DanceAfrica 2019

The DanceAfrica festival this year was absolutely fantastic as usual.  I expect nothing less from the largest festival dedicated to African Dance and music, returning for its 42nd year.  In case you don’t know, the festival takes place at BAM(Brooklyn Academy of Music).  I arrived just in time to get to my seat to watch each performance, one more amazing than the next.

Abdel Salaam | You Me NYCRwanda Reborn: The Remix is the title of this year’s DanceAfrica performance.  Under the leadership of artistic director Baba Abdel R. Salaam(pictured to the left, courtesy of BAM), this presentation acknowledges the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.  This production offers a moment to celebrate the path forward towards reconciliation and renewal of the devastating travesty(more than 1 million people killed within 100 days) that occurred 25 years ago in Rwanda.

Rwanda Reborn: The Remix was performed through traditional and contemporary dance, music, along with theater and spoken word.  The program demonstrates a perfect example of linking classic and modern techniques together to convey a tribute to all the lives that have been affected by past tragic events in Rwandan history.  I enjoyed every moment of this incredible theatrical arrangement.Dance Africa | You Me NYCAs the show comes to a close, I exit the theater quickly.  My usual constitution is to walk down Lafayette Ave. through the heart of the festival.  Making my way through the crowd recognizing the usual faces and vendors,  I also see a lot of new faces, shopping, eating, vending and enjoying as well.  All the vendors lining the street with beautiful and exotic merchandise for sale are such a welcome site.  The smell of food fills the air with a delicious aroma rivaling the already well-known restaurants in the area.

This is what I love about this festival.   In an area of disappearing culture due to forced gentrification constraints, it is great to see that this festival is still a staple in this community.  It brings an experience that all Brooklyn natives in the community as well as newcomers have enjoyed and took part in for years. Dance Africa | You Me NYC

 

The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul: Jazz

The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul You Me NYCSaxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet have been playing rebellious and unapologetic Jazz for the past three decades.  Anyone familiar with this group is definitely aware of their high-flying improvisations that can launch at any given moment.  “The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” is a perfect example of freeform at it’s best with each instrumental voice being defined with purpose.

For 20 of those years, piano player Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis have been a staple in the group.  Drummer Justin Faulkner has been with the band for about 10 years respectively.  I have to say that the band has reached another pinnacle tending to a collection of moods with motivating commitment.  Faulkner’s chops are crisp and smooth.  Calderazzo goes ahead and smokes the ivories and Revis’s bass line is fluent and on point.  Marsalis outdoes himself on this album, his phrasing is sharp and endless.  Each member of the quartet compliments each other the way an improv band should.

“Life Filtering from the Water Flowers” is Marsalis’ one and only composition on this album and it is of true Marsalis form.  This arrangement displays a cleverly organized instrumentation with very moving and contained sax riffs only Marsalis can phrase.  Calderazzo’s piano playing and Faulkner’s drumming help convey the message Marsalis is bringing across.   “Life Filtering from the Water Flowers”, compliments the album as a reflective tribute to his late mother Delores Marsalis.

“The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” is a definite must-have for all Jazz fans.  The creativity of the improvisation tangents in each song is truly an original compilation that cannot be duplicated.  This album is an enjoyable and innovative listen that features some engaging moments of Jazz Improvisation.  This album serves as a perfect example as to why the Brandfors Marsalis Quartet is held in such high regard for the past 30 years.

iDoll Perception Be Your Own Idol

Idoll Perception You Me NYCPromoting diversity through a woman’s wardrobe, to where she feels comfortable and confident is only part of the objective for clothing label IDoll Perception.  Building a relationship between brand and customer is key to developing a consumer’s own individual fashion identity or  “iDoll”(a combination of idol and doll)is another piece. iDoll Perception is a women’s clothing brand that challenges the ideal impression of beauty and style by combining urban wear and contemporary chic.

“There’s always a relationship between how you look and what people perceive of you,” says Kierra Tims founder of iDoll Perception.  Creating designs that can be worn in a professional environment and for “A girls night out” is what iDoll Perception focuses on to establish its own unique brand of women’s clothing.  Treating a customer as a member of an exclusive label creates a more enjoyable shopping experience for them as well. 

