BURN DOWN THE MIC

Date: January  22, 2020

Location: Unknown

As Told by JimmySoDope

Imagine doing five years in prison, then coming home to win the Burn Down The Mic showcase hosted by the legendary DJ Don Demarco. That’s the reality Brooklyn Hip-Hop artist Luciano Baby. I asked him how did he manage to get so much support during a pandemic? He simply replied, “That’s not me. That’s God.” 

 

“Supportive” is possibly the best word to describe the vibe of the showcase presented by Tornado Gang and NYC Express. DJ 3 Stacks, DJ Don Demarco & Capo Louie-Lou created a 420 friendly environment that had artists showing love to artists. The secret location, somewhere in NY, was the perfect space for rappers to connect with their peers. Judging the showcase was Jamilah Rose who said it perfectly, “Continue to NETWORK to increase your net worth. Collaboration creates synergy, synergy brings positive energy. Remember, One man can’t move a mountain. You can be super duper dope but if only your five friends know it, nothing will happen.”

 

 

Although Luchiano walked away with the crown, Burn Down the Mic was filled with talented artists. The very 1st act was King Ishtah. The lyricist effortlessly swam through an array of flows while keeping the similes and metaphors at a high level. Later on Eastside Zha Zha commanded the crowd with vivid storytelling and top shelf crowd engagement. One of the records Zha Zha performed was written while she was in labor. That’s dedication! The night also included the high energy duo BB GUNNZ that may have been the winner depending on who you asked.

 

One thing I couldn’t overlook was the fact that DJ Don Demarco was locked in for the entire show, front and center absorbing the performances. “That’s why we do the show. We’re here to see and hear the new talent.” The Burn Down Mic Showcase has all of the ingredients of an event that’ll be around for a while. Great DJs, honest judges, dope performers and good bud. See you next month.

Raw Bunch Presents: SPOKEN WORD

Date: December 20th , 2020

Location:  Above Art Studio New Brunswick, NJ

As Told by JimmySoDope

Newark, NJ has a historic relationship with poetry. After all, our mayor is a poet himself and the son of critically acclaimed author & poet Amiri Baraka.  When I heard that the Brick City battle rapper/entrepreneur Tsu Surf was hosting the “SPOKEN WORD” event presented by his Raw Bunch record label & the non for profit Detox The Hood, I wasn’t shocked whatsoever. I was even more excited when I got wind of the secret location, the world famous Above Art Studios in New Brunswick.

IG: @Tsu_Surf

A statement that Surf said his first time on stage pretty much set the tone for this article and the evening as a whole, “You can lie in rap, but you can’t lie in poetry.” Every poet mirrored this truth with superhuman displays of honesty and vulnerability. I caught up with Tsu Surf’s manager and the event’s coordinator Qua to ask him how they arrived at the decision to enter the battle rapper into the spoken word space. He replied, “I love Surf. I work with Surf, manage Surf but this isn’t about him. It’s about the other poets. I’m using Surf as a platform to shed light on the people. I’m setting the stage for these poets and then with the proceeds we are helping out the less fortunate.”

I inquired about Ashley The Poet’s creative process and she shared with me, “I cry when I write. That’s how I get my poems to be the way I need them to be. I write so I can change somebody in the crowd. I need somebody in the crowd to feel me. I get in tuned to the exact feeling I had the moment I went through what ever in writing about.” When I asked if she’s still healing from her experiences that have been catalysts for her art, she replied, “The healing process never ends!”

The socially distant event delivered on every level. The paintings on the walls and easels of the Above Art Studios space were top notch as they are notoriously known for. The complimentary Pinot Grigio didn’t disappoint. The poets really performed from a place of love, gratitude and vulnerability. On stage they were full of audacity and wisdom, off stage they were dropping jewels as well. JaNai Aka Ki’Nu said “Everything I do is to support our people. I feel like the Black Man does not get enough recognition and praise so when I get on a stage that’s the first thing I address.” When I asked Poetree about her performance approach she told me, “I speak from experience. From who I am. I could get on stage and just start spitting but speaking to the audience allows me to FEEL first.”

