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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleverly Chloe Speaks on the Importance of Building a Social Presence, The Creation of ‘Clever in the City’ and the ‘Clever Coins’ Podcast, Her New Lane as a Creative Director and More.

In most cases, it’s hard to focus on multiple things at one time. When you’re busy focusing on one aspect of your life and trying to perfect it, you completely neglect another part and/or a particular craft. It’s rare when you can find the connection or similarities in the different dreams you’re pursuing and tie them together but that’s exactly what Chloe did. The young creative from the Bronx took everything that she knew best and used them to her advantage to build a foundation based on things she was talented in. Using her inspirations from her childhood to then building her own inspirations as life continued on, Chloe constructed a large following from the ground up based on her talents as a podcast host, short films/webs series actor, social media personality, event host, and so on.

I was able to catch up with Chloe in our interview below to talk about her life inspirations, what pushes her to constantly be creative, the importance of building a presence for yourself on social media, her strong connection to Dinner Land Network and more.

1 – When did you have that realization that you wanted to be a creator?

If I’m being honest, I can’t say I ever had the eureka moment where I woke up and decided; hey this is what I want to do. It sort of developed over time. Being a creative takes time. You have to try your hand at so many different things to figure out what it is you’re good at. For me, I’m talented or I’m blessed enough to say that I am talented in multiple areas and I was able to find a way to meld all the things that I love together.

2 – Coming up, what was your sense of inspiration for your creativity?

My mother was very creative. She was a collector of things. She collected magazines with so many timeless black women. I grew up with looking at them on the covers. I saw black faces constantly. I saw women in power, women in the theater, tv, dance and more. My mother was a big reason in me finding out and discovering all of my talents as she rolled me into the dance theater of Harlem at the age of three to study ballet, modern and Jazz until I was 16 years old.  She recorded every television award show from MTV VMAs, the Billboard Awards, and the AMA’s. I also watched the NAACP Image Awards, the Essence Awards, and the Source Awards. She was a big film buff. I watched black and white film at a young age. I knew every actress and every actor from the 19050s up until the 1990s. I was able to sit and watch every televised music award show there was. We would even record them. I was engulfed in entertainment and I think that fueled my desire and my passion to want to further express myself.

I was a child model. I was going to acting auditions and go-sees. I was a very talented child but I was a timid child until I grew older. I was able to release my creativity and it was a great expression for me. I was also a sketcher. I could design and draw. I knew how to do so many things and I just wanted to be able to do them all at once.

3 – When did you get your first shot at showcasing your creativity to the public?

That’s so hard to say. I think for those who’ve known me intimately, they could tell you that I’ve always been creative. From being a child in school, I was expressing myself through acting or design. I could make clothes as well but I guess to the public it would be through my blog, cleverlychloe.Tumblr.com. That’s where a lot of people saw that I was a talented writer and it wasn’t just about being obnoxious on social media.

I wrote an article that summarized the latest episode (at the time) of Tax Season from my friend, Taxstone, featuring my friends Ravie B. and the late Combat Jack. In the episode, Combat challenged the music and hip-hop industry as well as the personalities. We wanted the large platforms to do better as far as pushing the culture forward and the things we’ve done for the culture lately. I think that grabbed a lot of peoples attention who didn’t think I had much to say.

4 – You invest a lot of time into social media but it’s all apart of your image and your brand. In your opinion, how important do you think social media is for young creatives? How important is it for emerging brands?

If it wasn’t for social media, Cleverly Chloe and the brand wouldn’t exist. It sounds cliché to say but I think social media gets a bad rap. You can literally use multiple free platforms to make money and get your voice or message heard. I think people have to be smart about how they use their platform. If you have 1,000 followers that means you have a network to reach 1,000 people. Don’t waste it.

Repetition is key. Symbolism is key. Alliteration and being redundant is key when it comes to building your brand notoriety. A lot of people remember me and it’s not because of my face but because of my name, it’s easy to remember. I did that on purpose. Everything  I do has a purpose. I’ve never just jumped into something because I was afraid to miss an opportunity. My social media brand is a reflection of that.

5 – Was there any particular moment that you can remember where you noticed that your name and what you do began to catch on to people? How did that moment feel?

Oh yes, I remember that moment all too well. I think it was after Clever in the City was featured in REVOLT as one of the top five web series to look out for in 2017. I was exceedingly humbled and after that article, I started seeing projects for work that I had inspired which is humbling and flattering. But, you definitely take notice of what you do and how it affects or inspires people.

After that, I was being asked my opinion on things and that even started after my website and my blog took off. I saw that people cared about my opinion. That’s an honor and also an incredibly heavy weight to bear because now you have to be careful. It’s about what you say and how you say it to people because now you’re trying not to offend anyone. Your main goal is to inspire people to want to do better.  It can be a little overwhelming.

6 – In a world where content is constantly flowing, it’s hard to sometimes create an idea that belongs to you? Where do you currently pull your inspiration from? Has it become difficult for you and your team to brainstorm ideas?

I love classic sh*t. In my new lane as a creative director and a person who is trying to produce original visual content, my job to research things as well as put a new spin on what our generation finds appealing. I know my main purpose so my direction is always clear. To promote and inspire new talent to the masses, that’s always my goal.

I pull inspiration from old movies or books that I’ve read. I also get inspired by New York itself. My web series is dedicated to my city where I’m from. There’s a lot of inspiration to pull from. Even walking around and seeing people, I’m a studier of human nature and consumer behavior. I’ve pulled from everything which probably hurts me more than it does help me because I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. I don’t want to put out anything that sub-par. But, I get a lot of inspiration just from everyday life.

