Kevin Storey and Jabari Johnson Talk The “Surprise Party” And “Mobbing” Merchandise
Kevin Storey and Jabari Johnson are only 25 and 26 respectively, but were already tired of the party scene in NYC. Despite working in the music industry at Capitol Records, venues kept turning them away from events. Whether it be the high price demands of these places or dress code regulations, the duo were fed up with events in the area.
From that emotion spawned their movement in the “Surprise Party.” Kevin and Jabari opened the door to all and leveled the playing field in the party scene. Millionaire CEO's will receive the same treatment as a 9-to-5 worker at their events. Fans of the movement began to use the word “Mobbing” to describe the relentless approach of the work ethic in the group.
XXL’s “The Good Life” sat down with the dynamic duo to discuss the “Surprise Party,” The “Mobbing” merch, linking with Cassie, Yo Gotti and more. —Christian Mordi (@mordi_thecomeup)
I understand you both work in the industry. Tell me what companies you guys work for?
Brand manager at Epic Records. My job is to align our brand with influential people in the marketplace. Service those people in those niche spaces.
Jabari Johnson: Outside of the surprise parties, I have my own company called volume visual. Essentially, I am a filmmaker and handle documentaries. I deal with a lot of artists which led me down this path. Being in the digital video space heavy had led to the company. We basically sign hip-hop artists, handle their channel content wise for some, and partner them with brands. We help them build that online presence and help them to monetize their movement more.
What artists have you done a documentary for or visuals?
JJ: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis most recently. I have also worked with Wiz, Stalley, Hoodie Allen and more.
How’d you guys meet?
KS: We actually met at Capitol Records. I was an intern and he was working there. Outside of the office, people used to always ask me if I knew Jabari before we became cool. We finally met at a mutual friends party and we been cool since.
Tell us about the term “Mobbing” and what that means to you, seems like a rally cry for your movement.
KS: I think that personifies the way Jabari and I work. Even the inception of the surprise party, we created this party we would reach to a brand to help us, or try to lock in a venue and we kept hearing no from everyone. Even so, we always found a way to make things work. Its a mantra for us right now, just doing what we want to do and achieving our goals.
JJ: I think its something that we say. Kevin is from Brooklyn, so that is something they say. The party allows us to bring the word to life. We started this from the ground level, and now its one of the hottest parties in New York.
Tell me a little bit about the parties, why did you guys break into these?
KS: Well the first party we through was for Jabari's birthday. We didn’t have any high expectations in regards to it. I had some slight experience throwing parties in college, but that was it. This was three years ago. He has just shot the BET webisode series, so we really wanted to celebrate.
We reached out to some people and put the party together in a weeks time. The party was crazy, nice crowd came out and the music was right. Great event, bottles were popping for sure. Everyone that went had a great time. After the event, people kept hitting us and asking us when the next party was going to be. We got on the phone with each other and agreed to make this a movement. We decided to name the events “Surprise Party.” We didn’t know at the time how big it was going to get, but we knew that we didn’t want it to be like any other party. We didn’t want to be identified as promoters either.
So no one knows really early when the next party is going to be?
JJ: Yup we usually let people know a week before. Even when you do know, you have no idea what the surprise is. Every time its something new. Like we just did a two year partnership with Uber that for people that buy tickets for the party are going to get a free ride home basically with a thirty dollar credit. We always like to think outside the box.
One of the people who really changed the party scene and thought outside the box was Vashtie and Oscar with the “1992” parties. Then came the “Grits and Biscuits,” parties thrown by Maurice Garland. Both of those were for a little bit of the older generation than us. We just want to add another element to the party scene in New York.
You guys are known for thinking outside the box with your movement in regards to who you invite as special guests. One time you brought out Black Rob. What made you guys choose him and how did that come to pass?
KS: We plan the surprise party, but then each one we focus on what will be the surprise. We never know usually until the week of. We just think of what would be so awesome to have happen in a party if we were just attending ourselves. We thought one time like what if the dj is playing this Bad-Boy set, and then you see a bunch of Harlem shakers come out with Black Rob. That would be dope. So we set it up.
Tell us a couple other interesting events that you have had happen as a surprise for the fans?
JJ: One time around the time when the “bands will make her dance” song was popping off, we thought to have a live drummer perform that song. Then we expanded on that via inspiration from the A$AP Ferg “Work” video. That’s where we saw the ballerina, got in touch with her and had her do a set to “bands will make her dance.” We just want to entertain the people.
This seems like a pretty upscale and unique event, I know you pull big people. Is there a V.I.P. Section for guests?
JJ: There is no V.I.P. Section at the parties. They try and give us ropes and we tell them to take them away. Everyone is equal. Everyone parties with everyone.
KS: We want to provide a great experience with each event. Bigger than who comes, we want each person to feel special. No matter who is performing or who is there, or who is the dj, we want people to enjoy the event. We put that first.
You have had everyone from Vinny Cha$e, to the Black Ink Crew to Karen Civil come party with you guys. Who was a personal favorite for you guys?
KS: My personal favorite is Terain Hicks. That’s the dude that did the “Niggas in Paris” dance on the subway video that went viral. He actually performed at one of our parties at the height of the “Watch The Throne” tour. It was perfect.
Tell me a little bit about the Mobbing hat. How did that come to pass, and why did you feel merch was a cool direction to go with the movement?
JJ: I think when it comes to merch, Kevin and I are always around artists, so we have seen how beneficial it can be to a movement if done right. I was working with Tinie Tempah out in the U.K and saw first hand the importance of good merch. We had the idea of the “Mobbing” hat a long time ago, but spent a lot of time making sure the hats were perfect. It took us about a year to get right.
One of the first people wearing your line was Yo Gotti in the “Check” video. Did you know this was going to happen?
KS: We had no idea. Somebody sent me a behind the scenes clip and there he was in the hat.
What about Cassie, I heard she has been seen in your hat as well.
JJ: I am cool with her manager, and I shot him one and said that I thought she would like it. Next thing we knew she was on Instagram with the hat.When I met her, she told me she loved it and was excited to see what comes next.
Will any other pieces be on the way soon?
KS: We will be dropping new colorways and more surprises soon. We are selling them for 25 dollars. We don't want price to be an issue.