2020 – A Year in Reflection

As we wrap up one hell of a year, we thought it was only best that we took some time to reflect on some of the really goods things that have come out of this year, specifically with Popscure. Thank you all for making this year a special one—here’s to many more.

What was your favorite write-up from this year? Why?

Tyler W: It’s probably a tie between the Dawit N.M. interview conducted by Cam Murdoch and the Q+A I did with members of the Wild Bunch before the “Our Streets” exhibition, both of which focused on photography. Since practically everyone in the digital age can capture an image with ease, it’s really interesting to me to hear how photographers approach it as an art form.

Jasmine R: My favorite write-up probably has to be “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”— a Q+A written and conducted by Tyler. Documenting the (without a doubt) historical summer of activism and unity is so, so crucial to say the least.

Cam M: The Tyler Donavan piece, I just want that guy to win and have his story shared, so it was big for me to see the response he got from that.

Shannon J: From Overseas, Tyler did a great job poetically telling the story of Kevin Sery and made the piece just as atmospheric and grounded as his music. Otherwise, I was excited to have a couple pieces I wrote go out (“Treasure,” “Bubble Ball“). Since I started working full-time, I haven’t had much time to write for Popscure, so I’m glad I can contribute, and I’m excited to have some new writers on this year too (Allison, James and Noah).

Noah D: Oh jeez, I don’t know. I hate to self-plug but maybe the Why Bonnie interview. It was the first time I’d interviewed a bigger name band, and I just really enjoy the chances it gave me, and I was proud to see it get feedback. Other than that, I loved the recent article [“25 Local Places to Get Gifts in the 757”] focusing on shops in the 757. I think it gave some really solid media coverage to businesses that needed it, and I think it influenced a lot of peoples’ decisions in gift buying.

What was your favorite piece to have edited and published? Why?

Tyler W: I really liked how Jasmine’s interview with LEYA came together because I see that as a great example of how Popscure can create connections both online and IRL. We were able to create a relationship with both the band and their label through email correspondence and then reach new readers through social media shares by the band and label. At the same time, we were telling our local readership about this emerging band that was on tour coming to play in our town. And then we were able to go to the show, meet the band, network with local musicians, etc. I also just really like them and their album—their album was one of my favorites this year. 馃檪

Jasmine R: One of my favorite pieces that I helped put out was the Shaina Negr贸n feature by one of our writers, Darryan. It was a super cool look inside the conjoining of art and self-expression from Negr贸n. I’m also really proud of our Black Experience Collective that we put together as a response to the events of police brutality and blatant murder and injustice that occurred this year. The collective serves as a platform to amplify the black voices unheard in this country.

Shannon J: Jasmine took care of much of the editing, bless her soul, but one of the few I did was “Coronavirus and Why Your Fave Band Tee Is Important Right Now.” Documenting such a shift on the blog was crucial since so much of our content is dependent on live music and the musicians who play shows.

What was your favorite standout moment for Popscure this year?

Tyler W: One moment that stands out for me is posting the Fake Uzumi feature on our new WordPress site in February. Around that time we were leveling up, and I felt proud of the efforts from our newly-formed team. I knew the feature was going to get a lot of exposure, and I remember feeling like our operations were just starting to run smoothly; we had all been working hard getting ready for this new level of attention.

Jasmine R: One of my favorite moments from this year absolutely has to be the Valentine’s Day-themed party we did with Smartmouth Brewing Co. and Citrus City Records. This may sound cliche, but the energy was literally full of love that night. It was literally “nothin’ but love.”

Cam M: Nothin’ but love show with Smartmouth.

Shannon J: Stay Put Fest 2020 was amazing. It was such a fun challenge to translate the exhilaration, fun, and camaraderie of live music onto people’s phones. It was the first time I’d chatted with local showgoers and saw my friends play music in months. There were technical difficulties and a learning process for sure, but I think everyone appreciated it. FlyyScience’s COVID info takeover was super interesting too, and getting to know her and her work was awesome. We just really had to think outside of the box this year with events. No one stole our Instagram account either, which was a plus!

Noah D: I haven’t been on the team long enough to comment!

What do you most look forward to in the future of Popscure?

Tyler W: I look forward to us continuing to grow our team. By adding more contributors, Popscure will expand our investigation into the various aspects of culture and bring our findings to our community.

Jasmine R: Our growth!!!

Cam M: Breaking boundaries and bringing obscure talent to the masses.

Shannon J: Parties, hopefully we can do something fun in the summer!

Noah D: Writing more, editing, carving a voice for myself in the team, etc. etc.

Thank you all for the love and support you showed us this year! On to the next one…

25 Local Places to Get Gifts in the 757

We all know supporting local is important year round, and the holidays are no exception. Skip the Amazon orders and last-minute Target run for something more unique! Not to mention after a year like 2020, our small businesses need us now more than ever.

According to 13 News Now, local retailers predict a 15% drop in holiday sales, and have experienced 50-75% lower sales since shutdown in March. 20% of businesses had to close temporarily or permanently, with 75% closing for 15 days or more. 

Some businesses that did not survive the pandemic include sister bars Saint Germain and Pourhouse in Downtown Norfolk, Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, and Jones鈥 Restaurant in Portsmouth, the latter which has been opened for 34 years.

If you鈥檙e running around the 757 still trying to figure out gifts for loved ones, here鈥檚 a few places to start:

El Rey (photo credit: Realtor Richard Calderon)

Restaurants have been hit especially hard with dine-in service being limited, so buying a gift card to give your loved ones a nice night out is a good option. Here鈥檚 some restaurant suggestions:

Dirty Buffalo: With basketball season underway, it’s only right to grub on some wings while watching – they鈥檙e currently doing dine-in and takeout.

Kappo Nara Ramen: This place is the real deal ramen joint, starting with the edamame and finishing with the black tonkotsu ramen is the way to go. If you buy their cute t-shirt as a gift, your loved one can wear it in there and get 10% off every meal – the gift that keeps on giving.