IG: @Poeism

XVIIDUKE said, “It feels good to be free. When you’re free you are real.” I asked him what was his underlying message he wanted to get across with his poems, he responded, “Question everything and remain in love because we are love!” And love was the energy that everyone felt! The audience was thoroughly engaged. They laughed, clapped and snapped their fingers when poets pulled on their heart strings.

A conversation with the author of “Tripping Over Canvases” and co-owner of Above Art Studios, Donte T Muse had a different tone. We spoke of how they were able to keep the art gallery thriving while so many businesses crumbled during the economic downfall caused by the pandemic. He explained how entrepreneurs could have taken preemptive measures to make their businesses recession proof! Donte did however have a message for those of us who are now learning that entrepreneurship and group economics are not trends but an absolute necessities if we are to rise as a community. “Love what you do. Pursue your talents and passions. Your passions are directly tied to your purpose. If you follow those things, everybody wins because you’re a piece of the puzzle.”

Qua confirmed SPOKEN WORD was initially scheduled for the 1st quarter of 2020. Obviously Covid-19 had other plans. All in all, I couldn’t think of more powerful and purposeful way to end the year. Before the night was over, Surf assured that SPOKEN WORD is indeed a series and for the next event we can expect him step aside as the host and step in as a featured act. Stay tuned….

 

Featured Performers

My Brother’s Keeper: Black Genius in partnership with Chad B Turkey Drive

Date: November 21, 2020

Location: Newark, NJ

@blackgeniusbrand/ @therealchadb / @sirbowtiebarnes

According to Dictionary.com, being selfless is similar to being altruistic — in other words giving to others without looking for personal gain. If you give time, money, or things to other people without expecting something in return, that is selfless. Social media entrepreneur, Tyree Barnes teamed up with his big brother, No Kutt recording artist, Chad B for the Black Genius Turkey Giveaway it was not only selfless, it was revolutionary. The brothers passed out the Thanksgiving staples on the same block that they grew up on. Chad said “This is where it all started. Flipping on mattresses and learning how to play ball“. Tyree followed up with, “That’s home base for us, 9th and 4th Ave [Newark, NJ], Grandma house. Grandma held the whole family together.”

The occasion functioned as a turkey drive firstly, and secondly it was a reunion. Many of the people that stopped by our station were not interested in grabbing a turkey; they simply wanted to say hi. Community elders, childhood friends and even one of Chad’s elementary school teachers pulled up to offer hugs and gratitude for the brothers’ initiative. “It’s just dope!  All those guys, they love what I’m doing. They support it 100%. It felt like we were back home again. They show love every chance they get”, replied Chad. I had asked about the crew of brothers that stood by his side as he served the community. It honestly felt like they were protecting us from the patrolling police cars that circled the block the entire time we were out there, but I digress…

 

@blackgeniusbrand

Another aspect of the day that couldn’t go unnoticed was how vigorously Tyree promoted the “The Brain Bowl”, a math, Black history and critical thinking competition. Over 100 students will compete in these mental challenges and the top 15 students will win $150 each. “I teach them the equation, but what if they don’t feel like they’re ever going to use it. We know experience is the best teacher so we can’t separate education from the rest of life. We must integrate [our] society into education.” Said the founder of the Black Genius brand.  He meant it. Every single person that was gifted a turkey also received a Brain Bowl flyer. If they didn’t have children they were instructed to give the 4×5 card to somebody that does! “And after this is over, we’ll have another flyer. We all have a genius inside of us. As educators and adults is our obligation it help these kids acknowledge their genius,” he concluded.

With all of the struggles going on in the world, I was curious as to why the Barnes Brothers chose to combat holiday hunger. Tyree said “We did a block party, gave away hundreds of book bags with school supplies. Then we did a charity softball game. This time it’s a turkey drive. It is 6 of us. Statistically my siblings and I are not supposed to be here.” He continued,   “None of us are in jail, on drugs or in a grave. It’s our obligation to give back.” Chad doubled down, “It’s all about giving back. Tyree presented the idea and me, being the oldest, looking from a big brother perspective, I’m gonna support it 100%.” Brotherly love at it’s finest! From the Hip Hop community to the educational sector, it’s safe to say the city of Newark is in good hands. Answering the age old question, am I my brothers keeper, yes I am.

