different situations in my life that I feel people can relate to; but they don’t really know how to express it, so they listen to music to find what connects with them. Mainly sincerity. I would definitely say the theme for the project is honesty.
Awesome, I like that. It’s like your own musical diary. How long have you been working in music?
With my own music I began 3 years ago when I started songwriting. I kind of just was like I want to make an EP. I want to be able to write music and see if it would connect with people. I’ve been singing since forever. I was in musical theater, and I went to school for it. So I’ve been around music for most of my life. I started taking voice lessons when I was 15 or 16.
Is singing something you were always drawn to?
Yes, since I was a little girl. I would grab a brush, stand in front of the mirror, and you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t singing to thousands of people. I just knew it was something I wanted to pursue.
Who were some of your favorite artists growing up?
Amy Winehouse, and you can kind of hear her influence in my style. When I discovered her I had just gotten home from school and I was watching MTV. Her video for “F Me Pumps” came on and I was just like who is this woman? Where did she come from? Why is her voice like that? It’s amazing. I need to know who she is. I immediately started following her. I even cried when she passed. She will always be one of my all-time favorites. Also Lauryn Hill. I actually got to meet her in person. She has such amazing sides to her and soul. I think she’s just very misunderstood. I really liked Nelly Furtado too. Another one is this French singer from the 1930’s, I had a cassette that I would listen to of Edith Piaf.
I love her.
I just really love her story, how powerful her voice was, and how minimal her performances were. It was just her, a piano, and her voice and everyone was so captivated by her. I feel like nowadays you have to give people a lot more because it’s harder to keep our attention for even 3 minutes. You have to have 3D images jumping out of the screen, and all this other stuff that’s going to stimulate our brains. When before it was just like let me hear the pain in your voice, the lyrics, and what you’re going through, and see if I can relate to it. And even if you didn’t relate you still felt that pain and the beauty in that.
Back then the focus was definitely more on the voice. They were also limited by technology but Edith Piaf is one of the greatest singers of all time. She just had a very beautiful and powerful voice.
Nina Simone is another one. Donny Hathaway, I love Donny Hathaway. Alternative music too. Bands like Radiohead. I grew up on The Beatles. My Dad loved them. He was really into The Police, Journey, and Cyndi Lauper. I remember asking him what his favorite thing of being a part of the 80’s was and he said the transition in the music was the best. You had Hip-Hop which was new, and then you had synthesizers and that was funky. He definitely felt that the 80’s was one of the best periods of music.
I can see that. Do you agree with your Dad?
Definitely I feel like the 80’s was a time when music was really changing. I love early 90’s stuff too. I love 2Pac, and Biggie. You know very lyrical rappers. I can bop my head to what’s out now and get drawn in with catchy lyrics and dope beats; but I definitely love a good lyricist. Like J. Cole, I love J. Cole. Kendrick Lamar. Those are lyrical rappers.
I love J. Cole. I’m obsessed. Are there any other artist out now besides Cole and Kendrick that you’re really in to?
There’s this British singer Joy Crookes. She has a bit of an Amy vibe going on. Lizzo. I think she’s very funky, I love her. She kind of reminds me a bit of Missy Elliot. I love all kinds of music. I love people who can do that. Play with different styles. I don’t really think that I could do that. I’m more soulful. But I definitely love to listen to something that’s going to get me going. I love to work out and so I have to listen to music that’s going to make me want to be in the gym. Kali Uchis I mean she’s who I identify the most with. She’s Colombian as well. Jorja Smith, Sabrina Claudio. Sabrina Claudio she’s also someone I really look up to. She’s from Miami too. Her music is so great. I know she had some setbacks with an incident on Twitter but I believe people make mistakes and they learn from them. Ari Lennox is another artist I really enjoy too.
Ari is great. Her last project is amazing.
Hiatus Kaiyote. I was definitely inspired by their music. They’re this band from New Zealand and the lead singer she was featured on the intro track for Drake’s More Life. They’re this jazzy kind of R&B group. They’re super soulful; but their style is really gothic so it’s kind of interesting.
Who would you say is your dream collaboration?
Kali Uchis for sure. I love her voice, and style. She is who she is and doesn’t fit into this box. Especially as an artist who is latinx you can get put in box and at times are expected to fit a mold.
So besides the EP, are you working on any other projects?
I’m actually currently working on an independent short film as well. I also enjoy acting so that’s something else I wanted to tap into. I’ve been putting together visuals for the project too and I have a pretty good idea of what the next project will be about.
That’s cool, tell me more about the short film.
It’s by a local Miami filmmaker. I connected with her through a college friend. She reached out to me and told me she wanted to tell this poetic love story about a girl who finds love in Miami. It’s actually in Spanish. I have been asked before “why don’t you sing in Spanish.” Whenever I sing it’s always been in English, that’s just been my preferred language. So, doing something in Spanish is definitely something I wanted to try. I sing in both languages; but writing wise I don’t know how strong I’d be in Spanish so I’ve been a bit hesitant. I am Colombian so I definitely have to step out of my comfort zone and embrace that part of me.