Noodeman: Speaking of noodles, this Chinese restaurant is named one of the best in the world with their diverse menu of handmade noodle dishes. Hot and Spicy Soup and the Jalape帽o Chicken are the way I roll.

El Rey: With the best shredded beef tacos this side of the border, this family-owned restaurant gets a lot of bang for your buck with $2 tacos on not only Tuesday, but Sunday as well!

Image may contain: indoor
Kobros Coffee (source: company’s Facebook page)

Skip Starbucks, there鈥檚 plenty of great coffee shops in the area that need support. Whether your giftee enjoys making fancy french presses at home or knows someone who needs to break from their work from home desk for a few hours, there鈥檚 a gift within this option of roasteries and cafes. 

Kobros: With their new location in the works, the veteran-owned coffee joint is sure to be a great spot to unwind. Pop in their location on 24th street during your weekend shopping for a rotating specialty latte.

Fresh Cup Coffee & Tea Company: With their easy-to-use online ordering system, pick out artisan flavored coffee from the comfort of your couch.

Lucky Cup Coffee: This shop is a cute spot to get some work done, or grab a bag of CBD-infused coffee to wrap up. 

DJ Bee of Freshtopia (source: company’s Vimeo)

Looking for that special something for the music lover in your life? Check out one of these locally owned record shops for something new they can spin.

Freshtopia: Home of Real Fresh Radio, this spot is the place for hip hop records and I really want one of those hoodies鈥

Vinyl Daze: One of the larger collections of vinyl in the area, this place specializes and only sells records. They鈥檝e had to expand not once, but twice to hold their collection! 

AFK Books: A great spot for not only records but a wide variety of books. If you have old records bring them in for consignment to get some extra Christmas cash. 

Local Heroes (source: Travel and Leisure)

Speaking of books鈥 avoid Amazon or Barnes and Noble and shop local book shops! Many of these places have used books, which is a great way to not only support our economy, but reduce our carbon footprint as well. 

Prince Books: Right around the corner from Waterside, this place is a hidden gem with a wide range of titles. It’s a charming place with a good selection of fiction novels and biographies.

Local Heroes: The gold standard of comic shops, full of single issues, graphic novels, and other fun gifts. I can鈥檛 help but always get some cute stickers or a mystery box for myself when I go here. Fun fact: This was also named one of the best comic books in the country by Travel and Leisure.

Book Exchange: This place has a wide range of used books, which is a great way to not only support our economy, but reduce our carbon footprint as well. 

Veil Brewing (source: company’s Twitter page)

Beer is one gift you cannot go wrong with! With so many great breweries across Hampton Roads, a six-pack could be the tastiest site under the tree for an indulgent giftee. 

Veil Brewing: Some of the most unique brews in the country let alone the area. Not only is their beer delicious for any palette, but their merch is very cool, too.

Big Ugly Brewing: Over a decade in the making, this spot has some solid brews you can get in growlers or giant cans. If you have someone in your life that loves old cars and motorcycles, this spot is a great place to get a gift card to.

Commonwealth: Armed with the knowledge of European brewers, this family-owned spot went from homebrewing to big time after years of perfecting the craft of, well, craft beer.

Norfolk Country Feed and Seed (source: The Virginian-Pilot)

Plants are the hottest trend right now, and a gift that most folks can appreciate (well, at least I can – I鈥檓 pushing 70+ plants in my home currently). Whether your loved one is a self proclaimed black thumb or has accumulated a jungle during quarantine, these are some of my favorite nurseries in the area:

Plantbar: More on the boutique side of the nursery spectrum, this spot is super cute and offers take-home terrarium gifts for a more interactive planty present. Not to mention you get a free alcoholic beverage while you shop, which is very clutch. 

Anderson’s: This huge location is worth the drive to Newport News, and has a lot more than just plants available in their gift shop. It鈥檚 a great place to knock out a good amount of shopping. 

Norfolk Feed and Seed: This place has a good selection and great prices, with one section that has smaller plants for $1.50. Plus, there鈥檚 store cats, which makes it even better in my book. 

Velvet Witch (Source: company website)

If you鈥檙e looking for other unique gift items such as jewelry, home goods, and so much more, these are some really cute spots to get your shop on:

Velvet Witch: If your loved one is obsessed with crystals, is a foul-mouthed feminist, and/or personally identifies with their star sign, this is the spot to buy for them. 

Kitsch: This was my first spot in my Christmas shopping journey, and I knocked out a good amount with their wide variety of items.

Mrs. Pinkadot: I got a lot of my ornaments and Christmas decorations here, so they have a great selection of borderline tacky but utterly charming gifts for everyone.

Hot House Yoga Shoot | Norfolk Virginia Beach Commercial Photographer
Hot House Yoga (Photo Credit: Echard Wheeler Photography)

Stuff is great and all, but what about something fun you can do together? Here鈥檚 some interesting activities that can get your giftee out of their comfort zone.

Mambo Room: Get your favorite couple or significant other a different kind of date night. With the clubs closed, anyone can use an excuse to get dancing!

iFly: For those who have a fear of heights, this may be as close as they鈥檒l get to the thrill of skydiving.

Hot House Yoga: They鈥檙e offering a 10-class card right now good at multiple locations, and this could be a great gift for someone who has mentioned detoxing and getting more mindful after a crazy year. We could all use a little of that after 2020, couldn鈥檛 we?

Era Hardaway is Undeniable

Era Hardaway is a twenty-seven year old rapper, producer, and entrepreneur continuing the honored lineage of innovative thinkers and musicians from Virginia. Following the release of the emcee鈥檚 latest EP, “Undeniable,” I had the opportunity to get better acquainted with Hardaway鈥檚 journey and vision.

Era and I met up at his studio in Norfolk, VA, where he develops the bulk of his material. As an artist who is always working, you always have something new and crazy sounding to play, and today I was the lucky guest. Displaying his range as a more than capable producer that鈥檚 laced countless other artists with beats, such as Young Crazy, he began to demonstrate a number of styles from trap and drill to cinematic soundscapes that belong in the next Final Fantasy.

