Brittany “YB” Brand Speaks on Working with Dave East and Joe Budden, Teaming Up With the Grass Route Podcast Team, Overcoming Her Industry Obstacles and More.

With the visual aspect of our culture constantly evolving and getting better, I find it fascinating to speak with different people who are involved in that profession and grab their perspective from behind the lens. From doing small photoshoots to growing a brand that has become synonymous with working with the like’s of Joe Budden and Dave East, Brittany “YB” Brand continues to showcase how great she is from behind the camera.

I caught up with Brittany to talk about her inspirations, her camera work, how she was able to link up with Joe Budden and Dave East, her recent team up with Grass Route’s Podcast and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into doing photography and videography work?

There was always a camera around when I was growing up because my family loved taking pictures. In middle school, I joined the yearbook committee and when I turned 16 I saved my money to buy my first “professional” camera. Once I got to high school I started taking pictures at the football games and other sporting events, creating these pretty cool collages for my friends and teammates. As far as getting into it professionally was the summer of 2015. So much was going on in my life at that time, I’ll never forget sitting in my car outside of my boyfriend’s house feeling like everything was just going downhill. I received a DM from a Video Director who wrote me with interest in collaborating together. He gave me a call, and that next week I was at my first video shoot.

2 – What was the inspiration for you to get behind the camera?

My dad was definitely my inspiration to get behind the camera early on. Most recently I didn’t get my 2nd camera until last year. My first camera was stolen in 2014, so I didn’t pick up a camera again until 2017. Before that, I literally upgraded my iPhone to the 7 Plus just because the camera quality was insane for a smartphone. I started shooting videos on my phone, like the French Montana and A Boogie Concert at LIU, or even the Mary J Blige concert I attended at Foxwoods Casino. When I posted the videos on Instagram, people couldn’t believe it was shot on an iPhone. The only reason why I bought a camera was because after attending a few video shoots, and being apart of the production process, I found a love for editing. After becoming the companies main editor, I got comfortable working with quality footage from the same director each shoot. Until it was time for me to work with other directors and videographers, where I didn’t always like their style of shooting quite as much. It was difficult finding someone who could capture visuals the way I liked it, which kind of forced me to get behind the camera and learn how to do it myself. The first visual I ever captured on my own was a pool party I was invited to at Irv Gotti’s house. He had a few of his artist there, and they were playing their music, so I just started shooting. Then I got some dope moments of everyone getting hype to Meek Mill – The Intro. I put the clip on Instagram, and Irv reposted it. That was pretty dope.

3 – Which one of your professions do you enjoy more – doing photography or videography? Why?

I enjoy videography more. I’m pretty much involved in the entire process, from directing to shooting and then editing in post-production. Editing could be time-consuming but it’s actually my favorite part of a production. Being able to piece a story together, where it’s appealing to the eye and ear is not as easy as it seems. I like my work to always look clean, simple, but impactful. If you notice, my fonts are always pretty basic, I don’t use much effects and filters, because I love the organic feeling of visuals as if it was a reality. I love for everything to look cinematic, and as long as I have quality visuals and quality audio, I feel like I can piece together anything. I realized I loved videography more when I started editing wedding videos. It literally feels like you’re creating a fairytale for Disney. With weddings, I learned the importance of audio, whether it be using sound bites or instrumentals, but audio plays a big role in getting that feeling.

4 – In your opinion, why do you believe visuals, whether still shots or video, have become so important today?

In my opinion, visuals have become so important today because of how the dynamic of media has changed, and the power of social media. These companies are creating visual content for their audience because people absorb it better than they do with words. Most people’s attention spans are a lot shorter now of days, and there are many studies that prove the human brain processes information faster when it’s delivered visually. Speaking for myself, I remember information a lot more when there’s a video attached, or some form of visual presentation, whether it’s a graphic, animation, etc. It allows you to get creative with your marketing, and I definitely believe it’s become the most important form of communication.

5 – You’ve done so many different types of visual work from music videos, sporting events, recap videos, podcasts and so on. What would you say was your favorite moment to cover? Why?

My favorite moment to cover would have to have been the video production for Dave East- Type of Time (The first release). There are so many other great moments that happened in my career, but nothing in comparison to this project. Literally a day I could never forget. At that time, I was apart of a production team. We would always talk about an upcoming artist coming out of New York, and just by listening to their music we would casually create our own video treatments. Dave was one of my favorite underground artists, so of course, I wanted my team to shoot a video for him. I wish I could go into full detail about this whole story, but I’d literally be here all night and still miss a few parts. Long story short that shoot was a real team effort. From the location scouting to my partner Crash getting the Jeep, me getting a whole bunch of dirt bikes to come out the day after a blizzard in Harlem. It was an epic moment for me, it was the transition into my career where I learned how to wear multiple hats at once, and to know I was apart of the beginning middle and end to a project made me wanna do this for a living. We shot this video on a Sunday, I handed in the final edit that Tuesday, and it was released on XXL that Wednesday. That’s a 2-day turnaround, which seemed crazy at the time based on how the whole situation played out. All in all, that’s the type of worth ethic I want to bring to the table no matter what the project is. That was definitely my favorite moment.

6 – What are some of the challenges or obstacles that you’ve faced being that you’re a woman so involved in this industry?

I’ve seen both sides of how women can be treated in this industry, but I think in a predominantly male environment your going to experience a lot more challenges than you’d intend. Whether it be your age, gender, ethnicity, etc. As long as you stay true to yourself, and remain focused on what you want to achieve, your work ethic will speak for itself. Through all the obstacles I’ve faced, I never let it hold me back from reaching my full potential.

7 – Being that there aren’t too many women out there that do what you do, have you ever had any moments of self-doubt or fear? How were able to overcome that?

The more I accomplish the more I get over my self- doubt and fear. I never want to be in an atmosphere where I feel like I don’t belong there, or my voice isn’t being heard. I learned to only work on projects I’m passionate about, rather than chasing a check. I overcome doubt and fear by keeping positive people around me, and people that keep it 100% real with me.

8 – You recently teamed up with Brandon “Killa BH” Hall and Erin Simon to join their Grass Route Podcast team. How did that happen?

It’s funny how that happened. I always say I kind of just speak things into existence. I had tuned into one of their episodes on YouTube, and when I watch content I always think of what could be added to the production. Those are things I often think to myself. I was familiar with Brandon “Killah BH” from his skits on Joe Budden: Mood Muzik projects, and from seeing him perform at his shows. I had the pleasure of attending 2 of Joe’s concerts at B.B. Kings in NYC where I formally met Brandon. Fast forward to now we both followed each other on Instagram and I had just posted my promotion video for my video production. In hindsight, He and Erin were looking for a videographer to join their podcast, so when he sent me a message inquiring business, it was a no-brainer for me. Within the next few days, I began shooting their podcast. I met Erin that first day, along with a few other team members and everyone was super cool, and pretty much made me “Apart of the Family” (which is one of their sayings for the brand) right away. As soon as they posted it on their Instagram that I had joined the team, everyone was texting me congratulating me like wow that’s a big move. Erin’s name was definitely brought up a lot in terms of good business, and just being an all around good person. I knew I made the right decision.

9 – Aside from the fact that you’re a videographer and photographer, you’re also a graphic designer. It is a visual aspect but \what made you get into that?

Graphic design is actually where it all started. Like in 2001, my sister had brought home her first computer from college. It was the first few times I used the computer by myself and she would open up paint for me. I was literally always creating graphics on Windows Paint. Where eventually as I grew older, and I’m literally growing with the internet; I started researching everything on google. My sister would always make her own cd’s, so as a teen I was always on Limewire downloading music and I noticed there was an option to download software. I started downloading programs like Corel paint shop pro and eventually photoshop. In 2007, when MySpace was super popular, that was really my first hustle. Creating myspace layouts for my friends and teaching myself HTML coding. It was pretty cool, I was literally creating a couple of pages a day. My friends would give me their account information, and I would set up their myspace layout. Most of my friends were doing music and rapping, so I started creating their mixtape covers. After graduating high school, and not getting accepted into any of the art schools I applied for, I pretty much got discouraged. I started working more and I didn’t have much time for my art. Until the popularity of Tumblr and Instagram. As that platform grew, I started showcasing my art again, and I would always create my own covers for new music releases hoping the artist would pick it up or repost it. There have been times that it happened. So graphic design was pretty much my introduction to music, video, and photography. Now I just combine it all together.

