It’s one month shy of a year when I first began working on this particular project for local artist, JK The Reaper. My longtime friend and cohort THISISYATES asked for my help on a project he was going to undertake. As the project progressed, so did my involvement. My initial role as script supervisor led to a producer credit once the production and post-production phases were completed.
The overall project was a bigger success than any of us expected and has become a great visual piece for both JK and THISISYATES. The video has received over 100,000 YouTube views and earned itself a few awards:
- Films On Tap Selection; Charlotte, NC
- Vimeo Staff Pick
- Atlanta Film Festival Selection; Atlanta, GA
- New Orleans Film Festival Selection; New Orleans, LA
- Minneapolis Underground Film Festival Selection; Minneapolis, MN
- Muscatine Film Festival Selection; Muscatine, IA
- Cucalorus Film Festival Selection; Wilmington, NC
- Gold Reel Film Festival: Winner of “Best Editing” and “Best Music Video”
The written portion of this project is a creative non-fiction piece where I attempted to intertwine an interview and album review within a “Captain’s Log.” It was an accompanying portion of the visual project, and vice versa, with the intent of submitting each to (online) print and media publications as a large multimedia piece. The written portion never took, so I decided to sit on it. Honestly, the article is too long for a blog feature in addition to the writing style being a bit bombastic, but it was a fun piece for me nonetheless.
Being that it will be one year to the date the music video was released when it is shown at the New Orleans Film Festival, I’ve decided to post it anyway. To add even more context, North Carolina’s hip-hop scene is beginning to gain quite a bit of traction nationally with artists Rapsody, Elevator Jay, King Mez, Deniro Farrar, Well$, Bankroll Bird, Rashaun Hampton, and J.Cole featured in Noisey, Vice, Pitchfork, and XXL magazine. One name Yates and myself feel is definitely missing from the conversation is, JK The Reaper.
Going forward with this blog, I will also be post other film production and DIY skate projects I have a hand in which periodically get me outside and away from writing.
Jabril Kenan better known as, J.K. The Reaper, raps his mind’s confusion, frustration, and euphoria through waves of ambiance while most of us struggle to wrap our head around being alive. Known by his friends and family as Jabbie, the 21 year-old is an unheralded talent in his native NC. While some can’t attune to the frequency on which the emcee operates, he is a transistor in a new wave of rap you won’t find on the radio.
Crafting conscious lyrics has contributed heavily to the artist’s musical foundation. If the truth is but a whisper, J.K.’s voice floods forth, constructing his life into movie scenes set to the soundtrack of his own sonic instrumentation.
Most recently his “Fountain of Youth” single set fire to his SoundCloud profile. Rapping “Why do I feel so different when I’m just like you bruh/ Black, stupid and angry as my life is getting painted/ I’m just trying to learn enough so I can change it, Replace it…” It’s a poignant picture and speaks volumes on his level of personal insight.
Fearless though vulnerable, the Greensboro emcee raps with soul stirring conviction; offering himself to his listeners. Artists and even layman may find difficulty not feeding into the bullshit patinas over-saturating media. Because of that, it is refreshing and inspiring to meet someone who stands apart.
Yet J.K. has managed to affirm himself at a young age amongst the presence of like minded individuals. The mellifluent members of his FANG Family: Clint Norway, 2chea The Zombie, Kane, Austin, Preme, Smvvth, BrendanJBeatz, Dre, BrendenJBeatz and Zu Mal.
Le’ Reaper was born to make music and has no problems proving the matter, anytime and anywhere. Intrepidity once led him to compete in a battle rapping competition hosted by a local radio station. Looking back on the situation with as much levity as he approached it in the past, he chuckles “I was like, ‘Yo, this guy’s really cookin’ me.’”
Releasing his My World Is Silent album in March, the twenty two track catalog offers a strong sampling though only a taste of what the emcee offers. From the slowed and throwed sound of the half-sped Hercules to the FANG family produced Visual Alignment addressing the disconnect between fallacies and realities. Two of my favorites.