How did you get into music, was there something else you wanted to do before that?

I learned the turntables early on, but it wasn鈥檛 something I really had my heart set on. Before the music shit, I really wanted to be a street ball player. My mom bought me a basketball, and I鈥檇 be in my room rolling the ball between my legs acting like I鈥檓 shaking defenders off. I had all the And1 mixtapes, even the joints where they went overseas. I used to always watch the marathons on ESPN. I started getting into other leagues that started up like YPA and a few others in the street ball community. So that鈥檚 what I wanted to be, then I decided I wanted to go to the NBA, but I was ass at basketball. I had handles but my shot was wack. I mean, now I鈥檓 alright but back then? Yeah, nah.

What got me into music at first was when I started DJing parties with my pops. This was probably like age 7 or 8; my pops would get a party and let me do half the set and keep half the bread. When I started doing that, I thought, ‘This might be it,’ because I started buying kicks and shit. But I still just wasn鈥檛 ready to step into rapping yet. One day when my dad was teaching me how to blend, I said, ‘Man, who is making these beats?’ When you listen to a beat without the lyrics, you just wonder how they put it together. So around the age of 13, I did my research and found out about Fruity Loops, and once I started making beats, I knew this is what I was going to do.

It kind of started from there. For Christmas, my dad bought me the little M Audio package with two small studio monitors and a dynamic mic with the desk stand. You could only do input or output on that M Audio interface; you couldn鈥檛 do both. It sucked, but I made it work. I stacked shoe boxes on top of each other in my closet, put my mic on top, and made a make-shift pop filter with a stocking cap—and that was my studio.

Would it be correct to say your parents were supportive of your creative exploration?

Yeah, they were. Both my dad and my mom, although [my] [mom] didn鈥檛 really understand it and still doesn鈥檛 to a degree. They were always supportive. My dad was one of those people who, no matter what I wanted to do, would support me even if he didn’t understand it. I know as I got older and more mature, they didn鈥檛 approve of some of what I was saying about gas, smoking weed, and pulling different girls. I know they don鈥檛 want to hear all of that, but this is what鈥檚 going on. I鈥檓 not capping on anything. 

At first, my mom didn鈥檛 even know I was rapping. She knew I was DJing, and she didn鈥檛 really like that because she was worried about me getting caught up in the party scene. I鈥檓 actually glad my dad introduced it to me early on because now when I鈥檓 in the club, I don鈥檛 even want to be there unless I鈥檓 celebrating or I鈥檓 paid to be there. It鈥檚 old to me now. 

I really started rapping in 2009, when I was 16. My mom didn鈥檛 know, even though her office was right next to my room. I鈥檓 cranking music, but she had her speakers as well, so don鈥檛 get me wrong…she was cranking in there too, but I know she can hear me through the walls because I can hear her. The funny thing is, she didn鈥檛 realize I rapped until I handed her my first mixtape, “Yeah I Rap.” I spent all my money making about 100 CDs to take to school to give out for free, and they were gone before the first period. People from the Burg hit me up to this day like, ‘Yo, I still got that CD.’ After that, I go home and hand the CD to my mom, and she says, ‘Oh, that鈥檚 what you鈥檝e been doing locked inside your room all quiet for long periods of time.’ I was surprised when she said she couldn鈥檛 hear me there.

Courtesy of Malik Emmanuel

You鈥檙e self-taught as a musician, was your process always this DIY? If not, when did that change?

I鈥檓 an Internet baby. As computers were being developed, I was around it. I mean, we didn鈥檛 always have that, but since maybe around the time I was fourteen, [we] started having iPhones and computers. Even before that, I always asked questions when seeking the source was just asking somebody. When I found out that seeking the source could be a simple search online, I began to look it up first before asking somebody…especially with simple stuff like 鈥渉ow to tie a tie.”

After hearing some of the beats you have, I鈥檓 compelled to ask, have you ever thought of composing for video games?

Hell yeah. I鈥檝e also thought about scoring for movies. That鈥檚 really the main goal aside from rap. I want to be able to build suspense in a situation with music…really learn the process of that, even the mixing and mastering style of it. 

Who were some of your early influences?

Dilla. Definitely Dilla. He was a heavy influence towards my junior & senior year (of highschool). Madlib, of course. And other people I used to watch on YouTube growing up, like Lex Luger and Southside.

I used to always watch everyone鈥檚 come up stories because you feel like you鈥檙e right there with them. I remember watching Lex Luger talk about how he used to have the computer with the full CPU, monitor, and a keyboard in a bag, and he鈥檇 just pull up. The side plate was gone, so you could see all of the computer chips and everything on the inside, and the power button was gone, so he had to hit it a certain way to make it power on. Lex Luger was making beats on that, and that鈥檚 when I knew I could be successful wherever I was at as long as I had the tools to make music. As long as I got a computer, I鈥檓 good. 

“Hardaway” – “Slightly Hyped”

When I recall some of your earlier work, like “Slightly Hyped,” many of those earlier influences like Dilla and Madlib shine through. But, there seem to be followers that saw your progression into The Juug Tape as an abandonment of the earlier, more 鈥渂oom-bappy鈥 sound. To what do you attribute the change in your music?

On “Undeniable,” I rap, ‘The whole juug won鈥檛 to dumb it down, just give y鈥檃ll another sound to show you that across the board I don鈥檛 fuck around.’ That was the juug, and that鈥檚 why I was making the The Juug Tape. I was giving people bars, and it was cool but I was also like, ‘Let me have fun.’ There are still bars, you know what I鈥檓 saying? If you listen, there are still bars in there. A lot of people were telling me, ‘Aww you鈥檙e doing the trap sound now?’ and really there鈥檚 just a difference between what you make and what you put out because I鈥檝e been making beats like that, and I鈥檝e been making songs like that, but they never heard it until I put out a concentrated version.