10 – What is one talent of yours that you want to expand on or at least give a bit more attention to this year?

I wanna give more attention to my photography. I feel like I have a good eye for capturing moments, but I’d love for my pictures to look more professional in quality, and that just comes with investing in more equipment. Right now I’ve just been building as a videographer, so the equipment I use for videos is not typically the same camera/equipment I would use for photography. So I’m definitely going to start investing in that side more.

11 – What valuable piece of advice have you received based on your craft?

A valuable piece of advice I have received was from Misa Hylton. We were meeting at Starbucks to go over a project we are now currently working on together called “The Secret Fashion Project”. As we spoke, and I told her a lil bit about myself she was telling me how she sees so much of herself in me. I mean, when she said that, we are talking about Misa Hylton. Automatically I’m like I can’t wait to tell my sisters. Cause they are the only reason I would know who she is, and the era she grew up in. A lot of her early success came from being at the right place at the right time, and that’s how I feel about a lot of the projects I had the opportunity of being involved in. She told me, it’s not about just being at the right place at the right time, you have to be the right person. And that stuck with me since that day. From then on, at any moment I feel self-doubt, I remind myself I’m where I am because I belong here.

12 – If you could shoot any type of visual piece with anybody you can think of who would that be? Why?

I think it would have to be Spike Lee. Most of my favorite movies are directed by him; Crooklyn, Do The Right Thing, He Got Game … like I can go on and on, and these are all independent films. Before I even got into film he was just such an inspiration to me. One of my favorite pair of Jordan’s from my collection are the Spiz-ike’s, and growing up as a Knicks Fan always seeing him sitting courtside, it’s just like HE IS NEW YORK. I would take pictures with my hat raised and the glasses just like he did (I know corny, but who hasn’t done that lol). I just think he’s the perfect representation of being successful and Black in this film industry because, to be honest, we don’t get enough credit. So I’d love to be apart of a project he directs, or even an interview. I mean I literally just had a dream about him the other day, so I already think something is going to happen soon. I feel it.

13 – What’s next for Brittany Brand for 2018?

I’ve already done the unthinkable, so I can’t imagine what’s next for me in 2018. I never even thought I’d be in the position I am in today. I’ve transformed from a graphic designer to a film editor, to a director, and to a videographer. I literally can’t imagine what’s next, but I know whatever it is it won’t be a disappointment.

Event Host and Curator Taqee Bond Speaks on Hosting Inspirations, The Makings of a Great Event MC, Creating His ‘What’s the Move?’ Newsletter and More.

There is a specific art form that goes into hosting an event. You can’t just be the guy or the girl on the mic shouting out a bunch of miscellaneous things. A great host has to be able to engage the crowd as much as possible but also be able to entertain. Every event host has their own particular way of creating that engagement factor but Taqee Bond has found his lane and has been using it to build his name throughout the event industry for quite some time. Taqee isn’t only one of the best MC’s to host an event in the NYC area but he also helps others find dope events with his well-known event newsletter, What’s The Move?, which he calls a “social directory.”

I had the chance to catch up with Taqee as he talked about his inspiration to get into event hosting, how he became known for his photobombing talents, the start of What’s The Move?, tips for the emerging event host and more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get started in event hosting?

I was managing artist at the time and I booked my artist a show and the original host didn’t show up. The promoter was a friend of mine so she asked me to fill in and host. I was like “what the hell?” So I just did it and it went really well.

2 – What inspired you to get into the event hosting business? 

After that night, I realized I had a sort of talent, a gift of gab over the mic. So I started getting little hosting gigs, for either free or cheap as hell and Q took me with him everywhere he DJ’d and let me host his set. I was just high off how much fun I was having being myself. Shortly after I started hosting we started, Q Shepard, Cleverly Chloe and myself launched Word of Mouth Radio and I became more of a personality, hosting made way more sense at that time.

3 – What was the first event you ever hosted?

It was that accidental hosting gig from the first question, but after that my very next gig was a couple days later, hosting at the launch of a skateboard shop in the heights some friends of mine owned. We had a fuckin blast. I’m not sure if I was doing a good job or if everyone was really drunk, but that night was the night I told myself “yo you can really do this.”

4 – In your opinion, what makes a great event host? 

A great host is an actual MC. Someone who brings personality to the party and creates moments that people will talk about days after the party has ended. A great host has to be well versed and of course a sharp thinker. That’s an actual host, not that person who has a picture on the flyer and just shows up to the party to drink in their section and be on Snapchat.

5 – You’ve used social media as a huge way to build your name, especially with your photobombing. That’s something that has become synonymous with you. How did that start?

I was at a party at the legendary APT78. Back when a glass of sangria wasn’t enough and you needed a whole pitcher for yourself, back when that middle table was notorious for providing support while you caught a dub from a beautiful woman. wild times, a simpler time. Anyway, I saw these 4 beautiful women setting themselves up to take a picture. I was drunk as hell and the party was so packed I literally couldn’t get out of their picture, so I smiled. After that, my friends kept saying “yo keep doing this, keep doing this!” So I did, slowly but surely my collection got bigger. Global Grind actually wrote an article about it, that’s how I knew shit was real.

6 – How did you start What’s the Move NYC? What was the inspiration for creating a platform that is a pretty much a newsletter for NYC events?

At the time I was hosting and entering my final months as an artist manager so I was all over the city going to these dope ass events and people couldn’t believe I was in these places and meeting these people, so I started slowly putting people on. Honestly, I was incredibly frustrated with everyone around me being so excited about doing the same things every weekend. Every weekend “let’s go to city island or a strip club or a hookah bar” and that’s cool, but damn every weekend? I started collecting emails and piecing together a newsletter of events and parties that were coming up. People loved it and people started using it. I became obsessed with making the newsletter better and giving people more options. Over the next 3 years, the newsletter became a website and the website sparked the complete WTM brand that I like to call a “social directory”.

7 – From all the parties that you’ve hosted, is there one that comes to mind that didn’t turn out the way you thought it would? Which party would you say was the best? Why? 

I can think of so many events that turned out horribly. Either it wasn’t promoted incorrectly, the names on the flyer didn’t find enough bells, maybe the date was no good, there are so many things that go into an event that was a dub, but each one is a learning experience. And that goes for events I’ve thrown and events I’ve hosted. The best party/event I’ve ever been a part of will have to be Anti-Lemonade. I was the project manager to Brianni T. for this event, so my job was to pretty much keep shit together and keep shit moving forward as well as help piece it together. It was the best because it was the most organized event planning process I’ve ever been apart of cause Brianni runs a tight ship and because there were over 1,500 people that came. We had a great night, everyone enjoyed themselves and I learned so much in the process.

8 – I know sometimes attending events day in and day out can become exhausting. What keeps you motivated at this current moment?

To be completely honest, I haven’t been going outside too much the past couple of months. I’ve been locked in getting my mind right and my business right. Ironically my business is based on going out and being social, but I’ve become a homebody in this process. I’ve learned that I don’t have to go to everything. I used to have such a fear of missing out, now I can’t wait to say “Nah, I ain’t gonna make it.” Nothing personal, I just know that I’m not gonna make it to everything, so I have to pick and choose what events or parties I’m going to pull up to. I mostly go places that will be beneficial for me to be at. Somewhere I can spread the word about “What’s The Move?”. I don’t really like clubs and parties are terrible places to spread a business to me (ain’t body tryna hear that, they want to party). So I try to stay away from those. A good networking event, mixer, launch party, lounge or happy hour is perfect for me.

9 – What’s the biggest piece of advice anyone has ever given you in regards to your craft?

Focus on what’s important. Not what you think is important, what is actually important. We waste so much time worried about the wrong shit and it distracts us. It makes it hard to complete a task or work efficiently because we’re not focused on the shit that will help us. We see other people getting to it and we start to think less of ourselves or start to try to achieve their goals. That sometimes stems from us not being focused. I hear this from people all the time, but I never really understood it until I watched LeBron become the greatest basketball player ever. That level of basketball requires a level of focus that is damn near inhuman. LeBron isn’t worried about shit that doesn’t make him a better player. He focuses only on what will. Now, look at that sweep in Toronto, that was all the power of absolute focus.

