DJ Miss Milan Speaks on How She Got Her Start, How to Properly Build Your Name as a DJ, The Key Factors of a Great DJ, Her Current DJ Inspirations and Much More.

We are all aware that being a DJ is one of the most interesting but yet difficult jobs in the music industry. It’s not easy staying on top of music daily and learning how to put that knowledge into a performance setting. Also, being able to learn the fundamentals of DJ’ing such as captivating transitions is another challenge many face. I’ve seen tons of different DJ’s do their job effortlessly and DJ Miss Milan is one of the people who is currently helping lead the pack.

Over the years, people have watched Milan up her stock by continuously dedicating herself to her craft day in and day out. She has DJ’d events with AudioMack, Variety Magazine, Charlemagne Tha God’s TV show Uncommon Sense and more. She has also been feature in publications such as Paper Magazine and Def Pen.

I had the chance to catch up with the talented disc jockey to talk about how she got started in the DJ business, what made her want to be a part of this industry, what makes a great DJ, some of her struggles and more in our full interview below.

1 – What got you into DJ’ing? 

The love for music and how it can and has literally changed and helped shape my life. Music is therapeutic for me so after I gave up on my dreams of becoming a singer, I was looking for other outlets to express myself and I came across the art of being a DJ.

2 – Being a DJ obviously means you have a love for music. Was that always the case for you growing up?

Absolutely!!! I was singing, dancing, writing my own songs, creating videos with my moms’ camcorder at the time, you know the VHS type mad old school lol. Not to mention my family being from the Caribbean, I was exposed to different sounds and genres early on in my life. I believe my mom to while pregnant with me would play music through headphones on her tummy, so yea my love for music has always been present.

3– When were you able to get your first set of DJ equipment?

I was bartending at the time between Hooters and Grand Lux when I first said I wanted to DJ three years ago and just literally saved up my tips to buy my own Numark turntables and some model mixer that I’m sure was trash and the sold it to me but because I was so eager to have my own I spent about $700 on that alone. Now I have my own official set-up and it made me interested in production.

4 – Did you always see yourself pursuing this as a career? In other words, did you see this as something long-term or did you look at it as a hobby?

At first, it was a hobby. An expensive hobby lol. I was paying for lessons in the very beginning but once I gained the confidence and felt like this is what I was meant to do, it turned into my passion project where now I have a purpose.

5 – What was the first DJ gig you got? How did it happen?

Very first gigs you do get for me at least was baby showers and family functions for little to no money but I was eager and excited to play and didn’t care about the money. My first big break was at Starlets the strip club where I had to DJ for the first time and I don’t think people realize there are different forms of DJ’ing, especially in a strip club because it’s all about making the girls dance so the money could be spent. Thank God they were shaking all ass during my set lol from there I said yea I’m going to do this for real.

6 – The road to recognition as far as being a DJ is a bit more different than most creative professions. How were you able to build your name up and get the looks you deserved?

By educating myself on the craft first, focusing on my lane and truly being a genuine person in this business, people be fake nice to you to use you then leave when you have nothing else to offer. Everything I received is deserved because I put in the work and give it back to those who support me all while inspiring others to follow their dreams.

7 – In your opinion, what are some key factors that make a great DJ?

Musical knowledge, transitions/mixing, feeding off of the crowd but at the same time giving them your energy to feel and just having fun where you don’t look at the same DJ on your line up as competition because that’s an issue with these events sometimes is the DJs being on the same bill and wanting to have the hottest set. I believe in working together for the greater of every and anything.

8 What are some things you struggled with in regards to building your name and craft?

I would have to say as far as my craft goes, really it’s just finding the source of inspiration to be creative and do things and overthinking sometimes can and will affect that. As far as building my name I sincerely don’t worry about that because people see and know the work is real.

9 – You’ve DJ’d a ton of different events over the years. Which would you say was your favorite event to DJ? Why?

I haven’t reached that point to have a favorite because I believe all of my events mean something special to me, whether they are 5, 500 or 5000 people in a crowd I’m always grateful and glad to share a piece of me with people who see me DJ.

10 – Are there any DJ’s out there, whether established or upcoming, that you really admire?

Omg yes! I would be cliche to say the legends I am inspired by like Mister Cee & Kid Capri but up & coming definitely Ernzworld, DJ Saige, Genius in HD, Gab Soul and many others that I’m watching doing their damn thing and I’m just happy to see them as inspirations.

11 – Social media is crucial in building any name or brand. Although DJ’s offer a different type of service than most, how do you think a rising DJ should go about utilizing social media in order to get their looks?

Conduct your business/page to cater to your audience or the audience you envision yourself having. Don’t follow anyone else’s formula just do you and show your best self possible. Also, don’t be a spam page that’s gross.

12 – As a DJ, what has been the most important piece of advice anyone has given you?

Well, I have two. One DJ told me I should change my name from “Miss Milan” because it was whack and doesn’t really have a ring to it and the same day I was told by someone else to have confidence in who you are and what you bring to the table. That being said I didn’t listen to that DJ and had confidence in myself to go with my name and brand it and here we have DJ Miss Milan!

13 – What can DJ Miss Milan fans expect from you in this second half of 2018?

Fans sound weird lol I like “supporters” better but what they can expect from me is what they been receiving but now on a bigger scale so stay tuned.

Cris Speaks On Music and Journalism Inspirations, Creating Her ‘RnBae Collective’ Artist Showcase, Starting the RnBae Record Label, Tips for the Emerging Event Producer and More.

The sound of music is constantly changing before our eyes. New genres as well we sub-genres are being created every day but along with that, we are now living in the age where genres are being combined and certain sounds are beginning to intertwine. One particular genre of music that is constantly taking on a new sound is R&B. The traditional sound of R&B is no more but the great thing about it is that emerging R&B artists are starting to engage with other sounds from trap, hip-hop, soul, pop and more to create the new sounds we are currently hearing today. Cris, a Virginia native now living in Miami, has used this newfound sound to her advantage and began to showcase this on her well-known artist showcase which has spread through multiple cities country-wide. The young creative also took what she knew about R&B music and launched her very own record label which is meant to help mentor and manage rising R&B acts.

I had the chance to catch up with Cris to talk about her popular R&B function, why she decided to start the record label, how she got into event production, working with rising R&B acts and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into event production?

Event production was never my mind. I didn’t really care to produce events and I actually talked a lot of shit about it in the past because the ones I went to were so shitty. After pretty much restarting my life in Miami from moving from VA in 2014, I started working with Yes Julz as a content manager. There, I was required to lend a helping hand with all of the parties and activations we did. After leaving, I started my own brand, RnBae Collective which is was Miami’s best artist showcase in 2017 named by Miami New Times.

2 – How did you get into music journalism?

I actually majored in English/ Journalism. It was my minor was my Mass Communication. I started a blog in 2013 named after a radio show I had with my friends called Da Decipher. It was pretty much Rap Genius before they went on to video. The blog deciphered rap lyrics from mainstream and local artists. I interviewed a lot of Miami rappers/singers at the time. From there, I applied to freelance at my local weekly, Miami New Times in 2015. From there, I wrote for Yes Julz, Vashtie, and HypeBae.

3 – What were some of your main inspirations to get involved in both music writing and event production?

With music writing, I felt like artists weren’t represented well. I saw a lot of backlash from artists having their words twisted in interviews or the entire story not being told. I wanted to create the liaison between the artist’s music and the audience allowing them to tell their truths. As far a event production, my main fuel in anything is seeing someone do a shitty job with something and feeling I can do better, or giving a platform to someone who doesn’t have one. Here I am 🙂

4 – In regards to event production, what was the first event you either threw yourself or were a part of helping put together? Did this particular event catch people the way you thought it would?

My first event was with RnBae Collective. I was doing PR for a local artist, Aleicia Nicole and realized there was no outlet for R&B singers. They were often thrown under the bus, put early on during rap shows, or used as an intermission so no one paid attention. She deserved better. At the time, her manager and I created RnBae, a platform for her to showcase her music. We did a small line up of three artists and an all R&B DJ set. I honestly didn’t expect anyone to come. I just wanted to give Aleicia a stage. Sure enough, people showed up. Not a lot, but it was a good attentive crowd and that’s what I wanted. We had a few vendors, I hosted along with a friend. Here’s the recap to it: https://www.rnbae.com/rnbae-showcase-may-2016/ In all, I did this whole event behind my employer, Yes Julz’s back. At the time, we were planning the 1am vibes party tour, a partnership with Puma and New Music Mondays was a hit, so there wasn’t much time to focus on team passion projects. Planned and had the event and didn’t even tell her. To say she was pissed after is, to say the least.

R&B is not dead. It transformed into this @rnbaecollective 💜 📹: @lizzmatic

A post shared by Cris (@crisdacat) on

 

5 – You created a party called R&Bae. Explain how you came up with that?