Bangers like “Kill The Snakes,” “Cold Sake,” and “CUTLASS2000” are void of bullshit braggadocio and fueled by white lines and dark rhymes. “Anger inside, and I’m Ready to Die/ And my niggas is here/ I’m Biggie if he ever woulda hit that gym/ lemme sip that henn/ lemme hit that gin…”- Kill the Snakes
“Drug Symphony,” “Krystals,” and “CLOUDSHYT” all explore recreational drug use but in different context. If CLOUDSHYT is music to zone out to, Drug Symphony is an anthem fueled by variety while Krystals gives us a blown Le’ Reaper flexing like Val Venis.
Following up his stellar album release was his Almost Angelic EP released on August 19th, 2014. Tracking his SoundCloud stats, it’s clear Underseas is the fan favorite. However, tracks like Mechanical and Chloe Sevginy prove that if there is anything the Sploosh God puts above pussy, it’s music. Turning out each track to new tricks he’s mastered, a favorite of mine is Elegy of Entrapment. Set to a drippy gong and the twinkle of solar wind chimes, the artist flexes both his breath control and strength of wordplay.
A KiDULTHOOD soud byte opens the track for “Tumblr Pussy” while on “Chloe Sevigny” named after the actress of the film, Kids, begins and ends with a battle of the sexes conversation. With a verse defying both conventional philosophies on the male/female dichotomy concerning sexual exploration raps, “She want me to eat the pussy, told her to hand me a plate/ I just had to keep it real in a world so fake…” The lyrical lothario provides a sampling described as “The Fuel to Your Sex Drive”- Sincerely Yours, Le’ Reaper.
In August I had the opportunity to assist J.K. as he teamed up with visual artist Joshua Yates (THISISYATES) on the set of their EXODIA music video shoot. As the two visionaries worked through the trifles of film production, I had the chance to interact with one the freshest voices out being captured with one of the freshest perspectives.
A location scouting and initial meeting between the FANG family, Yates and myself occurred on August 2nd, 2014. Having communicated via email and interacting with one anothers’ web content, J.K., Yates, Clint and myself had never met in person; I’ve known Yates over a decade while J.K. and Clint are FANG brothers.Yates and Clint met while helping on the set of a mutual collaborators rap opera video shoot in the summer of 2012.
The interview segments transcribed were recorded on two separate dates: August 2nd and 17th with FANG member Clint Norway. The responses are laced throughout the journal entry snippets written during the production schedule dates: August 3rd and 4th.
Clint Norway’s House DAY 1 : August 2nd, 2014
JS : How’d you come across the beat for Exodia?
J.K. : This dude I record with is an engineer, and he has….I freestyled that song. He brought some chicks through and they claimed they sang, but it was bullshit like, ‘I’m too nervous to sing.’ So I was like I really do this music shit thinking I’m about to try to flex real quick. I was about to make a song just to show these girls I really made music.
So I start rapping and they was like, ‘That shit’s hot!’ and I was like, ‘Forreal’? ‘Cause I was just going to delete it whenever they left. My engineer told told me to let him mix it and I was like ‘Daaamn, this shit do sound hot.’ And I just kept it…but he had the beat though. It was just laying around.
JS: Do you fuck with the same producer a lot?
J.K. : Yea, I fuck with the same producer… ’cause producers, they be the bullshit. They be the bull shit. They act like they deserve so much credit. I understand but damn. [For instance] working with new producers, they’ll be so indecisive. I’ll do a song and they’ll be like, ‘Yo, I love the song.’ I put the song out and they’re like, ‘Wait, I changed my name! I changed my name!’ and it’ll be something dumb. Like, why do you want that name, just stick with the name you have.
JY: You changed your name a few months ago right?
J.K. : Yea, ’cause of fucking Chance The Rapper. That wasn’t the only reason, but that was the main reason. I was like fuck, it’s’ over [J.K. The Rapper]. Then everybody else started using that shit because of Chance. I’m starting to hate rap.
JY: What did you go with Reaper for?
J.K. : I don’t know…it was the closest but farthest away. Not that big of a difference but a significant one. I still hate my name.
JS: How did you all [FANG] link up?
