If you are not reading RVA Playlist these days – you should be. My buddy Andrew Cothren is on a hot streak, his blog is killing it. My homie and fellow music writer Shannon Cleary hit me to Nelly Kate a while back during the Ish Ish release. I became an instant fan of her vibe. Nelly hooked up with the team from Good Day RVA and just release this video. S/O to /Chris from Good Day RVA. I ran into Chris at Riverrocks and he let me know that they are set to release much more this summer. I’m very excited about what Good Day RVA is doing for RVA musicians. WE SEE IT
Justin BUA is a certified legend in the world of underground art and hip hop culture. And when a living legend says he is working on a new project that he calls, “the most-game changing project he has ever done,” it’s worth paying attention. He is set to launch his online art school (BuaArtSchool.com) this summer. The BUA Art School is a brand new interactive project for the NYC born artist. Not only will the online school give people the opportunity to learn directly from BUA, it allows people direct access to BUA for a precedent setting affordable cost.
Speaking from his studio in Cali, in this exclusive Cheats Movement interview, BUA speaks openly about the online school, his motivation, fatherhood, and recent events, like his tribute to Jason Collins. The author of instant classic books “The Beat of Urban Art” and “The Legends of Hip Hop” has always been a groundbreaking renaissance man. He hopes his latest project creates even more opportunities for those looking to blaze their own path.
Cheats: What’s good BUA. I know that your time is short so I will say a quick thanks and jump right into what is new with you. Tell me about your brand new Online Art School?
BUA: It’s all going to happen at: BuaArtSchool.com. And what it is? I’m teaching about 250 lessons, each lesson is going to be about 4 to 8 minutes long and it will cover everything from art fundamentals, to the intermediate level, advanced level, and even Master level lessons. Not only will I teach drawing and painting, I am also going to be teaching about the business of art and art history. It’s going to get very deep into the science of art, the physics of art, into color and value. I’m really going everywhere an artist needs to go. It’s really important and really groundbreaking because it is accessible to everybody. When I was teaching at USC, one class would cost around $4,000. This school for the entire year is around $250. Three months is $99. That has never happened before where lessons are so affordable to be enrolled in a University. On top of that, you get to download all of my lessons. You get to interact with me and all of the other students in the class. So I tell you, “We are doing this study of this figure and we’re doing this crazy head, here is my version of the figure”, I get to see your version, you can send me your version and I will draw on top of it and give you feedback and ideas to consider and I send it back to you all through what we call video exchange. It’s all new technology – video exchange technology – which allows me to one-on-one critique the work and interact with the students in the class.
Cheats: What building blocks led to you to launching the online school?
BUA: It’s a company called ArtistWorks and they have done 24 Universities in the field of music. DJ Qbert teaches DJing, they got some of the best in the world teaching in their fields. But they’ve never done an art program. Qbert introduced me to them and they asked did I want to do their first art program and I said, “Of course.” I said yes because while I liked teaching at USC, USC was an amazing experience, it was not an affordable experience for everybody. This school is for everybody. At USC, if you had a certain amount of money – then you could take my class; and you have to be at USC. If you didn’t have the money or you were not at USC, what could you do? You couldn’t really study with me – you didn’t have access to me. Not to mention, what if you were in Iceland or the Philippines? You couldn’t study with me. So this really creates an access that no one has ever really had before in my teaching.
For students who enroll in the BUA Online School, what experience should they expect?
They are going to get an interactive experience that is going to be game changing and life changing. Drawing is one of the most meditative and beautiful things ever. If you are an artist, you are going to be able to build your portfolio and improve your skills. If you are a hobbyist and you are taking classes for fun, you are going to find yourself more peaceful, more at one with yourself, and getting deeper into the art of not only drawing but truly seeing. Those things will change your experience with everything, if you are a dancer – it will help you be a better dancer, if you are a writer – it will help you be a better writer because drawing is very intuitive and it is very profound. This experience is a game changer. It’s one of the most game-changing things I have ever done.
You mentioned that you will not only will teach about the fundamentals of art but also about the business aspect of art. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about navigating business with success?
