Interview with Photographer and Art Director Mathieu Bitton

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You may not be familiar with the name Mathieu Bitton but chances are that you’ve seen his work before. Mathieu is a modern day renaissance man. He is a photographer, art director, film maker, globe trotter and father. The Grammy nominated artist has had work featured in numerous magazines, album covers, music and movie posters, coffee table books, packaging, merchandise and of course photography exhibits. He is also a Leica Cameras ambassador and official tour photographer of Lenny Kravitz and has also been hanging out with Dave Chappelle quite a bit lately.

I have been following Mathieu’s work for the past few years so when I saw that Lenny Kravitz was billed to be one of the headliners at this year’s Bourbon and Beyond music festival in Louisville the very first thing I did was reach out to Mathieu to see if he would be coming along and willing to meet up.

I see photographers make the same mistakes all the time and I’ve seen it here today where they will just walk up and start shooting. There’s no bridge, no preparation, there’s no making someone comfortable or even introducing yourself
— Mathieu Bitton

Aaron Paschal: Thank you for taking time out to meet with me. I’ve been a fan of your work for quite some time so it’s great to be able to sit and chat with you.

You’ve been REALLY busy lately and you recently did the cover shoot for Lenny Kravitz’s new album “Raise Vibration.” What’s that experience been like for you?

Mathieu Bitton: It’s been really cool. I’ve been working with Lenny for right about a decade now and although I shot all of the inside photos and back cover for his “Black and White America” album he used an old childhood photo for the front cover so this is actually the first time having a front album cover with Lenny.

We did the shoot it in the Bahamas without even really thinking about the album. We were just hanging out on the beach and we were taking photos and playing around and then we looked at the back of the camera and were like, “that’s it, that’s the album cover!” I’ve found that that’s the way the best stuff happens, when things just fall into place. So it’s been pretty exciting to finally have a Lenny Kravitz album that’s been all of my photography and design from cover to cover.

AP: I can tell that you enjoy that process.

MB: Definitely. I’ve shot and designed a lot of album covers for other people so it was only right that I finally did one for Lenny. I’ve pretty much done all of his singles but this except for the last album, “that was another photographer” but all of the singles from “Black and White in America” and all of the deluxe editions were done by me.

AP: I see that you were listed in the credits on the last two Prince releases “Purple Rain Deluxe” and “Piano and a Microphone 1983.”

MB: Yes, helping out in these releases has been a dream come true. I knew Prince and had worked on a couple of his projects in the past. He was my favorite artist of all time and I’m still completely heartbroken about his passing so that’s a tough one. I hope that more of his amazing, unreleased music like this will eventually become available because there’s a lot to be heard.

AP: Are there any other album design projects that you have in the works?

MB: I also just designed 2-LP deluxe vinyl reissues of Lenny Kravitz’s first six albums, with more on the way, as well as several deluxe editions of “Raise Vibration.” Other new vinyl releases I’m excited about having designed are both of James Brown’s Classic Blaxploitation soundtracks “Black Caesar” and “Slaughter’s Big Rip Off,” the Willie Hutch soundtrack to the legendary Pam Grier films “Foxy Brown” and Roy Ayers - penned “Coffy” as well as the previously unreleased Velvet Underground 2LP “1969” and the related Nico album “Chelsea Girl.”

AP: You are ALWAYS on the grind. What keeps you going?

MB: I love what I do so that’s the only thing that keeps me from going insane. I am at the point now where I really need a break but I’m out photographing Lenny’s tour which is a relatively short tour that only runs a couple of weeks and then I’m supposed to go to Europe with Dave Chappelle and Jon Stewart. Once that’s done I’m thinking I may get to spend a little time at home. So far this year I have not been able to spend more than two weeks there at once. Last year was similar too. I’m so grateful that I just look at things and see myself as the lucky one. Yeah, I’m out of shape and a little exhausted but I’ll find time to catch up.

AP: One thing that jumps out to me is the relationships that you seem to have with the celebrities and people that you work with. When I look on social media they don’t just “tag” you in the pictures but quite often they post pictures of you, or with you and it’s obvious that there’s a genuine level of respect and friendship. Can you talk about how important it is to establish those type of relationships?

 MB: What sets photographers apart is being able to establish good, friendly relationships with the people that you work with. You want them to be comfortable with you. I see photographers make the same mistakes all the time and I’ve seen it here today where they will just walk up and start shooting. There’s no bridge, no preparation, there’s no making someone comfortable or even introducing yourself. This generation that we are in now with the selfies and photos every five seconds there’s no boundaries for capturing “moments.” So you need to actually respect the people that you’re shooting and at the same time with me I’ll speak for myself, “I have a lot of gratitude for just being there.” The fact that they trust me and the fact that they brought me somewhere and gave me access to photograph moments for them; I want to give them the best possible work based on that and they appreciate that.