J.K. : We all went to the same high school together; Northeast High School. It’s crazy, we all had different personalities. While we were in high school we never really knew each other or fucked with each other but when we graduated and was grinding in music we was like, let’s bring this shit together. Like for example, I was the type of kid in school…I was invisible. I hated everything, wore the same shit everyday, walked the hall like this…
*Hands in his pockets, head tilted downwards with his eyes on swivel *
I didn’t talk to nobody, didn’t have any friends, was flunking…I didn’t give a shit. But 2chea was the type…he was the popular kid with all the hoes…braiding his hair in class and shit. This nigga Clint was the pretty boy…
Clint Norway appears through the front door and approaches
Yates and Clint, formerly acquainted via social media, took a moment to catch up and discuss recent works. Having relocated to San Diego, CA Clint’s residence was only temporary and he gathered his personal belongings as we set about location scouting.
Tate St. Pizza Parlor
Yin and Yang would best describe the rapport between the brothers. Such a harmonious balance has allowed for tracks like “Vanilla Skies,” a palpable jam with a summer feel that’s orchestrated to the beat of their own drum. Set to the cadence of “I don’t know bout you, but I know what I’m doin’/ Shut the fuck up, Mind yo’ business keep it movin’/ I don’t know bout you, but I know what I’m doin’”
The remainder of day one found us location scouting and chatting it up about the history of Greensboro musicians and the culture of High Point, NC. Amongst other topics were the mentality of Southern artists and the culture of mass appeal music. Stopping for a pack of Blacks’ and pizza, Yates and J.K. worked on the video treatment as Clint and myself contributed to the brainstorming sessions.
CaRee Rajae’s Home
Nearing nightfall we dropped the FANG members off at singer CaRee Rajae’s residence. CaRee and J.K. produced the “Invisible” collaboration together on his Almost Angelic release. Our time drawing to a close, an initial shooting time was confirmed for a two day shoot that through the trifles of film production became a 24-hour shoot. Dapping up, we parted ways.
Family Friend’s Home DAY 2: August 3rd, 2014
Day two was our return trip to Greensboro, NC and found us searching for two key elements needed for the video: a handgun and a truck. Most of day two was spent searching for a truck until a friend of J.K.’s father said we could use his after five o’clock. Ultimately it fell through but were told we would be able to use it the next day (August 5th) after 3:30pm. We’d hunt for the pistol later.
Butler Rd. Gibsonville, NC
Scouring the surrounding areas for a bonfire location, we passed several aglow from the roadway and decided to stop and ask a resident about the possibility of using using their open land. Knocking on the door and seeing a figure get up and move, we placed our hands up to be visible underneath the darkness of the front porch awning. Waiting no more than five minutes, we were headed back to the car when we saw lights flash on.
Turning about we were greeted by a shirtless, pant-less man aiming a small pistol from his elbow. It was a rash reaction to a knock on his door and I feel had we still been standing on his porch at that time, he may have handled the situation even more poorly. Providing an explanation with our hands still raised, it was a clear sign this was a no go as he continued to stand with his pistol drawn during the short exchange. The irony is that Yates and I had been vocal about our concerns of being shot and to avoid any such scenario decided against any guerrilla style film-making.
With a quick revision to the shooting schedule, our first location found us shooting in the garage of the Goins’ family home, whom took Yates and I in for the duration of the production. J.K.’s girlfriend, Angel, was the lone onlooker as we queued up the visuals of “Kill The Snakes.”
A eulogistic rebuke of the spineless individuals he’s crossed path with, J.K. laments the death of poisoned relationships. From a scorned lover who drank away their bond to a back biting individual he brought into his inner sanctum, Le’ Reaper lays waste to all using his virtuosic gift. In the end, wielding a keen perspective the introspective rhymer sits within the eye of the storm stating, “Free clothes, kill shows, only twenty years old/ Living my dreams while you sleeping on me.”
CaRee Rajae’s Home
Wrapping the shoot for the evening, our hosts welcomed us in to their residence extending their hospitality and providing us with rooms and beds to stay in. I can’t speak for Yates, but it felt like the come up.
Putting away our gear, we met J.K. and Angel in the studio to talk rap music, videos we liked and check out some of his unreleased, more playful musings. With a long day of shooting ahead, Yates and myself headed off to get rest. The Sploosh God had other plans, heading off into the night quite possibly for some Tumblr Pussy.
From his recently released Almost Angelic EP, Tumblr Pussy expounds upon the albums central theme. Entranced with the feel of the female form, Le’ Reaper’s recent project is an ode to carnal calamity rapping “Dammit I hate her smile/ Fuck it I love her style/ Wishing she was here right now…” on Tumblr Pussy.