Ha, I actually answered that 🙂 But, RnBae Collective is its official legal name. It’s also a showcase, I haven’t had the pleasure of really throwing a party yet, but I’m planning on it this year.

6 – In your opinion, what makes a great event?

The experience makes a great event. How people feel walking through the door, maneuvering through the venue, enjoying the drinks, music, and atmosphere. You know you had a great event when you see the IG and facebook photos after.

7 – You also just launched R&Bae Records. Talk a little bit about that.\

RnBae Records is currently a passion project of mine. Right now, we have an R&B duo, BluLine, who I also manage, signed under the label and we’re currently creating new music. Next year, I want to officially give it more attention and sign and create with more artists.

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8 – What inspired you to create the record label and running with the same name as the event?

The label is a reflection of the talent we book. All of R&B. While R&B music has changed from the 80s to today, we now celebrate all of its sub-genres. Like trap&B, neo-soul, pop-infused, alternative R&B. This is what the label will represent. R&B is not dead, it transformed into “this”

9 – What type of influence do you want the record label to have on emerging artists in Florida, especially those who work behind the scenes? Secondly, are you only going to focus on Florida based artists?

The label will give resources to artists who don’t have to create. Recording, mixing, mastering, content creation, PR services etc. All of that is under my wing along with a few partners. And no, R&B is everywhere.

10 – In your opinion, how would explain the effectiveness of social media when it comes to the businesses you’re involved in?

In reality, social media makes everything look good, but word of mouth is where businesses stick. Yeah, our social media accounts look amazing, thanks to our manager Esther, but in all, people find out about RnBae Collective by friends, artists, radio, labels, blogs etc. Having a good business rapport to me, is more effective than social media because nowadays everything is smoke and mirrors.

11 – With everything that you currently have on your plate when do you find time to do your journalism work? Has event curation and owning a label make it easier to write?

I’m a passionate writer. A passionate anything really. When something sparks my interest, It flows out easily. Since the label is still in its passion project stages, i don’t name it as my inspo to write, but actually sitting down and spending time with the artists gives me that drive.

12 – What type of advice would you give to those who are looking to get into event curation? What about starting a record label?

Have a purpose. Anyone can throw a party. The last thing a city needs is another pointless party. Have a theme or a goal you’re trying to reach and execute. You will feel more fulfilled seeing people enjoy the experience rather than wasted in the bathroom.

13 – What’s next for Cristina, her team and the RnBae movement?

This year, we’re planning our first party, our first out of state show(s) and working hard to shed light on BluLine, the artists we manage. Every year, we take on a new venture. Last year, we completed a year of 12 monthly showcases along with throwing our first concert with Kyle Dion. This year, we’re working on moving towards the artist development stages which will end us next year with a full-fledged label.

ChriStylezz Speaks on How He Got Started in Event Hosting, The Effectiveness of Social Media, The D’usse Palooza Family, What’s Keeping Him Motivated and More.

There are many words, phrases, and titles that have been getting tossed around very loosely the last couple of years and I’m more than positive I’m not the only person who thought it was weird. Words like “curator” and “vibes” were not words that people were using but ever since the major shift in how our culture is perceived as well as the major shift in how social media has changed the world and the way we view things, some people have created a whole new wave while others just continue to just ride that wave. More specifically, professions like an event host was not a “bread and butter” grind that many thought would make a lot of people rich and/or famous but in 2018, the event host is the new face of any party and/or function. Much like the DJ, today’s event host has the full-on responsibility of carrying the party and making sure that the entire ship runs as smoothly as possible while also doing little things to keep the attendees in tune and more importantly, keeping them entertained. I’ve come across a lot of event hosts but the name ChriStylezz has become synonymous with fun, entertainment and good times.

By using his energy, outgoing personality, comedic humor amongst other things, ChriStylezz has shown how one can emerge from hosting parties for his alma mater, Old Westbury to becoming one of the most highly recommended hosts out there. But, in doing so, emphasizing the fact that you can do it just by being yourself 100% of the time. From hosting Palooza parties alongside acts like Nipsey Hussle, YG, Wale, Swizz Beatz, Chance The Rapper, Cam’ron, Ja Rule and more, the young phenom continues to embody what it means to work hard, work smart, and dedicate yourself by constantly learning and growing your passion.

I had the chance to talk to ChriStylezz about his hosting come up, why he decided to get into event hosting, his popular Trappin Anonymous Podcast, working with the D’usse Palooza family, his current motivational factors and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get started in event hosting?

Well, with the hosting it started off through my fraternity. I had my own PR company when I was college as well. The first thing I told people when I crossed was I was going to travel. I told them I was gonna get up, go out and meet people. I wanted to network. I wanted to see what was really good out here. I wanted to know my network. I wanted to know who else was in the fraternity that I could bounce ideas off of and just make shit happen. That was the first thing I did and from there I was just road tripping. I remember calling this dude I was like “Yo, my name is Chris. I just crossed over at Old Westbury. I’m coming to your campus and I want to see if this frat is what everybody says it is.” He was telling me not to worry about it. I never met this kid a day in my life. Some chick was telling me that this dude was running the campus. This dude didn’t know me from a hole in the wall and he just embraced me. We went out and we was just kicking it. From there we came up with this lil event where we would go up and down the east coast and just throw events and host them. We was the Kappas shimmying in the parties. I was telling him we gotta do more. We can’t just be the Kappas shimmying, I wanted a tangible talent. We had DJ’s and promoters and all these people built around us but what is it that we do? I had asked a DJ at one of our events like “Yo, you think I could fuck with this mic shit real quick?” He was like yeah. He checked the levels and shit and told me I could feel it out and see if I like it. When I was talking to the crowd they was responding and I was like “Oh, shit!”

2 – It seems like you’ve always had a knack for making people laugh. I thought you were a social media personality. Do you consider yourself that as well?

I always been the kind of dude that walked in the room and by the time I left everybody was like “Yo, who was that kid?” I’ve always been that guy. My personality has always been that electric when it came to entering different rooms. I actually want to do comedy one day. I wanna get on a fucking stage and tell jokes. I wanna do that before I die. I’ve always been this type of charismatic person, you know. I never considered myself like “Instagram” funny. I’m in-person funny. Like, if you’re around me I can definitely make you laugh. I don’t know if I can sit there and create skits and shit all day long. That’s not really where my knack is. Not to limit myself and say I can’t but I don’t know if that’s what I want to do. I’m more about cultivating my talent and craft as an event host and just finding a space within that. But, I’ve always been lively. I’ve always had mad jokes. I was the kid that was cutting niggas ass and getting niggas in they feelings. I was mad problematic. I always knew how to get under people skin and always knew what to say. It just translates well on social media. I wouldn’t even consider myself a social media personality per say just because it’s not something I work at. When funny things come up I might post that or if I get a funny idea I may post that.

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

Originality, man. Just being able to be innovative. Being able to capture the crowd and capture the moments that don’t seem typical or things that people aren’t expecting. Being able to do those things are what make a great host. Pretty much not sticking to the script and not doing a bunch of shit that you see everybody else do. To me, there was no formula of how to be a host. It was just a formula of how to be Chris. So, I’ve always been me on that stage and me being me just translated well on the stage. I’m really that hype person and that dancing person. I think that’s the best part of it because it doesn’t look like I’m trying or forcing it. It doesn’t look like I’m trying to be in a space where i don’t belong. Having those ways to be you and still stick to the job, still make people laugh and have fun, interacting with the crowd and so on. All of those things are intertwined.

4 – I remember listening to your podcast Trappin Anonymous when you first introduced it. The inspiration behind it seems pretty evident but talk about that a little bit. What made you want to showcase these stories?

Well, Trappin Anonymous is like my baby. That’s my life’s work. Trapping Anonymous is just gonna live on forever because it’s just good work. It’s very natural. It’s very hands on. It’s at the very ground level of the culture. It’s not a bunch of celebrities on there. It’s not about me seeing if I could get a wild moment out of somebody else. This is just someone’s story coming from everyday people. Everyone has a story. This is me getting their story and having those conversations. To be honest, people are interesting and at some point, everyone wants to tell some part of their story. I don’t care who you are. I was kind of forced into this space to create something that was my own. I didn’t just want to be the Palooza host or just the guy dancing on stage. I wanted to be known for something else that I can create. I’m a creative. I create shit. That’s always been me. Just the circle that I’m around, it’s like a hub for talent. We got people that do video, people that take great pictures, we got people that are on tv, one doing radio and so on. It’s like what else do you do my man? So, I had to create something more. They say you hang around 8 millionaires you’ll be the 9th one because by mistake my ambition is gonna rub off on you. That drive and that want to become better is gonna rub off on you and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t even know if I wanted to host anymore. I just wanted to become more and become better. But, I’ve always been fascinated with the underworld. I love scam, I love crime, I love people stealing and shit. I’m fascinated with people who live or have lived that type of lifestyle.