You really have to dial into understanding what needs to be done to make a living. So many people say, “I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that,” but they don’t know the operational system. They just jump into it blindly. And you really need to know this information. I will teach everything from how to build a portfolio, to what is the best way to market yourself, how to protect yourself, how to negotiate a deal, should you get an attorney or agent. What field you want to go into…do you want to go into fine art or maybe education. I know this information because I’m doing the same thing. I can dial into what people really need to know and help them focus on being successful.
How did that knowledge base click for you personally? When did you realize you were dealing with more of the business aspect of art?
Well, I learned the hard way. I have a natural inclination to be a hustler because I’m from New York City (Harlem) so I have a little bit of the hustler mentality, but I’ve been hustled so much. My first go around in both the advertising world and the poster world, I was hustled. So I learned from getting ripped off. Call it what you want, call it the school of hard knocks, but I got taken advantage of. And I didn’t understand what my rights were. I didn’t understand where my rights were and because of that, I made some bad moves. Being an artist is like a game of chess, you move this direction you open yourself up for an attack – you move another direction and you’re being strategic and making a smart business decision that will carry you to the next level.
I haven’t heard you comment very much about your drive and motivation. But your grind is such a theme in your work. Where does your drive come from?
It used to be a part of what I called the fuck you energy. All the haters out there that were telling me I could not do it, “you’re not good enough, you’re not skilled enough, you’re art is too street, it’s too unrefined,” and I was like, “fuck you.” All of that energy manifested itself into me trying harder, persevering, and getting better. When I got older, that fuck you energy started to become more positive energy. It became love energy. Now, I do it because I love it. I fell in love with drawing, painting and teaching. It’s a deep way to express myself.
I have seen a shift when it comes to the acceptance of street art. I’ve seen more street art being sponsored by corporations and even the government. Have you noticed this trend? What do attribute it to?
Street art is becoming more normalized. It’s not as underground now and that’s just the way movements go. Jazz was once underground and then it became more normalized. Hip hop was underground and then it became pop. Graffiti was underground and now it’s becoming more accepted. Eventually there will be something else that is more subversive.
How do you feel about these shifts? Do you relish the underground aspect?
I always love the underground element…I was talking this morning with some friends, when Public Enemy came out it was like the new punk rock and no one had ever heard that before…it was so crazy, so puck rock, so radical, and now that level of explosiveness can only last so long and it either fades out or people say, “That’s the cool sound, I want to do that,” and it becomes a little more scripted. People are like, “Let’s do that same type of sound but let’s do the Vanilla Ice/Milli Vanilli version, and that’s just the way it goes these days. It also takes a tremendous about of money, therefore producers, writers, and record labels hedge their bets. They know if they get a David Guetta or Usher they’re going to get a certain number of downloads and make a certain amount of money. It the same with films – if I get this mega star and this producer, I’m going to make this much money in international sales, I’m going get this much of my investment back. It is all safe bets.
From the perspective of someone observing your career from the outside, I would suggest the foundation of your art comes from two (almost competing) elements: a solid formal education ,from the artists in your family, to LaGuardia High, to the Art Center College of Design, and a genuine education of hip hop culture growing up in NYC. How has each of those elements attributed to who you are as an artist?
They are totally opposite movements, street art and classical art, and the reality is that I love both of them. They are harmonized in my work. The more skill you have the better you will be able to express yourself. If you are a good reader, you are going to be a better writer. If you weight train and do more core work in the gym then you’re going to be a better fighter. You have to train. You have to be well rounded with whatever you do.
It’s like having a good offensive line or else your quarterback is going to get killed.
There you go.
How have you changed as an artist and person since becoming a father?
It’s the best thing ever. My daughter keeps me grounded. I learn from her. She’s so smart, she thinks outside the box. She keeps me young, fresh, and thinking.
Do you see a shift from the hustler mentality to family man in your art?
Bua: Definitely I do, but I don’t know exactly how. Not really in how lines are drawn, but fatherhood affects the way that I work. I’m not doing all-nighters anymore. I’m much more disciplined about getting to work when I need to. I don’t smoke weed. I’m just more tuned in. She gives me that grounding feeling and is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life.
You recently posted a tribute painting to Jason Collins on your Facebook page, what role does current events play in your work?