Plus, it was just my environment at the time. I always tell people Fredericksburg was cool; that鈥檚 where I learned. But being down here in Norfolk really made me a man. I really saw things that I was taught about back home but never got to embrace. So going through all of that, seeing all of that, and growing as a man was what made that music as well. 

So now, when I give people the bars, they’re like, ‘Oh shit, he can spit!鈥 Yeah…I鈥檝e been doing that. It鈥檚 about having fun. The only thing you can do in this life is take a craft and have fun. The world will try to rob you of all of that, your peace, love, and happiness. So you got to keep yourself excited, do it for yourself first at all times.

You mentioned the difference in experiences you had growing up in Fredericksburg as opposed to Norfolk. Tell me about your upbringing in your hometown compared to what you came to find in your second home?

Fredericksburg is a bit country, my mom is from there, and my dad is from Jersey. My cultural retrospect was very universal. I鈥檇 always be out there at my grandparents’ house riding four-wheelers, playing in the dirt, and things of that nature. We鈥檇 try to help my uncle work on cars and clean up the shop, my cousin Nick and I. If we weren鈥檛 there, we鈥檇 be at his house playing ball. It was very wholesome. Fredericksburg is like a commuter town, so there鈥檚 not much for the youth to do, but it can get wild out there. There are still hoods out there, and everybody from the Burg knew about the VFW before it got shut down. There used to be parties, but it鈥檇 always get shut down when people got to wrecking and shooting. That was the only thing out there until we got Jay鈥檚, and that got shut down too, but by that time, I was in Norfolk. There wasn鈥檛 much for the youth, so we鈥檇 just hang out at the mall or go to the movies, typical middle-class childhood shit.

When I came down to Norfolk, that鈥檚 when I started to see things. Like I was saying, my dad is from Jersey, so he and my uncle used to tell me about certain street shit. They would always be like, ‘Watch out for that,鈥 or ‘Look out for this.’ Before I was ever smoking, my uncle told me the difference between “mid” and “loud,” just so I would know. When they taught me things up there in Fredericksburg, it was never really applied until I came down here to Norfolk. I came down here to go to college, but the environment surrounding it is really gritty, and you have to know how to navigate. With certain people I came to be around, even with some of the things that I got into…I had to dabble in those environments and know how to move. That鈥檚 when all that I鈥檇 learned in Fredericksburg became applied and I could see, ‘Oh, this is what pops or unc was talking about.’ I鈥檝e seen some wild shit being down here, and that鈥檚 why I say it made me a man, the experience. Experience is the best teacher.

There are six songs on “Undeniable,” but as we know, you have plenty more in the tuck. Tell me about the selection and arrangement process for the songs that made the cut.

Initially, I wanted there to be more, but I decided to give a more concentrated body of work. With the arrangement of the tape, I was talking with my manager, and he was like, ‘Bro, I rock with it, and I see what you鈥檙e doing, but I think you should take 鈥淪tep鈥 off or rearrange it.’ 

I believe sometimes you鈥檝e got to humble yourself with your art, and if it鈥檚 someone that you consider very close to you and have respect for their musical ear, you鈥檙e going to take that into consideration. That night I rearranged it, and as I was sitting there with my shorty listening to it, I was like, ‘Yeah, he was right.’ Once I made that change, the whole tape flowed differently.

What was your mindset going into the new project, and why the title “Undeniable”?

At this point in my rap career, that鈥檚 just how I feel. I can do anything, and you could put me in the studio with damn near anybody, and I鈥檒l make it happen. There鈥檚 a high percentage I might body you on your own track.

Image courtesy of Rare Cinematic; Cover Art designed by Ali Dope/OnlyDopeMedia

Featured Image Courtesy of Malik Emmanuel (@Foreva.suave).

Thank you to Era Hardaway for the interview. Listen to “Undeniable” here!

Quinn Christopherson: Telling Stories and Carving Futures

Quinn Christopherson is a singer and songwriter born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He writes painfully humbling and brutally honest songs with a style that takes influence from his Athabaskan family鈥檚 storytelling tradition. He won NPR鈥檚 songwriting contest in 2019 and has since been working on what will inevitably be a soul-crushing album telling the stories of his life. – by Noah Daboul

What drew you to playing music and songwriting, and what’s it like to play music in Alaska?

I think I started playing music and writing music as a means for therapy for myself to feel better. It helped…it did help. So I just kept doing it, and it’s become something that’s evolved over time. I used to write these really crushing songs because when I wasn’t a musician full-time, I had a full-time job and all the other stuff life throws at you. I had a really small sliver of time for music, and I guess I subconsciously had to use it wisely. All of my music writing was solely just to feel better, like therapy only. Now that I do music full-time and have a writing space…now that it’s my job, my writing has changed too. Not totally, but I don’t have to just use it to get my “sads” out. I can write about anything now, and that’s a big change from not doing music full-time, I guess.

Does being able to write about whatever and not having to keep songwriting as a cathartic experience make it more freeing, or is it overwhelming?

So much more freeing. It was like a job before. It was the only thing I could do with writing, so it kind of put me in a box. Now I’m not in a box anymore; I can chase my passion, and that has been totally freeing.

From the songs I’ve listened to, since you only have two on Spotify and a couple more on your Tiny Desk performance, I’ve realized that your songs and lyrics are totally just…brutally honest. What kind of pushes you into that realm?

I think the way I song-write is what I’ve learned from my family in the way that we storytell. I think that’s really where it starts and ends. I grew up around storytellers, and I see myself as a storyteller, so that’s what I try to do with my songs.

I had a question about being descended from an Athabaskan storyteller, and I was going to ask if that influences your songwriting, but you kind of just answered that.

For sure. It does, though. That’s just how we were raised.

What was it like doing the Tiny Desk Concert at NPR? How did it feel winning that contest? What made you enter in the first place?

