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LOWLIFE TAKES NEW YORK

Lifetime shooter and accidental documentarian Scot Sothern brings his brand of Americana to Chelsea. Spending time amongst a variety of personalities, Sothern has emerged with an archive of engaging images sure to provoke your curiosity.

SUPPOSED TO BUBBLE

On Houston Rap, and the decade-long project to preserve its history

SUPPOSED TO BUBBLE

Houston Rap

When I spoke to author and Houston rap connoisseur Lance Scott Walker last year, he was in New York. A few months earlier, boutique publishing house Sinecure Books had released the second of two books centered around his and photographer Peter Beste’s decade-long journey into Houston’s legendary rap scene, Houston Rap Tapes. Its predecessor, Houston Rap, probably already belongs on a list of the very best collections of hip-hop documentary photography ever compiled, thanks in no small part to the context provided by the dozens of interviews Walker conducted with just about everybody he could reach from the city’s storied rap pantheon.

Tapes, he explained, felt like a necessary extension of the first book, given the abundance of source material, presenting in full his conversations with luminaries like Bun B, Z-Ro, Paul Wall, and just as important, a laundry list of hometown hero types whose names might not register to a national audience.

As we talked about some of those lesser-knowns, I couldn’t help but draw out some of the parallels to the Bay scene. Specifically, I asked him about 2005 and 2006, when both our regional scenes enjoyed a brief share in the national spotlight. Around the same time folks were memorizing Mike Jones’ phone number, E-40 was enjoying his first Top 40 exposure since the mid-’90s. And while “Vans” was tunneling it’s way into rap’s subconscious, Houston’s slow-mo psychedelia was soaking into the genre’s collective psyche even more visibly. Slim Thug, Mike Jones, Chamillionaire, and Paul Wall all charted heavy, while OGs like Pimp, Bun, Scarface, and Devin made the most of their well-deserved new exposure. Zip files of obscure DJ Screw tapes became rap forum gold. “The Strangest Sound in Hip-Hop Goes National,” proclaimed the Times’ Kalefah Sanneh, in April of ’05. By then, Peter Beste had been shooting for over a year, and planning for almost five.

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LONG LIVE YAMS

A word of thanks to the A$AP mastermind for pointing us in the right direction

A$AP Yams

In the past, I think A$AP Rocky has caught a lot of shit for being a better curator than he is a rapper. But among other things–obviously, it’s always a tragedy when a damn near universally well-liked, interesting person passes way too early–I think the outpouring of love around Yams’ death says something about the power of curation. Here was a kid from Harlem who essentially turned great taste and vision into an empire. That encyclopedic knowledge of great and hard-to-find rap music, that impeccable ear for new ideas, that ability to trust your own sensibilities and to collage them into something to share with people–those are powerful things.

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ON THE BEACH

Fellow traveler Theo Schear captures the vibrant faces of Rio's beach scene

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Here at the Bowties, we tend to get submissions on a pretty regular basis. Every once in a while, they’ll really catch our eye, and sometimes, they’ll even come accompanied by some words that help to paint a picture of the ideas behind the work. Recently, fellow Bay kid and multi-medium visual artist Theo Schear dropped off a gorgeous collection of portraits he snapped over the course of a few months hanging on the beach in Rio. Writing to us last week, Theo took a moment to fill us in some on some background on the series, and his approach to portraits in general:

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BEEN ON TASK

From tats to tags, Jus Ontask walks us through his process, with a little help from our friend Veeej

Jus Ontask

Over the last year or so, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with the very talented Justin Carlisle, known to many as Jus Ontask, on multiple occasions. Justin is a many of many mediums, tackling everything from illustration to digital design, from zines to brand identity work. He’s also just generally a very cool dude, and fun to work with. More recently though, he’s taken the opportunity to channel his creative instincts into a few more forms. I asked him to speak on it a bit, and because I’m a curious cat, I asked yet another all-around solid and talented homie, Valentin Saqueton (AKA Veeejzilla) to tag along and snap some pics. Here’s what they sent me.