Is there a title for the film and a release date?
It’s called Corazon Cantando and not release date yet. I believe sometime in November or December of this year.
What does fly mean to you?
Fly is honesty. It is being and owning who you are 100%.
Everybody’s favorite show, Power is BACK to give us a huge amount of anxiety and stress, as is the norm! Our own Rae Holliday caught up with the cast to talk about the new season of the blockbuster show.
Step into our chat with your favorite characters; Tasha, Tommy, Dre, Kesha & Angela.
Sorry To Bother You is easily one of the year’s highly anticipated films of the Summer not to involve comic book heroes. Critics have been in love with rapper turned director Boots Riley’s trippy cinematic ride loosely based on his experiences as a telemarketer since its Sundance premiere. In the film, we follow unemployed Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) who quickly rises through the ranks of a telemarketing company when he masters the art of using his “white voice.”
SFPL’s own Bernard Smalls and other invited press got a chance to sit down with the film’s cast and director to discuss what is arguably one of the best films of the year. When asked what was one thing that resonated about this film for them the cast all agreed it was Boots’ story and his authenticity. Stanfield gets the Boot’s praise train rolling stating:
“I think the common thread here is this guy’s mind right here. He wrote some crazy story that like it moved us all in some way, form, or fashion and I think all of us to some degree knew it was an opportunity to, to embark on something unlike we’ve done before. Something really different. It was just a cool opportunity that Boots Gave us not only to explore this cool story, his mind, and give us the gift of his imagination but also for our careers to be able to stretch ourselves and get into this new world.”
His costars followed suit, Steven Yeun who plays Squeeze in the film added: “I think it’s the same thing. When you read a script that is this authentic. Anyone can make I guess a script that people haven’t seen before because you can just write a bunch of gobbledygook on it but Boots wrote a script where you read it, and you go this is something I’ve never seen before, but it’s also super honest in the way that it’s written.”
Omari Hardwick who plays Cassius’ boss Mr. Blank in the film had plenty of praise for Boots adding: “The hunger added to the brilliance that he put on the page and the story he had. To Lakeith’s point, we looked at it, and he was the common thread. There was hunger in Boots, so we also got on that train of hunger.” Tessa Thompson who plays Cassius’ free-spirited love interest Detroit raves about Boots making a fun film that still delivers a message. “I love making movies that are about something but I also just feel like, “How do we talk about old ideas in new ways? How do we make something that is vital and important and feels like a solvent but doesn’t feel like medicine?” And I thought that Boots did that. Making a film that is about something but is also just a fun ride as well,” Thompson adds.
The cast also spoke on whether or not they had to use “code switching” or in the case of the film “using your white voice.”
Lakeith: “There’s something I think unspoken in a young black kids household. If you want to go out and be something in the world you’re going to have to be white. Or you’re going to have to be whiter or you’re going to have to adopt something that is accepted in a whiter sense. And for little kids what does that really mean? And for little poor black kids what it means is that everything that you are and everything that you stand for is the antithesis of that.”
Tessa: “I felt, certainly early on in my career was like an expectation of like performative blackness. Why the hair color was significant to me, I recently had a conversation with a filmmaker about a role, and in the original screenplay, it’s written that the character I would play has pink hair and I was asking him about it. I’m not eager to have my hair look similar to Detroit anyways but I was like oh cool so what about this color hair, and he says oh that was when the character was going to be white. That’s when it was written for another actress. Which I just thought was interesting. The conversation is ongoing in terms of what this character will look like, but it was interesting to me.”
To wrap things up, Boots was asked what the one thing he wanted moviegoers to leave with after watching his film? His answer was fascinating stating he didn’t want viewers to exit the theater with just one message.
Boots: “I don’t want people to walk away with one thing you know. It’s kind of like what’s the one thing that you that you walked away from with Song Solomon or from Gabriel Garcia Marquez A Hundred Years of Solitude. I approach this in a way like a novel. With all these ideas I can tell you I have hopes and dreams for. There are some things that I’m hoping for more than others, but I want people to feel like I took so much from. You know how they have those movies where there is the one thing and that’s what the movies about and then they stretch it out, and they like damn I hope we can get 80 minutes out of this and you feel them stretching that out. That’s not this movie. I do hope overall there’s a feeling of that through the craziness, through all the fucked-up things that happened that there’s an optimism that has to do with the idea that as long as you’re fighting that’s the happy ending. There is no ending but that the happiness the optimism comes with fighting pushing back.”
Well said Boots, Sorry To Bother You hits select theaters July 6th, and nationwide July 13th. Do yourself a favor and make sure you see this film, we absolutely loved it and definitely think it’s going to garner plenty of Oscar buzz deservingly so.