I entered because I’m like every other poor kid. I grew up in a small town, and I want[ed] to write a different future for myself and my family. I never thought it was possible, but you kind of just put your name in a hat and try for it. When I entered, it was really more just like a fun thing to do. It’s fun to make a video; it’s fun to play music with your friend and make a day of it—just a fun thing. The first time I entered, I entered with a song about my grandmother, and they did a little radio interview for me. That was kind of the biggest thing to ever happen for me, although it’s really like small potatoes now. Thinking back, it was so special.

The next year [2019], I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to do this again! Maybe they’ll notice me this time!’ It just felt like something I had to do. When I won, it was the craziest thing I ever could’ve imagined. It changed my life. Maybe I could’ve been a full-time musician before, but being here in Alaska kind of limits that. I never felt like I could ever do that. No one ever told me I could or should do that in a serious way. I never thought it was realistic. That was a turning point for me; I thought, ‘Oh, other people think this is maybe good enough, so maybe I should chase that.’ I did, now I’m here, and I don’t regret any of it.

I mean, I wouldn’t either! Going back to the storytelling tradition in your family, what does it mean to you to be a storyteller and a musician?

That’s all I know. I don’t know what else to write about or talk about. My grandma would tell us stories, and sometimes they would be so short. She would almost say nothing, but we got a whole world view out of like five words. I always remember her saying so much without really saying anything at all, and I just thought that was so powerful. Sometimes when I write songs, and I feel like they’re really dense, I think about what information is there that I just don’t need. How can I say more with saying less words, you know? That really influences me.

Photo Courtesy of Sean Rhorer

Who is the person you trust the most musically? Who’s your go-to bandmate or collaborator?

Definitely my go-to collaborator is my partner, Emma. She’s the most talented person I know. She’s a filmmaker and an artist; she doesn’t do music, but I think that when you’re collaborating with people who do different mediums than you, then all of your art comes out stronger.

The song “Raedeen” is one of the most brutally honest, humbling, and just…cathartic songs I’ve ever heard. Could you tell me the story behind it?

It’s a true story. The story is there within the song. That song for me is really special, too. Something I like to pay attention to when I’m writing songs, or poems, or whatever it is, is the timeline that you’re in. With that specific song, it spans over years. I think with that song, it’s all there. All the information is there. It’s honestly…a lot to put on the table for people. When I put that song on Spotify and Apple Music, nobody was listening to me. It was maybe a few people in Anchorage. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal; I was already singing that song for every drunk person at an open mic with maybe five people in the crowd. It wasn’t a whole lot to give away at the time.

Now that I’ve given that song away and other people are listening to it, not just in my little town, I sometimes think it’s a lot to share with everybody. I don’t regret it, but what I will say is that I released that song because at the time, I hadn’t heard from my sister in months and I was really scared. I had no way of reaching her. I just thought that maybe if I put that on the internet, she would stumble across it somehow and hear it. Here we are, about a year into her sobriety, and she’s really turned her life around. She said that the song helped her to want to chase a different lifestyle. In the end, that song did exactly what I wanted it to. I don’t know if I needed to share it with the world to do that, but maybe I did. Who knows, but it worked.

I’m glad it worked. You’re based in Anchorage, right?

Yes! I live in Anchorage.

Anchorage is a cool town. I remember getting the worst food poisoning possible at the Hard Rock Cafe there. Do you think you’ll end up staying in Alaska, or do you see yourself moving outside of the state eventually?

You know, if you asked me that question a year or two ago, I would’ve said I’m getting the fuck out of here, you know? But over this year or year and a half, where I’ve started this music career, gone on a US and Canada tour, done the whole musician thing-I had a European tour planned too, that got canceled because of COVID…it’s been rescheduled, though-I realized I’m not stuck here, and I can travel around. I’ve had a lot more appreciation for my home and knowing that it’s not about really where you’re at, but who you’re with. All of my family’s here, and we’ve been here for generations.

I realized this place is a lot more special once I knew that I’m not stuck. That goes for a lot of people living here. It takes so much money to get a plane ticket out of here. Just going to Seattle is so expensive…getting out of the country is crazy; it’s a really expensive thing to try to leave this place. A lot of Alaskans will actually go on little vacations to other parts of Alaska because it’s cheaper. I think that can really affect people’s mentality about not wanting to stay here…like you can’t just drive to another city. As I’ve gained more privilege to travel and have gotten more access to that, I feel like this is my home, and I’ll stay here.

Throughout the COVID pandemic, what’s it been like up there with everything going on?

We get everything a little later here. We’re pretty behind with all sorts of things, especially COVID. In some places where it’s been dying down, here it’s actually been amping up. Our cases this week are going up. They’re over the hundreds and people estimate that they’ll be in the 500s as the weeks go on. Right now is when we’ve been seeing the spikes that the lower 48 [states] saw weeks and months ago. It’s scary, but we’ve been on a lockdown level since March. But it is Alaska, a lot of us remained doing our “outdoorsy” things; kept going on walks and being outside. I have a huge backyard, I have plenty of space for myself, and I think it’s nice. We’re all getting really scared because we know that snow’s about to come. It was really cold today; my house was 58 degrees [F] when I woke up in the morning. We haven’t turned on the heat yet, but it’s getting to that point. I don’t know what will happen when we’re all stuck inside and can’t congregate outside.

Cases in the 500s are still a little low compared to the rest of the country, which seems like a silver lining.

We’re still really low, which is really good.

With all the time you’ve had being locked down, have you been writing a lot? Have you been working towards an album at all?

Yes! I’ve been writing a ton. I’m working on my album right now, actually. It’s kind of going with the flow. I couldn’t tell you, or even myself, what songs are going to go on it or what the name of the record will be. I’m working with a couple of producers and continuing to write. I signed with a label, and we’re working on it. I feel like I’ve written the record, I do. I feel like that part is done, even while I’m still continuing to write. I feel like I have a record there, and now I’m just finessing these pieces to get it put together. Hopefully, I’ll fly to go and lay final vocals. I wish I had a timeline, but I’m thinking sometime [this] month, but I’m not really sure. With COVID, it’s all pretty up in the air, but the songs are being worked on. I’ve been waiting a long time for this, so it feels like the gears are really turning. I’m going to release this record hopefully in early 2021. That’s my hope, but I don’t know what’s to come with COVID and what the rest of the year has in store, but that’s my hope—and I’m rocking and rolling with it.