5 – The podcast world seems somewhat competitive cause everyone is doing one. Why do you believe Trappin Anonymous received the recognition and high praise that it did upon the launch of it?

It’s something that no one has ever done within the podcast world. It’s like people are doing some of the same things like current events, hip-hop media, some talk about other topics like relationships and sex and a bunch of shit. Everyone has a podcast. Trappin Anonymous is episodic. It’s not like every week you’re gonna get a new episode. It’s like this is gonna come out and when it does it’s gonna be very different and very fresh. It was intended to be something that you’ve never heard before. At first, people were like they were gonna listen to it cause the idea was so fire and then it turned into oh shit, this is actually good. It’s starting conversations and it’s becoming something more. The mystery of it was dope but then to top it off the content was actually good. 200,000 to 300,000 plays later it’s something that people can always come back to.

6 – You use social media as your own personal playground. Multiple photos and videos of you have gone viral. In your opinion, why do you think it’s important for one to utilize social media to build their brand?

Well, first things first it’s me being me. Like I said before, when I’m creating content or when I post shit it’s not like “Yo, I’m a do this skit and post it on social media.” All of this shit you see is really my life. I don’t be at parties like “Hey, let’s dance and post it on social media to see how many likes we can get.” People are catching me in real life moments and I think that’s why those things go viral. It’s pure fun and it feels good. When people look at me or think about me, I want them to feel that good time or good vibe. It’s the same thing as hosting. I’m not reading off of a script. I’m being me. You’ll like me for it, you’ll love me for it or you’ll hate me for it but where you are with it, it’s fine. But, at the core of it, this is ChriStylezz. This is who I am. On social media people just eat it up. People wanna laugh and have a good time. It’s super important for my personal brand cause I wanna do shows, I want people to book me and do other things. The more attention that I can get the more room that I have to do those creative things.

Why did y'all do this to me?!?! 😭😭😭 #christylezzwiththedancemoves #christylezz

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7 – It’s safe to say that at this point a lot of people know you from the Paloozas. But, how did you manage to get link up with Kam?

Well, here’s the thing with Kam… I don’t know if it was more about what he saw in me or him trying to get me to see something within myself. He said “Yo, you’re saying you can do this, that and this. You’re saying you want to transform this, that and this. Come to me with a plan and verbalize it. If it’s in the capacity for me to do it then I’ll do whatever in my power to make it happen. If I can’t then I can’t.” Then, I came to him with a plan. It just happens that we were able to execute it well but it was like, it was very honest conversation that we would always have. I remember one of the Henny Palooza’s I was suppose to be hosting and I was like “Ight, when’s my turn. Let me get on” He’s telling me five more minutes and he got me. Five minutes pass. I’m asking if it’s my time yet. He keep telling me he got me. It got to the point where I didn’t even feel I was getting on and I’m sitting there like yo, what the fuck. We had a conversation but at the end of the day, what you gonna do? You gotta earn your space, bro. You gotta earn that light, bro. There are so many people are out there and I can’t even remember they names. You know why? Cause they not here, bro. I say that to say it’s not about what he seen in me. I had to see it in myself. I had to get there but I still had to carve a path once I got there. It wasn’t just like “Ok, here it is.” When i got the point of ok, here it is… that’s when the real work began. I had to really find that fire within me so that I can create a lane within this on my own. Kam was just like “Ight, I opened the door. Go ahead.” Shit felt like post-grad like “Ok, here’s the real world.” haha.

8 – You guys have done so many parties in other cities, states and even islands. In your opinion, what makes a great event? Secondly, how does one stand out amongst a group of amazing talents such as the D’usse Palooza family?

What makes a good event really comes down to what makes a good host. It’s really the originality, bro. It’s bringing something fresh and new. It’s challenging the norm. You really gotta go against that. Take D’usse Palooza for example. We eliminated the V.I.P. You can’t go in there and have a bottle. you can’t go in there and have a section. You can’t go in there and feel like you’re above anyone else. You gotta go in there and feel like you’re on the same level as everyone else. That went against party culture in the city. The city is known for the bottles, the sections, the lights and all that shit. The dressing up and the heels and all that shit. People come through in sweats, jeans, sneakers on some hanging out shit. It completely went against the grain. Why was Trappin Anonymous so big? Cause it talked about those things. It challenged what podcasts really were at that time. There was no real storytelling. It was just banter. But again, a great event is something that challenges the norm. The DJ is the most important part to any party. They carry it out and make sure the music is good and the party is flowing. That has to be coupled with the good idea. Now, you see these themed parties and you see these people are doing this type of party which is great cause they’re trying to find their way in the mix as well. But, there’s gonna come a time when this becomes the saturated place. Then, people are going to have to find something else. People are always going to be forced to challenge the norm and create. As for me standing out in my family, it comes to me being the best at what I do. To me, it’s not hard because this is like a place where only the best survive. I’m not here by mistake or here to be someone else. I think Karl is the best videographer in the city. I think Peej makes the best graphics and flyers. I think Ravie B takes the best pictures. I humbly believe that these people are the best in the business. They way you stay afloat is by constantly reinventing yourself and becoming better. I be up there DJ’ing sometimes. I’m pushing the envelop. I’m learning new crafts that I didn’t even know I would have the skills to cultivate. You gotta stay hungry, bro. You gotta always know that you could never get to a point where you can just stop and become lazy or creating or pushing the envelop.

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9 – From all the parties that the team has done, is there one that comes to mind that didn’t turn out the way you guys thought it would? Which party would you say was the best? Why?

Of course, bro. There are some parties that have happened where I say to myself this shit was terrible or a bunch of things that could’ve been done better. Maybe more planning. Just a ton of shit. There are times where we’ve sat around after the party was over and said to one another “This shit was not it.” But, with every party, we’re constantly reminded of why we’re in the space that we’re in. Then, you’ll have these great moments like the party in L.A. or the one in NYC when we’re all just like wow, we can do this shit forever. I know niggas be watching like “Damn when these niggas gonna fail?” I probably would feel the same way. But, we not here by mistake, bro. This shit wasn’t no lotto ticket. We are literally the best at what we do. This is the only space for us.

10 – In your opinion, why do you think D’usse Palooza has become so important to the party/event space in today’s culture?

Every era has that “thing.” Our parents had like The Tunnel, you hear Funk Flex and Mister Cee and Clark Kent talk about all the time. Like, every era had something that people would be like “yo, this is the shit!” You think about Elks, Empire and so on. Every era has that thing and as of now, we’re blessed to be that thing for our era. Not to mention, every party feels new. We stay on our toes and we try to think of ways to make it better, you know. And sometimes simplicity is just it. It’s not about going all out for no reason. It’s mostly about keeping it right where it’s at for a good time, bro. Niggas ain’t in there tryna fight or shoot the shit up. You can’t put a price on that I don’t care how much the ticket cost. It’s just a really good time. Everybody coming through to vibe. It really was a social media event. It’s probably one of the only parties you’ve seen grow over time because of social media.

11 – I’ve been following you for a while and over the years you’ve gotten better and better at your craft. What keeps you motivated to keep going?

Well, one is the team. Just watching the team and watching everybody win makes you want to win. Also, becoming content. Not wanting more. The feeling of not wanting to do something extraordinary. The idea of more, more, more creates a very unhappy place because now that more becomes your validation. That more becomes you saying “I’m gonna be happy when x,y,z happens.” That pretty much suggests that you’re not happy now and we can’t have that. So, now we’re putting pressure on ourselves to constantly create and constantly do this, that and the third and we’re sad. But then it always turns out to be like “Yo, when I get this I’m a be good.” No, because when you finally get that, it’s going to be something else that you gotta get. That’s part of the problem. For me, it’s like if that “if” never happens or that “when” never comes, what happens now? That something that you place validation over your happiness for now consoles whether you’re happy or not. What if you never reach that point? What if takes 2-3 years? So, now you gotta live depressed cause you wasn’t able to reach that? Nah. What we gotta do is learn how to be happy through growth and we gonna enjoy that space that we’re in right now. We gonna celebrate those wins right now. Then, we gonna continue to get to it. But, we’re not gonna focus on or put all of our emphasis on where we gotta be because that can’t continue to control our emotions and our present state.