Event Producer extraordinaire Devin Cobbs is gearing up for the second year of his successful 90’s R&B party. Set to launch Memorial Day weekend in LA, Cobbs and his team will be making their rounds to 8 cities this year, including new cities like Miami and Dallas. For a glimpse of what’s to come check oout our interview with the mogul in the making below.
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4 Lovers Only is back are you excited?
We back, we back again! We’ll be announcing soon.
So you’ll be kicking things off in LA?
Yes. It’s LA, New York, Dallas, Miami and that’s phase one. I can’t talk about phase two yet; but those are the cities we’ll be hitting to kick things off.
Are you guys partnering with any brands, influencers, artists?
As far as brands we have Swisher and Avion Tequila. In terms of influencers and artists we have Tone Smith. He’s an amazing R&B artist. He’s a young dude from Jersey; but he’s based out in LA now. The other artists I don’t want to reveal just yet. Those are the 90’s R&B acts and we’ll release them closer to the day of each event.
Every city has an artist this year. Last year it was only two cities that had performances from artists. I wanted to make it as special as possible. We put in a lot of work to make sure we were able to get the artists that we wanted.
We have a bunch of Soulection DJ’s. Andrew Power and Austin in New York along with Mecca from 2DopeBoyz. We have Sasha Marie also from Soulection she’s DJing out in LA. Norma and Silent Addy for Miami. There are so many different people. Each city that we’re going to we partnered with the most, not necessarily the most popular; but the one’s we felt were really really good. That goes for the artists as well.
Besides having an artist in each city and partnering with local DJ’s, is there anything you guys are doing differently this go-around?
I want people to kind of find out once the RSVP’s open up and we go live with each city. We changed the website up a lot so that experience is different. The way you RSVP is a bit different than last year. The open bar structure is different. Last year was just 1 HR; but this time it’s an hour in the beginning and another hour from 12 AM – 1 AM. Some of the cities are different too. We didn’t go to Miami or Dallas last year. We’re trying something new in those cities. The second phase new cities too. The biggest change I’d say this time is we really wanted to find out where the people wanted us to go. Although a lot of the tour was planned we locked in the remaining cities after putting up a post asking for feedback. We listened to the people.
What do you want everyone to know about this year’s tour?
I want people to know that each year we do this it’s going to be different so definitely don’t expect the same experience as last year. We’ll have giveaways while you’re waiting in line, we’re literally giving everything away. I want people to know that their really in for a different party experience. Most of the time when you go out you have to keep reaching in your pocket and taking money out. This is more like keep your wallet at home, and just come for good time. It’s like therapy almost and that’s exactly how we’re treating it. It’s a big therapy session with R&B music, and that Avion flowing. I want people to be ready because it’s definitely going to be unforgettable.
How did you guys connect with Avion Tequila?
Avion Tequila just ended up being the right partner for it. They fit the demographic [of our audience] and with the type of event that we want to do. Plus tequila is just consumed more than cognac. We have a 70:30 female to male ratio and women prefer tequila over cognac. So we wanted to provide an open bar that catered more to our crowd, and Avion was definitely it.
Besides giveaways are there any installations?
For sure. There will be art installations, and photo booths. There’s a lot for people to do. I don’t want to give anything away because I really just want people to come out and experience it. It’s not just going to be you show up to just drink and party, even though that’s a big aspect of it; but there’s more to the experience.
How are you feeling about 4 Lovers Only now versus when you initially launched it last year?
I’m still equally nervous. When I put the pre-announcement post up, it did better than the announcement for the previous year. Seeing the feedback this year, I know people are ready for it. I haven’t been as active on social media for that reason, just to stay focused. I know it’ll go well and we’ll get the numbers we need to hit; but I just want to finally get it out there and have people experience all the work we’ve put into it. That’s what means the most to me. I’m nervous, but last year I was nervous with no real assurance of whether it was going to work or not. This year I know it’s going to work, so it [the nervousness] is more from putting it out there.
This time around have you brought in anyone and establish a team to help execute your vision better?
We have the same team. I think it’s important to do that, keep the same people around you. Honestly the only major difference is that the team at Swisher is a little bit different. They are more involved, which is an experience in itself in a good way. They help keep things organized. That’s really the biggest difference and just tying up a few loose ends. The team is pretty much the same; but we are a lot more organized this time around.
Any advice or insight for anyone who wants to launch their own event?
Just to test the market first. Don’t just jump on an idea. You have to make sure it’s something people actually want. Get out there and see what’s actually missing. Take your hat off and put the world’s hat on and look at what’s going on. Take the time to see if you’re filling a void or just doing something that’s already been done. If it’s the latter then see if you can make it better or do something different; but if you step into it doing the same thing you kind of already lost.
Besides organization is there anything you learned from the first tour that you applied this time?