I’m excited for it for sure, I’ve definitely been a big fan since I saw the Tiny Desk performance. Who have you been listening to lately?

Thank you so much! I’ve been listening to Black Grapefruit; she’s a Brooklyn songwriter and artist. She’s amazing, you’ve got to check it out. I think she’s still pretty low-key; she has one EP out from 2019, and she just put out two singles that are just amazing…I can’t wait for the rest. I don’t really know what else I’ve been listening to. I’ve really been on discovery mode. The new Jazmine Sullivan single, “Lost One,” is crazy. If I’m in a bad mood, I put that on repeat, and I’m better. It’s the perfect song. There are no drums, it’s just [the] guitar and her—and the words in it are amazing.

Featured image courtesy of Sean Rhorer

A gracious thank you to Quinn for the heartfelt discussion. Be sure to be on the lookout for his debut album in *hopefully* early 2021.

Whose Streets? Our Streets!

Members of the Richmond-based photography collective, the Wild Bunch, answer our call to share their insights and experiences ahead of Norfolk exhibition.

Merriam-Webster defines the word movement in a number of ways, the most apt for our purpose being a series of organized activities working toward an objective, or an organized effort to promote or attain an end. There is much to draw from the definition as it pertains to the events that began to unfold around the country at the end of May, immediately following the barbaric killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, MN police officers.* The status quo of unjust treatment towards Black people in the United States was coming into sharp focus in our streets and across our smartphones. The movement towards equality that had already been going on for a long time was suddenly energized in a way we’ve never seen before.

In Richmond, the capital city of Virginia and former capital of the confederacy, what started at the end of May and continues today is being documented in part by a photography collective who call themselves the Wild Bunch. Having witnessed the very good, the bad, and even the ugliest parts of the streets, the Wild Bunch’s exhibition titled “Our Streets” is one of the largest collections of movement photography ever assembled in the state of Virginia. There is much to read about the Wild Bunch and the upcoming “Our Streets” exhibition in this article in the Virginian-Pilot so we at Popscure decided to highlight a couple of their members to discuss the processes, motivations, and lessons learned from their practice. With a Q&A conducted by executive editor Tyler Warnalis, we introduce to you Keshia Eugene and MarQuise Crockett. Read on and be sure to check out “Our Streets” at the Slow Dive Gallery, opening this Friday October 30th. Spoiler alert: the movement is not over.

Keshia Eugene @chocolatekesh

Documenting the chorus of “enough”

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene
First off, could you please tell us about your artistic/photographic background?

I began technical shooting as teenager, with a film camera. Yet as a kid I loved disposable and Polaroid cameras and experienced genuine joy from seeing the photographic results. Since 10th grade having a camera in my purse was hobby that turned habit. So basically what you will see me photograph are reflections of my passions such as live music, candids of hang outs or communal events.

When the protests first started in Richmond, I鈥檇 imagine there was something in you that said, 鈥淚 need to document this.鈥 Could you tell us about that motivation and how you involved yourself? 

Due to science, I didn鈥檛 feel comfortable marching in masses, and I have spent many years protesting in different cities. The collections of photos you will see from me will be more of the unfamiliar forms of protest like the teach-ins and the transformation of reclaimed space of Marcus David-Peters Circle鈥 this is important to show. There is such uniqueness to speak or express through art here in Richmond, the former tainted heart of the confederacy, and prominent slave drop-off; it was necessary to document our chorus of 鈥渆nough鈥.

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene
While documenting crowds, engaging with people you may not know, and perhaps even putting yourself in tense situations, what sorts of things did you encounter that our readers may or may not have expected?

People are rude. Even if they may be on your side. I鈥檝e seen a lot disrespect towards black women in general during Say Her Name demonstrations. In some cases it did spark some conversation but some people truly don鈥檛 seek to understand. Or performative protestors who are doing this for the first time and making it more of a social event and not focusing on the initiative; it鈥檚 mad irritating but this is my life and validation so I keep my head straight.

What do you think you learned in the process of photographing the protests that you could share with our readers?

My biggest takeaway is my new lost respect of black leaders in Richmond who allowed police to torment the entire city and instead of engaging in true conversation they played safe for political gain and more conservative relationships. Not sure who they are representing because it鈥檚 not the common Richmond resident and it鈥檚 like this in too many states and cities.

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene
What do you hope to communicate to the viewer through your photographs?

If you feel uncomfortable in the streets find different ways to share your disapprovals and thoughts for equitable change.

Finally, as a member of the Wild Bunch and a citizen of Richmond, the United States, and the world, what does the title 鈥淥ur Streets鈥 mean to you?

A reminder that origins of Monument Avenue, which was first set to segregate, will soon be dismantled. Things are going to change our way, in our streets.

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene

MarQuise Crockett @_innervator

A gravitational pull to be on the streets

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett
Could you tell us about your artistic background? What led you to start using a camera as your preferred means of expression? What sorts of things are you typically photographing?

I was raised by my great grandparents Vernon and Dorothy Crockett who had deep roots in the Baptist church community in Richmond, VA. Not going to church wasn鈥檛 an option on Sunday. I first started singing in the youth choir and did it for the majority of my childhood. Then in middle school I was introduced to the lever harp and later graduated to playing the pedal harp in high school, as well as playing the 5th bass in my high school high step marching band. [As far as photography goes] even at a young age I was kind of obsessed with old family albums. I was in love with the idea of having tangible memories. The love came full circle a few years later when I was gifted my first camera, a Canon EOS Rebel t3i. I鈥檝e been learning ever since. I don鈥檛 have a preferred thing to shot I just love to create content. However, landscapes were my first love.

When the protests first started in Richmond, I鈥檇 imagine there was something in you that said, 鈥淚 need to document this.鈥 What compelled you to hit the streets with your camera?