That is an interesting question. I think current events just reflect universal questions of morality. A lot of times you hear about these horrible tragedies. But Jason Collins is a good example because he came out for gay rights, but that is not much different than women’s rights, or apartheid, or all kinds of oppression. He is just a representative of something that is more universal – which is the idea that we have to overcome the mentality of people who are prejudice and backwards. So when I do a painting about him, I’m not only talking about gay rights, I’m talking about women’s rights, Latino and African American rights, I’m talking about a bigger issue – the overall issue that people are equal.
It is certainly a powerful painting.
It was one of those moments. I normally don’t do stuff like that. My work is usually a little more celebratory about the DJ, the MC, unsung leaders of the movement. Whether it is the legends of hip hop or jazz piano players or dancers, but this resonated with me as very interesting. And looking at him, he has a very interesting face to paint. The painting was very spontaneous.
What advice do you give the young artist you mentor regarding how to maximize their potential?
Do what you love to do. Do not allow any negativity to stop you but at the same time don’t be stupid and think that you are the greatest thing in the world. I tweeted this the other day, once you feel that you’ve arrived as an artist, it’s probably a good idea to starch everything and start all over again. There is a lot of young artist that think they are so dope – they are delusional. Michelangelo was 81 when he said he was just beginning to learn how to draw. How are you dope? How have you arrived?
Do you feel that way about yourself as well?
I’m the biggest student of everybody. I’m always painting with people that are better than me. I’m always looking to learn. How does he do that? How can I be that good? You have to have that attitude because if you don’t – you are fooling yourself. And you don’t want to do that. It’s a dangerous place to be. If you really think that you are that good – that is the time when you have to say, no, something is wrong. You can feel that way for a minute but you have to then say – what’s next. Remember, you are only as good as your next painting. It happened to me – I did The DJ 11 or 12 years ago. Okay – what’s next? Same thing with music, you have a hit record – okay what’s next. You’ve heard it before don’t rest on your lures. It’s a fact. So many people are resting on the lures – look what I did. That mentality will stunt you in every way. You will never get better. The more ego you have the less you will get better.
Sign up for the Bua Art School is available right now at: http://artistworks.com/buaartschool. Thanks to Lisa for making it happen. #WESEEIT Follow the Cheats Movement Blog on Facebook. The most diverse blog in RVA.
It was a capacity crowd at Balliceaux last night for the Richmond release of RVA ALL DAY. The fourth album from RVA’s No BS! Brass Band. They are hitting the stage again tonight at The Camel. Make sure you get a copy! #WESEEIT
Normally I have a lot of trouble singling out where to be in RVA; there is just too much going on in the boroughs to name one event. But this weekend is different because Dominion Riverrock is in town. If you’ve never been…I suggest you take the trip to Brown’s Island and bring your camera. River Rocks is a photographers dream. Last year, I was introduced to the slack line (pictured above), taking photos of that competition alone is worth the trip. But there is more – tons of extreme sport competitions, food, and live music. Galactic killed the stage last year…this year it’s the reggae legends Toots and the Maytals headlining the free concert Saturday night. River Rocks starts Friday and runs through Sunday. And I just go word that my family Photosynthesizers will be hitting the stage Sunday. It’s clearly where to be this weekend.
Brand new from the homie Chance Fischer directed by Soul Live Media AKA Smoothmatic AKA Rob Roby. I haven’t posted too much hip hop on the blog recently but I couldn’t let this video slide. Every time I see Chance Fischer on the mic, I am impressed with his ability to draw his audience closer to him and his style. He can do it all: rhyme, write, perform, you name it. And don’t get me started on the body of work Rob Roby is putting together in the RVA hip hop community. He gets the job done. Check out the RVA images in the video. I think shooting at the Cathedral was perfect for Chance. Also the B-Roll shots on Monument Avenue were a great selection for the duo. I hope they continue to work together in the future. There is no telling how far they can push the envelope in RVA’s hip hop community.