12 – What’s the biggest piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

Don’t care. My first show at Old Westbury. I asked the guy backstage who was hosting before me like “how do you do this shit?!” Public speaking is already trash. That shit is mad scary. He dead ass told me like “yo, Stylezz you can’t care.” I said what? He said “you can’t care, bro.” Now, I’m thinking if I trip and I run backstage I’m a laughing stock but if I trip and say some shit like “yo, what the hell is wrong with these floors? Somebody come fix this shit” it becomes a joke. I am in control the entire time. I’m so worried about whatever everybody else is thinking that I’m unable to do whatI’m called here to do. Why am I caring? People don’t even care that much. As much as everybody think they got haters and people hating, people don’t give a damn. Something gonna happen to you, the timeline gonna talk about it for a couple hours and then something gonna happen to somebody else, bro. How can I let your opinion control everything that I’m doing? How? How can I do that to myself? I don’t care bro. When you see me post stuff it’s because I watched it 50 times and I laughed 50 times because i think it’s funny. I think it’s hilarious. People probably sit up there like this nigga is corny. Bro, it’s not about you. People will love you for it though because they’re honestly afraid to be themselves. I just don’t care, bro.

13 – What’s next for ChriStylezz? What can your fans expect from you for 2018?

We talking equity now. We talking more ownership. Whether that’s living, events and so on. You can’t just pay me to be a host anymore. How can I get equity in your event? You can’t just give me a check to go do something. How can I become a part of whatever it is you’re doing and see the money that you’re making? That’s the mind-boggling thing. I’m not gonna keep doing this and hosting and you got people DJ’ing events… the real question is how much money are you making to where you can pay out this amount of money? You would never ever go back to that side of the business. So, now we’re talking about making money off the backend and the front end. We need both bags. It’s creating more content but aligning myself with bigger platforms so we can make shit bigger and reach more people. We still staying on top of the content we’re putting out and building up the social media. Still hosting, doing the most’n and just enjoying myself bro. I’m just gonna continue to have fun in the space that I’ve earned and busted my ass for.

Chef Nakai Speaks on Culinary Inspirations, Her Creative Cooking Process, How Food Relates to Culture and Expression, Advice for the Emerging Chef and More.

So, it’s evident that there are multiple areas that contribute to our culture and our everyday well being. We can sit and have conversations all day about music, fashion, media, entertainment, travel and so on but the one area that we all love and enjoy having discussions about is food. Aside from the obvious fact that we need food to survive, every second of the day someone on social media is posting a photo of their plate of deliciousness whether it be homemade or somewhere at a restaurant. It’s no secret that we’re all foodies in some shape, way or form and just how fashion design and creating music takes a certain type of expressive action, so does food. In this particular case, we’re not talking about the savory steak or chicken. We are talking about the sweet brownies, cakes, and cookies!

Chef Nakai, the Brooklyn based pastry chef started her culinary career back in high school and hasn’t taken her foot off the gas pedal since. Using her skill set and her unique sense of creativity to her advantage, the young innovator continues to flourish as a pastry teacher while simultaneously working on her brand.

I had the chance to catch up with Chef Nakai to talk about her culinary inspirations, why she gravitated towards cooking, her creative process when piecing together a dish, her forthcoming events and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get involved in culinary?

I got my start with culinary when I started high school. I went to Food and Finance High School. Getting my start in the industry that early did a lot for my career, skills, and confidence.

2 – What inspired you to be a chef?

I gained an interest in culinary from watching the Food Network with my mom in middle school. She has her own passion for baking and I’d watch her write down recipes from shows like Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, buy the ingredients, and try them out at home. From that point on, I started testing the waters myself. The first thing I’d ever made from scratch was a lemon cheesecake. I had to be about 12 or 13 years old asking my mom to buy a pre-made graham cracker crust from the grocery store so that I could come home and make the filling from scratch. Today, I wouldn’t even glance at a pre-made crust, but back then I thought I was top notch!

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3 – What was the first dish you ever made that started grabbing people’s attention that you really can cook?

In my freshman year of college I would go out on a whim and make items that weren’t necessarily a part of our curriculum and they’d come out successful. For instance, I was very interested in classic French pastries, so I tried making Macarons and a Soufflé. Both items have a reputation for being very technical and difficult to perfect, but they came out successful for me. From that point on I’d realized that I grabbed my Chef instructor’s attention because he’d come to me and ask for my opinion on dessert ideas and flavor pairings that he had in mind. I also noticed that my classmates would come to me and ask me for tips on how to perfect macarons when they made it themselves.

4 – Out of all of the industries you could’ve been a part of why do you think you gravitated towards culinary, pastry cooking in particular?

As I get older I realize that I gravitate towards things that are practical and get to the point. A lot of kitchens have the mindset of “okay throw on your chef coat and let’s see what you can do”. Not only that but there’s something so rewarding about taking a dish from the stage of it being an idea or sketch and developing it to the stage of someone consuming it and giving you compliments and feedback.

I think I made the decision to commit 100% to the culinary world when I was choosing the college that I wanted to attend. When I started searching for colleges to attend, I realized that the Culinary based Colleges didn’t care much for SAT and ACT scores, and one school, in particular, would give me the opportunity to jump straight into the kitchen, have all food industry based classes (no liberal arts) and have a degree in two years. By that time in High School, I had already gained my Food Handler’s License and ServSafe Certificate, so it just made sense to dive even more into Culinary.

As for why I chose Pastry, I think that there’s a certain type of art skill and “je ne sais quoi” that can be expressed through pastry as opposed to savory dishes. When it comes to the art of designing plated desserts, just think about how excited you get when you’ve had a great dinner and then finish it off with an amazing dessert. As a Pastry Chef, I see a lot of opportunity in that time slot to give a guest an amazing experience.

5 – How do you come up with the ideas for some of your creations? For example, ideas like your Pink Starburst Strawberry cake or your Honey Comb Honey Jack cake?

I honestly just keep my eyes and ears open to what people are talking about and I explore how I can incorporate it into food. We all know that the Pink Starburst is equivalent to the blue candy in a pack of Scooby Snacks. It’s just the best one, hands down. I knew I wanted a Strawberry Cake on my menu, but instead of going with a traditional flavor like a Strawberries & Cream Cake, I developed the idea until I could be proud of what I was presenting to my audience. If you notice, I don’t have any Red Velvet cakes on my menu at the moment, but I brought out the flavor in Macaron form for my Mother’s Day sale. When creating my Honey Comb Honey Jack cake, I wanted to channel the demand for the Hennessy flavored cakes that we see, but in my own way. 

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6 – On average, how long does it normally take you to “perfect” a creation? In other words, what steps do you take in order to make a creation of yours just the way you want it, both taste and presentation wise.

With my creative process, it can sometimes take me a while to settle on a new dessert idea. My first step is deciding what direction I want to go in, then I do a good ol’ Google and Instagram search to see if my ideas are on the radar and if so how they’ve been done. From there I sit back and brainstorm how I can be different and incorporate my brand of allowing colors to pop, designing original flavors/flavor pairings, and making eating dessert an experience. I personally love that I give my customers the experience of eating brand new flavors in the same way that you would eat a Push Pop Icee as a kid.

7 – In your opinion, do you believe that food, being a chef, in particular, resonates with our culture as heavily as things like music and fashion do? Why or why not?

I think that food resonates within our culture just as heavily as music and fashion because they are all forms of expression. Within each of these industries, you can tell when people view it as a hustle and when they view it as an art.

8 – I noticed from your website that you’ve taught some classes on pastry cooking. Why do you think it’s important to give back to those aspiring to be pastry chefs or just a chef in general? Are you teaching any forthcoming classes?

I think its super important to show aspiring chefs up close that they can achieve all of the things that they have in their mind. My most recent class was the most rewarding because I was invited to teach at my high school where I got my own early start. We had conversations during the class about my journey and I explained to my students that they can maneuver the industry to work in their favor and that they don’t have to spend years and years in kitchens that don’t pay well just to receive proper recognition.

Right now I’m focusing more on the catering aspect of my business, but I’m exploring the possibility of doing baking classes with the youth at a few day camps this summer.

9 – You’re going to be a guest speaking at an upcoming event happening in June. Talk a little bit about that.

An organization called She Will Mentoring reached out to me to be apart of a panel discussion called Making HERStory. The intention is for students of all ages to hear 5 panelists speak on our unique professional journeys. This panel is a little special to me because all 5 panelists are making ourselves available to keep in contact and become mentors to the students way after the event. I’m excited because this is an opportunity to provide someone with a role model and guidance. I want to push myself to be a role model or mentor overall just as a Black Woman coming up in our communities, even if it has nothing to do with Pastry or the Food industry as a whole.

10 – How do you view food? Secondly, how do you want people to view your food?

Food is an experience. It’s a piece of art that satisfies with its appearance, scent, aromas, textures, and taste. I want people to always feel like they got an experience with me that they couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

11 – In regards to your profession, what has been the biggest piece of advice anyone has given you?

Be ready for opportunities when they come. This resonates with me in the same way as hearing “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready” growing up. I think its extremely important to be established in some way when you step into certain rooms. It’s a little easier to navigate and secure opportunities when you can show a person all of the work that you’ve done and easily prove that endorsing you will be a reflection of their good judgment.

