About 18 years ago, in December of 1997, I had a conversation on my ‘land-line’ (phone) that led to something epic in the history of Hip Hop. At the time, I was the cameraman, host, producer and editor of what was called Shades of Hip Hop video mixtape documentaries. It was a video mixtape when there was no such thing yet. However, in November, just a couple of weeks earlier, we received some love in the 2nd issue of a brand new hip-hop magazine called XXL. Most people never heard of it, but someone in Wyclef’s Refugee Camp had and also being Jersey residents, they decided to get in contact with us for some upcoming promotion. John Forte’s first solo album ‘Poly-sci’ was being finished and they wanted all the promotion they could get to boost visibility of the project.
So one day in early December 1997, one of my partners at the time Marcus Blassingame (Blass), got John Forte on the phone for a three-way conversation. He wanted to know if we would videotape some sessions in the studio with him for the next Shades of Hip Hop tape, but honestly, I wasn’t interested in more studio footage. We stayed in the studio recording emcees and producers already. I wanted to do something different. Forte revealed that his schedule included a sit-down with the Village Voice and some other artists. A sit-down interview in NYC sounded interesting to me, so I asked if we could record that instead of the studio session. Forte agreed, but insisted he call the reporter on his three-way to confirm, which he did. Soon, there were four of us on the phone; me, Blass, Forte and the Village Voice reporter known only by one name, Toure.
I explained who Shades of Hip Hop was and as it turns out, he was already familiar because of the XXL article and watching our tapes which were sold in every New York borough by record stores and bootleg movie dealers. He agreed to let me bring the camera down and because of that phone call, people can now watch what happened when DMX, Big Pun, Canibus, Mos Def, John Forte and Mic Geronimo got together one afternoon about one week later on December 18, 1997. That conversation is the subject of a commemorative piece I have been working on recently. The piece is an original, computer-aided design of the ‘Roundtable Cypher’. The shot doesn’t really exist as it’s depicted, but is instead a composite of 3 different frames of video. To date, I have only seen one shot of everyone at the table at the same time which was taken by the Village Voice photographer.
The style of the piece is abstract and a bit basic to some, but it captures a very unique moment in Hip Hop history that many of you have seen a portion of…