Traveling with less people. Learning just the difference between have this huge team versus how much can get done with a small team of focused people and to just trust our gut. We have an idea that companies will pay millions of dollars to execute. To bring 1,000 people out in a city, that’s no small feat so to trust the vision, stay focused and being as organized as possible.
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4 Lovers Only: A 90’s R&B Experience 2018 Tour Dates
Devin Cobbs, 40oz Van‘s right hand man has dealt with his share of struggle. While most would opt to put on a front especially within the industry, only allowing people the chance to watch their highlight reel. Dev’s opted to embrace his past misfortunes and wear them as a badge of honor. Detailing his experiences with homelessness to his 20K plus followers on Twitter, relative strangers, completely uncensored. Never one to shy away from owning his truth, good or bad Dev’s remained unapologetically himself, in an arena riddled with posers and superficiality.
The soon to be 25 year-old sat down with SFPL‘s own Arlene Danna to discuss linking with Van, the inspiration behind his 4 Lovers Only tour, launching his own production company Produced By Dev, working The Meadows Music & Arts Festival, giving opportunities to people of color in event production, and much more.
For those who may not be familiar, who is Devin Cobbs?
Devin is an introvert that for whatever reason decided to throw parties and work on festivals and concerts. An entrepreneur and someone who just really cares about the betterment of young black business men and women. That’s me. I’m a lot of other things, but that is a really good description of me.
Is event production something you always saw yourself getting into?
You know this, I used to work at The Source. We had the opportunity to work on a festival they were producing, The Source 360. Even though it didn’t go so well I really loved the running around and all that stuff. I realized there was a little bit of a lane for me doing that instead as opposed to selling ads for the magazine, or trying to write and be a journalist. It was something brand new, I didn’t really know what I was doing. To this day I don’t really know what I’m doing because there’s still so much to learn.
What were you doing while you were at The Source?
Initially I was selling ads for magazines and then I transitioned into trying to secure sponsors for the event everything from that to spreadsheets, guest lists, fixing the website, building the website, coming up with content, coming up with concepts to get sponsors to buy into the event, handling the social media for the events. It was a lot under that job title but that was my role for about 6 months.
It seems like after the Source 360 you kind of knew that you were making a change and pursuing event production.
Well after the Source 360 I was broke. Even though we had done all that work no one really got paid much. I left directly after that. The Source 360 was the second week in September and I was gone as soon as it wrapped. At that time, I took a little break from entertainment in its entirety because although I knew I really loved event production, there wasn’t another job lined up and I hated where I was at. So for a couple of months I worked at Chase, Home Depot, and then I met Van from 40oz. They had an event where I saw him and that kind of transitioned me to the next phase of event production. So it was like “Oh this is cool,” maybe I can try this and then meeting Van. I was like let me take what I learned and apply it to whatever Van had going on.
So you went to a 40oz Bounce here in the city?
I had gone to a couple of them, but that wasn’t really what inspired me to hit him up. Really he was suppose to do something with The Source, but money wise what he wanted we couldn’t provide so it didn’t add up. I still kept his contact and I studied the event throughout the months I was at Chase. I think he did an event with Modelo. It was this huge event they had ASAP Rocky and Ferg at this warehouse in Brooklyn with 1,500-2,000 people. I saw that and I was like “I want to do more of that.” It’s new it’s something that at the time wasn’t too popular. Now everyone has a party tour.
Yes, back then it was only really Henny Palooza.
Even then the party existed, but the tour going to LA and San Francisco that part of it wasn’t around at the time. I saw Van and I was like maybe we should do something. For whatever reason he believed in me and he let me do it.
That’s really dope. Is there anything you’ve taken from your experience working on 40oz Bounce that you’ve applied to your own agency, the production company you started Produced by Dev?
Of course, everything! I had to learn everything on the fly. When I started working with Van there wasn’t like anyone training me. Van had been running the business by himself along with one or maybe two other business partners, but that was just clothes. There was really no one just doing the events 100 percent of the time, so I had to learn. I apply stuff I learned with 40oz Bounce to The Meadows. Even a festival that big with Hov headlining, when I’m in the planning room I’m like “We did this for 40oz Bounce, we could probably apply this to Meadows.” It ends up actually working because no matter the scale of the event it’s still the same formula. People want good sh*t. You just have to package the good sh*t right and present it to them a certain way. That’s probably the number one thing I learned from Van. How to package things and put them out for people to consume.
When you originally started doing events with Van did you eventually see yourself starting your own event production agency or was it something that kind of evolved?
No, the idea of the agency started in 2016, but I always had these ideas. For Lovers Only the 90’s R&B party was something I had posted on Twitter back in 2015. It was something that was so old, that just now came to life. But no, I had no idea it was going to turn into me having my own production company. It kind of just happened. I’m thankful that it happened that way, that’s just the way of life. Even with everything from The Source, to going there to do one thing and ending up doing another, working with Van on events. Everything just kind of came together organically and I’m happy for that.
Is there anyone in particular who may have pushed you or said yo dev you should be doing this on your own?