12 – What piece of advice would you give to the emerging pastry chef?

I would tell any emerging Pastry Chef to learn about all the areas of pastry. The comfort food, Grandma’s recipes, baking trends, food blogging, catering, the classic arts of the French Pastry Chefs, even the Japanese influence on desserts. When I was just starting out, all the only vision I had in my mind was to work in bakeries, gain skill and either compete or be on a show at the Food Network. I’ve gained so much knowledge and inspiration since then. There’s still a lot to be uncovered in our field and we have the great opportunity to still be groundbreakers and be considered special because this field isn’t one that’s been oversaturated.

13 – What other moves can we expect from Chef Nakai as we move into the second half of 2018?

Mark your calendars for July 21st. I’m teaming up with 2 Savory chefs and 1 other Pastry chef to bring a comfortable evening of fine dining. Our goal is to showcase our professional kitchen skills in an affluent and cultured, yet comfortable experience. We’re spending the evening celebrating fellowship, food, culture and the natural finesse that we bring to our industry as Black Chefs. We’ll be designing and serving 5 courses with the compliments of an open bar. We’ll also have “Litty Bags” available for purchase, these include two gourmet THC infused pastries by myself and my fellow Pastry chef and possibly upcoming merch by yours truly. Keep an eye out on www.chef-nakai.com, Tickets and more information will be available soon.

Mouse Jones Speaks on being a Media Personality, Top Media Inspirations, His Brand New BET Show ‘I’ll Apologize Later,’ The State of Today’s Music Industry and More.

In a world where people want or choose to be politically correct because they’re afraid of saying what’s really on their mind, you’ll always find a few people who aren’t opposed to going against the grain. When it comes to media, people tend to always spin and twist every story instead of telling it how it really is or even better, saying what they may think about the situation to stir up an interesting debate. These type of people are highly respected because of how unfiltered they are and if there were ever a club consisting of rising talents who honestly and truly do not care what other people think, Mouse Jones would be the president.

Emerging on to the scene as a guy who kept himself in the mix of what was current, Mouse found himself in multiple circles which contributed to the success that he has been able to see over the course of the last few years. The young media maven continues to build his brand as an outspoken personality along with brutally honest opinions and a firm “IDGAF” attitude.

I had the chance to catch up with Mouse to talk about a lot of things such as his top media inspirations, his brand new BET show, the heated J. Cole debate between him and Styles P, the current state of hip-hop and much more in our interview below.

1 – How did you get in the industry?

A mix of Luck, pissing the right ppl off & other nigga’s girlfriends lmao. No, but seriously I was doing stand up clean from like 2011 when I got out of the NAVY up until 2014 when I just realized it wasn’t for me. Right before I completely gave up, I was talking to my brother and he reminded me that people care about what I say and my opinion, at least the people were always around. He told me “Do something, don’t do nothing.” Around that time is when I discovered “The Read” podcast as well as “Combat Jack” (RIP OG REG) and “The Brilliant Idiots” podcasts. So it only made sense to me to start a podcast, “The He-Man Woman Haters Club” podcast. I also began to utilize my twitter more to voice my opinion. I also started going outside to “cultural” events like the InHouse, Hennypaloozas, and showcases. In 2015 everybody was rapping and performing like 20x a week, which led to me hosting events. Also, shoutout to VH1’s digital team and Blogxilla & GlobalGrind’s Socially Decoded for putting me on camera 1st.

2 – What inspired you to get into media and commentary work?

I’ve always enjoyed having conversation and I’ve always looked up and admired Angie Martinez, Ed Lover & Dr. Dre, Donnie Simpson, Michael Baisden, Martin Payne (the character), Stretch & Bobbito, Petey Greene, Isaac Hayes, Ms. Jones, Starr, Charlamagne, Howard Stern, Big Tigger, AJ & Free, Cousin Jeff, Teen Summit, anyone that could pull something out of a person just through conversation. The way Combat or even Jeff & Eric from ItsTheReal are able to use the words of others’ to tell their own story, it’s always been so dope to me and I’d sit in front of the radio, TV, and youtube just soaking in all the content and just wanting to be able to do that in my own way. I just wanted to be able to leave my mark on the culture that means EVERYTHING to me by using the talents God granted me.

3 – Do you remember the first event that you covered? How did you manage to land that opportunity?

Idk if I’ve ever “covered” an event. I do remember getting an opportunity to interview Kevin Hart in 2016 on the red carpet for What Now? That was dope. Blogxilla called me while I was in Atlanta @ A3C and told me about the opportunity and I JETTED back to the city! Shoutout to Brodie Fresh lmao.

4 – It seems like you dabble in a lot of different professions. What exactly would you consider yourself to be? In other words, if someone were to ask you what do you do, what would be your response?

I’m a personality. Point blank. My brand is my personality. Not a persona cause this is me. But yeah, my personality and my ability to showcase it allows my opportunities. So I’m a personality, I host events, and I’m an on-air host. That’s what I’m most known for, but I’m also an actor. S/O AfterHours on Tidal & Appropriate Culture on youtube. I’m able to do all of these things because of my personality.

5 – Out of everything that you’re currently involved in, is there anything that you enjoy doing the most? Why?

My new show on BET, I’ll Apologize Later by far. I literally have a show on BET, well 2, but this one, in particular, is my brainchild. From the format of the show, the set, the title, it’s like “OH SHIT!” I told everyone this was going to happen in 2015 when I began this journey and it’s here. I love talking a ton of shit and then backing it up. Seeing the guests enjoy themselves and sometimes be on the edge of their seats or even uncomfortable. It’s mad fun. But, I’m also now with a machine, a huge brand. So, I still have to move within certain parameters and be me but a BET friendly me. It’s like a mental exercise. Crafting my skill.

6 – How did you get yourself involved in being an event host?

Well, I always looked up to Bugsy B & Pretty Lou growing up and how they MC’d the culture.  I believe it was my first time attending a Hennypalooza at The Well. I really didn’t know anyone outside of who I’d been researching on twitter and I saw the control that Lowkey had over the crowd and said to myself “Oh, I can do some FLY shit with this.” Also, once I came on the scene people would always ask me to host shit without ever seeing me actually host. I believe the 1st event I hosted was “EIM” for Jumz & Terrell Blair, some OG’s from the BX. It was on the LES and Lowkey pulled up and probably realized I had no idea wtf I was doing. Just yelling, the sound system was crap, but Low pulled up and gave me some on the fly coaching. From there I was just committed to making my stamp and making sure that when I’m in front of a crowd I’m keeping them entertained and engaged.

7 – Social media plays a huge role in what you do as a commentator towards anything happening in our culture. Over the years, explain how social media has helped catapult you to where you are today.

I owe EVERYTHING I have to social media, Twitter in particular. I just hopped on in 2015 and started stating my opinion, no matter if I was right, wrong, or ignorant. I was me & unapologetic. I think people connected with that from early on. Twitter has seen pretty much ALL my growth from 2015 until now. Homeless, sleeping on my brother’s couch, hopping turnstiles to host events for free, introspection about dating, being a man, a father, dealing with success. I understand the doors my followers have allowed me to walk through so I do my best to share 90% of everything via social media. It’s the least I could do. Up until a few months ago, Twitter is where people came to find out about this kid who’s pissing people off or talking shit about this. I’ve seen entire email threads from some big media companies discussing my Twitter and how everyone should go follow me. So, shout out to Twitter. I’m still tryna figure out Instagram.

8 – So, you’ve landed this dope show on B.E.T.’s Youtube channel called I’ll Apologize Later. Explain how that opportunity came about.

So, I was working on MTV’s TRL at the top of the year and when that opportunity was over my mgmt was contacted by BET’s digital team who I’d previously worked with on a project called The Double Standard and a few other social pieces. They knew what I was capable of. So, when they decided it was time for them to get a little more edgy and actually lean into some opinions, they reached out to me. I was talking CASH SHIT in that initial meeting. I told them when asked what could they gain from adding me, “I’m the person that’s going to bring BET back!” (WTF is wrong with me?) But they must’ve believed me because that turned into me pitching “I.A.L” and not only them greenlighting that, they also made me the permanent host of their interview series “PULL UP.” which has been going since February. So, I have two shows on a network that I’ve been dreaming about being a part of since I was 12yrs old.

All i ever wanted from the time I watched the debut of 106 & Park, was to have a show on @BET. I remember watching 106, Cita, Hitz From The Streets, Hell Date, Rap City, i even watched Baldwin Hills…don’t judge. Now, i get my own show to add to that list of historic shows. #ILLAPOLOGIZELATER debuts tomorrow @ 10:30am via all BET social networks, feat. My brother @mackwilds as my 1st guest. Just know, it gets ignant! So if you get offended by anything I say while watching this, i promise…I’ll apologize later.😉 (thank you to my MGMT @maxoctober @kristinjmeyers & @hmplushr thank you @karasmatic1001 for being the super producer you are, thank you @the_constantine_lens & @jdm_ceo for keeping me honest and catching my good sides. Thank you BET for trusting me with such an opportunity.)

