My first video project was for an assignment in Latin class my Junior year of high school. It sparked an interest in me to visually express myself, which I carried over into my collegiate career. At the University of Tulsa, I founded a film club to bring together talented individuals from a variety of trained and non-trained backgrounds to write, direct, and act in student-led videos. Post college, I have continued producing shorts and documentaries, with several showing in the Saint Louis Filmmakers Showcase as well as the Saint Louis International Film Festival. In December of 2011, I decided to work intimately with the hip-hop music scene in Saint Louis to create music videos that would highlight each artist in ways that would challenge conventional thinking on what a hip-hop music video could and should be. I continue to collaborate with Saint Louis artists in the hip-hop scene to promote and show the creativity of the city, and my blog serves as a source of local hip-hop news for others to discover new music, new videos, and new perspectives.
The creative community, at large, in Saint Louis is underrated and overlooked. Even within our own state, Missourians look to Kansas City as the art mecca with its ten thousand fountains, Google Fiber, and fine arts schooling. This blog regularly features the music of impressive native artists that are hungry to make a difference and influence the nation's perception of our city, from Tef Poe's ruthless lyricism to the experimental ways of the FarFetched collective. From time to time, I even feature my own video work in collaboration with hip-hop artists. This week's blog will turn the spotlight to other Saint Louis videographers who are creating impressive resumes of quality music videos. These individuals are well-acquainted with the camera and editing room, knowing how to visually present a story, a mood, or a message from within the digital projection of their minds.
On Saturday, June 15th, all of Saint Louis hip-hop will descend upon the Grove to rock the Atomic Cowboy with the best the city has to offer. In one place, all day from 2PM - 2AM, there will be a number of live performances from over 40 local artists in addition to the city's hottest DJs. From producer battles to freestyle competitions to artist showcases, SlumFest will have it all, as each year it represents a celebration of the Saint Louis scene and gives everyone a chance to have their material heard. Fans and first-time listeners can experience battle-tested veterans, rising new stars, and newcomers who are trying to make an impact within the region. This is a can't-miss event.
For the past five months, this blog has explored multiple facets of local hip-hop. I've covered some of the biggest players on the scene that are making moves on the national stage, the producers that are critical in creating an infectious sound for rappers, and the effort that goes into making a successful music video that acts as advertising for an artist's career. Left out of this mix, thus far, has been the actual venues that host and support local music, allowing you, the fan, to experience first-hand live renditions of your favorite tracks, or to discover new tunes that you can't shake from your head. In this blog, I'll visit three distinct venues across the STL area that play host to some of the city's finest rappers.
When most people are seventeen years old, they're still trying to find their way through life, often asking themselves the questions: Who am I? Where do I fit in? What should I be doing? This process of self-discovery and experimentation in our late adolescent years is highly influential on us in our later years, and rarely do you see someone fully committed to their ambitions at such a young age. J'Demul, a kid by all means of the word, has things figured out at age seventeen, and his dedication to the craft of rapping has resulted in a quality sound that most older Saint Louis artists haven't achieved despite the extreme age difference.
When you have a good working relationship as a director with your actors, crew, clients, etc., you look forward to creating things with them. In music videos, when you respect the work of an artist and his/her/their music gets you genuinely excited, the creative process in developing a video for that music becomes almost too easy, almost as if a vision is innately born the moment you hear the song. This is the case for all of my video work with Mvstermind, a local hip-hop producer and rapper who has been featured multiple times on this blog. After the successful release of his newest album, he eagerly wanted to complete something special visually, and thus, the music video for 80-D came into existence.
Most think of Spring as a time of warmer weather, bountiful sunshine (and in the case of Saint Louis, rain), and outdoor festivals with fresh food and jamming music. For hip-hop peeps, it's the busiest time of the year for new music releases as tons of mixtapes are hitting the web and a plethora of videos get uploaded to YouTube. Here's some of the new music to which you should be listening and a shameless plug for my latest music video.
An original -- a goal of most artists, but simply having this as a goal does not mean that you are or will ever be. Likewise, saying that you are does not translate into being. You are either original or you are not. Although simple, originality in music, in any genre, is critical. As an artist, it's never a good thing to sound like or to try to sound like someone else -- critics will compare you to others instead of others being compared to you. For Mvstermind, originality is second-nature, and in his pursuit of music, it is something for which he doesn't strive because he is: original. A.D.D. (Artistically Day Dreaming) is the fruit of Mvstermind's originality; a mixtape that sounds like nothing else you've ever heard and that exists as an introspective into the mind of a young adult in the 21st century.
Do you ever hear the first several seconds of a song on the radio and immediately know what it is? Without the chorus or certain distinguishable sounds having been played, certain artists' music is immediately recognizable, which is typically indicative of consistency. For TyLan, a Saint Louis native, music is innate, and his experience in its creation has given him a major edge over other rappers. His background in piano performance and audio engineering allows him the flexibility to compose and produce his own music, which makes his mixtape Insomnia something special.
Crews are not a new concept, they are an institution of hip-hop that have been around nearly as long as the music itself. From TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment) in the West coast to MMG (Maybach Music Group) in the East, crews are ubiquitous for a reason: they serve as a means for artists to come together to reap benefits based on a set of similarities, whether it be geographical location, style, or friendship. These benefits are vast; crews are safe havens where artists can freely express themselves to other individuals who are in the same situation, allowing an expansion of creativity in a supportive environment. They act as hype men at your concerts, give you free features and collaborate on projects, and they are group therapy for the struggle to get yourself heard. In this new blog series, I'll be highlighting several well-known crews from the Saint Louis area. First up this week is Doorway, the kings of East Saint Louis, and the light of hip-hop from the IL side.
On this blog, we've mentioned Tef Poe multiple times. A native of Pine Lawn, a small, impoverished community within the Saint Louis metropolitan area, Tef has lived under tough circumstances, seeing members of his family imprisoned or killed. Despite his difficult upbringing, he has propelled himself forward through writing, which allows him to attempt to make sense of his surroundings -- from injustice and discrimination in the world to more specific and personal struggles of his life. His latest work of music, The Hero Killer, is a critique of present-day hip-hop and an exploration of where he fits within what is commonly refer to as "the game," or the hip-hop community at large. I recently completed work on a music video for Tef Poe's single "Rap F##ked Up". Disclaimer: this blog post contains mature/explicit content.