Dave Chappelle mentioned my name in his Netflix special and I was completely blown away by that. But there’s a reason for that. Over time you establish a mutual respect for one another and I don’t look at it as business from that point. It becomes more of a friendship and we just happen to be working together but it’s friendship first. I think that shows in my work as well because people are more relaxed and they give you more access to certain situations. My relationship with Dave Chappelle is another example of that. He’s a private guy and doesn’t really allow any photographers at his shows. All of a sudden we developed this relationship and I’m given all of this access.

My friend, the legendary D-Nice is a great Leica photographer who’s been shooting there with Dave for years before me and the greatest harmonica player in the world - Fred Yonnet who I refer to as my photography student – “and he has a great eye” both have full access to shoot Dave as well. So it’s a small group of us and I have nothing but gratitude for that. Fred was actually shooting Nikon when were at Radio City Music Hall last year but I turned him onto Leica and so now he’s loving it. So there’s a few of us that Dave will allow to shoot but that’s also based on the results. If somebody sees your work and they’re not impressed they are not going to waste their precious time so I constantly have to deliver my best possible work.

Last week I had a totally impromptu shoot that I wasn’t really prepared for. I was asked to come by the Peppermint Club in Los Angeles. I didn’t know what was going on so I just grabbed my Leica Q, which is a great camera but I use it more for backstage photos or just running around. It’s not my big camera that I use. Along with Dave, LeBron James, Jon Stewart, Katt Williams and all these big names were there and on top of all of that Will Smith did his first ever stand-up comedy show. So I felt a little handicapped. I had all of this incredible stuff in front of me and there I was shooting with this 28mm lens. In the end they are all looking at my images saying “wow these photos are great!” But I’m sitting there totally insecure. I’m thinking I fucked up; I should have had my Leica SL “my big camera.” But hey, you win some you lose some. We still got some cool stuff. That’s one of the things that I love about working with people like Dave, and Prince was like that too; you never know what’s going to happen and that keeps me on my toes!

AP: That’s great to be creatively pushed and challenged like that. I’ve watched you shoot before. It was at Dave Chappelle’s Juke Joint in Yellow Springs, OH earlier this year. For those that don’t know this event goes on until nobody’s standing!

 MB: Yes! I came in from Paris that day where I was at the rehearsals for Lenny Kravitz’s tour. I got off the plane and went straight to the gig so I had been up all night. I think by the time I got back to Paris I realized that I had been up four days straight. So yeah, it’s a demanding gig but they are so much fun because you never know who’s going to be there or what’s going to happen.

AP: Do you have a bucket list of people that you would like to photograph?

MB: It’s funny, my sorta bucket list is always Jack White. Well I recently designed a poster for his tour. So I was like okay, “that was another dream come true.” But he’s one that’s definitely one that was on my bucket list so hopefully I’ll get to photograph him some day.

I have had the opportunity to shoot so many artists and people that were on my wish list in the last couple of years it’s been crazy. I would like to do a proper shoot with Jay-Z. As far as portraits Larry David and Woody Allen are two people that I would like to sit down and do portraits of. I’ve shot a lot of comedians but those two are musts! Woody is getting up there in age now so…

AP: Have you tried reaching out to them?

MB: I tend to let things like that happen naturally or if something opens up I find ways to make it happen. Melvin Van Peebles had always been someone that I wanted to photograph and things worked out where I got to go to his place and shoot him so that was amazing. That happened completely naturally through a friend of mine that used to be married to Mario Van Peebles. Their son was going to visit Grandpa Melvin and she said, “hey maybe you should grab your camera and go along.” That ended up being a dream come true for me.

AP: What advice would you give to aspiring music photographers?

MB: If you play your cards right things have a tendency to fall into place. It’s that whole Laws of Attractions. If you’re on the right path and you do what you should do and you’re not lazy a lot of things will come your way. I’ve found that a lot of people are just lazy. I get a lot of messages from people complaining about my son Miles. He’s 18 and just went off to college but he trained with me and he’s becoming a great photographer in his own rights. I get people complaining that it’s not fair, that it’s nepotism - I’m like what!? “He’s my kid, it’s my responsibility to show him things I know and I want to hang out with him.” He’s not even trying to be a photographer but he’s been able to get some great shots just from going to events with me. Now Miles is off in college I look at his instagram account and he’s getting the most amazing photos. So he’s on his own now and that’s great! If you are real and honest and grateful things do fall into place.