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9 – What’s the main purpose of I’ll Apologize Later?

To piss people off. LMAO. No, the purpose is to shake things up @ BET. I think everyone can see that BET is very “safe” right now & has been for some years. I think with me & I.A.L over there, you’ll get to see this artist or celebs challenged on things they usually wouldn’t if I.A.L wouldn’t be there. I also want it to be an example that there’s a space for you to be you. Before Tax (FREE TAXSTONE!) media didn’t have too many “opposing views.” It was just Charlamegne and I guess you could say Flex if you consider him bozo’ing an “opposing view” and then you’d have Ebro just sounding like an angry out of touch old nigga. Outside of that, media was really a contest of who can kiss the artists & labels ass the most. When you do that, you do the audience a disservice and your brand a huge disservice because now no one knows who anyone is. I always want to humanize whomever I’m sitting in front of. Tax showed us with Tax Season and his other platforms that you don’t have to be an ass kisser to these niggas and labels. Fuck them. They gonna have to fuck with your product regardless or be looked at like a bozo for not. So, I just hope I’m keeping that same energy with I.A.L.

10 – How do you think this type of opportunity with B.E.T. measures up to everything else you’ve done over the years?

It’s a culmination. It’s not “THE” payoff but its a payoff for all the work I’ve been putting in over the past 2.5/3yrs. It makes everything else I’ve done before worth it.

11 – The video of you and Styles P arguing about J. Cole on Rosenberg’s Open Late show was spread all over social media. How did you land that opportunity to be on the show? Secondly, what are your honest thoughts on today’s music?

Shout out to Andrew Goldstein & Brian Mann, two decent white men who don’t use N-Word to my knowledge. But yeah, Andrew hired me at TRL so when he began work on Rosenberg’s show, it was this top secret thing he’d only vaguely allude to when asked: “So what do you have going on?” Brian worked with me at TRL as well before joining Andrew and Open Late so a week before the show was announced they invite me up to Complex and let me know what they’ve been working on and that they’d want me to be a recurring panelist. So, I did a test show and I and Rosenberg hit it off immediately (which I didn’t expect because I’ve hated some of his takes on the radio and Twitter and some of his wrestling takes) but yeah. We had great chemistry and they had me on the Terry Crews episode and the clips from that episode went DUMB!!! (Shoutout to Damien & Miss Info) So, they asked me back a week later when Styles was there and of the fuck course, I was gonna do it. I grew up listening to Styles. I met him and rapped like 2-3 verses of his that changed my life. It was dope. I got to argue with SP The fucking Ghost about sleepy ass J.Cole. Nah lmao, let me stop. I actually don’t dislike Cole’s music at all. I’m just very honest about this latest project which I feel is very lazy as he can be sometimes (i.e. Sideline Story, the last half of Born Sinner and we saw pockets of that on his masterpiece FHD) but yeah. That clip definitely got me some mean mugs and eye rolls from his team @ Rolling Loud backstage a few weeks back. I found it hilarious. As far as my opinion on music, it’s in a pretty great place. Everybody has an opportunity to eat, kind of. I mean we need some more real niggas in these offices & some real gatekeepers to filter out all the fuck shit. But, with streaming services and ultimately the internet as a whole, if you looking for a certain message or type of music, you can find it. So overall, its “ight” right now.

12 – Obviously I’ll Apologize Later is something that you’re currently focusing on but are there any other talents of yours that you’ll be expanding on throughout the course of this year?

Well, there will definitely be some more acting and not the typical “say something rude or funny” shit. Like some real acting. Also, still going strong with my independent podcast He-Man Woman Haters Club and just continuing to grow that audience and reach. I just want to do some dope shit and push the culture forward the way I know how. Through conversation and challenging the “norm” through it.

13 – What has been a valuable piece of advice that anyone has given you in regards to your craft?

My brother told me “do something, don’t do nothing.” It just speaks to my work ethic. There’s always something to be done, whether it’s reading up on something, watching another interview, or watching a documentary or whatever. Just do something. I devour content because it keeps me sharp. So, I’m always doing something.

14 – What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be involved in media?

One, I’d tell them to make sure that this is what they want. Cause this shit is a different monster. I’m still learning the ropes. Always be accountable for your words and know what you say, you’ll eventually have to answer for. How will you be able to handle that? If you can’t stay home, be an accountant. But, if you genuinely want to do this then figure out what it is that you want to represent, what stories you want to tell, what conversations are important to you, and then have them BETTER than anyone else because there are a million others trying to do the same thing.

15 – What can we expect from Mouse Jones for the rest of 2018?

More.

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.

Amanda ‘ThatDancer’ Barona Speaks on Family Inspirations, Her First Photo Shoot, Working with Fabolous, Touring with Rae Sremmurd, and More.

I love being able to connect with people who have a passion for visuals because it’s intriguing to hear what they see through their lens. Visual content has become a vital piece of our lives and being able to provide your following with a story through every photo is a great talent. Amanda Barona, also known as ThatDancer, is by far one of the most requested photographers in Florida. She has photographed some of music’s top acts such as Gucci Mane, DJ Khaled, Travis Scott, Tyler, the Creator, Post Malone and the list goes on. Although her lens has shot pretty much everyone you can think of, Amanda has become famously known for shooting and traveling with music duo Rae Sremmurd.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 7.56.01 PMI had the chance to chop it up with Amanda and we talked about her come up in the Miami scene, her first-ever photo shoot, how she managed to connect with Fab and Rae Sremmurd, the things that keep her motivated and more.

1 – How did you get into photography?

It began when I started going to concerts around 8th grade. Until this day I have boxes of Kodak Disposable cameras that I never got developed from concerts I went to. I was probably in Section 432, Row 13, Seat trashcan and was still taking pics of what looked like ants onstage lol. When MySpace popped off, I really got into it and my best friend gave me her Digi Cam on my 17th bday and I took it seriously from there.

2 – What was your main source of inspiration that got you into photography?

My siblings. I’m the oldest of 3. My sister is the baby, I purposely f*ck up in life so I can tell her “Yea don’t do that it was a failure” lol. My brother is a leukemia survivor, however, the cancer paralyzed him at 13/14? and sh*t was never the same. He’s now 26. His life changed and he no longer was able to be my partner in crime. So it’s like I started to live on the edge and run everywhere in order to show him the world he may never see. I have a habit of sometimes even recording full shows because I know he’d wanna see it, but he always thinks he’s a burden being in a wheelchair. I use my eyes to work a lens so he can have eyes, basically.

3 – What was the first ever shoot you’ve done?

It was probably my friends or fellow dancers. I was a hip-hop dancer in ’07. So I use to shoot myself, make my own comp cards and headshots. I told people all the time I took my own photos but they didn’t believe me. Power of the self-timer and running lol. I was also working in a portrait studio so I shot family portraits for like 4 years outta high school. It’s a blur lol.

But my first “Major shoot”? HA. It’s a tie between T-Pain or Yung Berg. I was an assistant to T-Pain so he opened the door for me way back in 2008. Pain was always letting me shoot when he was in town. Yung Berg contacted me to shoot his artist on his label and it was the worst business EVER. The story of Berg is the one I warn shooters about. He showed me that not all business is GOOD BIZ. No matter who the client is; famous or not. Long story short, I was still fairly new at shooting but he hired me to shoot an ALBUM cover for him and never got paid. I was jobless at the time so the money was important. I learned quickly the importance of contracts since we didn’t sign one. He pretended to be cool and was playing games about payment for months. Then when I’d ask about it he began to be unprofessional and go as far as disrespecting me. I told him off and never looked back. He’ll always have an ugly soul to me. The only thing I got from that was experience and to never ever let someone disrespect me and my art.

4 – Miami has grown a lot as far as emerging creatives. What did you during your come to get your work noticed?Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.02.33 PM

I think what helped me get noticed was being supportive. I was just hitting these concerts and always being front row to the point where these artists would legit recognize me when they came to town. Sometimes I had my camera sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I paid $300 to get a good seat, sometimes I bought a crappy seat and pretend like I was looking for my mom lol. But they saw the dedication I had for the music. Once I learned how to finesse and made some plugs, it was natural for me to get where I needed with my camera. Until this day I freak out when sneaking my camera in despite how long I’ve been doing it lol. But I tell everyone it’s not about the comp shows cause until this day I still buy concert tickets, I’m still flying myself out to catch festivals when people would assume I’m getting paid for it. Nope! It’s all a work in progress to be a household name.

5 – At what point did you realize your visuals were getting solid recognition?

