Vulnerability has a way of reshaping an artist’s image and persona. It intensifies their authenticity while giving space to understand their lived experiences.
Apollo Hill understands that life happens differently for everyone, whether it means enjoying youth to experiencing success and loss. “91 Willow Street” proves to be a track for him to come to terms with his childhood, the past and his current identity.
“91 Willow Street” is the first single from the artist’s upcoming EP You Are Not Alone. The Rhode Island native’s chorus constantly reiterates that he will see you on the other side. “91 Willow Street” mixes some gritty, nostalgic guitar riffs with airy vocals. He seeks to learn from mistakes while being thankful for his mother and her contributions.
This track blends emotive Alternative Rock with gloomy R&B production and ad-libs. Hill has the ability redefine what it means to live life on the edge. “I might just die tonight” continues to be calmly exclaimed and it is oddly reassuring because he wants to be a voice to those with silent, tormenting demons that personify themselves in sin.
This song develops a space to confront unresolved emotions, knowing that tomorrow is not promised to all of us. It shows that our life paths are unexpected: resulting in some joining gangs and doing drugs or being carefree, exploring the city at night as we wait for our day jobs. Regardless, death will happen for all of us, it is just a matter of when and its circumstance.
As he reiterates “91 on my mind” over snaring drums, it makes you think of lost youth and where your childhood friends have ended up. Although Apollo is unsure of where his journey is taking him, he is confident in achieving contentment.
Concert photography is my second favorite thing outside of writing music reviews. A good concert picture is crisp and clear, high resolution and perfectly captures the moment. These are some individuals that have been working hard at perfecting their shots.
Long Beach native Lexis Rother, better known as Ro.Lexx has been doing editorial, live show work and close-ups of popular artists Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Drake and The Weekend. When she is not shooting artists, Ro can be caught capturing brand shots with Nike and models like MVKDRE, Salem Mitchell and more.
Natalie focuses on portrait, live music and polaroid shots. She can be found shooting shots for the Observatory OC in Santa Ana and major music publications like Billboard and Noisey. Her portraiture seeks to liven natural beauty of the subject while paying close attention to composition.
Christina Chi Craig
Similar to Natalie, Christina also can be found at the Observatory curating its Instagram pictures and working with some of the industry’s most popular talent. Her Instagram portfolio can be found at @Urbanafterthought and it features consistent, vibrant images of concerts, landscape and animals.
Some commission credit includes shooting SZA, Kali Uchis, Little Simz and Travis $cott.
Kev views himself as a filmmaker and editor over anything else. He has experience in developing music videos. But concerts and automotive are also other areas of expertise. I know him mostly for his Nef the Pharaoh videography and his concert edits and tour reels. Norman has a profound ability to develop engaging videos on Instagram to excite followers about artists’ upcoming shows.
Kevin Wong sells his prints on his site while also specializing in music, editorial, commercial, adventure and sports.His Instagram is full of inspiring shots of Chris Brown, J. Cole and Mike Tyson. Wong’s work captures vivacious imagery of celebrities’ daily lives and their star-studded lifestyles.
Nathan ha s taken the domestic and international entertainment scene by storm.His social media incorporates shots of worldwide tours and celebrities. He also has experience with videography and is open to booking clients seeking personal and action shots.
Adrian sells himself on the premise that the world is his office. His work highlights captivating stills, video and live shows. Martinez has shot PartyNextDoor, Kehlani and Kanye West.His direction experience includes October’s Very Own talent Majid Jordan with their visual for “One I Want”
I first found Kevin while on Instagram’s explore page. At one point, he was constantly seen at concerts I attended for my platform. Outside of music, he is a fashion photographer, shooting influencers like Aleali May and Jordyn Woods and DJ’s like Kaytranada. Gonzalez’s Snapchat also captures personal moments of hustle and execution as a director.
Lee is another shooter focused on film and photo. His catalog includes Chance the Rapper, Migos and A$AP Rocky. This LA creative does not have a site but his Instagram feed showcases his well-rounded talents through timeless expression.
David Camerena has been booming since the success of Kehlani and the HBK Gang. He is a Bay Area via LA transplant focused on film, editing and photography. One of his most notable videos include Kehlani’s “Alive”, “Honey” and work with wave painter Aaron Kai and Wiz Khalifa. He seeks to create work that reflects the artist’s personality to organically capture them in the moment.
