Initially Shades of Hip Hop started as a video mix tape/documentary of the Hip Hop Kulture that showcased unsigned talent, underground media and new music in the mid 1990’s. We were the first producers to popularize street cyphers, behind the scenes interviews, on-location performances, and round table discussions about Hip Hop to be distributed coast to coast. In fact we didn’t start on DVD, our first projects were on VHS tape which was the dominate format at the time in NYC. After receiving recognition in the second issue of XXL magazine in November of 1997(Redman Cover), we went on to complete 8 volumes by the year 2000. This was before the craze for underground DVDs really began.
We didn’t fully participate in this new brand DVD because it accentuated the worst elements of what we had created. Yes, we showed artists smoking weed, drug dealers posted up on the block breaking into freestyle sessions as they peddled crack and dope to fiends and even lock-door stripper exhibitionists from time to time on Shades of Hip Hop. But honestly, it was all just incidental as we sought to capture the real life aspects of Hip Hop at the time. Our true focus was to represent a behind the scenes look at our culture and promote creative underground talent that was being ignored by mainstream media. In fact, we really began as a local NJ cable show done in the spirit of Ralph McDaniels Video Music Box. The footage we showed on the documentaries was just all the material that was too explicit to air on local cable without being censored.
Before the movie The Show and its sequel, before Smack DVD and All Access DVD and before the Beef series we had done all of that. Truthfully, we had already seen the effect of rappers committing acts of violence on one another over things they said on a Shades of Hip Hop tape. Undercover police had told me of how they used my tapes to get evidence on drug dealers who flashed money and weed while making transactions in neighborhoods that they recognized. And although I enjoyed videotaping sexy women as much as the next man enjoyed watching it, I didn’t want to create a soft or hardcore sex tape series like my partner at the time eventually did. Our intention was to highlight what we considered to be real Hip Hop. So even though, we had hours of classic Hip Hop material including Jay-Z before he dropped Streets Is Watching and became Jigga, Nore when he was in the studio making his debut solo album N.O.R.E. with a young 50 Cent before he got shot, Canibus spitting the infamous ‘Second Round KO’ verse for the first time, DMX after his first single dropped, Big Pun at the height of his fame, and on and on we stopped making Shades of Hip Hop videos. To me, Hip Hop was going in the wrong direction.
Instead of feeding into the promotion of more ignorance, we fell back. We got into individual artist and event promotion. We showed others how to create their own independent projects and helped artists promote their careers independently with the creation of their own CDs, flyers, T-shirts etc. Then, in 2006 we resurfaced with shadesradio.com and began our own 24 hour internet radio station. Again we showcased underground talent and developed new formats that would show a more cultured side of Hip Hop, this time for radio. A part of our formatting on shadesradio.com brought us to cover the underground music scene in New York City. With email blasts we would capture the behind the scenes lifestyle of the urban music scene, visually. In 2008, as we continued to highlight underground talent, promoters and producers we encountered KRS ONE in an in depth conversation for the first time since 1995 (@D&D Studios). Soon we started an intense Hip Hop development course and promotional campaign that led us to playing a key role in promoting the most important book ever written about Hip Hop consciousness thus far, The Gospel of Hip Hop by KRS ONE.
Our travels promoting the Gospel of Hip Hop and The Stop the Violence Movement across the United States lead to my role originally as Marketing Director for the Temple of Hip Hop and now Exec Archivist for the on-line gallery of Hip Hop Kulture (hiphoplives.net). With hiphoplives.net as one of the many tools promoting the culture of Hip Hop, we have been able to make connections in many countries around the World. This we call the True School University Worldwide Cypher. With our 3-hour sessions, we aided this collective of Hiphoppas in maintaining a productive, positive Hiphop lifestyle. This inspiration allows them to participate with like-minded individuals in a completely digital environment through a chat room and streaming video feed each week. The sessions have even led to musical collaborations, video and event productions.
One such event is the annual Hip Hop Appreciation Week celebration which has been a growing experience that promotes the positive aspects of all 9 Elements of the culture. Each year in various locations around the globe, new people have been inspired by our work to participate in similar positive events which we showcased collectively in 2011’s first issue of 9 Elements Digital Magazine. This monthly, digital publication is a repository of pictures, video and information about Hip Hop Kulture as well as an outlet for information affecting the Hiphop community normally left unreported in the media.
The magazine is produced by Target Media Group LLC, the umbrella design company which is used to create all the graphic layouts. Besides creating the magazine, TMG has been responsible in the past, for editing and designing the largest independent urban periodicals in NJ including Twin Visions, the Essex Times, Local Talk and the Christian Observer. In the entertainment field, TMG has created countless promotions for artists, party planners, radio stations and deejays since 1998.