AP: So with all of the things that you have on your plate do you do all of your post work “edits” on your photos?

MB: I do all of my post work and I do it quick! “laughs.” I boost a few levels in Lightroom and then I’m done. Sometimes it’s exhausting and I’m like wow, “how am I going to work my way through these images.” Like last week at the Peppermint. I had traveled from Paris to New York, back to Los Angeles, back to New York, back to Los Angeles. So I was tired and wondering how am I going to find time to edit all of these images tonight. The thing is that there were a couple other people that were there shooting as well so it’s competitive. So I was thinking that if I don’t do mine right now those other photographer’s images are going to be out first. Usually when I’m working with Dave I’m the only photographer shooting for the sake of press but that night Will Smith had a guy there shooting as well so I was like “oh shit, I have to get these ready!” and like I said I was already insecure about not having the right camera.

AP: I actually became aware of your work and started keeping up with you a couple of years ago when I came across your Darker Than Blue project. I was on Instagram and Leica posted these amazing black and white images that captivated me. I called the Leica Store in Los Angeles to order the book and you just so happened to be there. We spoke on the phone briefly and you signed my copy of the book. What’s going on with Darker Than Blue now and do you plan on doing more projects like that?

MB: You’re lucky, those things sold-out quick! I actually saw one on eBay that sold for a couple hundred bucks and I thought that was crazy. I’m working with a publisher now to publish a proper copy sometime soon but that edition that you have is a rare one and I’m glad that you got a copy!

Darker Than Blue is an ongoing project that I’m continuously adding to. I keep getting asked to do music exhibitions which I may do eventually but I feel like I’m not done with Darker Than Blue yet. It’s a traveling exhibition so now it’s in Germany and then I think it’s going to Shanghai and Singapore and like I said I keep adding pictures to it. Once I do the big book and I feel satisfied that I’m done then I do a exhibit with images from my music photography. But Darker Than Blue is such a passion project that I’ll probably just keep shooting sand adding to it. There’s so many beautiful people. I grew up in Paris and Paris is the place that opened it’s heart to jazz and embraced black culture at a time when guys like Miles Davis and Dexter Gordon couldn’t even use certain restrooms in America. They were treated like Gods in France so I feel like that’s in my blood. I grew up on black music, black films; so I appreciate black culture. I think the karma in that is that now I get to photograph and hang out with my favorite artists. When the Chappelle show was out that was like religion for me. I was like “I can’t go anywhere or do anything tonight! I gotta watch The Chappelle show!” So now if I go back to myself at that time, watching Dave Chappelle, Questlove, John Mayer, Mos Def and all of those people on the Chappelle Show and realizing that now I’ve literally worked with and became friends with all of them, it’s kind of surreal. I’ve had that a lot in my life and the only way that I can describe it is pure passion. It’s not always about money or saying I’m not gonna do some big project that I’m not going to get paid for it. With me it’s all about passion. Sometimes you get paid what you deserve, sometimes you do it just because you want to do it and sometimes you just want to help someone out.

The success is to not have rules. The only rules you have are boundaries and respect. Some people respect you and when people try to start cutting corners that’s when you know it’s not going to work. So knowing who you are and your value as a photographer is important. Sometimes it doesn’t seem real. I’m humbled when people send me messages or stop me on the streets. I look at them like “I think you got the wrong guy.” I’m glad because I don’t want to be like Kanye West about it. I don’t want to be like “yeah my shit is dope!” To me that’s the best shit in the world - when people let you know that they appreciate your work. But I realize that the subject plays a role in it too so it’s a combination of things. It drives me a little crazy when I see people taking themselves so seriously. We all can do it. Creating a way to get the access is the main thing; creating that trust.

AP: What do you hope to achieve “creatively” in the next twelve months?

MB: That’s a really good question. I’m just finishing up another documentary a film of Lenny Kravitz about his new album “Raise Vibration.” I think I’m going to get more into film work. Maybe features, I don’t know if that will happen within a year but it’s definitely a big dream of mine to make a feature film. Just keep growing. But that’s such a good question because I don’t even know what the universe has in store for me. I like to have some published books.

AP: I’m sure you get asked this question a lot but of all of the concerts and events that you have captured which one is your favorite or stands out to you the most?

