I love to explore without boundaries.. Trial and error. Finding a sense of freedom though purpose.
My Father was a trumpet player. The home was filled with sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Oscar Perterson, Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. He introduced me to books and had me improvise stories. My Mother is spiritual. She gave me a foundation to look within.
Growing up I saw the documentary “Style Wars” and picked up the book Subway Art.. That changed my life. Rebelliousness, aggression, messages and connecting with a music that taught me how to develop a sense of individuality. After working on my tags I started to study other languages like Japanese Kanji, Islamic calligraphy, Hieroglyphs and Native American symbols. I transitioned into doing Wild style burners I was hooked on connecting colors with sound and transforming that into a language on the wall. During this time I bought an airbrush and painted jean jackets, jeans and canvases. Hip-Hop taught me how to be an entrepreneur and create my own style.
I started writing One9. For me it was about Balance of Extremes. Knowledge - Born.
Teach the Youth.
After painting large scale walls I was offered to teach 12-15 year olds mural art.
I took the budget and bought aerosol cans. I was teaching the young hungry ones how to create messages and connect with their history. Some of the pieces we painted said “Survival”, “LifeCycle”, “Knowledge” and “Spirits” The video show Rap City on BET did a story on my art teaching kids and eventually hired me. I wound up designing the Rap City Logo and eventually learning how to edit and produce.
Access to tools were key.
Chess is a discipline that requires moving to spaces seen and unseen In today’s fast paced world where people talk with in short spurts and texts, Chess allowed me to still speak in a long thought out visual language that reminds me of painting. Create your space in layers, take risks and learn when to sacrifice. Timing is everything.
Film and Vision
I first picked learned to edit and picked up a camera to shoot my own experimental projects. My good friend Erik Parker (Former Music editor at Vibe magazine) was writing a story on the ten year anniversary of Nas’s classic album ILLmatic. He called me up to see if I would be interested in making a film on the making of Illmatic. We filmed Nas’s father Olu Dara and learned the great depth of culture, music and history of the Jones family. We took it upon ourselves to tell a much deeper story that we felt Illmatic deserved. We shot enough footage to make a trailer and send to Nas’ manager. After meeting with Nas he encouraged us to keep going. We funded everything on our own for several years. After working off and on the film on our own we sent a trailer looking for a DP. We reached out to a Director of photography named Bradford Young who at the time was working on the indie film Pariah. Bradford later went on to DP (Rogue One and Selma). I’ve never made a film before but Bradford recognized my graff art from city wals and was thrilled we were working on the film. Bradford introduced us a his friend Rashid Shabazz at the Soros Foundation who then introduced us to the Director of the Ford Foundation’sJust Films Orlando Bagwell (Director/Producer of Eyes on the Prize) Orlando’s initiative at the Ford Foundation was called Just Films and focused on films looking at Social Justice.
Erik and I spoke about how we wanted to create a narrative story looking at the song titles and relate them to current issues in the community.
For instance, the song NY State ofMind in our film looked at the history of Queensbridge Housing projects. Life’s a Bitch looked at issues of family and community, One Lovelooked at the prison system and so on…Orlando saw how hungry we were to make the film and gave us a research grant and eventually a production grant. Our first film, Time is Illmatic took us 10 years to complete. We worked off and on whenever we could. Eventually Tribeca Film Festival reached out and we eventually opened up the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival with our first film at the infamous Beacon Theatre with Robert DeNiro introducing us and the film and having Nas performing the entire ILLMatic album after the film was over. That experience changed my life. Transforming from an artist to full time filmmaker.
Finding a voice and film allowed me to shine light on the culture and look in depth at issues in the community. We went on to produce a film with PBS looking at Race and Police violence and went to to direct a film on the LA Riots 25 years later with Executive Producer John Singleton or A&E Network.
I learned if you constantly put the work in, become one with it., find a purpose that is greater than you, and trust your vision you will find that type of work you can do natural and effortless.