When I was getting escorted to Big Sean’s photo pit some fans were yelling my name, complimenting my work, asking for photos and advice all while the show was on lol. Also recently, I went to a Waffle House incognito and the cook came out and legit said: “you’re thatdancer?” I died Lol. But, it was awesome to see my own city was starting to notice me. When I go to introduce myself to other artists and they say my name before I can introduce myself, that’s the best shit ever too.

6 – When did your first big break come to do your first established photoshoot or shoot an event?

Hmm trying to remember cause I go to way too many shows. 😩 I can’t even recall, unfortunately. I was always tryna find a way to make bread off shoots. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t had my break yet. I have so much more to prove. Someone who caught me off guard was probably Fab. I was already attending his show but a Ciroc rep asked me to shadow him and help. So I did. That same night Fab posted 36 images of mine on Instagram, that blew my mind that someone truly liked and saw my vision. That was one of the happiest days I had honestly. I kept screaming like Khaled “Another One?!?”

7- You’ve established yourself as a legit photographer in the state of Florida and it seems like you’re the go-to for a lot of different acts. How did you manage to build your connection with people like Rae Sremmurd and Fabolous?

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That’s my goal lol. My sis once said “Whenever an artist lands in Miami it’s a NO FLY ZONE for all shooters” lol. I was always a Rae Sremmurd fan. I saw them perform at Revolt Music Conference in like 2014. I snuck my camera in and was front row for their show. The energy they presented was another level. The boys and Mike Will were reposting my images but I didn’t get credit. I ended up seeing them at a club a week later, ran up to their section, opened their IG and yelled: “I took this photo!!” Jxmmi immediately grabbed my phone, took a snap, and I was like “we’re best friends now” lol Well it was like I spoke it into fruition cause I continued hitting up their shows. One event they had I had DM’d Jxm and he actually noticed it. He thought my IG was a fake celeb photo Page lol. When he spotted me in the crowd, he handed me the blunt and let me know he knew who I was. We later found out when I was on tour with them that he was tryna link with me for work but didn’t know how. We both clicked and it’s super hard to find that genuine chemistry while working nowadays. So it was gods plan really lol. He saw my hustle. I never asked for his contact I would just show up to their events ready to work.

My story wit Fab goes back to the previous question. I was always just at these shows. I like to call myself a candid shooter. I hate the posing stuff. He loves candids and genuine moments. I feel like I’m able to capture it without them feeling the pressure of my shutter. I’m quiet too. I just like to do my job and go. I use to be super intimidated by Fab. Cause he’s a legend to me. Never would I have thought I’d know him. Sometimes I don’t pay attention cause I’m like “oh you were talking to me?” Lmao. It took maybe a year to really connect. Learning how he moves, how he likes to be shot, etc.. But it took time and work. He taught me ALOT about shooting and business. A lot.

8 – Aside from Fab and Rae Sremmurd, what other acts have you been able to connect with and shoot on a regular basis?

T-Pain hired me as his personal assistant in 2011? He was the first person to help me get out my moms house and experience life outside of Florida. The day he hired me my first gig was South Africa on Christmas. Epic. He was there before everyone and is still around. I have a great relationship with Justin Combs, Mack Wilds, Dave East. Hell… a lot of New Yorkers love me lmao. Um… Zoey Dollaz for sure and a ton of artists team members.

9 – What do you prefer as a photographer – photoshoots or event shooting? Why?

I guess event shooting, I love colorful lights, the screaming fans, mosh pits, energy, the rush, the work behind putting a show on, and not knowing what your gonna exactly get. I love candids so I’m able to be as candid as possible compared to telling someone how to pose. Just thinking of that reminds me of Napoleon Dynamites’ Uncle Rico 😂

10 – What were some of your struggles coming up in this industry? What are some things that you’re currently struggling with although you’ve already positioned yourself as a legit creative?

It’s sad to say but I still battle with the issue that I am a female in a male-dominated game. Some people think it’s a joke when this is literally how I’m able to pay bills. I don’t care too much about being in the “know” – I just wanna be able to shoot freely and spread the art. But men get intimidated easily when I’m around. I struggle daily with DOUBT. Doubting myself or feeling like I’m not good enough. Sounds terrible but I’m very hard on myself.

11 – At this current moment, what keeps you motivated to keep shooting?

The hopes of being able to travel the world.

And these grey hairs I got on my head lol

12 – You’ve done so many different shoots and have shot so many different concerts and events. What would you say was the best photography experience for you? Why? What did you learn from it?

Hands down the European Tour I did with Rae Sremmurd. I learned from one of the best tour managers (shout out to Tony) how to move and survive the fast bus life lol. We had an incredible team 360 all around. From Security (Zeekeyy + Cor) to the all the boys who I consider family now (G-Lo, Shane, JaySremm, Max, Swae and Jxm, of course Migo!) The shows were during the day, night, in and outdoors, all different light settings. I had to move quickly and adjust with barely any sleep, all the while keeping up with the boys. It’s not as easy as you think lol. I also learned to never put my camera down and to be ready for every moment. Jxm’s 100k chain was taken during a crowdsurf and due to my trigger finger, I caught frame by frame the moment and was able to help. Alongside Max’s visuals. If I wasn’t on point that could have been a huge problem. But that’s the sremmlife way lol.

13 – As a photographer, what was the biggest piece of advice anyone has given you?

To be honest, I don’t have a piece of advice that sticks out. I remember thinking the other day I wanted to ask Fab that to see what he says but I just remember certain comments and go by my story to keep pushing. I literally speak a lot of stuff into existence. Remain true and you’re never too good to practice or learn.

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14 – If you could choose one person or event to shoot, who or what would that be?

Corny as it may be, it’d be a dream to shoot or meet Justin Timberlake. I’d say Childish Gambino but I know I’m a make it happen this year. A lot of people I wanted to shoot I made happen. It’s more so about traveling now. Who I meet or work with along the way is just the cherry on top.

15 – What can your fans expect from you in the second quarter of 2018?

Hopefully a tour! I’m praying and working. If not, I’m hoping to really kick off a shooters club to help other photographers out.

But I def plan on trying to get out more and shoot more than ever. I wanna be able to say I traveled the world before its too late.

Christian Royce Speaks on Photography/Videography Inspirations, Working and Touring with Dej Loaf, The Launch of His New Brand ‘JETLAG’D’ and More.

It takes a lot of work to be a photographer, videographer, and/or director. Not only can it be it be extremely time consuming but you also have to have an amazing eye for capturing moments. Although every photographer, videographer, and/or director have their own way of capturing moments, the quality of the visual has to have a distinct meaning behind it. Like the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Using his family, work ethic, and a strong connection to one of music’s dopest acts as his inspiration, Christian Royce has been able to expand his talents in the visual department and grow his name to become one of the best-emerging visualizers in the tri-state area.

I caught up with Christian to talk about his grind in becoming one of the best at what he does, the pros and cons of being in the industry, connecting and traveling with Dej Loaf, the launch of his new company and more.

1 – How did you get into doing photography/videography?

I got into photography and videography at a very young age because of my grandfather. He taught me the ins and outs of cameras and how to work them. Ever since then I combined my love of photography and videography with my love for music and it’s been history ever since.

2 – Growing up, what did you use as your source of inspiration?

My source of inspiration comes from my father. He always seemed to make something out of nothing. Growing up and seeing that showed me that anything we want in life is obtainable and nothing is impossible. I took that lesson and used it in my creative process, I feel any vision a creative has can come to fruition through hard work and self-discipline.

3 – At what point did you realize that doing photography/videography is something you wanted to pursue?

I always knew from the first time I picked up a camera it would be a hobby of mine for the rest of my life. But it was my freshman year of college at Central Connecticut State University that I realized I wanted it to be more than just a hobby. I met somebody who I would call a mentor named Anthony Valentine and he basically told me “if your going to do something then do it, but just don’t do it because you like it. Do it to be the best that ever did it.” From that point on I started taking my craft very seriously and come my sophomore year I dropped out of college to pursue my career as a director and videographer.

4 – What was the first paid photography/videography gig you did?

My first paid job was in high school I’ll never forget it. I made $150 for a music video. To me at the time, it was the best thing ever. Now, I’m making fairly way more but to always think that’s where I started always humbles me and makes me thankful for the road I’ve taken to get to where I am now.

5 – I did an interview with Brea Simone recently. She mentioned that getting ahead of the curve on social media is was helped her get her name out there despite the misconception of Connecticut. What was your strategy in the early stages of building your name?

I always felt like people connect better with someone’s work when they can connect to the person as an individual. So I made sure I always showed my personality through social media because when people see the real you, it builds their interest and makes somebody that more excited to want to see the work you put out.

6 – For someone like yourself who constantly has to provide visual content, did you think it was challenging to stay ahead of the photography curve as far as emerging photographers in the tri-state?

