When I was in high school, I use to catch the 31 bus up South Orange ave in Newark and get off on Stuyvesant Ave to go to the barbershop. I was in my school’s jazz band and would listen to all the new music I had to learn on my ipod while on the bus, looking out the window: speeding by chicken shacks, drug dealers on the corner, crack heads and prostitutes, little kids getting out of school, preachers standing on soapboxes, Mosques, muslims selling fruit and final calls, homeless people, teenagers dance battling, everything that made up the city. All to the sounds of Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, etc.
Last year I went back to Newark and caught an Uber from Penn station to my mom's house and took that ride up south orange ave. I was listening to "Figg get da money" by Schoolboy Q. We stopped at the light on Stuyvesant ave and I instantly got the inspiration for A Subway In Harlem.
"Harlem" to me is a metaphor for black culture. From the Harlem Renaissance to For Colored Girls, Malcolm X to Dapper Dan, The Apollo to Rich Porter; Harlem has served as an epicenter for black culture since the early 1900's.
A Subway In Harlem is about the beauty of Urban Culture. It's black as hell. It pulls inspiration from all aspects of black culture, from Hip Hop (A Subway) to the Harlem Renaissance. I watched the movie “Belly” 20 times and was inspired by Hype Williams’ use of color, tone, and high contrast on black skin, and used it to help convey my vision.
My intentions for this project was to show appreciation for urban culture by creating beautiful imagery using black bodies. One of my favorite quotes in life is from Ol Dirty Bastard, "Wu Tang Is For The Children." To me, Wu Tang represents Hip Hop culture and the children is the world. Black people are the most innovative people in the world; We inspire everything - all genres of music, sports, high fashion etc. Our style, our vernacular, our bodies, our music.
In a time where black men and women are getting killed by police at an alarming rate, when there's a lot of tension in the country and people are losing hope, while gentrification is happening everywhere and pushing us out of our communities, I just want to portray something beautiful to remind black people, we’re beautiful.