I don鈥檛 know what made George Floyd鈥檚 death different from all the others, but I had a gravitational pull to be on the streets, to let my voice be heard and tell the real stories of what鈥檚 happening on the ground. I remember reading a quote 鈥淲ould you rather be at war with yourself and at peace with the world OR at peace with yourself and at war with the world?鈥 Every time I turn on the TV, or look on social media, or even walking in my everyday life I鈥檓 constantly reminded that the world is and has been at war with black and brown people.

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett
While documenting crowds, engaging with people you may not know, and perhaps even putting yourself in tense situations, what sorts of things did you encounter that our readers may or may not have expected?

Being on the ground for the first time was intense, the air is electric with emotions, the sea of signs and messages, megaphones singing chants, trailing cars blasting “Fuck Donald Trump.” It was a lot to take in, but what I also experienced was a real sense of community. There were so many tents of people in and around the circle. Whether if it was for making free masks, food, medical attention, liberation education, music, and sanitation – the PEOPLE proved that it could provide for its community.

What do you think you may have learned in the process of photographing the protests that you could share with our readers? (This could be either technically related to your photography or on a more humanitarian or societal level)

I鈥檓 learning that outside of taking photos and being passionate about my craft and telling important compelling stories through my art form that getting connected to the community and the leaders who have been doing this work is just as important if not more important.

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett
What do you hope to communicate to the viewer through your photographs?

I want to convey the truth of what really transpired this summer. Its important for people to engage with these images and see what we experienced this summer at the hands of RPD, VSP, VCU PD, and Capitol police, the sense of community, and the fight that is STILL being fought on our street.

Finally, as a member of the Wild Bunch and a citizen of Richmond, the United States, and the world, what does the title 鈥淥ur Streets鈥 mean to you?

“Our Streets” means another chapter in the struggle for equity and equality – a story as old as the American experience itself.

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett

“Our Streets” opens to the public on Friday, October 30 at the Slow Dive Gallery in Norfolk, VA and will continue to be on view for several weeks following, both during normal business hours and by appointment. More information on the opening, including the link to RSVP for your specific time slot on Friday or Saturday, can be found here.

*All of this coming mere months after Breonna Taylor was killed in her home by Louisville, KY police and Ahmaud Arbery was pursued and fatally shot by white men while jogging near his home in Brunswick, GA and the list goes on and we should know their names and say them.

Staying Golden with Treasure

London based artist Treasure is just that – he’s golden. His family relocated to the countryside in the early 2000s to trade the busy city life for the suburban serenity, a feeling present throughout his catalogue.

With laidback production and lush harmonies, he perfectly blends today’s bedroom pop with 90s R&B, both genres which influence him heavily. Earlier this year he released “Suffocation & Air, his first comprehensive work and full-length album. His single “Isolation” encapsulated all of our feelings during quarantine.

However, he’s not stopping there – his latest work “Nostalgia: The Prelude” is available on all streaming platforms today. We shot him a Q&A to get to know him and his musical process a little better.

How did you first get into music?

It’s something I’d consume tirelessly. When I got my first keyboard around 8 years old, I tried to learn my favourite songs by ear.

How did your move from the city to the countryside change your process – or life in general?

Life became a lot less busy, and in turn, I could clearly think about what I wanted from life.

How does your latest EP differ from your first?

The first is an amalgamation of music, and the second is a sequenced body of work from start to finish.

“Feelings” seems to be a single that blew up with over 1 million plays on Spotify – how’d you get there?

Honestly, I’m baffled myself!

There’s a variety of sounds going on in your music – what instruments are your band playing to create that acoustic/funk/electronic fusion?

I’m a one-man band at the moment! I use drum kits and machines, acoustic and electric guitars, synthesizers and keyboards–so anything I can get my hands on!

“Isolation” (and the accompanying spoken word) is a relatable song for all of the creatives out there stuck in quarantine – what did you hope to accomplish that you didn’t?

I thought I’d be sitting on 7 EPs right now! Which is unrealistic, to be fair.

Do you have anything exciting coming up – virtual performances, upcoming collaborations, or anything else you’d like to plug?

I have a project dropping on October 21st, titled “Nostalgia: The Prelude.”

Sending our thanks all the way to London for this one – go stream Treasure’s “Nostalgia: The Prelude,” OUT NOW!

Join NYC Nightlife United in Keeping NYC’s Lights On

2020 has served us all a harsh reminder that “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Late-night hangs with friends are cut short…big celebrations are canceled or reimagined in a new way fitting of a dystopian novel…things that were once a lighthouse amidst the storm of life have gone dim. I mean, things weren’t perfect before COVID, but at least we had those small sanctuaries of respite. Now, as society begins to rebuild itself to a “new normal,” many will be left struggling to keep their heads above water. And unfortunately, many of those will be members who have brought us that joy and happiness that we took for granted—from artists and musicians to venue workers and small business owners, everyone in the music and entertainment industry has inevitably been affected. To make matters worse, the disparity of who will be affected is disheartening with minority-owned businesses and BIPOC & LGBTQIA spaces being most at risk at closing due to financial struggles.

And this is where we come in. A collective of New York’s finest–ranging from community organizers to music professionals–have come together under the organization, NYC Nightlife United, to support the community that has given them so much life and joy, and they are asking for our help. The organization has launched a fundraiser via Kickstarter to raise $20,000 for NYC’s nightlife–specifically the cultural hubs that have fostered a kinship of community and creativity in BIPOC and LGBTQIA spaces. Kickstarter works off a “pledge” system where you can pledge a specific amount of money and get a reward in return. Rewards include specially curated NNU merchandise, vinyl bundles, and some amazing works by Ebru Yildiz, including exclusive zine prints from For The Record and her photography book documenting the days leading up to the closing of Brooklyn music venue staple, Death by Audio.

You know…there’s one more thing 2020 has taught us—the importance of community. I think it goes without saying that we all have a strong love and appreciation for the arts and for the feelings of camaraderie and pure bliss that come along with it. While NYC is miles and miles away from Virginia, I’d like to think of them as part of our community…and us a part of theirs.