MB: Wow! Well Dave’s stand at Radio City Music Hall for a whole month last year was the most insane experience of my life. Being on tour with Lenny there’s been some shows where I’ve been blown away. But there’s not one specific show that I can point back to. The other night at the Peppermint Club I left there thinking “wow, this may be the best night of my life” but that was just the latest time I said that. (Laughs.) Seeing Will Smith do stand-up for the first time in his life was crazy AND to get to shoot it was amazing. And he was funny. LeBron was funny too. I had already shot LeBron with Dave before about a year and a half ago but Dave brings that out in people. He has that talent to make other people feel like they have a little bit of “funny” in them and he knows how to bring it out of them.

AP: I want to thank you once again for taking time to talk with me and CincyMusic, we appreciate you!

MB: Thank you, I appreciate you and your interest in my work and I’ll see you out there shooting!

 

Visit Mathieu Bitton’s website: mathieubitton.fr to keep up with his work and be sure to follow him on instagram as well: @candytman

vision quest

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it seems like every fall for the past few years i've made a point to kind of unplug from the world and get lost in my own personal hopes and dreams. to spend time on things in my personal and business life that i've put on the back burner in order to take care of everyone else.

this past saturday morning i grabbed a couple of my cameras and headed out to get lost. somehow i ended up on a rooftop in downtown dayton where i took in the views, snapped a few pictures and more importantly had a long conversation with myself. i thought about where i am in life versus where i want/need to be. i thought about changes/enhancements that i want to make with my brand, relationships in my life that i need to either nurture or bring to an end. i visualized my photography book, came up with a deadline to bring all of the images together, planned personal projects that will both challenge and enhance my current skillset... like i said, "i had a long conversation with myself!"

on the rooftop i gave my imagination freedom to roam without interruption or judgement. i enjoyed the morning breeze, i reconnected with myself. being alone on that rooftop provided me personal time and space that has eluded me for quite sometime. i'm rejuvenated and excited about where i'm headed in life. winter is coming... i plan on bringing the heat! 

In The Pines with Fantastic Negrito

Fantastic Negrito interview

when i was in louisville to cover bourbon and beyond i had a chance to sit down and talk to grammy award winner - fantastic negrito. we talked music, comebacks and collaborations. It’s hard for me to categorize his music; though my one and only attempt would be: DOPE! If by chance you have not heard his the last days of oakland album i suggest you do so quick, fast and in a hurry! i definitely suggest bangin’; in the pines, hump Thru the Winter, about a Bird, lost in a crowd, rant rushmore… well just play the whole album!

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will you describe your style of music to people who may be unaware of who you are?

FN: i describe my style as black’s roots for everyone.  edgy, raw, blues with a punk attitude. like i have all those mixtures… blues, funk, rock, punk, soul – it’s an amazing garden to pick from.

so you KILLED it on stage! they loved you…

FN: i know how to do a show! that’s what i think i’m best at. I’m a songwriter and a showman!

as an artist it’s tempting to settle into a comfort zone and do “what’s working.” how do you avoid that trap?

FN: my comfort zone is to be uncomfortable. i like to be challenged and to be a contributor. to do this music with the intention of contributing usually works out well.

who are some artists you have worked with recently?

FN: i did a song with zz ward called cannonball that we performed here today and i also worked with mistah f.a.b. and zion i on the oakland resist-mix.

do you have any other collaborations in the works or better yet is there an artist that you’re itching to work with?

FN: i’m on tour with sturgill simpson i think we’ll definitely do a collab, i think we’re definitely gonna cook something up, we keep talking about it.

i’m going to just throw this out there and i know it doesn’t mean anything but i’d love to see you do something with gary clark jr.

FN: i have something in the works with gary clark jr. it’s just a matter of if he gets to it. there’s a song called chronic pain, i don’t know if he’s gonna get on it or not but i hope so.

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do you mind speaking on your past and how it impacts your music?

FN: sure, the road that i’ve traveled… man the things that don’t break us down makes us stronger. my story goes in three phases. i started off wanting to be some big star - got signed to a label for a million bucks. the second phase is losing all of that. i was driving down the street one day in los angeles and i simply woke up three days later i was in a coma, lost my playing hand and then i delved into the underground music life, ran a few afterhours and illegal night clubs - that was fun. and I had a lot of incarnations i had stuff like chocolate butterfly, blood Sugar – i was just having fun then i decided to quit/retire i sold all of my stuff because I never thought that I would play again. i went up to oakland, ca my hometown and decided to become a cannabis farmer.  got out of music for five years and then boom! came back as fantastic negrito. i came back and those have been my three different phases, going out and then coming back and i think that’s okay. it’s okay to quit, put something down for a little while.