10 – If you could collaborate with any other event hosts or party curators, whether in NYC or elsewhere, who would that be? Why?

I came up with a couple of brilliant creatives that are all doing their thing right now. We’ve seen each other grow, we’ve helped each other grow and we’ve literally been becoming the people we said we would become. One thing we never did was throw a huge party together. I feel like with all of our combined talents, networks, and resources, we could throw one of the greatest party’s New York has ever seen, maybe even take it on tour. I always said we’re superheroes individually, but together we’re like the Avengers. (Pre Thanos)

11 – What would be some general tips you would give to the rising event host/event curator?

Do what makes sense for you. Not to you, for you. It may look like a good move, but it may not be the best move for you. As long as you stay true to yourself and put in the groundwork, everything you do will be great

12 – What’s next for Taqee Bond? What can we expect from you for 2018?

Only thing I’m focused on right now is What’s The Move?. I’m gonna host here and there, but really nothing else matters to me right now, which is actually a good thing. I’ve always had a full plate, trying to juggle so many different projects and brands, but finally, I have a full plate, with just one thing on my plate. By the end of 2018, What’s The Move? will be the go-to source for social life activities in New York City.

REC Philly Co-Founder Will Toms Speaks on the Rise of the Brand, The Freethinkers Membership Program, REC Philly’s Biggest Highlight, Working with Wyclef Jean and More.

It’s interesting to think that there are so many different kinds of creatives in the world that are thriving and contributing to our culture. They range from photographers, videographers, writers, actors/actresses, visual artists, musicians, fashion stylists, DJ’s and so on. Although the list is extensive, it’s disappointing to think that a lot of the creatives out there lack the resources to gain an opportunity to showcase their creative talent. This is where REC Philly has stepped in to bridge that gap. From a small music group that consisted of a few friends to now being one of the most recognized creative agencies, REC Philly is using their current streams of resources to give back to emerging self-starters and entrepreneurs. Ultimately, these resources connect the talents to the opportunities they need to build a foundation for their brand.

I had the chance to speak with co-founder Will Toms about how REC Philly started, their membership program, the biggest motivating factor for the brand, linking up with Wyclef Jean and much more in our interview below.

1 – How did you guys come up with REC Philly?

REC Philly came as a pivot from a prior business that my partner Dave Silver and I had in 2012 called Broad Street Music Group. Back in 2012 we were in a space where we always had musician friends but we realized that we’re playing management roles to rappers and creatives and such, we realized how difficult it was for hip-hop artists or musicians in general to get the opportunities that they were trying to get as far as opening slots on shows that were coming to town or even just knowing who to go to for services. So we were just out here saying to ourselves that if we don’t have the resources we need, we have to start building. At that time, both my business partner and I were in a fraternity so we basically had the resources of fraternity houses. We came up with the idea to create a space on an off night and allow people to express themselves, sort of like an open mic. Dave was out doing that at Temple out of his frat house and I was doing similar things over at IUP where I went and it just caught on.

2 – The team is apart of a lot of different things but before putting REC Philly together, did you have any experience in like music, photography, event planning and such?

When I was a kid I wrote a lot of poetry and I always had a passion for film production. I was doing TV broadcasting and journalism and that kind of stuff throughout high school. I ran the TV studio when I was in high school and then when I got into college I ran the TV studio there. I was able to produce a couple of shows so I figured my trajectory would be somewhere in the lines of producing TV for a big network. I actually got the opportunity to intern for NBC when I was in college and they gave me the opportunity to work in news and then they gave me the opportunity to work in the creative department and that’s where I fell in love with creating content and I knew I wanted to build an agency after that. That internship gave me that spark.

3 – Aside from Philly being a city of talented musicians, what inspired you guys to get into helping other creatives?

With my background in understanding communications, I always knew how important TV and media was and how it controlled the way people viewed themselves and how people understood each other. I knew that whoever was controlling that had power. I always said to myself how interesting would it be if better people had this same influence and power. As Dave and I started building with these artists, we just realized how little access these creative people in Philly had to the smallest things like business professionals. You know, the real resources to build. I’ll speak for myself first, it was really important for me to have people have that sort of access because it came to down my economic understanding. We live in a capitalistic society so if anyone is going to have a say in what the f*ck is happening, we have to have capital. We gotta know how to do business and as a young black potential entrepreneur I was like, it has to be easier for people who didn’t have the luxury that I had to be able to build their businesses. That was the driving factor for me.

4 – REC Philly has planted their flag in the city as far as events go but you guys also have your hands in a few other things outside of that. How exactly does REC Philly work as far as getting people access to what you offer?

That’s a great question. So essentially our business model is broken down into two sides. One side of our company is a more traditional creative agency where we help solve the creative problems from the hip-hop artists who need a music video up to Comcast when they’re trying to go to SXSW and engage with more millennial audiences. So in that realm, we’re creating content for brands of all sizes. Then on the other side of the coin, we have what we call the creative incubator. That’s the newer side of things. We launched a membership program called the Free Thinkers membership. That was a response to us saying instead of doing a little bit for a ton of artists, we want to do more for fewer artists. And the people who really understood what we were building and want to buy in and support that, they’re able to pay a low monthly cost for a membership that gives them access to our spaces including our studio space, our venue and more. They also get discounts to all kinds of service providers so, for example, an entertainment lawyer. If we get one of out creatives in contact with our entertainment lawyer, right away we can get them up to a 30% discount just because they’re REC Philly members. Essentially, I look at the Free Thinkers membership as a gym membership for creative people.

5 – Does REC Philly offer management for the creatives you work with or is it more so them just paying you for a specific service and you cater to that?

No, it’s not management. That’s the one thing that we’re not. Reason being is because typically management deals are structured with a manager who gets a percentage of ownership of everything. They make like 20% or 25%. For us, while we’re working together, we create things but the artists retain 100% ownership over everything. So when they sign up for membership on a high tier, they’re actually given an account manager internal. But the account managers’ job is to make sure the member understands all the resources that they have at their disposal and they can help manage projects. So for example, an artist says “hey, I want to throw an event.” We’ll say ok cool, let’s connect you to a venue. And then we’ll ask questions about the promotional strategy and XYZ and then we’ll help move that project from start to finish but everything that’s paid out to us is based on the services that we’re providing. But, when it’s all said and done the artist owns everything.

6 – You guys are doing something that not a lot of people have been able to do and you guys have a lot of support. What has been one of the biggest motivating factors to keeping REC Philly a household name?

For me, it would have to come down to impact. I hope that doesn’t sound cliche but it’s definitely impact. It comes to taking a step back and realizing what we’ve done. For me, I get excited when I see our internal staff. These are the people who have been with us for years and I’ve seen their professional development because of what we’ve been able to have them do with us. They are out here literally doing things that they are genuinely excited to do. Sitting back and looking at one of our members who’s a videographer. Last year, we were able to put over $12,000 in his pocket through projects that we were doing with him. Or a guy like Guru Media is who now a day to day shooter for A$AP Ferg through an oop we were able to throw him. We connected him to Tory Lanez randomly. Tory came by our studio and said he was looking for a shooter. I told him I had someone I wanted to introduce him to. They connected on a Thursday. Tory had a show that following Friday and believe it or not that same weekend Tory took my homie on tour with him. To see the impact that’s caused by the strategies, that’s the most fulfilling thing and I know there’s creative hope. Other cities and other countries need creative structures just like this to give people access to opportunities and resources.

7 – I know a lot of the team is pretty engaged in social media but how does the team manage to stay on top of what’s relevant in music, fashion, photography etc?

The one thing that works in our favor is that we are our market. The people that we’re servicing, these creative entrepreneurs are extensions of ourselves. How do we stay on top of new music? It’s the sh*t that we’re consuming. How do we stay on top of digital trends? That’s who we are. Scarlett is the queen of the internet when it comes to memes and new platforms and things like that. I think that’s our leverage. We are the people we’re servicing. I feel our team is the best people in the world for what we’re doing and that makes things easy.

8 – REC Philly has been apart of and done a lot of different things. What would you say is the teams biggest highlight and why?