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Adventures in Art with Jayson Musson

The creative mind behind Art Thoughtz debuts a new web series

Jayson Musson

There is a mastery to how artist Jayson Musson integrates hip-hop into his works of art. The painter, sculptor, and the creator of several successful web series, is adept at using the hip-hop vocabulary to point out the absurdities of the art world and vice versa. His 2010 video series, Art Thoughtz, found him in character as art and rap sage Hennessy Youngman, who compares the self-mythologizing strategies of Joseph Beuys and Jay-Z in building their legend as artists. The forward and funny series managed to be accessible while exploring some of the more inaccessible corners of the art world. Throughout Art Thoughtz, Youngman guides viewers through employing excessive ambiguity or exploiting “Rococo trappings” as keys to making “an art,” all with the bravado of a rapper in his prime. In one particular episode directed at black artists, Youngman preaches the importance of tailoring black art to white audiences using anger and slavery to guilt observers into attention. While he delivers his advice, the message “SLAVERY Y’ALL” flashes in big, brightly colored letters across the screen.

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THE PEOPLE’S KITCHEN

A pay-what-you-want pop up takes a radical approach to fine dining

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The People's Kitchen

After several BART stops and a dead cell phone battery, I met with Saqib Keval at a small restaurant in Old Oakland. We sat across from each other, a stainless steel cone filled with French fries between. Saqib is the man behind The People’s Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant that combines high-end fine dining, local ingredients and social activism.

Having trained and worked at high-end restaurants in Southern France, Saqib (unequivocally self-identified as “brown”) noted that he and his co-workers (most hailing from North Africa) were did always feel welcome eating in restaurants like the ones they helped prosper. In response, they started their own weekly dinner. Soon, it became a community event – one that Keval brought with him back to the Bay.

Loosely modeled on the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast Program (a program once notoriously deemed a national threat by the CIA), The People’s Kitchen embraces a radical approach, running on a pay-what-you-can pricing system, and refusing to turn patrons away for a lack of funds. Although the pop-up locations vary, organizers see to it that communities that lack access to locally grown, organic food are given priority.

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SPRINKLE ME

Brandon Tauszik & Cameron Woodward take us inside the creative video production house known as Sprinkle Lab

SPRINKLE ME

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It was Brandon Tauszik’s poignant documentation of streetside murder memorials that originally introduced us to one half of the creative partnership behind Sprinkle Lab. A videographer turned photo documentarian, Brandon’s a fixture of the Oakland arts scene, and has popped up here and elsewhere for work that’s stark, deliberate, and no frills in its approach. In 2012, Brandon partnered with his business savvy co-founder Cameron Woodward to form the indie video production house Sprinkle Lab.

Having crafted memorable videos for Bowties favorites like Antwon, Main Attrakionz, and Queens D. Light, and lifestyle campaigns for Levi’s and Mishka, their portfolio is an eclectic mix of art house visuals and for-hire commercial work. A few years in, it seems the future is bright for the duo. Having added a team of creatives to the squad in the past two years, today Sprinkle Lab runs as a lean business with their eyes on developing engaging visuals. Sitting down with Brandon and Cameron in their studio, we spoke to the founders about their early days as business owners, the challenges of entrepreneurship, and the greatness of Beyonce.

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DOMA YOGA

Malidoma Collective's donation-based approach to community healing

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Malidoma Collective

Malidoma Collective is a powerful group force of female vision for creativity, community, and wellness. And for anyone paying attention in the town these days,the group and its members are an integral piece of Oakland’s social and cultural fabric. Through their unified productions, as well as individual endeavors, Malidoma offers opportunities for cultivating cultural empowerment and social regeneration through art and engagement, not unlike their beautiful and experiential installation at our original Feels event last May. The latest development to evolve out of the Collective is Doma Yoga–a donation based yoga series dedicated to healing people of color, their communities, and specifically West Oakland, through radical self-restoration.

Doma Yoga manifests as a series of three-month-long intervals, with a one month break in between, and rotating instructors and locations. During a given series, classes take place from 11am to 2pm each Saturday and include two yoga sessions and one guided meditation. Instructors are invited to facilitate a class on the basis of their representation and engagement in yoga and communities of color.

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LOWLIFE TAKES NEW YORK

Lifetime shooter and accidental documentarian Scot Sothern brings his brand of Americana to Chelsea

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Scot Sothern

A few months back, I had the privilege of chatting with Scot Sothern for an hour or so. Over the course of our conversation, he managed to dig pretty deep into a career spent behind the lens, which has brought him to all kinds of fucked up and wonderful and surreal places over the years. Of course, it’s hard to squeeze that all into an hour, so fortunately, Vice has given Mr. Sothern an outlet to drop bi-weekly reflections on the many strange scenes he’s found himself in over the last half century.