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what brought you back to music?

FN:  well i had a son. my son brought me back. i couldn’t put him to sleep one day and i just had a raggedy guitar hanging around the house and i just picked it up and played like a g major and that changed the course of my life because his reaction to it was so beautiful that i decided maybe there’s something to this music. so i slowly started playing again and came up with fantastic negrito and i haven’t looked back.

you can follow fantastic negrito’s journey on his website: fantasticnegrito.com as well as instagram: @fantasticnegrito and on twitter: @musicnegrito

The love and theory listening party

by leroy bean

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welcome to the center of my imagination; the color spectrum of my feels. where I gave my all in every piece of it or chose the right people that could bring it to life. nathan tipton a.k.a. junior astronaut was the executive producer on the album. i knew with his imagination, good ear, and taste in music he was the perfect person to create the sound for this album. from the very first recording session all the way to the end, it was almost too easy the way it came together. my favorite track we did, because of its complexity, is "women is/what is god". if it isn't bad enough that it's a pantoum poem (look it up) with color coded lines to create five poems in one, nathan brought the colors to sounds. so every color and every line was given a note and just so happened to come out beautiful when we played it. also since a pantoum plays on repetition he created a voice effect for each line, so you will notice lines that share the same vocal effect, are the lines that repeat. then the transition into "What is god" was so perfect! even though we did both tracks at separate times.

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my brother matthew vaughn from underdog academy (ua) also has one of my favorite parts on the project. in the track "slippery slope" nathan got an idea to sample matt's vocals from his song "dream factory" on soundcloud, as well as some left over sax from a session with ric sexton. slippery slope instantly became a favorite for me. speaking of ric sexton, his place on the album was perfect as well; from "thank god for your existence" to "do you mind, love", he really added that smooth jazzy feel that i wanted. i love the sax!

and lastly my girl mariah is the featured singer on the project. when you have any type of musical project i feel like singing has to be in there somewhere! i'm a huge fan when it comes to her voice and i'm glad my project was one of the first to help her increase her confidence. my favorite from her is "what is love" because the feeling and emotion she put in that was crazy! but "what is beauty" is low key my favorite because of how smoooooooth it rides.

for this to be my first music project, i can say that i am very happy with it and I hope you enjoy it as much as me. 

what is woman?

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love yourself

by kimberly newton

she sits in silence

pondering how gracious her inner being has been to herself

she looks at everything she once believed, everything she told herself.

some good, some bad. some things she wished she never had…..said or done…..

she sits in wonder.

through her darkest days. how she was afraid to show her radiance to the world.

she sat in her loneliness. her view obscured by darkness, aphotic, lifeless.

she avoided the truth like the plague. creating illusions that haunted her. stood in her fears, crying in shame. but who’s to blame?

she aimed to claim fame, but constantly burned by her own flame. too afraid to put out the hate, scarred from her past of bad relationships. sexual involvement with multiple partners. she lay. empty

such a precious jewel but fueled by animosity of her own atrocities and the detestation of others who seemed to have hated her but only hated themselves because of their own self-projections. what a reflection.

wake up beautiful one. find your peace. not a piece. he can’t offer you anything but waste your time with lies, full of deceit all smoke and mirrors when you look, who do you see?

love yourself until you love yourself. but what does that mean?

look within goddess.

through meditation and forgiveness you’ve learned to keep pushing. reveal yourself. unveil your past. it is not your future. it does not predicate who you forever will be. don’t you see?

love

something so mundane. very easy to say but so hard to claim.

love

not what you say, but what you do. through generational curses, you can subdue the untrue you, push through... goddess.

what your mother carried in her womb has been released through you. you do not have to carry the torch of her past, pasts, pasts, transgressions and untruths.

love conquers fear

trumps guilt

overshadows hate

cures evil

transcends distress ‘til all your fears dissipates

immortalizes immortality

and circumvents your discomfort

god-dess

god…….desss

god….does

god….is

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love yourself until you love yourself

create a harmonious sound that resonates so deep within you that the heavens seep in the lives of others from the godly words that you speak. keep your waters pure and your integrity meek.

be open to love in various forms. respect yourself and all others. love does not hurt it gives joy to all your sisters and your brothers.

from your lowest esteem to your highest esteem. let your femininity shine bright. for you are wombman a goddess, you are a bringer of light.

a sexual being and a sensual being. in your totality you are truth. your truth compliments your being. from what you birth it shall never die. be the LOVE that you seek. goddess awaken. now is your reprise.