No, not necessarily because even though the agency is my own thing working with Van is kind of that too. He runs his clothes and I run the events. It’s not like the two worlds are necessarily intertwined. It’s not him micromanaging me 24/7. I have my own event staff for 40oz Bounce and we manage that with Roc Nation and D’usse. Then the clothes is something that he’s 100 percent involved in. For the events it’s kind of like running my own business anyway. I just have to show him what were doing. It was always like that. The agency came about because I knew I couldn’t do a 90’s R&B party under the 40oz brand so I had to do it under a different brand; which is something that Van himself brought up to me.
You mentioned that you came up with the idea for the R&B party in 2015. Why R&B?
It was just what I was listening to at the time. I was with my ex-girlfriend. That’s just the type of music we would play whenever we were in the car running around etc. I only listen to R&B. At the time that I posted that I was listening to John B “They Don’t Know” and I was just like someone needs to do a party with this type of music. Even now people are taking the idea of using 90’s R&B and incorporating it into their entire event. We all know at event’s that one 15 min set where the DJ plays it, but now it’s more so a lot of parties want to do 90’s R&B the whole night. Which is cool, but when I posted it that wasn’t really the thing. People weren’t really playing that type of music in the club. Not for people our age it was more 35 to 40-year-olds not 21 to 25-year-olds.I realized there was just a disconnect. This idea that young people don’t like R&B. That’s stupid because a lot of people I know listen to R&B. In the club at the ratchet parties they still drop “Pony” and it goes off. People still love it they just needed something to go to.
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4 Lovers Only Philadelphia
One could say that was kind of the inspiration behind it. You trying to come up with something given the current climate music wise?
That was a part of it. Then the whole aesthetic of it. The way the fliers look, and why I chose the color blue. Why it’s a sexy looking flyer, why the logo and all that are a certain color. I went into a bathroom, I was in San Francisco and the bathroom just had blue lights. This is going to sound weird, but I told my homie “Come into the bathroom real quick, look at this shit.” He was just like “I see what you mean. We can just do an all blue with a little pink here.” So the party itself was inspired, like you mentioned because of what was going on in the city party wise. The feel, the type of party, and vibe that I want you to get when you walk into the venue was inspired by a bathroom in San Francisco. Shoutout to the bathroom.
Funny where inspiration comes from.
It’s weird because you find inspiration anywhere. Yesterday I figured out what I want to do for my birthday in terms of what I want to post. Not anything corny like I’m finally 25 or twenty-fine or some caption like that. I want to post something, but I want it to not be about me and it be something I’m giving to people. It finally clicked on my way home from the gym. I was dead tired, I was so tired and for whatever reason it clicked. You can definitely find inspiration anywhere, from anything, anytime. When you have it you just have to write it down, or record it, or have a whiteboard in your room so you don’t forget it.
Speaking of your birthday, what was your great realization?
I can’t say too much, but essentially it’ll be a guide to help young entrepreneurs. It’ll be a quick and easy guide with some bullet points that I’ve already come up with. The way it’s going to be packaged people will enjoy it. It’s one of those things where the good thing is that I’m going to Jamaica for my birthday. I won’t be online to really see what people are saying about it. I’m just going to post it, airplane mode, and come back 5 days later. Hopefully people f*ck with it.
Do you think it’s necessary when you drop things to kind of disconnect?
Yea, because you would go crazy. You work so hard getting to the actual point of where you can put something out, then you put it out, and you’ll spend the whole day looking. This person doesn’t like it, this person does, this person said you copied them, another says it’s trash. It’s like too much. You kind of just gotta put your shit out and get the fuck out the way to let people enjoy it. If they enjoy it great! If not you come back to it, fix whatever’s wrong, and you put it out again. I don’t really like to sit down and look at everything that is going on. You do that and you end up fucking dizzy. Just get what you need to get out and take a couple days off because you go so crazy trying to make things happen.
You previously mentioned that you just wrapped up the Meadows for the second year. How was that?
The Meadows is definitely by far the most fun I have all year. It’s like 45,000 people. What’s tight is that it’s the same team that does The Governors Ball, but with The Meadows it’s a little bit more relaxed. The Governors Ball has been around since before I was a part of the team, so it’s kind of set up the way it’s going to be set up. I’m kind of just there to plug and play and do what I have to do. With The Meadows you can bring in more staff, you can bring in some of your friends to work. That’s the dope thing too. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of black people who produce the event. There a lot of black people that clean up, but there’s not a lot of black people on the production team who can actually hold some type of weight. Getting to bring some of my friends onboard in the past two years has been dope. You can see that there are jobs out here like this that pay really well. You can travel, do all that, and you don’t have to compromise yourself. You can have this grand result, have 45,000 people enjoy it. You have to bring people in though. Unfortunately it’s a world that’s very tight knit. If you don’t know anyone it’s not like you can apply online, that’s not the way it works. However, overall it’s amazing.
