I’m hopelessly addicted to hip hop. The main stream stuff is hit or miss for me, but my real passion is finding underground artists with some real substance. So the first time I heard J. Cole’s The Warmup mixtape years ago I was immediately hooked. His lyricism and hunger to be the best couldn’t be denied and you could tell it was only a matter of time before Cole exploded on the scene.
When I saw he was coming to perform in my town of Tempe, I jumped on the tickets immediately. The venue was a dark seedy local spot called The Clubhouse, more famous now for gang shootings than concerts. The line was around the block and the place was packed in anticipation for Cole, but one of the opening acts stole a bit of the limelight.
This dude in an Osiris T-shirt stormed the stage with his full band and charisma and had the place instantly feeling him, his name was BobbyBrandNew. After the show I looked him up only to find that there was next to no music of Bobby online, so I contacted him for a mixtape. We met up that week, he popped his trunk and gave me a CD and I showed him the Camera I had laying in the car. Being in journalism school, I’d never shot any music before and the camera was the property of Arizona State University. He had just started in the hip hop game a few months prior..we both knew what we wanted to do but were at the beginning of our Journeys..a damn good match.
Fast Forward one year and I just graduated with no real job prospects and as expected J. Cole was blowing up. He had just released his debut album The Sideline Story, and was coming to Tempe again. This time it was a much bigger venue and the tickets sold out immediately. I checked the bill and wouldn’t you know Bobby BrandNew was the opening act again.
I pleaded with him to let me film the show, and even though he already had a filmer he finally caved and gave me a press pass. As soon as I heard the news I bucked up the cash and bought my first DSLR, a canon 60D. The Day of the concert I built a PVC pipe Shoulder rig for $14 in supplies at Home Depot.
I showed up to The Venue not really knowing what to expect and not even positive I would get in. Bobby found me and took me through the back entrance, got me situated and introduced me to the other videographer David Urbanic.
While we were coming up with a filming plan, J. Cole walked through the back entrance with his entourage and was whisked away into the green room. I told myself I wasn’t going to be star struck but it was hard to tame every fiber of my body wanting to jump up and down like a school girl and ask for an autograph.
Filming the show was a blast, Bobby garnered more fans from the last show and even had Mr. T Impersonator Ken Smith as a hype man. Unfortunately the dudes running the concert wouldn’t let me film J.Cole, but just being backstage while Cole performed his debut album for the first time was more than enough for me.
The video turned out pretty good, but what really kickstarted my career was just going out and meeting people and making connections in the industries that I’m passionate about. Dave Urbanic and I partnered up on multiple shoots and are still good friends today. I’ve worked with Bobby, Ken and many other artists since and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Stay tuned for our next blog post here at D-Mak Productions.