being woman is claiming your freedom!  inside and out!!!

kim is an artists of multiple talents, you can connect with her on facebook: kimberly newton and on instagram: @poetik_lioness

what is woman?

mariah

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woman is the ultimate creator.  she is the portal in which new life flows out of.  she is foundation and naturally the epitome of what is essential to world peace, love and compassion. her instinct bears nurturing tendencies while offering the perfect combination of love and discipline to a child.  to the unconditioned mind and society, woman is love, woman is perfect. i witness these attributes through my own mother and how she has chose to live her life.  whether it be unsolicited lectures, or chastisement of not fulfilling a certain responsibility around the house, she had created this balance of love, discipline, and education. 

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woman is hard and yet soft simultaneously. she has taken many blows from society’s manmade ego. her highly emotional and intuitive intelligence has been countered as weakness. it’s as though the woman’s greatest strength is what cripples her from being equal to man. but although she has survived through much oppression, her softness allows her to still love and support her oppressors. she is backbone and rib to the very thing that may drag her through mud. her tears and strength are the magical ingredients which brew her abilities to carry on and stay soft. this is a true testament to what i have personally experienced through both platonic and romantic relationships. because i feel so deeply and grounded to the forces of this universe, it makes for a very emotional spirit that can easily be looked upon as weak. i have internalized much of what this society says a woman should do, how she should look, and all around carry herself; thus subconsciously trying to align myself with these standards. just recently, about a few years ago, have i realized the true power of what it means to be woman. i think we’re pretty amazing when you strip away all the extra rules and regulations that have been put on our being. 

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woman is truth. unfortunately sometimes woman will subconsciously internalize the truth of someone else’s desires, diverting the path of her destiny. woman is pure. she releases a spirit of calmness and light into any room. she is the major attraction everywhere she goes.  Woman can tame even the roughest of seas, breaking down barriers that seek to lock her, woman is persistent.

what is woman?

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darsheel

untitled

how can i express womanhood when my mother tongue was buried?

my fluid and expansive nature

violently torn into rigid, unrecognizable, colonial binaries of

male or female/straight or gay/american or foreign/- you can only be one or the other

these are not my categories. 

this isn't my language.


i come from sovereignty.

the blood of spiritual warriors.

lioness. princess.

waheguru.


spirits of mother earth and father sky.

ancient wisdom carried through the wombs of our grandmothers
that hip hop flow, creativity, swag

remixin lands and waters, tongues and ways of knowing and being

honoring those who came before, those here now, and those to come.


my womb is connected to the moon

and the waves, they move through

let them flow, bout all i can do

and i aint got nothin left to prove

kaur is my gender identity

who i am has more to it than that

i carry all the peoples who have poured into me

i belong to the earth, not any nationality

i don't pray to other gods

def not the constitution.

 

do my best to
always serve and love

be part of the solution

i wanna be known with my complexities, not put in a box

so here it is, i share with you

some of me and my thoughts.

 

hip.hop.kaur.

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what is woman...

kali block-steele

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woman is magnificent being wrapped in the arms of the cosmos.

she is all rage and fury. all soft and secure.

she is the being that can suffer with strength and

heal with brutal truth.

 

woman is wild — even when she cowers, cornered and afraid.

woman is wild because even when she is fearful,

she is calculated and calculating.

she is planning her escape

even as she trembles under the heat of your gaze.

 

wild woman is fierce in her softness,

formidable in her ability to love.

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woman will love you freely and more fully than you have ever known

because all women are wild.

and under the heavy layers of expectation,

all women love themselves, fiercely.

 

because woman is resilient, can bear the harshest of brutalities,

locking eyes with misfortune

until it cowers in her gaze.

 

because woman knows that despite it all

she is magnificent,

queenly,

deserving of fruitful love.

 

and when she knows, nothing will stop her from living her dreams,

harvesting her fruits.

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for woman is all love, all strength, all fury, all contradiction.

all without apology.

 

she knows she owes no sorries for her unboxable truth.

The universe never apologizes for its show of beauty

or its mysterious unleashing of might.

and what is woman but star stuff?

 

she glows like galaxies in the dark of night.

she shines like gold in the amber sun of day.

 

what is woman but magic made flesh.

what is woman?