As told by Jimmysodope

 

Video Link:  https://www.instagram.com/p/CIBy-fgA1ba/

Grand Opening of Nail Posh Studio

Date: November 15th, 2020

Location: Nail Posh Studio, Washington Heights, New York

@Nailsposhstudio/ @ShameekaRosario

 

On scene, I arrive to the grand opening of Nails Posh Studio. Everything that you’d expect to see at a grand opening of a nail salon was in its proper place.
Balloons, check. Champagne, check. Beautiful women, check. Brooklyn
Hip-Hop star Phresher, okay…  Wait, whose baby is this??

@phresher_dgygz

I caught up with entrepreneur, medical aesthetician and founder of Nails Posh Studio, Shameeka Rosario, for answers. “Everyone is out here because I’m
creating a cause, giving back. First responders, victims of domestic
violence and cancer survivors get 15% off!” Shameeka informed me.

…And when she said everybody, she meant it. Entertainers, politicians, brothers and sister ranging from 5 months to 70 years old attended. Malcolm Smith, Music/Media Director of GP Public Relations had this to say, “It’s the right mixture of people. Any event we do, the goal is to make it family oriented.” Then beautiful woman asked him to hold her baby for a moment (definitely a first for me).  As we laughed about Malcolm babysitting during the interview, he left me with this, “… Bridging the gap is HUGE, because different generations have their own culture. We try our best to pass the culture down to the kids but they have their own thing going. So we MUST bring everyone together, like this.”

@DJCOOKZ

As I walked through the small yet big salon, I could not help but appreciate the feng shui.  The color of pink perfection covers the walls.  The entire back of the shop is a dedicated shrine of Barbie dolls. One side for your good girls and the other for the “not –so good” girls.  DJ Cookz   held it down with the sounds of evening. One of the sponsors for the event, Sudain Savoury, from the Revenge of The Doubted brand expressed how proud he was of the salons opening. “ We’ve all been doubted before, sometimes by ourselves. No matter what you go through, you gotta keep pushing towards your dreams. People gonna doubt you but never forget, success is the best revenge.”

Before making my exit I couldn’t help but notice all of the black and
brown faces with big smiles as they received manicures, pedicures whilst
sipping on champagne. I asked Shameeka how did she create such a warm and
inviting vibe? She confidently replied, “I love to leave my touch on
people. If they come to me sad or not feeling pretty, when the leave
the salon they feel replenished, gorgeous and youthful. When they walk
out the door we make them feel as if they can take over the world!”

As told by Jimmysodope

THE CRATE

Written By @JimmySoDope

 

When The Vision Room headquarters confirmed that I’ll be covering The Crate’s “6th BORO” event, I was excited! I didn’t know what to expect. I arrived at the rear entrance of the store and was greeted by my contact Mitch, and an extremely long line. The line was filled with a variety of supporters, from skater kids to fashionistas, the neighborhood cool guys and even the mailman mad an appearance. Folks from all over came out to celebrate The Crate’s first capsule collection “6th BORO” and Stacktober, in remembrance of the late great HipHop legend, Stack Bundles.

My 1st question was, “What is “The Crate”?” The Riot Squad founder, Cau2Gs answered, “The crate is used as a stepping stone in the ‘Hood. When you’re in front of that corner store and you’re on that “crate”, you’re hustling on that “crate”, you put in work on that “crate”. It’s a foundation.” The Crate takes a stand in the community to give back. They collaborate with non-profit organizations like Rock Safe Streets whose objective is to end violence in the ‘Hood, create jobs and completely eradicate the school to prison pipeline. Designer and cofounder of The Crate, Terrill Kirk added, “When it comes to the clothes, we keep the organic part of it alive. It’s more than fashion. It’s about the feeling!”