I would say our SXSW show back in 2015. I say that because it was such a pivotal moment. You know how at SXSW there’s a Chicago stage and then there’s like Tokyo houses where people from that region come out… we went down there and bootstrapped our own show and this was all in the middle of us transitioning from Broad Street Music Group to REC Philly. We brought down like 12 acts from Philly and we were able to get an official Philly stage and when we got back home, we felt like we were really able to accomplish what no one else could’ve done to that point. And, I think the city realized that. When we got back and people saw what we were doing, there were so many inquiries of who is REC Philly, what is the brand, what are they doing etc. Every SXSW after that, the same thing has happened but just on a larger scale. To put things into perspective, David and I raised about $12,000 to throw that show and we had Lil Uzi Vert, Freeway on the same stage and this was when Uzi was on that same run before his breakout. This was when DJ Drama and Don Cannon were literally taking him to every single show and letting him pop up and do shows. When we got back to Philly and realized there wasn’t a Philly presence similar to what we did, we were able to go and tell the big brands like Comcast and Temple University. We were able to tell them that there’s no presence for Philly here. Fast forward to 2016, we raised $100,000 and helped create something called Amplify Philly. Once we did that, it really set us apart.

9 – Aside from REC Philly growing as a name, in what ways do you feel it has grown into an overall brand?

There’s a couple ways. The first way, the REC name I kind of gave it an acronym and that’s Resources for Every Creator. I think the brand has grown in a sense because it has really become that. I think we’re at a point now where people look at that logo and they respect it because when you see that logo on a flyer or on anything, there’s almost an inherent level of value that you know it’s going to have. And that’s just based on us consistently delivering quality experiences, quality content and more. I’m obviously biased and close to the whole thing but I think that’s what people look at us as. What I want this to ultimately feel like is when you see that blue check on Twitter and you know it’s official, that’s what I want our logo to become. You’ll see it on people events flyers and peoples content but not so much on behalf of the brand being important. More so saying what the brand has done is done with quality and you can trust it.

10 – I noticed that REC Philly has a hotline number. What exactly do you guys use that number for?

Great question. So that number that you see is what we call the REC line. We use that number to engage our fans on a much deeper level. I understand that we can always hit people through Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and email but it’s getting to a point that with social media now, even if you have a million followers when you post something that doesn’t mean a million people are going to see it. It’s with the understanding that if we can only connect with our fans through email and social media, we don’t really own that relationship. If Twitter and Instagram were to die tomorrow, how will we then engage with all of these people that we’re trying to reach? It’ll be difficult. So that number allows us an address book for everyone who supports our company and it just gives us a much better way of engaging with our audience. So at any given time, someone can call or text that number and get any info about anything that we’re doing. Members such as musicians can easily text that number saying something like #studio and from there they can get easy access to studios to book a session.

11 – I know the team was able to put something together late last year with Wyclef Jean. Talk a little about that. Is there anything else that might come from that event?

The Wyclef event came as a partnership between us and Professor Timothy Welbeck of Temple University. Prof. Welbeck conducted a Freethinkers Interview with Wyclef covering his upbringing, the state of hip-hop & more. This was a great experience, hosting an auditorium of students, artists & creative entrepreneurs eager to learn from the musical legend. After the first sit down, Wyclef was excited to come back and further the conversation earlier this month.  We got to chat a little deeper about the trajectory of REC Philly and he’s taken interest in what we’re doing.

12 – What can we expect from you and the rest of the REC Philly team for 2018? Any big surprises? 

In 2018, we’ll be increasing our focus on our technology and membership program. This will start to position ourselves less as an entertainment company, and more as a tech company that serves entertainment brands. Watch out for the growth of membership and the launch of our web app in 2018, as well as a mobile app in early 2019. You can also look out for the growth of our creative agency, powering really strong entertainment experiences this year.

Brea Simone Speaks on the Event Production Industry, The Rising Culture of Connecticut, Creating ‘Now You Know Entertainment’, and More.

There are so many young creatives in the world today and with the overflow of content, it’s hard sometimes to gage in on just one. But, when you recognize that “one” who is actually putting in the work day in and day out, you constantly await their next move. Also, we live in a society where everyone is proud to shout out their stomping grounds and hometown. When most feared to say where they were from, Brea Simone stepped up and let her following know that the emerging culture of Connecticut will not go unrecognized. Combining an outrageous work ethic, love for music and event planning as well as a solid rolodex of connections, Brea took her name and her brand to new heights. Not only has she put the pieces together for herself but she’s also lent a hand in helping out some of Connecticut’s hottest musical talents, up and coming entrepreneurs and visual creatives.

I caught up with Brea to talk about her upbringing in the event and music industry, the misconception of Connecticut, expanding on her talents, Now You Know Entertainment and more.

1 – How did you end up in the music/event industry?

I’ve had a love for music since I was little. I was fortunate enough to grow up on many different genres from my mom and my father. My mom was more of my R&B, Jazz, Hip-Hop influence while my dad contributed to my love of Rap, Rock, Pop, and Freestyle. I’ve always been a helper so I would go on twitter at times and tell people to send me their music. I liked being the girl in school that knew of the new artist before everyone else. Coming home from school and going on nothing but hip-hop blogs to see who’s new and who dropped mixtapes. I always wanted people to go to my MySpace page and ask what song was featured because they liked it lol! There was even this site called Tagged back in the day. I used to want badges from people with the music symbol. Even though it was dumb, I appreciated people that appreciated my ear for dope sh*t. When I was in college I worked as an intern for an Africana Center. I ended up putting together a poetry night and had some local performers share their talents. I packed out the room for the first event I ever did and from there, the rest is history.

2 – Your name/brand has grown a solid reputation throughout the years. Being that you’re from Connecticut and there’s this misperception of Connecticut out there, was it hard to get your name to the masses?

I was fortunate enough to be on platforms like Twitter and Instagram before people really gravitated towards it. It definitely helped me with getting my brand out to the masses. When I initially started I really had no end game like, “okay Brea, you have to get a following on social media.” It just kind of happened with things like #FollowFriday on Twitter and just meeting new people all over. I was shy. My twitter gave me a voice to be myself and interact with people. Then once people found out I was from CT I grabbed their attention more because they 99% of the time knew nothing about it. So I used that to my benefit as much as possible.

3 – Although CT is apart of the tristate, why do you think it gets such a bad reputation as far as new talent goes?

I think what makes it hard for CT is that we are between two major cities, New York and Boston. It’s easy to overlook because we don’t really have anything appealing for tourist to come to see. We don’t have a professional team for basketball or football. We mainly have UCONN and the Casinos. There’s nothing driving individuals to be like, “let’s go to CT today!” And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it just means people here just have to work 10x harder. I will say I appreciate it because it’s not oversaturated here. People move to the big cities where people are there already trying to make a name for themselves so there’s more competition when you are an outsider. I truly think the CT market is a blessing because of that. No one is coming here to step on toes of the people already creating. That goes for all the smaller, overlooked states. I think if more people got into that mindset, CT would be grateful and thankful and start focusing more on the right things.

4 – You seem to have taken on the title of “Connector of Dots” and have had that title for some time now. What is it about connecting people together that makes you love what you do?

I’m naturally a helper. I put people before myself. And I don’t do it to get recognition from others. I do it because I feel good when someone else is happy. That’s really what it is about to me. If I know that I helped someone achieve something, whether I get the “thank you!” or not… regardless, I know I’m doing what I was put on this earth to do. Some people may think its foolish but I live by what energy you put out into the world, is what you get back tenfold. You may talk down on me behind closed doors and I may know about it, but if something comes my way as an opportunity for someone, I put those feelings aside and focus on the business. That’s just the nature of my title and I live by that.

5 – You’re a woman of a lot of talents and wear a lot of different hats. What exactly is the brand of Brea Simone?

The brand of Brea Simone is an experience. Your brand is built off what you have people walk away with after being exposed to it. I want people to walk away informed if I do a panel. I want people to walk away with a contact if I do a networking event. I want people to walk away saying, “wow, I had an amazing time” after leaving one of my parties or events. I want people to come across dope new talent if I bring attention to it. It’s not a half-assed effort. It’s really hard work and dedication. I want people to feel that. Your brand speaks for you. What you bring to the table as a team or individual speaks to the masses for you. So I want people to walk away happy and satisfied with anything Brea Simone is involved in. And I understand I can’t make everyone happy. That’s a given. But I know if 9 out of 10 people are happy, they will either come back to the next thing or go to their friends and tell them about me. Word of mouth is a powerful
thing. Perception is also a powerful thing. I think since I’ve realized that early I’ve been able to build a brand that will have longevity not only in Connecticut but in other areas as well.