London songstress and 10 Summers Records empress Ella Mai embarked on a 6-date winter tour beginning at The Observatory OC in Santa Ana, California. Her following shows included cities like New York, Paris and Amsterdam before her final homecoming in London.
For more familiarity, Ella was found by DJ Mustard on social media before inking a deal with his label. Some of her major singles include: “She Don’t (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)”, “Lay Up”, “10,000 Hours” and recent release “Naked”.
This tour was supposed to commemorate her growth and transition between various EP’s Time, Change and Ready. But it did more than that: Mai’s shows developed close relationships with other loyal fans who sang along to each song.
During a cold November night, fans patiently awaited in a long line outside of the Constellation Room — the Observatory OC’s smaller venue. Doors did not open until a bit after 8:30 pm and Ella strolled on stage around 9:40 pm. Her 10 Summers family, DJ Mustard and RJ were in attendance for moral support.
Ella was dressed for comfort with a messy bun, a matching yellow 10 Summers crewneck and sweats outfit and Vans. She was welcomed with echoing screams and fans singing “Boo’d Up”. quickly transitioning to “Makes Me Wonder”, “Anymore” and “Don’t Want You”. She briefly exclaimed the inspiration behind each project and continued to perform a shuffled discography of these works.
Her set consisted of a performance running a bit over an hour. Loving fans sung in unison to “Naked” and it brought a tear to her eye. Some of us even broke down in tears due to the raw, truthful lyrics, emphasizing self-love and acceptance for authentic love. The overwhelming support encouraged Mai to perform an encore of the song.
After this, she calmly expressed intense nervousness for this opening show. But due to the overwhelming love and support of fans, Ella encouraged us to wait for a free meet-and-greet and album signing at her merchandise table. There, I found black and orange hoodies, a tee shirt and hat for sale ranging from 30-60 dollars. Whoever bought anything, received a free album of the three LP’s in return for attending the show.
SOULECTION is a genre, artist collective and culture defining “The Sound of Tomorrow” through experimental production styles and progressive music since 2011. Outside of its label, they have a world-renowned radio show syndicated on Apple Music. Some of their label affiliates include Sango, J.Robb, Monte Booker, Mr. Carmack, Ta-Ku, Esta and Goldlink.
Recently, collective founder Joe Kay has embarked on an 8-city international tour beginning in Santa Ana and ending in Jakarta, Indonesia. His support throughout the tour may be consistent or changing according to location. Luckily, I was able to attend the first show at the Observatory Orange County.
At first, I considered skipping the show as a whole, but it would serve a space to reflect on my blessings during Thanksgiving break. My best friend and rapper Osi Mac ended up tagging along for the ride. The night featured sets by SOULECTION founders Joe Kay and Andre Power and Baltimore producer and DJ J.Robb.
We entered the venue around 11:30 and the show ran until 2 am. Midway through Kay’s set, weed and alcohol fogged the air. He paid homage to Kaytranada, some of their team and Golden era Hip-Hop and R&B. The crowd’s responsiveness was generally positive, screaming in awe and jumping in unison to the music.
By midnight, J.Robb took the stage for the next hour. Fans loved Robb’s set of his White Label project and Soundcloud remixes “Get You”, “Trabajo x6” and “Molly Percs”, highly anticipating “Yodak Bellow” to be incorporated in the mix.
When Andre Power came on, fans were exhausted and ready to go. But Osi and I remained ecstatic and in trance of his heavy hip-hop set. Power played some Kanye West, Schoolboy Q and some EDM. It was obvious that the Observatory crowd enjoyed Hip-Hop over Electronic. But nonetheless, the crowd enjoyed Soulection as a whole.
An Emcee knows how to control a crowd. They are captivating and the life of the party, turning heads when they pick up the microphone. These individuals are the masters of ceremonies, hosting live performances and events. Some of the best Emcees include KRS-One, Method Man, Lovebug Starski, Blu, Immortal Technique and Kool Keith.
In order to be a great MC, these are some qualities needed to exceed in the field.