Is there anything else you’re currently working on?
There’s a project called “Picture Perfect Christmas.” I’m working with Adidas, General Mills, and other brands where we’re partnering with a shelter and a school in BK to give out clothes, sneakers, food, gloves, hats, basically everything to the less fortunate. That’s what’s going to be taking upa lot of my time after this month. I want to make sure that it’s perfect no pun intended. That’s the main thing then the guide I’m dropping for my birthday, and obviously planning for 2018.
What does fly mean to you?
Ownership is fly. Buying a house is fly, if you’re an artist owning your masters is fly, owning a publication or section of one if you’re working for someone that’s fly. Fixing your credit is fly. All that other s**t is whack. It’s cool to have chains, but you really have to put things into perspective. Being a grown-up and making smart moves.
Recently, singer/songwriter Elijah Blake stopped by SFPL TV to talk about his new song “Hanging Tree” in benefit of Harry Belafonte‘s social justice organization, Sankofa.org. He also spoke about working with several artists including almost working for Queen Bey herself, Beyonce, and his upcoming new music.
“Hanging Tree” first appeared as a snippet visual on Sankofa.org’s visual EP “17”, which featured music by artists Ty Dolla $ign, Raphael Saadiq, Mali Music as well as Blake and is now available on all DSPs.
YouTube is a platform where millions of people go to express themselves, connect with others, and build communities. Alonzo Lerone began his YouTube channel almost a decade ago as a way to make friends, after spending the majority of his life constantly moving due to his father’s career in the military. This of course made it difficult for Lerone to establish relationships with his peers and eventually led him to YouTube where proximity doesn’t matter.
Over the years, Lerone built his audience organically by offering commentary on the best, funniest, strangest, and most failworthy posts on the Internet. After splitting his time between a day job and making videos, him getting the axe was the push he needed to dedicate himself to YouTube full-time.
SFPL’s own Arlene Danna spoke with Alonzo about his success, his first video on YouTube, where he finds content, hitting a million subscribers, being chosen to attend YouTube’s Creator Summit 2017, and much more.
For those who may not be familiar with you, can you tell us who is Alonzo Lerone?
“Just a normal guy from a little town, I’m in North Carolina. I’m a military brat. I’m basically a YouTuber right now. I’ve been doing it for eight years where I make videos about social media fails, grammar mistakes, and that’s about it.”
Is this something you saw yourself turning into a career when you first started?
“Definitely not because I had a 9-5 actually a 9-9 job. I did YouTube on the side. It was an outlet for me. Coming from different schools growing up being a military brat. I was born in Germany, was in the Philippines for a little bit then California. I made new friends but I didn’t have that sense of belonging. When I came to North Carolina everyone was so different. This is where my father retired. Every time I asked my Mom if this was the last place she’d say yes but then two places later we’re moving. I was in that situation where I didn’t know if I should make friends right now because every time I’d get attached we’d move. So in that situation I just basically had YouTube. After I graduated from high school I decided to make a YouTube video ranting about my life because a friend of mine cancelled on me at the last-minute when we had plans. We had made plans for months and months. So that’s what I did and I started connecting with people overseas, in the same state, and on the west coast. I was terminated in around 2010 or 2011 and I decided to make it my full-time job and six years after that I’m still here doing it.”
Wow, awesome! So it wasn’t until you were let go from your job that you saw turning your videos into something more?
“Well yes. I was already hooked on YouTube. I started making friends, I travelled to the UK to meet them in person after talking for so long online. So I was kind of on thin ice because I made YouTube my priority during my job and my stint at the bakery. I would actually go on break just to upload and check comments. So that was easy for me so I kind of knew I was on thin ice. So when they actually gave me the hammer I just said well everything happens for a reason. It gave me more time to concentrate on what I loved.”
It’s funny how life works out that way. You’ve reached a million subscribers on your channel. How was it reaching such a milestone?
“Yes! Well, I don’t concentrate on numbers. I don’t want to misguided or distracted from what I came here to do. Which is make friends. I don’t want to get lost in the sauce of numbers, but someone tweeted me about hitting a million subscribers. I actually hit it on Thanksgiving Day last year while I was with my family. So that was amazing because I started YouTube with my family at zero subscribers and I ended up with a million subscribers on Thanksgiving Day so that was a great feeling.”
That’s really dope, on Thanksgiving of all days.
“It’s crazy how things work out like that.”
How do you find content for your videos?
“Well my subscribers, the audience, my viewers send them to me. Which is crazy because the first few years I would do it myself. I’m on the Internet anyway so I’d do it myself. When the series Dumbest Fails started getting traction and getting picked up by different things people would email me, or tweet me, or Facebook me, or inbox me things. I decided to react to that and it made my career so much easier and that’s why I cater to them.”
Talk about harnessing the power of the Internet. Tell us what are you currently working on?
