How many of the shows did you attend?
I attended 3 out of the 5 shows Hennessy had in Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles and New York City. I personally shot three shows with my crew, and was given footage from the other shows. I missed Ice Cube in Los Angeles, which would have been huge for me being a HUGE Cube fan, and dope performers in Chicago like Currensy, Yahzarah and Kid Sister which I would have loved to meet and see perform as well. On the other hand, I got to kick it with such legends as Chaka Khan, Ron Isley and Bobby Brown, so I can’t really complain.
Did curators Q-Tip and Questlove contribute any ideas that you used for the doc?
Questlove, The Roots & Q-Tip basically curated the shows choosing the artists they were gonna perform here, getting D-Nice to DJ and perform with them on tour on top of him already being the official photographer for the initiative. So they, along with the teams at Hennessy and Alloy Access, are to be credited for the incredible line-up and performances they’ve put together. As far as the film is involved, they were actually unaware the film was being shot until the final show in NYC, which I would think is one of the reasons why we’ve captured such raw and candid footage.
What is your personal definition of The Art of Blending when it comes to the music in this project?
This project was about blending musical genres, blending musicians and performers, mixing old school and new school, and blending art forms. Music-wise you have Hip-Hop, R&B, Funk, Soul and Pop/Electronica, young & hip music mavericks like Marsha Ambrosius, Daniel Merriweather & Mike Posner alongside legends and icons like Mary J. Blige, Bobby Brown, Chaka Khan, Ron Isley or Erykah Badu. Film-wise I approached it as mix between film, photography and graphic design, which hopefully people will appreciate.
How many hours of film did you collect and why did you edit or keep the footage you did over others?
I must have gathered about 20 hours of performances, about 10 hours of interviews and 5 hours of behind-the-scenes and other stuff. The ambition has always been to create something that would be available online for everyone to enjoy, so somewhat of a shorter format than you would have in a feature film. That informed most of how the film was edited, also Hennessy had their hand in what they felt should be highlighted, which wasn’t necessarily what I felt should be, so there were some decisions made there as well, but overall I didn’t have much restrictions in how to bring my vision to life. There’s things I really wish would have stayed in the final cut but that’s always the case, whether you’re dealing with Hennessy or Universal Pictures. If people like the film online, maybe I’ll get a chance to present additional material at some point, or my own director’s cut one day.
What do you hope people who see this film get from it?
I hope the people who see this film are inspired by the sights and sounds of iconic artists from very different musical backgrounds, performing together on stage and sharing thoughts and private moments off the stage. I think that if you know and love music, there are a few magic moments in there for you, both in performances and in some of the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The film is accessible for free online, that’s really amazing for me as a filmmaker. I can’t think of ever seeing such a line-up shot and documented in this fashion, available anywhere. Let alone for free for the whole world to enjoy. I give props to Hennessy for making that happen, for sure.
What surprised you most about making this film?
The variety and quality of talents was quite overwhelming so that’s definitely something I will always remember. I now have very fond memories of both the experiences and the filming, with most of the incredible talents I’ve had a chance to meet. Performance-wise, some of the things that stood out for me were The Roots overall as a backing band, performing live renditions of each and everyone’s songs with amazing interpretation skills. Q-Tip sharing the stage with them was a unique treat, we captured a pretty classic performance of ‘Excursions’ which is one of my favorite ATCQ songs. Being on all these shows also reinforced for me how ill of a lyricist and how extraordinaire of a performer Black Thought actually is. People often talk about The Roots being one of the best bands in music, which there is no question about; but from an emceeing standpoint, Black Thought might very well be the best MC out there, definitely in my Top 5 dead or alive, and definitely the most underrated MC in the game. Dude is just ill. As far as the film experience, there were really special moments with Erykah Badu, Jay Electronica and Chaka Khan. Just a lot of cool memories, which I tried to share in the film.
What are some of the projects you’re currently working on?
Right now I’m finishing up a video on the Quai 54 and I’m executive producing Bobbito Garcia’s first documentary project tentatively titled, Doin’ It In The Park: Pick-up Basketball, NYC, scheduled for a summer 2012 global release.