Your voice has to be recognizable.There has to be strong charisma to link your voice to your image. Emcees need to be able to connect with their audiences and network with those around me. If you are shy, it might be difficult to succeed.
Flow in Hip-hop refers to word construction. Similar to charisma, it allows you to control your vocal presence on a beat. Fans will try to comprehend what you are saying and it has to be clearly conveyed. Flow shows your versatility to adjust to situations in the moment.
Vulnerability allows you to be relatable to your fans. It provides authenticity to your work, showcasing your lived experience or fictional references.
Emcees who have substance and knowledge know how to develop scenarios on the fly. Multi-faceted interests allow you to draw from history, your personal understanding to create sentence structure and image significance.
Creativity will allow an emcee to bring their own twist to the Hip-hop scene. Without creativity, your work is bland and dry. The ability to invent makes listeners think critically for writing mechanisms present in a song or freestyle.
Writing mechanisms must be able to stand together in a song. Critical thinking will help sharpen writing skills and see where production can be improved. It also allows you to differentiate yourself off of your unique selling proposition and develop a tailored image according to it.
Emcees adjust to their currents immediately, whether its in the studio, in a cypher or live performance. They must be able to think on the spot to spit verses or freestyles when asked. Fast-paced thinking allows an emcee to craft something short when an opportunity presents itself.
Emcees must trust themselves when making music. It must sound original and true to yourself in the booth. They also know when they make their mistakes and how to come back to them. It is important to decide when to go with your mind over your heart or how to trust the process.
Being a musician or creative can be discouraging. Sometimes, you are the only one cheering yourself on when the journey gets rough. Patience is essential when crafting a song, album or video because it is a tedious process. An artist can become famous at any time with vitality developing superstars in our social media-d
10. Tough Skin
Everyone will be critical of your music. They will disappoint and talk down on you to your face and behind your back. A thick skin will keep you motivated to succeed because emcees are unfazed when they are doubted and emerge as underdogs. It is good to receive criticism but you have to be able to take it with a grain of salt.
R&B has a way of making the winter more lively despite immensely cold dark nights. “Cuffing Season” is a time when people get together and heartbreak music becomes more real and relatable. One of my current anonymous R&B singers, H.E.R, just went on tour and made a stop at the Observatory Orange County.
Despite being in school, this concert made me motivated to finish the semester strong. It was a part of a series of shows I attended over Thanksgiving break. Other artists on the list included Soulection CEO + DJ Joe Kay and his lineup and London crooner Ella Mai. Luckily, I had to opportunity to attend this show with my best friend.
We arrived to the observatory around 6pm and waited in the elongating line within the barricades until 7:30. Somehow, we both found space in the front row of the pit and were greeted by Arin Ray at 8 pm.
This boy, wow, his voice and overall clean look was so attractive. Girls were screaming left and right, cooing over the man working the stage as he sung about betrayal and heartbreak. The Cincinnati heartthrob was here performing his Phases EP and hit single “We Ain’t Homies”. Until this night, I never heard of him and was happy to watch his set. Not to say I became a fan, but his music is cool.
Indianapolis singer/songwriter Tiara Thomas took the stage soon afterward. She performed her hit collaboration “Bad” off of DC rapper Wale’s The Gifted. Aside from this, she did tracks off her recent release, Don’t Mention My Name. “Touch Me Tease Me” engaged the crowd the most, as everyone shazamed the song, asking for its name.
By 9 pm, the night became bright as HER took the stage with black shades masking the eyes. This concert incorporated live instrumentation with background singers filling in for missing features. During the performance, she performed a combination of tracks from self-titled release HER Vol. 1 and 2. The set list included “Jungle”, “Wait For It”, “Avenue”, “Say It Again”, “Every Kind of Way” and a live rendition of Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part”. At one point in the night, guys in the crowd let vulnerability get the best of them — breaking down in tears in awe of HER’s heartwarming voice.
See HER when you have the opportunity, its definitely a great experience for cheap.
“Music takes me to places, and each song is a spirit island on which its soul lives infinitely,” says Emancipator of the album’s formerly secretive title and his inspiration for this album. “To release a song is both a death and a birth at the same time,” he adds. “The sounds contained in each song have reached the end of their life process. The once shapeshifting collage of expression has been crystallized into a final form, no longer kinetic. Yet it exists in a state of permanent potential energy, waiting to be accessed in the form of music, just as the memory of a departed soul will always have the power to move us.”