“I told em….didn’t I tell em…Those young boys ain’t got nothing on me. I’m old school.” Those were the words coming from the victorious point guard who’d just hit the game winning jumper to the dismay of his younger, high school age, opponents. His King’s Speech seemed to be directed to anyone who would listen, pretty much a general declaration of victory. Lucky for him, there was a fairly large audience for him to preach to.
On the outside of the basketball court, a line of African American senior citizens played music and sold Gatorade to the ballers. There was another set of sounds coming from the tennis courts,”Good stop….play up…..coming behind,” those where the songs coming from the bike polo players who were dominating the once tennis courts now bike polo arena.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Jackson Ward shooting a music video from the group HaBits. And while I thought I had a good understanding of Jackson Ward and Abner Clay Park, I’ve been absolutely floored by the positive energy, diversity and harmony that seems to happen every Sunday in Abner Clay.
It’s not just the basketball players – playing some of the best pick-up games in the city. It’s not just the bike polo players, with skills I could only dream to own. What impressed me is the balance of the Ward….the balance of old and new, hipster and hoops, old Ward merging with the change of gentrification. It’s not lost on me that Abner Clay sets across the street from the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. I’m sure some of the older gentleman on the side of the court knew the Ward as a far different place. A place where the community thrived with Black Owned Business and legendary entertainment centers and hotels. They see a different Ward now – is just the latest in a long line of examples of change. It’s not lost on me that the Jackson Ward Neighborhood Association doesn’t necessarily want the bike polo players there (this according to some of the local players) and that it has little or nothing to do with history. Bike polo seems to be new version of skateboarding. Until it gets accepted there will certainly be detractors.
However, in face of those who may not want them there – they are there. Every Sunday afternoon building a new community of harmony and diversity. Centered around sports and backed with music and a grill, Jackson Ward is a special place. And it seems to be getting better one day at a time.
Last night at First Fridays, Art 180 introduced the Wheel of Kindness to the world. It was amazing! The wheel is the final product of our amazing Art 180 class. Check out some of the photos from last night. Please support Art 180. It is an amazing program and stay tuned for much more from my sister in crime Patience Salgado AKA Kindness Girl. #WESEEIT
So What is the Wheel of Kindenss? Well, a person spins the wheel and it lands on a color. You then receive the color of the balloon selected. You can either play with the balloon or pop it. When your balloon pops – there is a message or “Kindness task” inside. You then have to complete the task. Awesome right.
I ran across this video last night on Facebook. I’m a huge fan of what Johnny and Josh are doing with Feast RVA. I attended the first Feast RVA outside of Quirk Gallery to see my friend Becca (RVAudio) present her project. Becca tied with Nicole Lang to be the the first ever Feast RVA winners. Since that time the event has taken off to new heights. The short campaign video explains that the magic of Feast RVA lies in creative people connecting with each other. Now Feast RVA is moving into a new stage and need your help with funding. Check out the video and visit the Feast RVA Campaign page HERE.
The Cheats Movement Blog got some serious love in Style Weekly’s 12th Annual Music Issue. Since I spend most of my time covering music and events, it is very cool to be interviewed and have the blog recognized in this way. I do consider it an honor and motivation to keep the blog going in its current form. I have to take a moment to S/O Andrew Cothern AKA RVA Playlist. Andrew has always giving love to The Cheats Movement Blog from day 1 and being a music blogger himself – he didn’t have to do that. RVA Playlist is one of my favorite music blogs and Andrew is really at the top of his game right now. S/O to Patience Salgado AKA Kindness Girl for the photo used in Style. The multi-talented kindness worker has so much going on – and with that she takes some of the most soulful photos that I have ever seen. I also want to S/O Sounds of RVA and One Way Richmond – I read their blogs as much as I can and it’s very awesome to read their interviews in Style.
The thing about press in general – like everything else in 2013 – it is really about momentum: one day you’re hot – the next day you are not. I understand that Style Weekly or any other “press” type situation may not be there next week let alone next year but that doesn’t mean that the city stops moving forward. The goal is to take in good press – in the spirit that it’s meant to be – and use it to push forward. So the blog moves forward – the grind moves forward – the family moves forward – we are already working on what’s next. To every person that reads the blog and supports what’s happening on the blog and around the city — all I can say is Thank you & of course #WESEEIT!