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park DAY 1 CONTINUED
As we left the first location we’d picked, we had the opportunity to talk about some of his favorite artist’s like Crystal Castles, Curren$y and Juvenile.
JS: Who are some rappers that influence you or that you fuck with [their movement]?
J.K. : Travis Scott, I like his wave. I think Earl Sweatshirt is the best rapper, the best lyricist. Lyrics ain’t the biggest thing to me though. I used to be crazy into hip-hop and lyrics and meaning…I went to a lot of hip-hop shows and it was like, ‘Damn…’ It’s cool, but you don’t know the world outside of hip-hop and I went to L.A. and saw how they do it. Mosh pitting and playing crazy, hype shit. I was like ‘Damn, hip-hop is fucking boring.’ Lyrics is good, I mean you can write the most lyrical shit in the world, but if don’t nobody rock with it… you know what I’m saying?
Other than that I fuck with a bunch of young homies like my age. I don’t know if you ever heard of Black Kray, he’s from [Washington] D.C. I fuck with his music. Goth Money Records…I been listening to this dude Trap Sensei a lot. I’m a big fan of the wave. I wouldn’t call it a hipster wave, that’s kinda ass. I don’t know, I just see a new wave of rap emerging. It’s less corny, less Gucci glasses, more tie-dye t-shirts and shit like that.
JS: What about outside of hip-hop? Is there anything I should check out?
J.K. : Crystal Castles, all their albums. They only got three albums out. I just like dope, little dumb shit. For example, their first album is called I. The second album was called II. Their third album is called III and that’s just hot to me. Like FKA Twigs, she just released her first album and it’s called LP1.
I was mad as hell when I saw Death Grips broke up, but Cerebral Ballzy, Suicidal Tendencies, Iron Maiden, Trash Talk…it’s a lot of bands I fuck with. S- Rock…a couple singers, this girl Marz Leon is dope. I like what’s her name…Banks! My favorite though is Crystal Castles. Alice Glass bruh…that’s my dream girl man, but she would think I was such a piece of shit if I met her. Like, ‘Is that a fucking tie-dye bucket hat?! Fuck outta here!’
JS: What makes her, or Crystal Castles, and other artists stand out to you?
J.K. : For one, they don’t give a fuck. How they dress…I read an article on Alice Glass and she was like, ‘I don’t care about clothes. I don’t have clothes. All the clothes I have I got from my grandma when she died.’ But they were talking to her about fashion and she was like, fuck fashion, my clothes are really old and they stink. Shit like that’s sick to me though. Her live performances…she broke her leg and still did the tour with a boot on her foot, still crowd surfing, moshing and shit with a fucking broke leg. When she be arguing with people that’s fucking dope to me. Some dude tried to grab her titty and she was in the crowd like ‘Stop fucking with me! If you touch my tit again, I will fucking kill you!’
Guilford National Military Park DAY 3: August 4th, 2014
Our third day of shooting began in a heavily wooded area, shooting a few short sequences over the course of an hour and a half. We were the most lively characters there and it definitely drew some attention from the groundskeeper and other visitors. Due to the sensitivity/sentimentality of the area, the shoot was all business in order to get the required shots without getting kicked out.
Abandoned Battleground Rd. Apartments
The second setting found us in a dilapidated apartment complex with Yates, Le’ Reaper and myself accompanied by Kane. The FANG brothers having released a video to their track “CLOUDSHYT” this past June. CLOUDSHYT’s vibe is one of lucidity as the hazy electronic organ creates the setting for a chronic induced introspection. The track is laced with clever wordplay as the cohorts deliver a sonic smoke session. Music to chill to, and a wave all their own.
The buildings stood raw in the sunlight, charred and heavily ashed from some great blaze of fire. A place mostly forgotten by the city, though least of all by the members of its community. During this portion of production we were graced with the presence of two police officers inquiring as to whether or not we knew the lore of the neighborhood.
After our initial encounter with a pistol gripping bumpkin, I was expecting we were in for more of the same. Inquiring the nature of our business, they then questioned if we understood the nature of the neighborhood we were in. None of us were unfamiliar nor stranger to the conditions. Realizing this the officers took down our identification in the event we were jammed up and proceeded to lurk around or look for those who were.