6 – Which one of your talents do you think have helped your career the most? Which one are you going to be investing more into this year?

I think one of the greatest things about me is my ability to connect with many different
individuals all over. I think it’s important to have an extremely diverse Rolodex of contacts. And I don’t mean diverse in regards to just ethnic backgrounds. I mean it in regards to the kind of talent people have, the different skill set one can offer, different people in random locations and more. You never know, you might be stranded in Arizona one day and remember a kid you met at a show in NY who runs all of Phoenix and you followed them on IG. All it takes is that one memory, that one great impression to keep a connection worth years to come. I plan on expanding my network to many different areas. I don’t want to stick to typical locations. I want to reach more.

7 – How has the evolution of social media impacted your career?

Social media has helped my career a lot. People used to refer to me on my college campus as the twitter famous girl because a lot of people did not have a high amount of following in my state like I did lol. Social media has allowed me to connect with people I never thought I would be able to hold a conversation with. I’ve met many great people and established an amazing network off being online. It’s truly amazing when I sit back and reflect on it. I think now little things like IG changing up their posting has messed up a lot of influencers and creative from running their personal brands/businesses on the platform. I’ve recently stopped posting as much on IG. I thought I read that they are switching back and if that is the case I know myself and many other peers of mine will be happy lol. I think for me, yes obviously, me being a woman is an advantage. I can use the fact that I have pictures up on my IG to then message individuals on IG about business and they have a face to match the message. Rather than just sending an email. People get emails all day. If I can make a connection over a social media platform I would
rather do that any day. Social media has allowed me to shoot my shot and make the winning shot at the buzzer. I love it. I can’t wait to continue to evolve with it.

8 – You just launched your brand, Now You Know Entertainment. Elaborate on that.

Now You Know is my baaaby! I started the idea in January of 2017. When I first came up with the name, I just wanted to do artist showcases. Originally it was going to be once a month, then I changed it to quarterly. I then realized I didn’t have the budget to bring an artist from OT to Connecticut every 3 months so it was back to the drawing board. I did an artist showcase in the 1st quarter and then did a panel in the 2nd quarter. The 3rd I took a break because I needed to prepare for A3C where I had moderate a panel and the 4th quarter I ended up doing networking events. I realized that the platform could be a lot bigger than I initially thought it could be. The possibilities were endless with what I wanted my audience to know. My panel was the ultimate thing that ended up showing that to me. So many people came out and just spoke to me once the event
commenced letting me know where they traveled from and how happy they were that I put together the event. That’s when I realized I had something special I needed to keep going with.

9 – In correlation with connecting the dots and bringing people together, what intrigues you about throwing an event?

I love everything in regards to planning an event. I get a rush off of the process. It’s like a high for me. I love brainstorming the idea, calling venues, making contracts, doing the walkthrough, setting up and executing. People may think I’m crazy but I even love it more when little f*ck ups happen and I have to fix it really fast without anyone at the event knowing. For example, on my way to my NYK Panel, I got a flat tire. No one in the event knew it happened until after the event was over and I told people. It’s all about keeping your composure and knowing what to do when things like that happen.

10 – In your opinion, do you feel women in this industry get the credit that they deserve?

Nah, I don’t think they do. But I’m starting to see a lot more women are getting credit as of late and I’m happy for that!!! I think that women always have to try 10x harder. And if you’re a black woman in the industry, that doubles. I hope it can change though. I truly believe women run the world. Women are the brains and masterminds behind a lot of amazing things. Your favorite artist or creator might have a strong team of men behind them but there’s probably really one woman who is solidifying a lot of the decisions behind the individual. But people would never know. I hope that can change in the future.

11 – What does the new wave of entrepreneurs, musicians, creatives, etc from Connecticut look like? You’ve lent a hand in helping a lot of people from CT so what up and comers are you working with now?

Connecticut is so versatile. I don’t think you can put one sound, one look, one vibe or feel to the state as a whole. I think that’s why I love it so much. People aren’t afraid to be themselves here. I think we’re trying to take the nightlife back. A lot of the clubs have shut down so venues are slim to none in the city. A lot of places also don’t want to be involved in hip-hop things anymore. And I’m sure that’s universal. But right now, it’s hitting CT hard and all at once. I think the creators here are determined. They are resilient. They want their voice to be heard. They want to make a mark and get CT the attention it deserves. The musicians are hard working. The promoters are savvy. The hosts are becoming more creative. And the list goes on.

12 – You’ve had the pleasure of collaborating and working with some dope individuals. What has been your favorite project thus far? Why?

Devin Cobbs is the most phenomenal person I have been able to work with. He’s such a great friend and really opens doors for anyone he deems worthy and I’m just so fortunate and blessed to be one of those individuals he gave a shot as well. From my first 40oz bounce in CT back in 2016 to working side by side with him last year at the Meadows festival…I’ve learned so much from him and I can’t thank him enough. He took a chance on me. He spoke on my panel as his first panel event. I was so happy when he said yes. Just because he’s shared so much knowledge with me, I knew he could change people’s lives in that room when he spoke about his journey. I think the most fun I had working with Devin was the 40oz Hamburger Helper event. The vibe was just good, he trusted me to set up on my own, run around and then once all the hectic things calmed down we got to enjoy the event. That’s what it’s about. Getting your responsibilities settled, keeping the sponsor happy and just having fun.

13 – If you could think of one person to collaborate on a party/project with, who would that person be? Why?

I’d love to do something with DussePalooza. That whole team is full of rockstars. They all have their own talents at the end of the day but they really come together to throw a GREAT party for people. It’s not just a party either. It’s an experience. From Peeje’s graphics, to Raven’s photos, to Karl’s recaps, to Chris and Low’s hosting… it is just phenomenal. Kam is amazing and has a wonderful soul. Kaz is awesome and so full of happiness. It would be an honor to work with them one day. *Super fangirl mode*
14 – What can we expect from Brea for the rest of 2018?

Growth. I expect failure as well. I can’t grow if I don’t fail. People may not see it and that’s fine. But when people do see my final product of my vision, I hope they will know it took me a lot to get there. I’m not sure what God has planned for me for the rest of the year but I’m ready. That’s all that really matters to me. I’ve been blessed enough to make it this far. I’m just fortunate enough to wake up and do what I love every day.

Erin A. Simon Speaks on Effective Marketing and Advertising, Content/Creative Strategizing, The Evolution of Social Media and More.

There are a variety of things that go into building up your brand but being able to effectively market and advertise it to the masses is crucial. In today’s world, being a smart strategist plays a huge role in how you draw people into not only who you are as a person but to whatever your brand/product is. Not to mention, the importance of visual representation has become much more of a challenge for brands due to the rapid evolution of social media. Erin A. Simon knows a thing or two about content strategizing and growing a vast audience for your brand through your social media presence. After putting the time in for companies like REVOLT TV and Cycle, Erin has been able to build a strong following of people who turn to her for tips and tricks on how to properly introduce themselves and their brands to the world.

Erin opened up about the importance of marketing and advertising, being an effective content strategist, living in a world where content can sometimes be overly saturated and a lot more in our interview below.

1 – What inspired you growing up that made you want to get into the entertainment industry?

Honestly, growing up I never aspired to work in the entertainment industry haha it just naturally happened that way. I was a big science kid so I wanted to work as a Physical Therapist, Psychologist or Forensic Pathologist. I was always interested in how the human body works and how people think and etc. But, once I created my website called boxofmess.com at the age of 16, that path completely changed. I had a platform that allowed me to talk about sports, music, interview athletes and celebs. What started as a hobby eventually grew to a platform that had over a million unique visitors and over a million YouTube video views. From there I continued working in the sports industry until my mentors told me to move more over to music for various reasons, so I did. Now, I’ve found a way to be in both music and sports, which is exciting but unexpected back when I was growing up. That’s the great thing about life, things that are meant to happen just happen and I’m glad it happened this way. And even still, my career is changing, I went from being a journalist to now a content developer. This new adjustment has allowed me to exercise both my creativity and strategy/business side.

So, growing up, I was just lucky to have two parents who believed in me and helped support me in any way. Those two in addition to my family inspired me to chase after my dreams, wherever it would take me. And I so happen to end up in the entertainment industry!

