Early last week, I heard about a hip/hop documentary viewing called “Bridging the Gap”, going on at the Historical Society. The film was being pushed by DMV music producer Judah, Dre of ABB Video, Sophia “The Historian” Nelson of Ordinary People Books and the Hip Hop Cinema collective. I was really curious to find out more information about the documentary and also get a chance to see what else Judah was up to, since I and am sure many others know him strictly for his music. After connecting with Sasha Vann of Ego Marketing & Branding Constitute, and Judah himself, we managed to all have a pretty interesting discussion. Take a look for yourself:
Tell me a little bit of how the music making process is with you. Where do you get inspired? How do you go about making your beats?
I am motivated by music, fashion and a lot of times my emotions dictate how the creative process goes and type of record I’m doing. These days I focus on the artist on hand and let them and the project inspire me. So for instance, now I am working on a record with Mick Boogie and also an Outkast remix album. So each of those will separately inspire my work because they are different projects and vision, and I’ll know what to make by going off that.
One bit of advice the you today would give the you when first starting out?
Get your foundation right. It’s not always about “handling your business”. It’s really important to first have and build relationships with local scene. Especially in today’s climate these relationships can get you paid and keep you paid. Always start with your community then move outwards.
Anyone you want to work with who you haven’t with yet in the area?
Recently just finished up something with Phil Ade and few others but I have pretty much worked with just about everyone here. Now on a more major, mainstream level, I would love to work with Kanye. I think he is one of the best lyricists out there. Also I’d love to work with Jay Electronica and Scarface would be the ultimate opportunity.
What new element do you want to introduce sonically to the local music scene?
I want to introduce more classy, tastemaker events. The quality of music has diminished here. Part of reason I did the Amber Rose project was to add something different to the scene and give it a different look and approach to music here. No more about just hipster or just gangster music, trying to find something completely different and present it as such.
You have a website too, www.forthedmvonly.com tell me a little about that.
The website is really meant to be an outlet for artists in the area who have difficulty getting on the major sites like Nahright and Okayplayer. Also it is mainly for out-of-towners who want to be hip to local scene and can’t get that from the other major sites because they aren’t posting enough on us, plus my name could possibly help in some way with getting them the recognition that a lot of them deserve.
Most others in the area have this “crab in a barrel” complex…has that not hit you yet? or you just trying the whole “kill them with kindness deal”?
This complex existed 10 years ago when I was starting out and it is still here. Personally, I have reached certain age where I am satisfied and comfortable with who I am to no longer care. There are plenty of artists and producers who speak negatively of me but yet still come to see me. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t care what people write on blogs or comment about you. To be completely honest, I am sure that some of the people who talk bad about me will be at the viewing at the event. It could be for a number of reasons, and I am okay with it and despite the fact, I’ll always let them know that I support their work and endeavors.
Why are you such a recluse? There are some producers who are more out and about and seen everywhere….then few like you who don’t do too much of all that….seems like you are trying to be on a more Q (as in Quincy Jones) path and not a Kanye path…am I right?
I don’t go out anymore because I feel like I’ve been there and done that and seen what the scene and lifestyle is all about. I am not trying to be an artist, or rather a performing artist. Sure, I write songs but mainly to channel any creative energy that I may be feeling at the moment. As far as who I’d pattern my work ethic to it would right now definitely be Dilla. Regardless of the check amount or what type of benefit he could have gained by working with a lot of people, he was only interested in working with people he liked and whose music he appreciated. I want to run myself by that type of integrity. When you reach certain age, life becomes clearer and priorities change and this is where I am right now.
Lastly, Say tomorrow…you lost your hands. Freak Accident…Burned them beyond repair making oatmeal, some wild shit. You can’t ever make music again. So, If you weren’t doing music you would be doing….
I would always be doing something that is business oriented whether it was contracting or real estate. Also I could still produce music even if I physically couldn’t press the buttons anymore. I would still own a studio, the one I have now is going on 11 years and if this kind of thing happened, I would just find a good engineer to physically do the work while I would still be able to create.
The Event: Bridging the Gap Documentary Viewing
Let’s get the basics behind the event. Who really initiated this idea? Who made the first calls?
This all came to be from the November 1st, 2009 DMV Photo Day. There were 200 plus artists and it snowballed into Dre of ABB Video Productions wanting to do something with all this video footage from the day of. We then pulled in Sophia “The Historian” Nelson, a writer and affiliate of Ordinary People Books to produce the content.
How involved were you in the entire process? From idea to production/filming to editing. When did you hop in?
I personally don’t like writing but assisted with the direction and vision of the film. I knew a lot of the people from the video, and the stories about the older artists who the newer people out here really don’t know about.