Being open to feedback, suggestions, or just hearing about a member’s look are all success factors used by iDoll Perception upon the creation and development of a member’s “iDoll”.  Eventually, each member will become their own influence, leader and role model to themselves.  This is what sets iDoll Perception apart from the rest of the clothing and apparel companies around the industry.  Aside from designing some of the hottest looks in the trade, they have a genuine interest in each member’s image.  

iDoll Perception You Me NYC

iDoll Perception plans on contributing to the advancement of women through various scholarship and mentorship programs.  As iDoll Perception grows, they plan on opening a few “Popup Shops” not only dedicated to their clothing but also to the professional as well as personal development of their members and all women as a whole.  iDoll Perception’s approach is definitely remarkable in every sense of the word and I look forward to seeing more of what this cutting-edge fashion design company has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

A Leader for the People of The People

Image Courtesy of Vulture.com

When the news of Nipsey Hussle’s murder broke, I couldn’t believe it. I was honestly a little confused and it took a while to understand. Looking at all the social media, comparing his death to Tupac’s. I didn’t really get it but now I do. It does feel the same in a lot of ways emotionally. Even people who have never heard of him were affected by his death.

I was in the nail shop the other day as the conversation came up between a few customers. Everyone had nothing but amazing things to say. I remember hearing about the rapper who sold the first 1000 copies of his mixtape for 100.00 and made over 100,000.  Hussle was one of those rappers who were on the scene but not in it. He came up around the blue-collar rap.  He was part of the XXL freshman class with the likes of Freddie Gibbs, Jay Rock and Wiz Khalifah. 

You could tell he wasn’t in it for the perks of rap.  He was using his voice to teach a new message, by showing a different side of rap, the entrepreneur side and the mental state. Nipsey was the first rapper I heard talk about investing and buying land. He recognized the value in the message and what it would mean for his neighborhood and others. Shortly after he took a trip to Africa, he made it his mission to provide, uplift and invest in the community.

He was one of those guys that could go into any neighborhood and be good anywhere. Nipsey had that kind of respect and gave that same kind of respect in return. He knew and recognized the fact, that there are Crenshaws everywhere all over the world.  I don’t know why but when you lose someone in the Hip Hop community especially in the Black community, it feels too close to home.  The fear for black men in this country is as real as fuck.  It’s too easy to become a stain on the sidewalk always in arm’s length of that terrible phone call. It’s one of my biggest fears and I don’t feel alone on that.

With this tragedy, he brought people together and sheds light on a topic that fell upon deaf ears unless you were vegan or a conspiracy theorist.  At the time of his death, he was promoting and working on a documentary about the New York Trial in which Dr. Sebi won against The Attorney General of New York.  Dr. Sebi was being sued for not having a license to practice after advertising his cures of multiple diseases including Cancer and AIDS in 1988. He proved that you didn’t need medicine; holistic, natural remedies and a change in diet is the cure and of course, this didn’t sit well with the medical field. He brought attention to the sad truth, there’s more money in the disease than the cure.

Conclusion

I would like to thank Ermias Joseph Asghedom A.K.A Nipsey Hussle for his contributions to Hip Hop, his community and community’s worldwide. A man who truly understood his purpose and voice. A man for the people, of the people. May his soul Rest In Peace 

Getting to Know ToniSteelz

Toni Steelz You Me NYCToniSteelz, Brooklyn born and raised, adult-contemporary hip-hop artist has been performing ever since she was a kid.  Considering she comes from a long line of performers in her family, performing comes naturally to her.  As busy as she is, she took a few moments out of her day to allow You Me NYC to get to know a little more about her.

A day for Toni starts with an early rise and a prayer.  Then she lets the dog out to take care of his business.  Next, she dedicates an hour or two to social media and emails.  Then breakfast, yoga to follow and then she takes a walk around the neighborhood to prepare for the day and kick off her creative flow.

Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Queen Latifah are her musical inspirations when it comes to creating her work.  Her process requires meditation, water, snacks, trees, a pen, paper and space.  Toni Collaborates with other artists as well and finds the process to be a bit more simple.  According to Toni, it’s easier to bounce ideas off of someone else.  She will definitely work with other artists in the future.

Toni loves her work, she loves to create, meet new people and adores her fans.  When her fans reach out she reaches back.  She can’t acknowledge all of her fans, but she does try her best.  She does, however, dislike the backhandedness and the judgments that come with the territory in this industry.  However, when asked if she ever thought about leaving the performing arts and starting a new career, she replied with an emphatic “No”.  Hence why she involves herself with other aspects of the industry such as acting, writing and producing.  She is also considering other genres, like, RnB/Soul and fake singing(jokingly) as well.