Returning to J.K.’s place, we waited to secure the truck we were borrowing for the last sequence only to find out it had fallen through again. Nonetheless, with a key phone call placed earlier in the day Le’ Reaper secured a pistol for the shoot and rallied a few of his FANG brothers and Angel to meet at his place.
Deciding to break for a bite to eat, crunch time grew near for securing a flat bed truck and finding a bonfire location. A decision was made to rent a U-Haul and head to our next location off Huffine Farm Rd. in Gibsonville, NC while the bonfire location was to be held at their brother Zoo’s house.
Working with expedience in the failing light, several passes were made to ensure there would be extra takes. Unparalleled professionalism prevailed once again knocking out the key shots in an hours time.
After wrapping on the shoot, the plan in play was to reconvene at Zoo’s house for the final shot.
Zu Mal’s House
Arriving to a packed house, almost the entire FANG family was present for the final shot minus Clint and Austin. It was a warm welcome as we were treated to refreshments and spirits as guests. Lively conversation filled the air as J.K. warmed up at the sight of his family coming together again. Sparking a fire in no time with a quick run through the choreography, we wrapped the shoot in the following hour.
Throughout the evening Zu’s family welcomed us with refreshments, including some spirits they produce through their Caribbean catering company, SoBa Hospitality. The drink was DirtyH20, pronounced dirty water, an orange tinged cocktail the viscosity of a slushee in a mason jar. It’s a stout drink, so much that you will taste the smell, but I’ve been a fiend for it ever since.
It was/is important to stay sober during production, but with with the final shot being set up, we indulged with a toast welcoming us into their family. It was a great experience and something bigger than a music video had occurred. A community had stepped up to support each other with an, “all ships rise” mentality.
As we wrapped the shoot and packed the gear, we thanked our gracious hosts as they imparted mutual blessings upon us before we went our separate ways.
Guilford Courthouse National Military DAY 1: CONTINUED
Noting his love for dumbed down rap due to the level of energy they create, J.K. and Clint provided insight into the struggle to please the fans while having fun making music. Case in point may be “30mexicans” featuring the character Yung Splooshy described as a “dumbass dusty ass single” found on My World Is Silent. It’s a fun track and the realization that J.K. is good enough to dick around and still create melodies is dope.
JS: What’s it like having fans? I mean, that’s something I can’t personally relate to or understand, so how was that the first time somebody came up to you and recognized you for your music?
J.K. : Man, that shit is awkward as fuck…it’s awkward because I don’t know them. I don’t want to be an asshole, but it’s like what do I talk to you about? At first I didn’t know how to handle it, I would just sit there quiet. They’d be like, ‘Yo! J.K., what’s up!’ and I’d be like, ‘Wassup.’ What do we talk about now? Now I understand as an entertainer you gotta…like, that’s what we do man. Despite what the fuck anyone calls it, we’re just entertainers. On some shit like that, I just make them comfortable and talk about whatever the fuck. I try not to talk about music because it’s always the same conversation with the music like, ‘Would you do a song with Kendrick Lamar’? ‘What’s the next mixtape you droppin’?
It’s always the same shit, so I try to talk about other things like where they got their shoes from.
One of the things that pisses me off is that people can’t really know you through your music, know what I’m sayin? People don’t realize I’m goofy as shit in real life bruh. For example, I was doing a show in Texas and some dudes was like, ‘We going to the store J.K., you want anything’? I was like, ‘Yo, get me a FUZE,’ and they was like ‘FUZE? You don’t want any liquor‘? I’m like, ‘Bruh, I’m high already and drunk. Get me a tea!’ I’m normal…I will throw up just like you will bruh, let me chill. I used to not be like this though…I was weird man. Social situations used to make me nervous.
JS: I mean being on stage and all now, do you think you grew out of that?
J.K. : I just went through a phase…I had lived in the same neighborhood for fourteen years and all I knew was those people. I knew that side of town, the neighborhood and that those were my friends. Then I moved to this side of town and I didn’t know nobody, I ain’t have no friends. It made go through a phase where I hated people and just didn’t care what people were talking about, I used to get picked on and it made me just hate mothafuckas.