7 – You’re the creator of two well-known platforms. One being Clever in the City and the other being Cleverly Coins the podcast. What was the process of putting these two ideas together?

This was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in creating a project that I knew made sense. Clever in the City is obviously inspired by Sex and the City. I have always felt connected to the characters on there as young women going through life. Now, being a creative working in New York and living here I can relate to so much. I wanted to do a unique spin in which I was able to showcase my friends in the industry that I work with that are also doing the same thing as me. It’s very tough to be a creative here and I wanted to showcase the people that were successful and how you can be when you really stick to it. I also wanted to show how influential the city is to that culture.

I literally isolate myself from people while creating. I delved into all the seasons of Sex and the City and watched every episode. So, every episode of Clever has infusions of that series just to kinda tieback a correlation.

The Clever Coins podcast was great fun to do because I have a history of podcasting and people wanted to hear me again. I also wanted to extend the conversations from each episode so they came together quite seamlessly. I had a lot of fun involving everyone that I’ve had for the first season and it was just such a magical moment that I hope to be able to re-create in the future.

8 – You played in a web series called Appropriate Culture. How did you manage to get into that? For those who don’t know, what was the series based on?

So, the great thing about Appropriate Culture is that it’s written, directed and stars its creator, Julian Stephen. One day Julian called me and told me he had a script and he wrote a character with me in mind and asked if I would be willing to read the script and see if I would be interested in joining the project. Above all, I was flattered but I was a little hesitant. I wasn’t sure how ready I was to get back into acting. It had been a while but I knew I needed to start. I read the script and I thought it was really funny, really smart and knew there weren’t that many young black comedies. I felt that we could do something really unique and different. The rest is pretty much history.

The show is based on two brothers living in New York trying to figure out and balance dating friendships. They have a dad who gives them all sorts of crazy advice but it really showcases how young people have to adapt into young adulting. As cliché as that may sound, Julian did a great job with picking a diverse enough cast to where everyone can bring something different, watch the show, and recognize somebody in a character that they see.

9 – How did you link up with Dinner Land?

When my manager and I first got together, she asked me what I wanted to do and I mentioned that I wanted to relaunch a web series. She asked if I knew of any production people are videographers and I told her no. She immediately thought of Dinner Land. We already knew them from working with Taxstone and Combat Jack. I was familiar with their production value and some of their contact and I was interested in seeing if they would be able to bring this vision I had to life. We had a sit down with Shake, the producer of my web series, and the rest is history. We were able to really create a great synergy and he really helped me in bringing Clever in the City to fruition.

10 – I recently interviewed Yan, one of your colleagues from Dinner Land. She shed a lot of light on the brand as a whole. In your opinion, why do you think Dinner Land has become so important to our culture and to the emerging creative?

It’s quality over quantity over there. They don’t just take on any assignment just say they did it. They actually want to see unique ideas push the forefront. I am so humbled and appreciative that they took a chance on Clever because I knew I wasn’t trying to waste anyone’s time with bullsh*t content. Doing safe sh*t is easy but it’s also boring and Dinner Land is willing to go outside the lines if it means producing original work that has value. I love Dinner!

11 – With everything that you’ve involved yourself in throughout the last few years, what do you think the most important and memorable moment was? How did that moment help contribute to who you are today?

I don’t think I can chuck it up to just one moment. I had so much fun in 2017. I experienced extreme highs and extreme lows from hosting in front of thousands of people and coming out of my acting shell again and being on the web series in front of the camera. There’s so much that pushes me. I think to be able to force myself out of my comfort zone as far as entertaining. that’s what I love. I love to live in those moments. I think we are often chasing that high and I’m blessed enough to be able to experience multiple highs.

12 – Who are some women in the industry that you admire? Why?

I have a great circle and network of women that I get to watch and that I respect. From my friend Raven a.k.a. Ravie B. to Nina Parker. There is another friend of mine by the name of Bridget Kelly and Karen Civil has been a constant inspiration for me. Women in film and television like Shonda Rimes, Mara Brock Akil and Lena White. I have seen my friend Scottie Beam do amazing things these past few months since leaving Hot 97. I look at my friends and my support system around me. I have so many women that I watch. Gia Peppers is another one who I think is awesome. Yara Shahidi I think is the voice of the black women in the generation coming behind me and I can’t wait to see what she does in the future. There are so many people that I constantly watch and I can’t wait to work with them.

13 – As a woman working in this industry, what has been the most important piece of advice given to you that you still live by today?

I remember once, Combat and I were driving in his car and I told him I was hesitant on wanting to do too many things too soon and I might want to take my time with doing some things. He told me; “Chloe, go after that shit now! You’re only young once. You’re talented, you’re smart, you got the drive do it now before it’s too late because there’s always going to be somebody behind you trying to do it better.”  He was always helpful and constantly inspiring me. whenever I felt down he told me so many inspirational things. He believed in me so much. I’ll remember everything he ever told me. But, it definitely will help me in not being afraid to release my projects and my work.

14 – What’s next for Chloe and her team? What can your fans expect from you in 2018?  

More Clever in the City and more Clever Coins podcast. I’m going to be helping with other peoples projects right now and doing a lot as far as creative direction. You’ll be seeing my name in credits if you pay attention.  I’m looking to grow as an actor and on-camera personality.  I’m trying to delve into multiple arenas so right now I’m perfecting my craft during this hibernation mode.  However, I’m looking to emerge for spring and summer 2018 on top!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro: You create content

Con: You’re surrounded by content all the time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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