“Well I’m going to a YouTube summit in New York in May. I’m getting prepared for that. This is will be my first time at the event so I’m getting ready for that but in the meantime I’m still making videos. I’m actually editing a video right now that I’d like to get up by tomorrow. Editing is the hardest process but I’m in the zone when I’m editing so I’m alright with that.”
Was editing something you were familiar when you started with your videos or is it something you’ve sort of learned to master over time?
“I’ve perfected it along the way most definitely. Every time I’m editing I’m always in the zone. I can’t hear my phone, I can hear the TV but it sounds like a bee because I’m in the zone.”
Tell us about the summit.
“It’s a YouTube summit. It’s a bunch of elite YouTubers getting together, connecting with each other, learning more about YouTube, how to grow, and connect with brands.”
Awesome, that’s really dope. You guys have like your own little community and it’s kind of like expanding from the people who watch your videos and getting to meet other people just like you who are creating.
“Exactly. It’s a wonderful feeling that doing what I love can make me and have me living comfortably and smart too because you’ve got to save. The money just comes while I’m doing what I do so it’s just a flawless connection right there.”
Besides your videos and the summit do you have anything else in the works?
“Right now I’m just taking it a day at a time. I just got my house and I paid off my school loans after graduating. So I’m just trying to be at ease, not too much stress. I’m just trying to take it each day at a time. I don’t expect anything but I’m just living for each day right now.”
That’s great. What advice would you give to someone interested in starting their own YouTube channel and creating a platform?
“Don’t get discouraged by focusing on the numbers. Back to what I was saying about numbers because there was that one time I did and that was my fault but I learned from my mistakes. It could have been so much worst if I concentrated on other people versus me. Do not get discouraged off views. Keep it going, keep it consistent, connect with your audience and go from there. The blessings will come to you when you least expect it just keep on doing what you love.”
Last question just for fun. What does fly mean to you?
“Handling your own, taking charge with no regrets and learning from your mistakes. That’s what fly means to me.”
Originally from L.A. The Last Artful, Dodgr; real name Alana Chenevert made the move to Portland back in 2013. A few years later, a chance meeting with EYRST label co-founder Neill Von Tally would be the catalyst for this unstoppable twosome.
Since that encounter, Dodgr and Tally have come together to create music quite unlike anything out there today. Unable to be pigeonholed these two unleashed their first joint effort, an EP titled Fractures back in 2015. Today, the Portland based duo release Bone Music; an 11-track project that tells the story of a blue-collar worker trying to find the balance between working and their personal relationships.
SFPL’s own Arlene Danna had the opportunity to speak with Dodgr and Tally and gain insight into the inner workings of this unique duo. We discussed the inspiration behind the project, how they met, the relevance of Bone Music given the current political climate of the country, and so much more. Delve into the world of this captivating duo below.
Bone Music drops Feb. 3. Tell us about the project.
Dodgr: It’s the story of a blue-collar worker. It’s like a love story too.
Neill: All of those things are definitely true. The album is definitely a concept album and pretty much through the production, through our features, through what Dodgr does we’re telling the story of these different characters. Ultimately the story is that of a blue-collar worker who is struggling with their relationships and is kind of going through the traditional myriad of things we all experience relationship wise as well as going through the experience of trying to remained employed, and realizing that you have to work your whole life to get these things. So coming to the understand that nothing in life is free, nothing in life is easy and you just have to push through. So that’s the big take away of the narrative we’re telling…
Dodgr: …Without giving too much away.
So how did you guys come up with the concept?
Neill: The concept in a way sort of revealed itself to us. We were working on a lot of music together and we hadn’t necessarily planned on any one album or any one direction. A group of songs started feeling tied together and we realized there was a story we were beginning to tell. Once we got six to seven songs to that story we decided that would be what we would focus on. We essentially tried to round out the plot almost or the trajectory of the characters from the story we were telling with that story.
Bone Music itself the actual concept and where that name comes from is something that I’ve been aware of for a long time. Music was cut into x-rays during Soviet Era Russia when music was illegal. The distribution of music was illegal so a black market was created. So going back to the blue-collar worker and struggling your whole life that aesthetic is somewhat dark and somewhat cold. We realized that could easily be tied to similar things that went on during Soviet Era Russia and that there was sort of this thread going through. So Bone Music is the title and the origins historically of where that comes from are meant to portray the aesthetic we were pushing with the project.
Wow, there’s so much backstory. It’s so interesting that everything sort of ties into the story you were trying to tell. Dodgr I know you’re originally from L.A. How did you guys link up?
Dodgr: I moved to Portland in 2013 and was working at a dispensary in early 2015. Neill actually walked into the dispensary I was working at and one of my coworkers asked me to ring him up. They were like “Dodgr can you ring this guy up” and he was like “The Last Artful, Dodgr” and I was like “Yea, that’s me.” We linked that day. He told me about his studio space and we talked about hanging out and making some music. It just turned into this beautiful combination.