Portland native Douglas Appling aka Emancipator moves silently and lets his music speak for himself. His 2006 debut Soon It Will Be Cold Enough crafted a lane in the ever-changing Electronic scene. Appling’s musical beginnings reside in being a classically-trained violinist. The Electronic-Instrumental Composer/Producer has gone on to develop Loci Records, a label imprint founded in 2012. But recently, this music giant dropped Barkulu,a project rooted in downtempo,jazz,hip-hop, world and classical music.
The self-titled introduction sonically embraces the autumn/winter season with calming violins and light drum breaks. Emancipator explores warm hip-hop vibes with “Ghost Pong”,”Mako” and “Tree Hunt”.”Daffodil Pickles” offsets the first quarter of the album with a numbing trance of muffled, distorted vocals.
“Abracadabra” sets to briefly transport us throughout the world, as jazzy arena of “Goodness” plays in transit to Japanese-influenced “Udon”. Atomospheric compositions found in “Bat Country”, and jazz-laden “Pancakes” rely soothe a restless spirit and awaken it lightly.”Rappahonnock” infuses wind instruments and drums with ukulele solos to create multi-dimensional soundscapes. “Winter Dub”, “Time for Space” and “Sands” close Baralku on light, encouraging notes.
Overall, this album remains to be reassuring yet enticing at the same time. His organic production style describes the indescribable in sound. Its truly a masterpiece of divine interpretations.
Catch Emancipator live on a 25-date ‘Baralku Tour,’ featuring his five-piece Emancipator Ensemble, kicking off on January 30, 2018. Dates are posted below!
1/30 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
1/31 – Boston, MA @ Paradise
2/1 – New York, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
2/2 – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts
2/3 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
2/7 – Milwaukee, WI @ Miramar Theatre
2/8 – Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre
2/9 – Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
2/10 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Cafe
2/14 – Birmingham, AL @ WorkPlay
2/15 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Varsity
2/16 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
2/17 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
2/18 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
2/20 – St. Louis, MO @ Old Rock House
2/21 – Nashville, TN @ Exit In
2/22 – Charlotte, NC @ Underground
2/23 – Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre
2/24 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
3/15 – San Diego, CA @ Music Box
3/16 – Los Angeles, CA @ Fonda Theatre
3/17 – San Francisco, CA @ Regency Ballroom
3/29 – Vancouver, BC @ Venue
3/30 – Seattle, WA @ The Showbox
3/31 – Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
Dial It In is a music showcase launched last summer in Montauk, NY by concert & festival producers seeking to redefine the “pop up party” scene with renowned talent. In NY, Fat Joe, Talib Kweli & Martin Jensen kicked off their debut, exciting the crowd as music filled the night.
Dial It In was welcomed to the west coast with open arms on October 21st. The W Hollywood Rooftop hosted their inaugural 10 pm party with DJ duo Two Friends — Los Angeles natives infusing invigorated passion into dance music with live instrumentation.
This event received a large positive turn out as lines trickled down Hollywood Blvd. with ecstatic groups of attendees awaiting access to this vivacious party. Groups were making small talk, socializing about their weekend plans and music.
Early arrival proved to be important for event admission because getting around Los Angeles takes forever. By 11, the RSVP event rapidly exceeded to capacity unexpectedly. Upon entrance, guests were greeted with party favors, competitive games of beer pong and corn hole. Solo Cups and Pizza rounded out the night as Two Friends’ set echoed throughout LA streets. Individuals who were not granted access remained bummed as boxers turned them away.
As the night progressed, music roared and partygoers were elated in spirit,rocking the W’s rooftop. Floors vigorously shook from fans jumping in unison to fast-paced dance music. Sweat filled the air from large amounts of body heat. Closeness to others made it easy to build relationships while bonding over an interest in music. Those standing outside of the hotel remained curious with who was performing and what was going on.
#DIALITIN sought to exceed expectations for their first west coast party. It definitely did more than that. Next time, dial yourself in to find out their next location. Expect to enjoy yourself, meet new people and indulge in some friendly competition for a few hours.
Check out some pictures from the event below! It was definitely a night to remember.