How do you know ABB? What made this collab come to be? And with Historical Society? Was it a conscious decision to work with society? or is this just how everything played out?
I have known Dre for about 3 years just from having worked together previously with some music videos (most recent one was the Choose Wisely video, check it out here )
I have known Sophia for about year and half and we all connected with Kimani of Hip Hop Cinema cafe who became the plug to the venue, Historical Society. We were really glad to go with this venue because it had the exact feel and look of what we were looking for and how we wanted to present this project. It was perfect location, classy and tasteful and not just any regular venue.
I assume you have of course seen the final version many times….so anything you would like to change about it? or you can honestly without a doubt say you are content with final version?
I am completely content with where it is now. We may send it to other film societies and that point tweak it as we push forward with it.
Will this be a series you think? or simply one shot deal?
Creatively it is where it is now. Of course we will keep it going to and may make other documentaries. As of now there is no series in the works but we will push this one as far as it can go and see where it goes. Main reason of this documentary was to educate the newer artist about the area and about the artists way before them who had deals. Also to make sure the older artists felt a sense of accomplishment, and felt that their efforts are definitely noticed and respected. We should all feel proud of our city and that we will continue to make it recognized.
Of DMV Music? You think any other genres will finally penetrate the scene? Seems to be too hip hop or rock heavy…(I’m personally big on eclectic fusion music which is seriously lacking here….what’s your take on what will be the “next”?)
Hip Hop is easier to “access” meaning you can just see it at any event and not difficult to set up venue to see and hear that type of music. Also there are a significantly larger amount of participants within Hip Hop. There are not enough venues that support other genres. Also, a lot of the new artists aren’t even doing traditional hip hop, they are fusing other sounds. So it looks like every genre is starting to have a more even playing field. How do you create this kind of space where all genres can participate? By people in R&B and alternative genres creating it. Those are the artists which require special type of venues and more space to perform.
Of Hip Hop specifically? Any individuals you think will take it to the next level? I saw in an interview that you said Wale had it good for a second but its dying down for dmv now so who will bring it back you think?
I think as a collective effort we can definitely take it to the next level. However I still feel like it’s dying down in this area. Mainstream has moved on with us. It could have definitely been stronger if more artists were signed. Wale came but there was no follow-up. It’s really disappointing especially when you look at other regions. Ours didn’t flourish like the others. We have great purchasing power here, especially for down south artists. It is a great market so it can’t be a purchasing issue. It seems as though the A&R’s aren’t educated enough about the scene because there is a wealth of talent. Also the people with the voice and some ability to change this aren’t speaking up. Meaning, If I have a deal, it would be beneficial to feature major and local acts because that exposes their talent. It would create a domino effect, because more exposure increases the worth of the artists and the area. This is necessary to cultivate the scene. This is not just about Wale either, the same can be said about other local artists who went major. I am not saying what they are doing is entirely wrong but I am taking note and and saying this is what we really need to do to start a true movement and put DC permanently on the map.
Your next move? Musically….is film production your next realm? You did your own music video (which I personally thought was great) and now this docu…do you think this is an area you want to keep working in? or just strictly music for you from now on?
I am working on few music projects, like I mentioned the Outkast remix album is one. As far as videos go, I’ll definitely be doing more, not specifically for others unless that is something I am approached to do, but otherwise I am going to continue working on branding and incorporating more art in my work whether that is music or videos.
Lastly just for the heck of it, because I always like to ask people off-the-wall questions….It’s your last meal on earth. You are only allowed 3 guests to dine with you. Who’s invited? And why?
Obama because he’s the First black president. John Lennon to talk about music with and lastly Hitler, just because I’ve always been intrigued and to ask what were you thinking??
This interview was done two days prior to the actual viewing of the documentary. I managed to catch the last viewing time of the documentary. I thought it was a good and arguably much needed start in right direction to shedding light on the numerous local artists from years ago who not many of us can honestly name nor know much about. Also, it was great to see the number of people who turned out for the event. It was great also to see how serious and dedicated Sophia, Dre and Judah are to this film and where they want to take it because there was a Q&A segment at the end of the viewing where it was essentially an open floor for any type of question and/or comment. People all generally enjoyed the film but also noted and suggested some areas, whether it was filmically, or content-wise or even marketing-wise how to take the film to the next level. All three definitely took in everyone’s suggestions and you could see that they are really trying to create a more harmonious DMV music scene with this documentary but also develop a more progressive and tasteful brand and image of the area. I’m sure this won’t be the last we will see of their work as a collective and on an individual level.
Over and out,