2 – Was being a part of this industry something you were striving for throughout your time spent in school?

I never really strived to work in the entertainment industry, I strived to be one of the greatest in content development and creation. For me personally, I saw the ability to cross over into any industry as the most valuable asset that anyone could have. No matter where you go, you are doing great work. Personally, I felt that aiming for a goal within my self will always have a positive outcome, no matter where I was.

Building my morals, values, self-confidence, skill-sets, problem-solving skills and more within myself has helped me to maneuver within this industry. I think doing this first helped me avoid any negative temptations that come with this industry and also to handle any and all expectations.

It’s great working in this industry, I’ve met so many wonderful people, mentors and have worked on some great projects. But, I think striving to be a better person at the end of the day will always positively surpass the drive to work in any industry.

3 – Aside from the music part of your life, you’re also a huge sports fanatic. Which one of these do you enjoy covering or talking about more? Why?

I enjoy covering both, I think ultimately it is about the stories. Each person has a unique story, angle, experience that could shed some light on things. Since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the way people think, play, work, live life, tell their stories and more. So, having the chance to do that in both fields is wonderful! Music and sports have always been great passions so I don’t think I would ever just pick one. There are so many connecting factors between music and sports, so in some form, they often have similarities. Goes back to that saying, rappers want to be athletes and athletes want to be rappers. And it’s fairly true haha but that’s because sports and hip-hop or black culture have always been interconnected in various forms. And not just that, people of all walks of life come together for both music events and sports events, so to see how similar the music and sports industry are has been very interesting and has definitely made it a greater experience covering both. So, at the end of the day, I love talking about both! Just don’t talk crap about my Eagles though lol kidding I don’t care if you do, go ask my Giants and Cowboys friends.

4 – You’ve always been someone who constantly talks about proper marketing and advertising a brand/service and also execution. What are some major factors that contribute to successful marketing and/or advertising?Great content. But, the content is only king with quality, context, and distribution. I think people may not see that ultimately content is anything in audio, video, written or visual form. Developing the most effective content to market yourself is important and necessary. I’ve helped to create content for media platforms, for NBA players, for small businesses and at the end of the day all of them are looking, seeking and needing content. Now, as a creative strategist, I can’t speak to all forms of advertising and etc, but at the end of the day, some major factors are context, quality, and distribution.

5 – For those who aren’t fully aware, what exactly is a content/creative strategist?Creative Strategists are ambidextrous thinkers who utilize both strategic skill sets (research, consumer insights, data, critical thinking, etc) and creative skill sets (content creation, art/design, concepting, writing, video editing, journalism, etc) to develop the most effective content that will assist their clients or company to reach a specific audience, achieve a certain ROI or even to get a certain amount of views per month.

We come in all shapes and sizes and can specialize in different fields, like myself, I focus more on content development within media but, I’ve also worked with others who are creative strategists in advertising. It’s a wonderful role and more companies are starting to seek individuals like this. This year I plan on doing workshops in various cities teaching fundamentals of creative strategy + content development to hopefully get more people interested in jobs like this.

6 – In your opinion, what is a good content strategist?A great content strategist is someone who is able to both thrive and succeed off of success and failure when it comes to content. Content creation takes time, research and effort. With the changing times of social media and platforms having to adapt constantly, the best content strategist are those who are able to analyze the changes, understand their audience and develop an effective concept based on the information that they have in hand.They are someone who isn’t afraid to go against the grain and try something new or far out there when some companies say no. They are able to effectively be strategic and creative simultaneously and last but not least, they are able to work in a collective group. Some of the best creative strategists, content strategists, and strategists, in general, have been those who’ve been able to work with others and work with people who are smarter than them in another field. You never want to be the smartest person in the room, always strive to be around others who are smarter than you in other fields so that you learn more. The knowledge you get will only strengthen your ability to be a better strategist.

7 – How important has digital content/creative strategics gotten over the last few years based on the evolution of social media?It’s become extremely important especially since the first line of defense or action is social media for most companies. People consume content in different forms and mediums such as podcasts are still being explored. Everyone craves content and looks at content all day since it’s easily accessible thanks to cell phones. The need and importance for content, ownership of data and distribution is going to become greater. More importantly, those who develop platforms that allow other content creators to easily create are going to win even more. Strategies for content will continue to adapt but will always be implemented. People and businesses are starting to understand that content and strategy/business go hand-in-hand. No longer can you keep them separated, they must work together. And now we are seeing a shift where creators are becoming the powerful influencers and they are the ones that are creating effective content not only for themselves but developing platforms for others to create content and for businesses.

8 – What would you say are the pros and cons of being a content strategist? Secondly, how do you keep online content relevant in a world where everything is fleeting so rapidly?

Pro: You create content

Con: You’re surrounded by content all the time

Haha I know that sounds weird but as a content strategist, you get to create content, amazing content that people could see for days, weeks, months, years or a lifetime. But, the downside is you are constantly looking at content all the time. So, it can sometimes be overwhelming and you need a break from social media and other platforms. But, every day is exciting and seeing updates for social media and etc is always a pleasing challenge.

9 – You’ve worked for some pretty reputable sites such as REVOLT and you also had a hand in creating content for Hypefresh Magazine. Now, you’re over at Cycle. At this stage of your career, how are you constantly inspiring yourself to be better than you were before as far as strategizing what your audience likes to see?Actually, I’m no longer at Cycle. However, right now I’m building up a podcast that I co-founded with my friend Brandon and also working on some other opportunities. But, I continue to inspire myself by looking at things that others may not think is important to content development but it is. I look at art, I watch the Discovery Channel, I read literature, I find inspiration in all different forms and things in life. I think opening your mind and expanding it beyond what you know or think you know is important for growth. It helps you understand so many different audiences when you jump into their world and learn from people in their world. So, I strive to be better and become better by doing this and exploring different communities. We may think we know what our audiences want but how do we really know if we don’t interact and engage with them? or even ask them! So, making myself step out of my comfort zone, talking to people, and exploring different cultures and readings has inspired me to become better.

10 – There have been multiple debates about people calling themselves content creators, journalists, digital strategists, etc. Social media has created this thin line between all of these and people are beginning to box everyone in as “bloggers.” What are your thoughts on that?I think naturally the worlds have come together as one. There isn’t this sort of “elitist” or “exclusive” level as much as it was before when it came to journalism, content creation and etc. We’ve moved away from traditionalism and have moved into a place where anyone can become the next best thing because of these more easily accessible platforms. And I do think that anyone can call themselves a content creator because everyone creates content, but there are certain titles that come with a lot of experience, degrees, and knowledge that shouldn’t be used so freely if you do not have any of those.

This thin line has caused problems though, it confuses some people in knowing, for example, the difference between a personality and journalist. We see this issue often even on ESPN. There is a difference and especially in how someone covers a story or industry and sometimes someone can be both. However, social media shouldn’t be viewed as the definite truth of everything. There are people on that platform who have no titles on there but are some of the greatest at what they do. I think those titles just help people identify those within a community to either engage, work with, and etc. But ultimately, the work speaks for itself and should always speak for itself. And that ultimately determines someone’s title. Don’t call yourself a digital strategist if your work doesn’t back that up, don’t call yourself a content developer if you haven’t developed content for a company, a brand and etc for a few years and simply put it for specific motives. Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t what you are, you will get called out for it and ultimately social media is just social media, simply one view or example of ourselves, nothing more and nothing less.

11 – Tell me a little bit more about the Grass Routes Podcast. How did that come about?

Grass Routes Podcast was created when Brandon “killabh” Hall and I met in an Executive MBA program at Rutgers University. What started as a fun project has expanded into something unique and great. We are able to tell our stories and showcase other people’s stories, which is something that I’ve always been interested in. We’ve accomplished some great things, going viral twice, building a core fanbase, and even having our episode placed on every major music website. I’ve never explored the world of podcasts in terms of content development so this is definitely a new territory and challenge for me but also very exciting! We have personal and collective goals for this podcast and I hope others enjoy it and are a part of our grassroots.

12 – What is the rest of your 2018 looking like? Should your fan base be expecting anything special?

For the rest of 2018, I have plans to work with several brands and create great content! I’ll be doing content development + creative strategy workshops in both Philadelphia and New York City soon and plan on working with a few professional athletes within the NBA, boxing world and more. So, you’ll see a lot more diverse content coming from me this year.