That’s awesome! So Neill you had heard of her?
Neill: Quite literally maybe 4 or 5 days previously was the first time I had heard of her. I was very excited to hear about her because I’m very involved in the Portland music scene and I’m always looking to know what’s going on here. Admittedly I wasn’t trying to seek her out or anything I was just happy to know that she existed and was doing her thing. But you know it’s undeniable. You read about someone and then a few days later they’re standing there in front of you. You can’t really ignore that.
Wow, talk about the universe working its magic.
Neill: Absolutely. Definitely serendipity there.
So at that point Neill were you already working with EYRST and developing that?
Neill: Yes, I co-founded EYRST with Martell. Essentially Martell was the financial backer and monetary founder behind it and then on my end I was more the vision and the goal. Why the label exists and what we’re trying to do. I had sort of picked out a few people who were going to help start EYRST and had gotten the initial funding and a studio space set-up. We had signed a few artists already. I definitely at that point wasn’t planning on signing anymore people but again Dodgr and I worked so well together there was no reason to not do this project under EYRST.
In your interview with Sway you described the project as this “dystopian industrial universe.” Do you feel that’s something that kind of ties into the current climate of the country and the things that are going on?
Dodgr: We actually just had this conversation in the studio yesterday. How Bone Music is proving itself to be a little revelatory and maybe even predicting some circumstances. I called it a post-industrial dystopian universe. You really could put Bone Music anytime in the near future, the far future, the past and it could be of relevance to what’s going on. There’s always going to be destruction. There’s always going to be turmoil within society and Bone Music is pretty much describing the inner turmoil that one faces amongst all the external is going on out in the world.
Neill: We sort of realized it’s even more relevant than we thought it would be. Which again we would never wish these circumstances to be the circumstances under which we’re releasing the project but at the same time we really hope that the project can speak to people. Maybe even more now and provide some solace or comfort in a sense. Being able to listen to the music and know that you’re not the only person that feels someway about what’s going on.
That’s something that I noticed EYRST prides itself on. This idea of creating music people can enjoy but also providing a sense of activism through that as well.
Neill: Yes, definitely. One of the main mission statements for EYRST is to ride that fine line between activism; where reality is and the fact that we need to be responsible human beings; but also the fact that we need a chance to let go. Escapism is a necessary tool for survival and you can’t really function as a human being if you’re always trying to escape or always focused on the harshness of reality. You’re either super depressed and won’t get anything done or you’re bouncing around so much you’re not really making a difference. We all need to in some ways at least do our part.
Dodgr I saw that you had the opportunity to perform as a backup singer for Aminé on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon when he performed his hit “Caroline.” How was that experience?
Dodgr: It was a lot of fun. I got a Facetime from Aminé like 3 days before he wanted me to fly out to New York. He told me he had this opportunity to be on Fallon and we wanted to make sure that his hometown was represented properly. So he wanted me to be one of his backup singers and help him with his hit song. Shoutout to that dude for giving me that experience. It was a lot of fun hanging out backstage and just getting to see The Tonight Show. That set is a lot smaller than one would expect. It’s super tiny but the people who work there are awesome and I can’t wait to go back on my own. Well not on my own with Neill actually but I mean not as someone’s backup singer. [Laughs]
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the project?
Dodgr: There’s a Instagram multiverse that we want people to definitely seek out. It’s @BoneMusicMultiverse. From there we’re revealing an accompanying screenplay and a bunch of different choose your own adventure style things.
Neill: We tried to just build this sort of multimedia universe so if people want to get into what we intended for the album they can but of course we want people to bring their own interpretations and come to their own decisions on what it is. Art honestly really comes to have its meaning on an individual level. We have a screenplay and some little things that we hope people will check out. It exists now. A couple of the songs are linked and then on Friday the rest will become unlocked. You’ll be able to go to an Instagram through the multiverse that represents each individual song so there’s 12 different Instagram accounts essentially.
Bone Music is available now on iTunes. It is also available for streaming on Spotify.
A buzzing duo based in Portland, OR these two are quickly making noise in the music industry. With beats and production handled by Von Tally, their music features Dodgr’s unique take on Hip-Hop and R&B. The sonics take listeners on a journey, telling stories of balancing a discordant home life and relationships with life lessons learned along the way. Dodgr’s voice is a threat in every dimension; equipped with memorable melodies, an agile flow, and puckish, often ostentatious wordplay. Previously, Dodgr and Von Tally released a debut EP Fractures in 2015, followed by the Rare Treat EP in early 2016, which was a collaboration with Myke Bogan. This spring, The Last Artful, Dodgr released her solo single “Squadron” to acclaim. Most recently, the duo released a captivating music video for their buzzed-about song “Jelly Hunt.” Dodgr’s music has received praise from the likes of Pigeons and Planes, Earmilk, Milk, 2dopeboyz, Uproxx, Beats1 and more.