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you cute for a fat girl...

gwen

“i just don't get it... why her? You can do so much prettier and finer, so much skinnier.” I think it was this time last year when i heard that exact comment being said about me to someone i cared about, from a “friend.”

after getting out of a toxic relationship where i was made to feel I wasn’t beautiful by him and those around him, i was at my lowest last winter. i didn’t want to go out. i felt like nothing looked good on me. i didn’t even want to be around men because i felt like i knew what they were all thinking. it’s not something i chose. even though it’s something i can change. and i haven’t always been plus sized. i remember the first time my mom told me that i would need to look in the “plus sized” section for an outfit because it would fit better (in all reality I only needed an xl) and i started to cry. how crazy is that? but what i can say now, at 22 years old, is that after getting the love and support from the people i cherish the most and taking the needed amount of time to self care, i got back to that place that i was in at the beginning of 2016. it took me such a long time to realize that not being a size 2 isn’t something to be ashamed of. it took me all the way up until last year when i moved to hawaii to cherish and love myself the way i should. being in a place where full figured women were respected and worshiped
the same as petite women was so refreshing.

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but now, mid summer 2017, i’m happier than ever and i don’t think i will ever let another man or person for that matter make me feel less than for the way i look or body i have. i was SO nervous to do this and absolutely terrified to post these, but that’s what it’s all about. loving yourself. i did this photoshoot because here today, i want to start a body positivity campaign. plus size/fuller women/bodies that aren’t looked at as “sexy” in today’s society are slowly but surely getting more representation in the media/fashion industry. but i know especially here in dayton it’s not represented nearly enough. i won’t be this size forever, but it’s the body I have now. and i’ll be damned if i don’t love every
single inch and curve!

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connect with gwen:

instagram: @_gwenola + twitter: @_gwenolabar + email: cgbrown95@icloud.com

what is woman?

leroy bean

this guest blog is by leroy bean, author of the love and theory of womanology. 

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a spoken word poet  from dayton, ohio starting my new artistic journey as leroy bean. after being apart of underdog academy for over 2 years, i have had the opportunity to perform at many colleges and universities such as ohio state university, ohio dominican university, university of cincinnati and more. i was the 2017 litfest poetry slam winner for the university of dayton and was chosen to be published in both their orpheus and writ literary magazines. i am the host of the underdog academy's expressions open mic and now i am finally releasing my second chapbook - the love and theory of womanology.

this complete project includes a chapbook with 37 poems, including a 7 poem series, 16 haiku's, and a pantoum. also includes an audio book that isn't your traditional read along on tape. the audio book is all put together over instrumentals to provide a completely separate experience from the chapbook itself even though the poems have not changed. one gives you room to implement your own imagination and the other sits you in the center of my imagination and feel for the project as a whole and the individual poems.  i've always approached my poems from a different perspective; creating story's or satirical poems to get my point across.

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in december 2016 I was inspired by music, conversation, and just consistent signs pointing me down this path to create a chapbook dedicated to woman. after reaching a new point on this journey for developing a better understanding for love and compassion for all life, i realized that i have been blinded by my male privilege. from the experience as a black male in america, i have witnessed oppression first hand and was able to transfer that comprehension to the relationship between man and woman. it was made clear to me how much of a habit sexism was alone and although i did not install this way of thinking on my own, it is still my responsibility to recognized my mistakes in order to grow as a human. this lead me to build a chapbook, metaphorically giving woman the power that was bestowed upon men, "in the beginning", with genesis by characterizing god as a woman that not just created but gave birth to the universe. also emphasizing on the characteristics that woman are deemed weak for, such as their love and support. also bringing important woman characters to the forefront such as mother nature, eve, and the roll of "the mother" in american society.

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upon the ending of the books creation it dawned on me that if i really wanted to help influence as much of the community as possible then I would have to bring the book to life. this lead to the event, "what is woman?" where I teamed up with ap2 photography and ted's own big dave to help bring the vision to life; men using their platform to help bring shine to the woman's perspective and experience. although this is a release event for my new chapbook, the book is far from being the face of the event. this premium art experience showcases nothing but the strength and struggles of women. using the power of art and it's influence on people, we dedicated paintings and photo shoots to the diverse beauty of woman and counter the countless shaming that society puts on women that don't fall within it's standards. what is woman? showcases female vendors and performers to portray the wide-range of talent that women have. It will be held in a business owned by a woman to show their strength and intelligence. what is woman? will challenge the audience with that very title by having a panel discussion to assure that the voice of the woman is heard. even if it is only in front of 50 to 100 people, i know it will still be effective because at the end of the day, communication leads to solutions and  seeds will get planted to initiate a ripple of change in the minds of the future. 