More recently though, the adopted Angeleno travelled East for his first ever solo show in New York City, which opened on Thursday night. Lowlife, hosted by Chelsea’s Daniel Cooney Fine Art gallery, features some of Scot’s better known work, with 25 prints from his book of the same name. The prints, depicting some of the prostitute friends Scot made during repeated trips to some of L.A.’s seedier locales in the ’80s and early ’90s, are one-of-kind, the only ones ever printed. And despite the potentially tidy “this guy took pictures of hookers! edgy!” storyline, Scot’s been pretty consistent in downplaying the work’s sensational side, rather choosing to highlight the fact that his images offer a window into the world of a few “disenfranchised Americans, usually existing under the radar and out of touch.” For those of us who missed the opening, Lowlife runs until February 28th. I highly recommend dropping in for a visit.

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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH SUP!

Alina Vongsamart and her crew will feed you in these streets

A line of customers is building at SUP! Southeast Asian Streetfood’s pop-up outside of Mary Weather Gallery. Sets of small, red and green plastic tables and chairs surround the makeshift kitchen where SUP!’s chef and founder Alina Vongsamart is rolling noodles and vegetables into rice paper while monitoring shrimp in a fryer. On the other side of the table, a blow-up palm tree is distinctly perched; a playful detail that sets a sunny mood on a Saturday night in Downtown Oakland. Alina’s set-up is far from haphazard. When she says street food, she means in the street and under the sky. Her reference for Southeast Asian street food is the fresh cuisine that’s captured her imagination and her appetite since childhood trips to her parents’ homelands of Laos and Thailand.

As the block party thickens, SUP! customers in miniature chairs watch the scene unfold between bites of fresh rolls and sips of beer. Orders are coming in steady and Alina swiftly assembles plates with generous scoops of rice, cucumber salad, fresh lettuce leaves, and crispy, golden coconut shrimps. The ease and care with which she makes and serves her food is unmistakable. A couple of busy hours pass and she greets the late-comers with a familiar statement: “We’re all sold out”.

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SCENES FROM VIETNAM

Kris Kozlowski takes us on a journey into the cities and landscapes of Vietnam

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Growing up stateside, our views of the rest of the world are largely defined by the images we see on TV and on the silver screen. In Vietnam’s case, those images are often tragic reminders of a war that left destruction in its wake. Kris Kozlowski’s recent photos from Vietnam, however, remind us that time, nature and people power on. It’s been roughly fifty years since the onset of that war and Vietnam is a different place, a place where modernity resides albeit with a traditional flare, where old and new intersect.

Kozlowski’s work shows a Vietnam with lush landscapes and bustling cities, a countryside where time moves a bit slower, a busy street where resilient cyclists jostle for positioning with scores of cars and scooters. The photoset is notable for its imagery and composition, yes, but maybe more importantly, I can feel the fog’s moisture creeping in on the countryside like a thief in the dead of the night. I can hear the buzz of a dozen mopeds swerving through cramped city streets, the gentle sound of a wooden paddle pushing water back, over and over again. That is photography at its best, when it can transport you somewhere you’ve never been and submerge you into that world. Kozlowski’s sublime skill does exactly that. We reemerge from that world with just a sliver of knowledge of what Vietnam is now, of how its people live, how its cities sound, how green its forests are.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY KYLE PLATTS

Colorful scenarios from this London-based illustrator

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Platt1

I stumbled on Kyle Platts’ work and couldn’t shy away. I mean how could you? I hesitate to say that the London-based illustrator’s work is “layered.” In a sense, that designation rings true, but really Platts lays it all out there at once. There really aren’t layers at all, just a collection of images that could stand alone, but instead work in unison to create a sort of puzzle, one that you can marvel at and appreciate, section by section. There’s a sort of poetry in his work, a sense of acknowledgment of the absurd. It’s easy to see some of his work and chalk it up as juvenile and vulgar, and to an extent you wouldn’t be lying; but there is an undercurrent present throughout that reminds you that the artist is witty, informed and has something substantial to say. Take his most recent work: asked to “create a utopian version of 2015,” Platts, in his trademark style, does exactly that. In one detailed illustration, Platts touches on everything from gun violence to Kobe’s embattled achilles, from a cure to Ebola to peace between Palestinians and Israelis. All in all, Platt’s work is reminiscent of an Archie comic–if Archie comics were made by someone hip, unafraid and just a bit absurd.

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