 

My next thought was, how did a black owned business obtain such a stronghold on an inner city environment? The answer is simple; they are more than just a “black owned business!” The Crate is completely rooted into the community. They have maintained good relationships with politicians, NYPD and local officials.  Their ear is to the street as far as fashion but more importantly they know what the people in the community actually need. They promote events like 6th BORO, where Chef AJ cooks up hotdogs, hamburgers and jerk chicken kabobs or they are shining light on Far Rock with their championship basketball team, The Crate. Dreamville creative director Felton Brown explains it like this, “a lot of The Crate’s promotion and branding for their product was done with the locals from the neighborhood which is phenomenal because other companies hire professional models and props. The Crate used the community as the backdrop for photography with people from the community. They’re truly in touch with the community.”

 

 

And then there’s Stacktober, the event to celebrate the gone but not forgotten Hip Hop legend Rayquon “Stack Bundles” Elliot, with whom The Crate had an inseparable relationship. If you don’t know, Stack Bundles had the heart of the people in Far Rockaway similar to the way 2pac is loved in California. Artist Fligga Season said, “Stack was ahead of his time. We love him like he’s still here. He gave us hope.” Ironically the address of the store, 1021 Beach 20th Street is the same number as Stack’s birthday, October 21st(1021).

 

I finally caught up to co-owner Tyrell Oliver, and after hours chasing, I had one question, What does today mean for you? He answered it perfectly… “This means everything. Seeing the community outside interacting with each other and enjoying the event, means everything. We are the community. We’re tied into everything going on out here. The main objective was to be a part of everything in the ‘Hood, couldn’t do it any other way. We’re gonna support the community and vice versa. I knew Stack was star since the 7th grade, and as long as I’m alive, I’m gonna mention his name.” – Jimmysodope

Lit The Movie

Written By: JimmySoDope

There have been many remarkable success stories from New Jersey, the city has produced some of the finest acts that have hit the entertainment industry, from Queen Latifah to Shaquille O’Neal to Shakur Stevenson.

However, there has been a new movement right in the garden state which has stayed underground for years, until recently. While people outside of New Jersey are of the idea that Jersey club music just came about, Jamal Hall, writer of Lit, the movie and director says that “It’s always been there. Club music, cookout music. Universally, music touches people but for jersey club it’s different. It has a unique sound and to represent it on the big screen is special” Apparently, this had been hidden until recently.

A night that will always be remembered as an important night is September 24th and for so many reasons. The movie Lit showcased the Jersey Club Music Movement, which had dancers, DJs, producers, radio personalities, and artists. The movie did not just bring entertainers to the spotlight, it also gave actors a chance to make their big-screen debut. This is huge for them because, since the Newark riots, the communities have been given the back seat and no recognition whatsoever. However, this brought them some real love and recognition, and that meant a lot.

A large smile could be seen on the face of Livingston native, Chan Briggs. He seemed happy about the events unfolding. He said “I Started pursuing acting 3 years ago. Now I’m working with Marc( John Jeffries). I watched this dude as a kid now I’m sparring with him on camera.” He was then asked if he had some advice for young people who sought success, and ever so cheerily he replied “Manifest. Everything. You matter. Stay positive! Go hard!”

Some stars made an appearance, and one of them was Cookiee Kawaii.  She showed up looking as gorgeous as she always did and she had a few words as well. She was asked what the impact of Lit could be, and she said “Jersey and jersey club music has been influential for a minute now so for us to have a movie is dope and only the beginning. So please watch the movie. Stream it. Share it. Bootleg it. Wait. Don’t bootleg it.” She did share a laugh with that light-hearted joke because in all sincerity, it was a beautiful night.

 

One thing is true and definite, and that is that Lit is going to be a massive success, astronomical even. It has all the makings of a big bang maker. There are dance scenes that would have you breaking the laws of the theater and standing to just dance energetically along with them. There are plot twists that would leave your jaw on the floor, there are dramatic moments that are catharsis-inducing, and there are lessons that you will talk about for the rest of your life. This movie is that movie that can have you returning to the theater twice.

This movie has the support of veteran actors like Marc John Jefferies, and an entire state. It is already a success.