With all that is going on in her life, we asked if she ever has time for herself and her response, “I make time for myself”.  Unfortunately, she learned that the hard way, after she was hospitalized for dehydration.  Toni relaxes by going to theme parks, comedy shows, traveling, hanging out, enjoying a nice bowl of pasta(her favorite food), watching television(The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is her favorite show) and occasionally takes a “hit” of “weed”.

Toni Steelz You Me NYCConclusion

Be consistent, relentless, focused and always remember to have fun which is her advice to anyone trying to get into the game.  According to Steelz, “ToniSteelz” is the future and she plans on bringing her lady friends with her.  She sees herself creating and starring in films along with a few other business ventures.  Toni is traveling on a long road and she is excited to see where it brings her.  We at You Me NYC are delighted to be a part of that journey.

 

Check out ToniSteelz’s “Welcome to my Hood” and share with all you know.

Jamaica Avenue

I decided to shoot somewhere, I went all the time as a kid-The Ave.  Where I use to get the latest mix cd’s, clothes, sneakers or just walk around with my friends and people watch, capturing history. On a chilly Sunday, the streets were nowhere near as crowded as I remember and the Coliseum was closed.  It’s really only been a few years since I’ve been on that side but new buildings and businesses are going up quicker and quicker every day. I can’t even keep up with it, in my own neighborhood. But for the most part, it was actually just how I left it. As a New Yorker, to be able to go somewhere and it’s still the same, I can’t ask for anything else.

NBCUniversal Returns As Presenting Partner For MvVO Art Ad Art Show: New York’s New Annual Art Event

After the phenomenal success of AD ART SHOW 2018 at Sotheby’s, NBCUniversal is returning as presenting partner for AD ART SHOW 2019—MvVO ART’s new annual addition to the art scene in New York City.

“I’m thrilled to announce that NBCUniversal is continuing as presenting partner for AD ART SHOW. Their generosity enables MvVO Art to bring AD ART SHOW to the streets of NYC through an ad buy onLinkNYC and continue to provide artists advertising opportunities to gain more exposure and recognition in the Art world in celebration of creativity in the industry,” said Maria van Vlodrop, Founder & CEO of MvVO ART.

AD ART SHOW is a selling exhibition and features artworks created by the artists following in the footsteps of Warhol, Magritte, Haring and the many other famous artists with roots in advertising, design and commercial Art.

“Creativity is such a vital part of our lives, and at the heart of everything, we do at NBCUniversal. We’re so proud to celebrate these talented artists as presenting partners of the AD ART SHOW. Whether we’re talking about innovative pop art or driving pop culture, the wall of a gallery or the screen in your home, one thing is true: creative work inspires people to feel, to remember, and to act,” said Linda Yaccarino, Chairman, Advertising, Sales and Client Partnerships, NBCUniversal

The 2019 edition is presented on LinkNYC and will take place in key art-centric neighborhoods in New York during Frieze Week (May 1-4, 2019).

Hip Hop Started out in the Heart

Hearing the theme music to Wayne’s Brother’s play for the first time changed my life forever. Electric Relaxation by the Hometown Heroes, A Tribe Called Quest. I guess you can say that’s when I decided to make it official with Hip Hop. No doubt about it, I was in love and couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it. I’ve had crushes before but nothing like this, nothing I could put into words. Just a feeling I couldn’t and didn’t want to describe. Kind of like the first time you have great sex. A Tribe Called Quest You Me NYCA Tribe Called Quest in the early days. From left to right,
Jarobi White, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Phife Dawg.
Ernie Paniccioli/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

That’s what Hip Hop is to me, a feeling with such a vast everlasting stamp on this world. Too much to box in but just enough to recognize. However with any and everything, we need reasons to classify and define. If it doesn’t fall into the guidelines regulated by individuals not even responsible for its creation; it’s seen as blasphemy and should be punishable by law. Funny, I haven’t been on this earth as long as most people, however, I have never heard anyone debate so passionately about who’s the best country singer. Especially when it comes to content. There’s a certain kind of freedom allowed in other genres that I don’t see in Hip Hop. It’s always who did it first, who’s the king or queen? Who’s the strongest lyrically? No real room for growth, variety or inclusivity. Unless it’s being used for advertising purposes, then the lanes and streams are endless.  