To be honest, I always believed in quality over quantity. So I never felt the need to flood my page with any kind of content to make sure I posted every day. I more so made sure I was at the right events capturing the right people and giving people something to look at that they wouldn’t necessarily see every day.

7 – In your opinion, what are some pros and cons of doing photography? What about directing and videography?

When it comes to photography the only con I can say is that when you’re upcoming, if you haven’t built your name up or you don’t have a relationship with the person your working with it’s sometimes hard to receive credit on your own work. As for videography and directing it’s easier to get your credit but sometimes depending on the work you produce or the field you are in, it is harder to get jobs.

8 – Over the course of 2017 you did a lot of traveling and catching shots of everyone and everything while on the road. One person that comes to mind is Def Loaf. How did that link up happen?

So I met Dej Loaf at an event in Connecticut called HOT JAM, hosted by our local radio station Hot 93.7. I was there working with a very talented artist named ANoyd who was an opener that day for the concert and I had noticed Dej did not have a cameraman. So, me being the outgoing person I am haha I just went up to her road manager showed him some of my work and was like do you mind if I shoot a recap video for Dej Loaf, and he said: “yeah go for it.” So after the show, I went home edited her recap video and sent it in that night. Then about 2 weeks later they asked me to film her in NYC at a genius event, remind you all of this was last minute but when u want something in life you gotta go get it because life waits on no one. But all I can say is I went to NYC did my thing and then next thing I know I’m catching flights state to state traveling in sprinters day to day doing what I love and getting paid for it.

9 – What was the experience like of being on the road and traveling with a mainstream artist?

The experience at first is definitely surreal, it’s a different lifestyle something I wish everyone could experience at some point in their lives.  It’s very fast pace but relaxed at the same time, you really don’t have to worry about much and the vibes are amazing. I tend to stay to myself even on the road because I hate the spotlight but it almost seems like you have a small portion of the world in the palm of your hands. The only thing is that it does get very tiring with the traveling and all but it’s worth it for sure.

10 – You recently launched your media platform, Jet Lag’d. You stated on your Instagram post that you came up with the name because you travel and work a lot. Explain some of the basics of the brand. What are you looking to achieve with it?

I’m not gonna really go into detail on my brand JETLAG’D just because I’m still building it up, but I eventually want to be able to break new musical artist and other creatives through this platform and build a team of dope visionaries around it. I also want to provide dope content all done in house by the JETLAG’D team.

11 – You’ve done so much over the course of the last 12 months. Which project and/or person did you enjoy working with the most? What did you learn from it?

Dej has really played a huge role in my life as far as showing me how the industry works. But I’ve also been working with a lot of upcoming artist like Leeky Bandz, Rayla, Deeno Ape, Trauma, David Lee and others, and they are my favorite to work with. I know a lot of people would love to work with a mainstream artist but being able to work with an upcoming artist who you truly believe in and help them build their brand and image is one of the best feelings I could ever feel.

12 – What’s next for Christian Royce?

The world will have to wait and see! Just be ready and know I won’t disappoint.

Brianni Taylor Speaks on Event Curation, Pros and Cons of Being an Event/Creative Producer, Tips for Creating the Successful Event and More.

Putting together the perfect event isn’t as easy as people may think it is. There are so many different elements and pieces that go into creating an outstanding function and who better to speak on it than one of the best party creators, Brianni Taylor. Brianni, also known to her fans as Brianni T., has been apart of the event production space for quite some time. The young creative has been and still is putting together some of New York’s best art-inspired parties and as of recently, took one of her gatherings to the other side of the country.

I spoke with Brianni about her come up in the event production world, her first ever event, creating social media engagement, her dream collaboration and more in our interview below.

1 – What made you want to get into creating events?

In 2010, my first semester in college, I took a Fashion Show Production class. We produced the school’s biggest event that year. The class brainstormed ideas for a fashion show theme. Luckily, mine was picked. We conceptualized the show, we picked the type of promotion and executed the marketing using guerilla marketing tactics, we held model castings and runway walking boot camp classes, we held fittings and created outfits… there was nothing that we did not do. I loved every bit of it because it felt so fulfilling to see something I’ve worked so hard on come to life and have so many people give great feedback.

2 – What was the first ever event you put together? Were you nervous about it?

The first event I produced solely under Brianni T. Presents was Makeup & Mimosas. It is so different now from what it used to be. The first Makeup & Mimosas was more of a seminar where the makeup artist, Ashley Sophia, showed everyone how to create certain makeup looks on a budget. I was so nervous I could not sleep the night before.

3 – What are the pros and cons of creating an event?

Let’s start with cons, from my personal experience with creating and producing events. The part I hate the most is not being able to secure strategic partnerships OR coming across a company that would be a great match. But, the deadline for sponsorship requests has passed. The highlights of producing/creating events are seeing everything I’ve worked so hard for come to life. I love seeing people enjoy themselves! A lot of people come to my events alone and meet new people, which is what it’s all about to me.

4 – The last few major events you had were related to visual art. Have you always been into visual artwork or was it more so something that made sense for the event you had in mind?

It’s so weird… for months before I curated the first TLOP Exhibit, I was saying “I want to
coordinate an art exhibit”. I had some ideas on what I wanted to do, but it was not music
related. Once Kanye West released The Life Of Pablo, I knew right away that I wanted to curate a Kanye West-inspired exhibit. Naturally, my other favorite musicians, Drake and Rihanna, were to follow.

5 – Not only do you create events and do things behind the scenes but you also host a lot of your own events. Would you prefer to work behind the scenes of the event or hosting? Why?

I actually don’t host my own events. I HATE being a “face” to anything because I am such a behind the scenes person. I usually have Taqee Bond host my events (haha). I am very
comfortable playing the backend roles as long as I get my just due.

6 – You’re responsible for creating a lot of social engagement in order to gain a crowd of people to attend your events. In your opinion, what do you think are some important things that help increase someone’s chances of throwing a successful event? 

That’s a great question which I am still learning the answer to. For ME, it has been knowing WHO my audience was, knowing what they like to talk about, knowing the right time to engage with them online and just creating a natural conversation which basically turns into free promotion. What companies now call “Twitter Chats” is something I’ve been doing for a while. It’s just another form of effective marketing. This doesn’t work for everyone because their support base might not be on Twitter. They need to find which platform works BEST for them and create content and conversations to really get people interested.

7 – What are the steps you take in thinking of a new event to produce?

I usually think of an event I would like to attend or what types of events I haven’t seen OR ones that I have encountered but want to reconstruct them to make them original. From there, I see if I am super passionate about the project and if it’s sticking with me I move forward and execute. There have been multiple ideas I’ve dropped to the side because I did not feel super excited about it and my promise to myself was while I am still in 100% control of my events production company, I will only work on projects that make me happy and fulfilled. To me, there’s nothing worse than working tirelessly on something that you really have no interest in.

8 – It seems like you’re taking your events to new heights. You recently did a Kanye
West-inspired exhibit in L.A. How does it feel to know that you can take your events to a different city and still receive the same positive reaction from people?

It was a really gratifying experience. I was humbled, I was proud of myself and I really
enjoyed myself, which I usually never do because I am so busy. In LA the vibes were MUCH different. Whenever the guests had to leave, they left with no problem. No one really knew me so it wasn’t 101 people stopping me to talk or with issues. I was able to check out all of the art, watch people enjoy themselves and I got to eat…which I NEVER do :-). I was happy but I know whenever I go back to LA I have to be even better.

9 – If you can choose one person in the entertainment or art industry to collaborate with as far as an art exhibit event goes who would that person be? Why?

HMMMMM [me thinking]… If it’s in regards to curating another exhibit with an artist I haven’t used before, I would have so much fun with a Cam’ron exhibit. I imagine everyone attending wearing all pink outfits, taking fly pictures, rapping “Suck It Or Not” or “Horse & Carriage” (haha). I would also be super interested in piecing together an art exhibit with Jay-Z. Who doesn’t want to work with him? Lastly, my dream is to go to New Orleans and produce an exhibit with artwork of Hot Boyz, No Limit and all of the hottest musicians from N.O. I’d die.

10 – What else can the people expect from you for the rest 2018? Do you have any events coming up soon?

April 28th, I will be bringing the Glow In The Dark TLOP Exhibit back to NYC. It was highly requested and I feel like my exhibits have evolved so much since the first exhibit and I want to do Kanye right in NYC. I POTENTIALLY will be heading to Chicago with the Glow In The Dark exhibit. It’s still in the air. I will be planning other events but they will be tied to my other business Van Kleur, which is a co-working space for women of color. We have so many big plans to engage with the large community that are black, brown, and yellow women. I am overly joyous about this project. It is my little baby and in my heart I know it’s going to be huge. Stay tuned ❤