Savannah Britt Speaks on How She Got Started in the Entertainment Industry, Social and Digital Media, Being a PR Specialist and More.

As we continue on with Women’s History Month and the interview series, we’re going to show some love to a woman who’s been grinding and putting plays together since she was 9 years old. Savannah Britt has become one of the most recognized women in the entertainment world and for good reason. The young mogul has her own company called GP & Britt Public Relations, she has been involved in multiple projects that have included brands such as Pelle-Pelle and REVOLT, and has become one of the go to women when it pertains to content creation, social media, PR, and digital strategy work.

I was able to catch up with Savannah and we had the chance to talk about her come up story, being a PR guru, women in the industry, her connections to Boi-1da and much more.

1 – How did you begin your journey in the entertainment industry?

I started my own magazine when I was twelve-years-old called Girlpez. It focused on fashion, entertainment, and issues around self-esteem development for teen girls. I found myself attending and reporting on lots of events like concerts, fashion shows, and red carpet events. I began connecting the dots early on and it was up from there.

2 – What about the industry intrigued you to be apart of it?

I love meeting new and interesting people. The entertainment industry exposes you to all different sorts of people. One day you can meet a magazine editor at a party, and the very next day you’re grabbing lunch with a former rapper-turned-Silicon Valley expert. Everyone has an interesting story and perspective that they bring with them. When you meet all these different people, you really start to build with one another, and together you all reach a common goal.

3 – You worked for a newspaper at the age of 9 and then started your own magazine at the age of 12. Although that’s really young to have your own brand, it teaches a valuable lesson of doing things on your own. What type of inspiration did you have around you at that time that made you make that decision?

Both my parents work in education which was a plus. They’ve also allotted me more than enough tools to learn and explore the things that peak my interest. One year, I remember being a kid and being fascinated with Egyptian culture. My parents gifted me with a bunch of picture books about Egypt. I remember being in first grade when the George W. Bush vs. Al Gore election happened, and I told my parents how unfair the electoral college was. They encouraged me to write a letter to the White House about my concerns about the electoral college, and I did! They’ve always fed my creative curiosities which ultimately inspired me to be my best self.

4 – Along with being a social media + digital specialist you also do some PR work. How did you manage to get into that?

After high school, I folded my magazine, and freshman year of college I decided to start my journey to public relations. My first client ever was Milyn Jensen from Bad Girls Club. I found her on Instagram before she was even on the show and shot her a message and she replied. I started doing image consulting for her, and I utilized many of the relationships that I had built through my magazine. Everything after that became a domino effect. One thing led to another, and here I am now.

5 – The term “PR” means Public Relations but for those who don’t know, what exactly does PR specialist do in this industry?

Public relations encompasses a lot under its umbrella. In sum, public relations specialists are in charge of how a client’s image is relayed to the public. This can mean scheduling interviews with media, preparing for the release of a single, organizing an album release party, taking a client on a New York Fashion Week run, handling a social media crisis, and so much more.

6 – What are some pros and cons of being a young woman in an industry that’s pretty much male-dominated?

The pros are that often times when you are the only female in a male setting you get access to a lot of things that guys would not get access to first. For instance, if I’m trying to get into an exclusive party–a guy is way more inclined to help me get in before my male counterpart, simply because I am a woman.

However, being a pretty woman may get you in the door but often times it can be a distraction for these men. I’m very serious about my work and what I do, and often times guys in this industry will try to sway the focus from work to dating me or trying to hook up. It can be frustrating sometimes because it’s like “Do you really believe in my work or is this just about my looks?” Either way, I hold my own and steer every conversation.

7 – You’re only 23 years old but it seems like you’ve accomplished so much in so little time. What keeps you motivated?

Thank you! I think I’m my biggest critic but also my biggest cheerleader, and I think the balance of both keeps me going. I love every feat that I make, but I’m always thinking about what’s next. I’m motivated to outperform my last move and continue to better myself. I’m also motivated by knowing there are no limits. Once you have a grasp of that–you’re really capable of doing anything!

8 – How did you manage to get connected with Boi-1da?

I connected with his really good friend Marlon, who he started his website with, about three years ago. I slid in his Instagram DMs and told him I was interested in writing for the site. The rest was history.

9 – Was writing a passion of yours as well?

Writing has always been a passion of mine, that’s why I still continue to do it to this day. It has always been a way for me to express myself. I love discovering new and rising talent and sharing their stories with the world. I also enjoy other areas of writing like politics and fiction.

10 – In your honest opinion, do you feel the women in the entertainment industry, whether in the spotlight or behind the scenes, get the credit that they deserve? Why or why not?

More than ever, the conversation around women is loud and clear. So many amazing things are happening centered around women. We are shining our light brighter than ever. Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes are household names. Last year’s Women’s March was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, was vital in the response to the Hurricane Maria disaster in Puerto Rico. Hillary Clinton made history for women in politics. But even that feat showed that although we have made major strides, the conversation must continue and that it doesn’t stop there. We as women have to continue to keep kicking down these doors and demanding respect and representation in every room that we walk in to. It’s the only way to keep the momentum going.

11 – What’s been the most important piece of advice given to you throughout your come up?

Someone once told me, “It’s not about knowing a bunch of people. It’s about knowing a handful of people that can help you in different areas and continue that symbiotic relationship to get things done.” You’ll find yourself running out of endurance if all you do is name chase and make an effort to know every single person. While you’re focused on trying to meet a new person every day you could be continuously building with ten people who all have what you’re looking for and vice versa.

12 – What should people look forward to getting from you as 2018 continues on?

This year is going to be crazy! I’m going to be dishing out more activations and contents per usual, but I’m also going to be tapping into other areas like A&R’ing, community service, and lots of other cool things. Stay tuned!

Tatiana “Yan” Snead Speaks On Music Aspirations, Women Working Behind the Scenes in the Entertainment Industry, Dinner Land Network, Tips for the Rising Artist and More.

To celebrate Women’s History Month, I wanted to highlight some talented women who lend a hand in helping drive and push every aspect of our culture to the next level. Although there are so many women in the entertainment industry who constantly get overlooked based on their gender, I’ve come across a vast amount of knowledgeable women who not only know their craft like the back of their hand but can and have outworked any man that they’re put up against.

With so many extraordinary women in the world today, I decided to start this interview series off with one that I’ve known for a little over a year and her name is Yan. Using social media tactics as well as digital marketing strategies as her way of strong engagement, Yan has been able to build up a dedicated and loyal fan base and continues to do so by feeding her target audience what they’re relentlessly in search of. These things can range from her putting out a playlist that consists of emerging artists, visual treatments, collaborative projects with like-minded influencers, critiques and/or op-ed writing pieces and much more.

I had the chance to catch up with Yan to talk about a few things that made her the multi-talented woman she is today. Check it out below.

1 – You pursued music throughout college but how did your love for music start?

I can’t remember too much of anything earlier than 3-years-old, however, I do distinctly remember walking up to this colossal stone home on Clinton Ave., Trenton, NJ, hand in hand with my father. We walked inside and were greeted by this slender middle-aged woman with long blonde hair — now looking back on it, she very much reminded me of a hippie — along with this older woman, who I remember not being too fond of due to her habit of pressing my fingers down on keys. There I would spend my first few years learning to play the piano, the instrument I would go on to love and play for years. This home is where my love for music began, and I am forever grateful to my father for introducing us.

During that period of my life, I was also put in Watson-Johnson Dance Theater in Trenton, NJ, where I would perform ballet, tap, and jazz until I was about 10-years-old. Surprisingly, dance was ACTUALLY the love of my life for years after stopping, however, I was never re-enrolled in dance school after my father removed me from it due to the poor conditions of the studio at the time.

By 4th grade, I took up the violin, completely hated it (which is ironic now, over 15 years later, wishing I could play a string instrument). In 2007, I entered Ewing High School and joined the marching band. These are probably my best memories with music, being that I had to attend band camp during the summer so that the music and formations would be mastered in time for the upcoming football games. What most don’t know is, I did not play piano during this year in band… I played the bass and snare drums. So imagine me, 5’1, a GIRL (the only girl on the drumline) with that goofy ass uniform on with the big feathered hat, trying to march that huge drum around a hot ass field. “It’s gonna be a no from me dawg.” I ended up quitting the band. I also joined the Shiloh Baptist Church Youth Choir and the Mercer County Community College Jazz band (Senior Year) which is where I found my love for singing.