Hip hop tends to get treated like the troublesome teenager with talent and promise that needs to be disciplined and watched constantly. That one kid all the students love and the teachers can’t stand. The kid with straight A’s who lived in detention really out of boredom unless you needed to show diversity on campus. Hip Hop is almost 40 years old and should be treated as such including the artists who continue to strive and create in this genre. 

I love hip hop but I hate having discussions about it sometimes. If you say more quote on quote conscious artists like Kendrick and J Cole then you get some form of respect but if you say Migos or Kodak then your musical choices are in question when there’s room for everyone to have a seat at the table. Like for BET to trash Nicki Minaj while congratulating Cardi B on her Grammy was disappointing. I’m actually not a fan of either personally but both women worked hard, created their lane and succeeded in it. That’s what Hip Hop is all about. Take out the competition, find the beauty in that. Get back to the heart.  

Metro Manga

People draw inspiration from pretty much anything these days.  Whether you are walking around Central Park, strolling down Eastern Parkway, or staring out a window.  Manga artist Sophocles Plokamakis, founder of “Sophocles Art” and coiner of the term and genre “Metro Manga” finds his visions in the Subways of New York City.  Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Peter Frz:    What genre do you consider your art to be?
Sophocles:  I create comics in the subway which I call Metro Manga because they are inspired by Japanese comics and read from right to left. When I paint Metro Manga on canvas, I’d say that my work is a mixture of Manga and Pop Art. I used to paint in a photo-realistic style, but I much prefer impressionism painting and pop art.

Peter Frz:    Where are you originally from and where are you currently residing and how long?  
Sophocles:  I’m from Astoria, NY a very Greek city in Queens and I live here now for about 8 years but I’ve been in and out of Astoria my whole life. I love how it’s a great mixture of the city and the suburbs. 

Peter Frz:    What is your creative process like and what tools do you use to harness your creativity then transpose to the canvas?
Sophocles: 
 I use a portable clipboard as a drawing pad that holds all my paper and Japanese Kuretake Fude pens (calligraphy brush-pens), sharpies and Japanese animation red and blue color pencils. Sometimes I draw on black paper, usually black card stock. I make the majority of my art in the subway drawing real people on the spot. When I step into the subway, as I’m waiting for my train, I make a composition of Manga Panels starting from right to left. I record my journey from what stop and train I started with so that my readers can see where I was that day. Each panel in manga records a moment in time and I want my Metro Manga to be my daily visual ongoing comic strip, that people can look back on many years from now, like old newspapers as a moment in the history of art. 
Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Sometimes I color my paper manga with Copic sketch markers and more recently I’ve taken them to the next level by making large acrylic paintings of the comic pages that I made in the comic. For my paintings, I use Copic brush pens on top of acrylic paint on the canvas.

Peter Frz:   How has your style changed over the years? 
Sophocles: I started making art when I was 3. It started out very abstract, drawing comic, video game and cartoon characters with accurate colors and costumes but in an extremely simple style. The Heroes all had giant smiles and the villain’s big frowns. I’ve been told by art teachers my whole life that I had good observational skills so as time went on my fan art became more precise, subtle and detailed, but I’ve always been a fan of the more abstract simple design of characters in Japanese cartoons and comics. It was Shonen Jump, a Manga magazine translated into English from Japan that changed my life. At SVA I learned fundamental drawing, painting and sculpting skills and was exposed to different kinds of art I had never looked at before and was encouraged to experiment with different genres of art. I love that school and the effect it had on my journey through the art world.

Today my characters have detail that sets them all apart from one another but they are still simple. I use as few lines as possible to suggest the people of the Subways of the world like an Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodcut print) artist or a Sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) artist. I’m always open to my style constantly evolving and exploring new territory as an artist, which I think is vital if you are to keep growing and coming up with new pieces that have an impact.

Peter Frz:   What do you believe is a key element in creating a good work? 
Sophocles: The key element in making great work is to do what you love. I learned this from my favorite teacher Keith Mayerson in our Principles of Cartooning class in my sophomore year at SVA. Once you find a subject that inspires you the rest is easy because I get overwhelmed by the urge to create something new every time I travel on the Subway. The subway is my main studio so you need to find what moves you and gets you painting, drawing, sculpting, making collages, prints, or even in the other arts, which subject(s) inspire you to create a new song, dance, etc. 

Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Peter Frz:   What lead you to make art a career and was there any adversity from family or friends regarding your decision?
Sophocles: It was my love for cartoons, Manga, comics, video games, museums, and galleries. There was a lot of adversity from family and friends regarding my decision to be a pro artist and art teacher especially those closest to me. You have to push through that, if you are serious about being a pro artist, you got to show your art to people in galleries, the subway, parks, shows and network with artists, curators, and collectors so you can attract more opportunities through other people. 

Peter Frz:   Who or what are your biggest influences?
Sophocles: My biggest influences are Akira Toriyama (Creator of Dragonball and Doctor Slump) and Osamu Tezuka (The God of Manga and creator of Astro Boy) Toriyama’s amazing draftsmanship in Doctor Slump and his action-packed storytelling in DBZ and Tezuka’s Genius level storytelling made me want to make comics, art, cartoons and animated tv series for my whole life. Another huge influence on my life was traveling to Japan twice and visiting all the best manga museums, galleries and shows like the world of Dragonball in Nagoya, and the Osamu Tezuka museum in Takarazuka. That trip changed my life and I began to focus all my energy toward making comics on the subway as opposed to just drawing sketches of the passengers before that. Also, the character Goku always inspired me to want to keep making art and to see just how skilled I could become.

Peter Frz:   What are some of the challenges you face while you are creating?
Sophocles: It’s easier for me to draw in public and make comics on the go than at home. At home sometimes I get distracted. When I’m on the subway there’s always someone who inspires me to make art every time I commute on the trains. A challenge I face when drawing in the subway is when someone gets up and leaves the train before I’m finished drawing them.  However, I solve the problem by playing a drawing game I call MR. Potato Head. I’ll piece together a character in my Metro Manga by drawing other people’s features or clothing onto the original person that I drew so that I am still drawing from life and not inventing things. I find that when I draw from life or quality photo references my drawings look more accurate and polished than when I draw from my head.

Peter Frz:   Is Sophocles Art your first venture and were there any other ventures before Sophocles Art?
Sophocles: 
My business name used to be Sopho Toons (short for Sophocles’ Cartoons) but I changed it to Sophocles Art so people would know the name behind the work. 

Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Peter Frz:   What’s been your greatest artistic success?
Sophocles: I’ve had lots of success in my journey as an artist but I have to say Decemberfest and the other shows I curated at ONE ART SPACE in Tribeca, NYC is my greatest accomplishment. Decemberfest was a 70-artist group show that I curated with my business partner and fellow curator Oriel Ceballos on December 1st 2018. We had 1000+ people come to see the show in only a 3-hour span. There were lines around the corner of the block to get into the show. I have never seen anything like that in all the shows I’ve been a featured artist in, as well as shows in the Chelsea galleries even for big-name artists from the past. I put my all into that show and the results were a testament to the power of GREAT ART and how it inspires a community and the world. 

Peter Frz:   What is next on the horizon for Sophocles Art?
Sophocles: I make a ritual of writing my top 10-20 goals for the year before the new year starts. For 2019 I have 5 more shows to curate at One Art Space. The next one is on April 5-6. Send me a DM if you’d like to learn more on Instagram @sophocles.art. I also want to self-publish 5 books this year featuring my subway art, a children’s book and a look book for my animated TV series that I’m working on.

Sophocles Art Nas You Me NYC

Peter Frz:   Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Sophocles: In the next five years I see myself earning the money selling my books, art and to travel to all the major cities in the world that have subways and making METRO MANGA a Global project sort of like how Brandon Stanton (HONY) has taken his camera to other parts of the world, however my stories are fictional to give me the freedom of what to write. I see myself exhibiting in NY Comic Con and San Diego Con as well as cons and galleries around the world. I plan to make volumes of books of my travels through the subway systems of the world and drawing on location in other countries as well as places in the U.S.  

Conclusion

Sophocles Art, an innovator in such a crowded, demanding, and high-pressure field, delivers exceptional results and shows that in a craft like this, there is always room for exciting new ideas.  As long as New York City has its subways and urban settings we look forward to seeing what else this dynamic artist brings to the imaginative table of art.

Sophocles Art You Me NYC