Then I went through a phase where I was like, ‘Man, I love the world,’ and it put me in a bad position…fucking with snake ass niggas. You all positive like, ‘I love you guys,’ while mothafuckas is in your pockets. It made me find a medium. It was like alright I can be the cool dude, I can show love to everybody, but I will slap your ass.
JS: Did you write a lot back then?
J.K. : Hell yea man. As soon as I got home from school I’d play some beats…fucking write my life away. I used to write songs and not record them.
FANG family shows get live, so far as to getting kicked out of venues. With his honesty being taken abrasively, earlier in the year J.K. addressed the current clique-y trend at one of the Ill Life shows.
Stopping the show to send rounds into the passive spectators standing stiffly in the back. From wallflowers too afraid to step forward and show love to the cowards projecting their own dissatisfaction outwardly with a message.
“You niggas come here and don’t show no fucking love! Why would you come to a show and stand in the back like a dumbass when you could be up front!?”…amongst other things.
While the young emcee’s message was supported by the crowd, the likes of individuals such as these don’t handle that same type of truth well in public or private social scenarios. In a poverty stricken community, your reputation is all you have. Recognized nationwide for their music, their success is not always greeted at home on the same wave length. Rejecting the images of the Battleground Rd. apartments and refusing to become a dream deferred, the new C9 artist has forever pledged allegiance to Fuck A Name Gang.
Guilford National Military Park DAY 1: CONTINUED
As we finished up our re-shoot, Le Reaper provided playful banter giving his unique perspective on: skateboarding and individuals from poverty stricken communities referencing pro skateboarder Antwuan Dixon. Imparting wisdom from his FANG brother, Austin Strayhorn, currently incarcerated.
J.K. : I would love to see somebody bring the hood and skateboarding together…hood niggas stop killing and all become skaters. That would be crazy. Have dudes like, ‘Bruh I’m bout to goddamn hit da pawk. Bout to hit da pawk bro on errythang. Man, I just got these new bearin’s on this bowd. Bout to get right. Fuck da club, I’m boutta’ shred.’
JS: You got a great head on your shoulders, for whatever that’s worth, but do you read or listen to…what kind of stuff do you intake?
J.K. : I used to just sit in the dark a lot. At my house, I used to just look up shit. I used to read…I didn’t just watch movies, I would study them…I studied directors. That’s when I was in the cave, before I had friends and shit. I guess when I started making friends and coming out of that I just had a different perspective…I don’t know.
When I’m out, I’m not just out, I’m paying attention to everything. Like right now I’m looking at every single one of these people and it’s just crazy, their path. These people are so normal right now, but I pay attention. That’s why it was kind of awkward when fans would come up because they would ask me shit about me and it’s like, ‘Yo, you know me, but who are you’? Like I want to ask [too]…I want to know.
I want to go to places where I have no idea how things work and learn…like I want to go to Moscow just to see how people there move and fit in with it.
JS: Going from being nervous [social situations] to your first performance to now having stage presence, what has changed? Are there things you enjoy doing when you perform or is it…I read some artist say they don’t even remember what they did.
J.K. : Yea, exactly. Once you get to that point you killing shit because that’s how it is for me now. It’s just natural, you’re not thinking about it. You just black out…you be wildin’. What helped me learn a lot was watching the ass mothafucka’s opening up. I observe a lot so I’m like, ‘Alright, what’s wrong with this guy’s performance? He’s standing in one spot and he’s staring at the floor.’ So, when I do my performance, I’m going to stare at these people straight in their eyes and move around like a maniac. And it works out.
Once I did that *tour with Bones that’s when I learned…like I never crowd surfed before, never been in a mosh pit before, never jumped in the crowd. None of that shit ’cause North Carolina don’t do that. Once I realized it, I was like ‘Oh Shit! I’m on to something.’ It made me realize I love this shit bruh ’cause my first time crowd surfing it was by accident. I fell off stage…and I thought I was going to hit the floor. This dude was like, ‘We Got You!’ “cause I did that whole tour drunk out of my mind because I missed my friends…crowd surfed by accident.
*Legends Of The Underground Tour 2013; Liquid– Bones ft. J.K. The Rapper **Photography by Carter Short III