To learn a little more about the initiative, check out the Q+A I did below with NNU member, Morgan Schaffner, and don’t forget to view the Kickstarter here!

Did NYC Nightlife United form as a response to COVID-19 and the closures that came along with it? If so, do you see the organization branching off into other avenues of action in the future?

Yes! We formed back in March as an emergency relief fund to save NYC’s nightlife cultural spaces and those in the nightlife ecosystem. Since initially forming NYC Nightlife United, we’ve refocused our efforts on prioritizing aid for the most vulnerable, specifically BIPOC-owned and led businesses who create safe spaces for the BIPOC and LGBTQIA communities.

Why choose Kickstarter as your platform for funding?

We decided to roll with Kickstarter as a fundraising platform because we wanted to give something back (ie: rewards) to the individuals who wanted to donate to our cause. With Kickstarter, we found it incredibly easy to tell our story and display a lot of the awesome rewards!

In what ways are you all aiming for this fundraiser to tangibly provide?

Our Kickstarter profits will be going towards providing venues and individuals in the NYC nightlife ecosystem with emergency relief grants.

How does the organization plan on distributing the donations? Is there a process?

The first round of applications for the grants just closed on 9/23, but the money from this Kickstarter will be going towards the second round of emergency grants. Once the applications open for the second round of grants, we hope to help even more folks in the community!

What do you think is the biggest misconception about BIPOC and LGBTQIA cultural spaces, such as music venues and nightlife hubs? Music and entertainment industry?

If you take anything from these words, please know that nightlife IS culture. And specifically, throughout much of popular American, music and culture has always been appropriated from BIPOC and LGBTQIA cultural spaces. You see it again and again from American music’s black roots–where white artists became the faces (and highest earners) of genres with overlooked, underpaid black originators.

You also see it in the co-opting of “Voguing” culture from the young, brown, queer youth of NYC’s ballroom scene. Ultimately, we need to work hard to protect our cultural spaces where folks gather–the music venues…the nightlife hubs–because without them, we don’t have culture. And without culture, what do we have?

Will the NYC Nightlife United Sessions livestream series continue after the fundraiser deadline?

Yes! Absolutely. We’re already planning Volume 2 of the next NYC Nightlife United Sessions livestream series. 馃檪

Any more plans for another pledge reward to be added amongst the great options you all have already provided?

Yes! We are adding more pledge rewards every day between now and the end of the campaign (which is Oct. 17 @ 9AM EST).

Have you all found much support outside of New York? (Sidenote: We are based in Norfolk, VA)

We’ve surprisingly found a lot of support outside of the NYC area! I think it’s humbling and honestly awesome that our cause relates and speaks to so many folks, especially since so many artists have had their first “break through” moment in their careers while in NYC.

The current pandemic has illuminated a significant amount of flaws within our society at every level possible. What, if any, flaws have become glaringly apparent during this new environment within the music and entertainment industry?

There’s so many flaws, especially in NYC, that have been incredibly obvious. Flaws that come to mind include the lack of rent protections for commercial lease holders, the lack of federal funding and support for small businesses outside of the PPP loan, as well as venue and live entertainment businesses’ inability to thrive at a reduced capacity.

Concert venues were the first businesses to close due to COVID-19 and will be among the last to return–while there’s some talk of venues re-opening with social distancing and 25% capacity, that’s just really not a sustainable business model. While it hasn’t been easy, I do also believe that the Paycheck Protection Program and rent moratoriums in NYC are the only reason more venues haven’t closed permanently (yet).

In what ways do you think NYC Nightlife United will provide education, or spur conversation, on these flaws? Is education of such topics something you all are interested into exploring more?

Yes! I hope with the work we’ve done, we can continue to educate folks on the issues that those in NYC nightlife ecosystem face, along with providing secure funding for those who are truly in need.

What is one thing you all hope people will take away from this?

I hope that folks will recognize, that while organizations like NIVA + NYIVA are doing amazing work actively lobbying local and federal governments, our aim is to provide direct IMMEDIATE emergency relief for folks in the NYC nightlife ecosystem. We established our Kickstarter campaign as a way to provide rewards and something in return for all the folks who are interested in helping the community ASAP. 鉂わ笍

We wish Morgan and the rest of NYC Nightlife United the best of luck and success in their mission to providing BIPOC and LGBTQIA spaces the help they need during this time! The fundraiser only has 4 MORE DAYS before the deadline on Oct. 17th @9AM EST, and they are just under $2,000 shy of their goal to $20K. For more information on the cause, and to donate, click here!

JamalTheCreator Might be the Next Youtube Rapper to Blow

On August 28th, JamalTheCreator dropped his latest single, “Trust Issues,” alongside his other trending track, “This Is The Life.” Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the 19-year old Nigerian-American YouTube rapper started out creating content with some of his YouTube buddies, ultimately uploading videos that were reaching millions of views. Since then, he has been stirring up big noise throughout the music scene in both the US and even the UK, thanks to a large portion of his family residing in London. Being originally underground, the young rapper has added a twist of pop-rap to his sound for “Trust Issues,” detailing the struggles of being too paranoid to trust anyone. The song has been receiving plenty of attention from the media since its release, which is an indication that Jamal is prone to blow. 

You can follow JamalTheCreator on social media to stay updated with his music and content releases:

Instagram : @hoodgeno

Facebook : @JamalTheCreator

Twitter : @hoodgeno

Black Experience Collective – September

This month’s submissions include a poignant poem (“This Ain’t Even A Poem”) and beautiful art piece (“Love is Thicker Than Blood”) by Chesapeake artist, A-Rae.

To submit your experience for next month click here.

A-Rae | 34 | Chesapeake, VA (by way of Cleveland, OH)

“This Ain’t Even A Poem”

A-Rae | 34 | Chesapeake, VA (by way of Cleveland, OH)

“Love is Thicker Than Blood”