2 – At what point did you realize creating music wasn’t your passion anymore?

When I graduated high school, I moved down south to Fayetteville, North Carolina to attend Fayetteville State as a Music Major. I ended up transferring to Kean University in the Fall of 2012 after being accepted into their classical voice program.

My first and last two years spent as a music major at Kean really brought to light a few things for me that I am blessed and thankful for having realized so early on. Although performing arts instilled a sense of passion in me, a degree in music would have cost me five years of undergraduate study and over $100K of debt.

Secondly, through performing during those 2 years, I learned of my severe case of stage fright. With this in mind, I questioned my passion for performing arts and whether or not a degree was even required in order to become a famous musician. I studied the success of other mainstream artists and recognized how much dedication, work, and luck it took to actually make it as a performer, and that just was not something I could see myself being devoted. Not to mention, no one ever needed a degree to be able to sing or play the piano well. Furthermore, in 2014 I switched my major to communications with a minor in music and deaded the idea of creating music for a living.

3 – Was the music/entertainment industry something you always saw yourself being apart of?

Absolutely, although my desire to become a musician faded, that never changed my general passion for music. After all, it literally was my life for over 15 years. It’s hard to part ways with a love that deep.

4 – How did you manage to get into the on-air personality/podcast world?

In 2011 I ran an art/music submission blog, and one of the Jersey artists that submitted to me became a really good friend of mine. When I got back to Jersey, he introduced me to Jamar Dickson, who was looking for a female personality on his then radio show. We linked up and clicked really well, so everything was a go from there. We rebranded around the newer ideas we brainstormed for the show, and then boom, Podcast About Nothing.

5 – You’re a natural writer due to the fact that you wrote music. Did you ever think it would come to a point where you would be writing about and critiquing other peoples music?

When Tumblr became a popular platform in 2010 I knew I would end up writing about and critiquing other people’s music. I enjoyed blogging, so it only made sense that I combined my musical ear and background with music blogging. What I didn’t foresee was that I’d get bored with it. When you produce so many write-ups on a frequent basis, it begins to all look the same if journalism isn’t truly your forte.

However, critiquing is definitely a forte of mine; I always knew I’d be pretty solid with music critiquing. I’ve studied voice, instruments and music theory for years. It’s really second nature for me to know when something sounds off, what harmony would sound better in a specific place within a record, what type of energy you should bring to a song, what instruments would sound best with an artist’s voice… you know, things of that nature.

6 – You’re one of the women that comes to mind when it comes to advocating for independence and not relying on the major co-signs. In your opinion, why do you think rising music artists, entrepreneurs, etc constantly look for that major backing rather than making things work themselves?

I think artists desire the major backing simply because of instant gratification. You hop on the internet and all you really see is people seemingly popping up and getting famous. It’s really cliche, but this is exactly what it is. The prevalence of the internet has made it extremely easy for artists to quickly garner attention and become stars, so we lose that appreciation for “the process.” Nobody wants to do the local shows, everyone wants to hit the big stages immediately because they believe that’s the quickest way to get noticed. Many artists have become extremely lazy when it comes to marketing themselves and building an audience, not realizing that those fans you build are the people that help you to see longevity in this game. Those fans are the ones that’ll show you love time and time again because they’ve become a fan of YOU, the artist. Those artists that are in and out of the game don’t last because the listeners are a fan of the song. Once the song is no longer a popular hit, the audience is looking for the next hit. You HAVE to put the work in if you really want more out of this game beyond a payoff or two.

7 – What is it about an artist that draws you in?

Overall quality and attention to detail draw me in the most. When an artist approaches me with more than just a link to their work, it displays that they care about their craft. How is the graphic work looking? How well is the social media account put together as far as content? How well are the songs engineered? Do they perform well, and do they perform well even when there’s barely an audience? Did the artist check to see if his/her record matched the vibe of my playlist before he/she submitted it to me? Details are so important. An artist that cares about minor details, is an artist that really loves this shit. THAT’s the artist that gets my attention.

8 – How do you feel when it comes to women in the entertainment industry? Not those that are necessarily in the spotlight but for the women who are behind the scenes more like yourself – do you feel they get enough credit?

Within Drake’s record, Trophies — he said: “Stay committed, fuck the credit” and as simple as it is, that line played one of the most pivotal roles in changing the way I viewed receiving credit. I can understand the frustration women feel when we don’t get the credit we deserve, however it’s a catch 22. We are behind-the-scenes… not in front of, so make moves and build your name, the credit will come. We get so caught up in wanting credit for things, that we stop working to our full potential because not receiving credit can become extremely disheartening. You just have to work so hard that you can’t be denied your credit. People see you working, believe that.

9 – What’s it like working with a rising company like Dinner Land?

Dinner Land was the greatest calculated risk I ever took. Dinner Land taught me that everything isn’t about money when you truly love it. Much like credit, the money will come eventually. There’s more value in the connections you build and solid collaborations. There’s more value in building a solid reputation, than looking just to get paid for something.

Dinner Land is the circle of friends I always needed but could never find — they motivate me, they check me when I’m wrong, they provide guidance, we laugh together, we build together and most of all they provide love. In your lifetime, most of the people you work with are not going to give a f*ck about you, just what you can do for them, so when you meet people like Shake, Blue, and Sunny who care about you as a person just as much as you as a business partner, you have to cherish that.

Dinner Land forced me to be daring with my endeavors, to stop being so insecure about releasing content. They taught me not to be intimidated by my blessings. They also taught me to recognize my value and influence, so expect to see me maximize those things going forward.

10 – How did you land the Editor-In-Chief role?

In December 2016 Shake dropped a graphic on the Dinner Land account looking for people that wanted to contribute to Dinner Land. At the time I was a media personality on a podcast and a vlog, both of which I knew didn’t fit the Dinner Land aesthetic, however, I knew I wanted to somehow become involved. I reached out to Shake, we got on a really long, insightful phone call, and I came out to link with the team in Long Island. After a few weeks of solid social media management, Shake called me one day and was like, “Dinner Land is no longer going to be Dinner-land.com, it’s going to be Dinnerland.tv and it’s going to be run like a Network. I’m emailing you the login, and it’s all yours. Do your thing.” We built trust between each other, and I delivered in the ways I promised I would. I honestly came at exactly the right time, I landed EIC by the grace of God.

11 – Why do you think Dinner Land has been able to build up such a great reputation when it comes to independent creatives?

Dinner Land has been able to build up that reputation because we place emphasis on showing love to those that don’t normally get it. If you want to find new music from celebrities and whoever’s already buzzing, you can easily hit Complex, HotNewHipHop or The Fader. What purpose does producing the same content that is already widely available across countless platforms serve? When you think of Dinner Land we want you to think of innovation, and there’s nothing innovative about building content around artists we see up and down the timeline on an everyday basis. That method is not progressive in the slightest.

12 – You’re heavily involved in the new generation of rising rappers/singers and you showcase a lot of that on your ‘Whip Sessions’ music playlist. What does it take to get a feature on that playlist and what are some general tips you give out to rising musicians on getting their music picked up or noticed by music writers?

As far as getting featured on my playlists, I go by the same things I mentioned regarding what about an artist draws me in. The most important thing for playlist selection is sound quality. I don’t care how popular an artist or song is, I really just look for sound quality that matches the vibe of the playlist.

As far as tips on getting your music noticed, #1 make sure your branding is solid. There’s nothing enticing about a social media account full of selfies and memes. Make sure your album artwork looks good because many will skip over your record because the presentation is poor. #2 BUILD YOUR FAN BASE. When you see sites like Pigeons and Planes who get thousands of submissions post their “who should we listen to?” tweets, your fans are the ones that’ll keep tweeting your name to these platforms — create a demand for your music.

13 – What should the people following Yan expect from her as we continue on with 2018?

Expect a Late Rides Mix from me and DJ Miss Milan every month, a solid #MusicMonday campaign via Dinner Land Network in collaboration with Crystal Caines and Manhattan Beach Recordings who will be providing studio sessions to artists who win weekly polls, solid playlists, a few more episodes of #RhymeClub Cypher Series, and genuine love. Honestly, that’s really all I’m here for outside of digital marketing — showing love and connecting underdogs with an audience.