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what is woman will take place satuday, september 2 at third perk coffeehouse & wine bar in downtown dayton, ohio at 7:00pm. tickets are limited and are available to purchase on eventbrite, “includes the option to preorder the book as well.” 

the anatomy of a project

announcing: what is woman

coming september 2, 2017

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for the past couple of months I have been working on a project with leroy bean “formerly hyerxconscious” and long standing member of underdog academy and big dave scott of ted (the epitome of dope) called what is woman?

 the event takes place saturday, september 2, 2017 at third perk coffee house and wine bar in dayton, oh. and will have serve as a launching point for leroy’s debut chapbook: the love and theory of womanology. the chapbook is a collection of poems that explores the beauty, power and challenges that women face in every day life.

when leroy approached me about the project and provided me with a copy of the book to review there was no doubt that I had to be a part of it. his writings resonated with me on so many levels, forced me to think about the impact that my mother, wife, daughters, aunts and various women have had on my life as well as the positive/negative impact I may have had on women throughout my life.

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my role in the project was to do a series of portrait with women, “there will be a single image of each on display during the event.” during the sessions  i had open conversations with each of the women about various topics surrounding their personal struggles, triumphs and joys of womanhood ranging from body shaming, expectations, entrepreneurship,  motherhood and identity. these women and their stories will be featured on my blog/digital magazine ap2photography.com/blog on tdb and I highly recommend setting aside time to read them.

please come out to our event: what is woman? on september 2. there will be female vendors on hand and the event will consist of guest performances by spoken word artists siri Imani and azizza love of the blvck seeds, the photography of your’s truly ap2 photography, the artwork of big dave scott, the poetry of leroy bean and a much needed panel discussion whichwill provide us an opportunity to openly discuss the love and theory of woman.

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there are a limited number of tickets available which can be purchased here at: eventbrite.

you will also have an opportunity to purchase a copy of leroy bean’s chapbook: the love and theory of woman.

be sure to follow us at: for more details!

what is woman?

7:00pm - saturday, september 2, 2017

third perk coffeehouse & wine bar

cleavon by prophessorx

merely a man

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last night i had the honor and pleasure of attending my brother – cleavon’s (known to many as x or prophessorx) book release launch at third perk coffeehouse & wine bar in dayton, oh. to say that I’m proud of x would be an understatement. i’ve been fortunate enough to witness and observe a lot of growth and confidence in x as a man as well as in his poetry and writings.

the chapbook is titled: cleavon by prophessorx and consists of 20 different poems/haikus that are captivating, powerful, unapologetic and emotional. x performed a selection of these writings in front of a crowd of family, friends and fans of his work leaving them inspired and eager for more.

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If you are interested in purchasing a physical or ecopy of the book “which i highly recommend,” you can do so on his website proph3ssorx.com or by contacting him directly at proph3ssorx@icloud.com.

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follow x on his website: proph3ssorx.com on instagram @proph3ssorx and on soundlcoud.

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there’s a destiny that makes us brothers; no one goes their way alone. all that we send into the lives of others comes back onto our own.
— brotherhood

it's ok?

lately I've been turned off by people accepting average when they've had the opportunity /capability to make something great. maybe i'm too demanding but i just don't get that mindset. i'm always pushing myself to achieve my best so i'm constantly looking for areas and opportunities to improve so i'm never accepting work that I'm "content" with or that i think is "ok."

i want my work to be dope, to leave an impact... i want to be better than i was yesterday and i make a point to surround myself around people that push me in that direction. push yourself to do your best at whatever it is you do, don't fall into the trap of accepting anything less than your absolute best.

average

typical; common; ordinary
— being average is overrated

cook's row

by: rachelle smith

the line of store fronts are all smoky bbq, clattering feet and saxophone jazz.

on this busy NOLA street i hear a trumpet tribute as i twist the sign to “open” on my tiny eatery.

i wrap my head in a white scarf and pray by the door.

i want the spirits to eat just as well as we do.

ooo! ooo! ooo!

that gumbo appetite heat wave riot.

tap tap a full glass of water with ice.

summer air as spicy as my rice in tuesday’s blue special.

cook’s row is all people shadowy pavement with clustered conversations.

rat tat tat of a snare.

“giiiiirl!” from across the street there.

smell the louisiana breeze.

new as today.

old as voodou.

taste all the home cooking stories you hear.

 

rachelle smith

is a spoken word artist residing in dayton, ohio. words are her passion. her poetry and short stories are inspired by personal experiences, spirituality and the drive to move the reader emotionally. chelle also is an author, grade school teacher and graduate of miami university with a b.a. in creative writing.

connect with chelle: instagram - @sculpchelle | twitter @sculpchelle