A Decoded Lens | Devil Is a Lie by Ashley Smith

Written by Bria Evans 

Bria: Where did the inspiration for the Devil is A Lie visual come from?
Ashley: It was actually pretty simple.  The title of the song hit me as literal.  "The Devil Is A Lie" so what does that mean?  The devil lies; he'll paint pictures in your head about what is acceptable and what is not. He will come to you dressed as people you would confide in and trust, then he'll have you sinning and behaving in an unacceptable manner.  So that's where I came up with the two priests sinning and being in your face with it. They are not Godly men. They are the devil; and are lying to you while dressed as people you would/should trust.  I had also been binge watching American Horror Story on Netflix [laughs]. 

B: How was the casting process for the priests? Was it easy or difficult getting two older white men to mimic Rick Ross' and Jay Z's verses?
A: The awesome thing is that I shoot and cast so frequently that I have a list of headshots of people who know who I am and really want to work with me because they’ve worked with me in the past.  So, for the crazy bizarre shit I come up with, actors are usually excited to take a stab at it.  What's hard is making sure that they can pull it off…especially since they do these projects on a one day’s notice.  It's such a huge culture clash so at times it can be difficult.

B: The reaction to the visual has been amazing since it went viral across the web. Are the reactions what you expected?
A: I actually thought the video would have done a little better than what it did.  However, the critique on it has been more than what I expected.  It went a little further beyond the entertainment aspect and people have taken more notice of its artistry.  I think that is pretty cool.

B: You have encountered some forms of visual plagiarism through your previous works. Is that still a concern of yours at this point?
A: I hate that with a passion.  If I was well known, then I could care less, but since I'm a guy with a child who’s struggling to pay bills, it kind of sucks and is a disappointment that your own brothers would do that to you. But I have a new focus this year.  I'm putting out tons of viral content. Some will be good while others will be great.  I'm really focusing on branding myself and letting the cyber world know who Ash Innovator is.  My goal is to have a strong web presence by next year.  So hopefully when these things occur in the future there will be more potential for backlash and artists will have their hands forced to work with me.  I just want to put out dope shit and feed my family.  That’s why I do this.

B: It's obvious that you have a distinguished vision that sets you apart from your colleagues; but it seems labels don't care about vision anymore, only the budget. How do you plan to defeat that mold?
A: I don't have an answer for that just yet. As I said before, my goal is to pop off so hard virally that artists feel like they have to work with me.  My vision is different, it is unique and many artists don't like the ideas that I come up with on paper.  They would rather deal with someone else that has a stronger track record with cookie cutter videos. It's hard for me to sell my ideas because it’s a different concept coming from a director that they don't know anything about.  But this year is going to be big for me. After I develop my fan base, they'll do all of the work for me.  See, a lot of artists or even people for that matter are followers.  They won't do anything until someone else does it first, then they scream that they were the first one with it. I'm going to let the people on the internet that genuinely like my work take care of my cosigning.  Once I pop off…having a video directed by me will become some sort of a novelty.  I think it’s easy to identify my work, not just because I use actors, but because the concepts are so bold and in your face.  My style will become a brand that’s similar to Hype [Williams],  X [formerly Little X], Glazer, etc. who all have very specific styles.  I want my brand to be like the Versace of videos…every artist feels like he needs one. That’s my goal for the future.

B: What's next on Ash The Innovator's to-do-list as a filmmaker?
A: I just released my favorite video yet. It’s inspired by Macklemore's Grammy sweep over Kendrick but I guarantee [you] that no one would get that reference.  It'll go right over everyone’s heads but they'll love it because it’s entertaining as hell.  [Check out the video here]


Check out more of Ashley Smith's film work here

deFinition of a Mad Woman | MadC Interview

Written by Bria Evans

When the term "art legend" is referenced, it is a rare occasion to hear a female name generate among the names that are called out.  We have all heard of Banksy, JR, Andy Warhol, Basquiat, and so on, but do you know the world-renowned graffiti artist, MadC? If you do, wonderful but if not, then that’s why I’m here. MadC is one of the art world’s top living legends as she has used hundreds of walls on this earth as her personal canvas for her masterpieces. In fact, one of those masterpieces includes a 700-foot wall that she completed on her own…without any help. Yes, her mind-blowing artwork makes her mad but it is her humble aura, which defines the line between the madness and Claudia. 


Bria: How was your life growing up as young Claudia in Germany?
MadC: I was born in Germany, but I actually grew up in Ethiopia. I loved living there; I loved the people, the nature and the weather. Germany is my base but I never really felt at home there. That is probably one important reason why I travel so much.

B: What influences did you have that led you to the world of street art?
M: I started painting and drawing at a very early age. Creativity was always an important outlet for me. When I heard about the graffiti subculture, I realized that this was a unique chance to involve my talent in painting with a subculture that gives you an identity. And I think identity is what every teenager is looking for. 

B: The “500-Wall” is one of your most famous pieces, but what other pieces do you consider your best work? And why?

M: I'm never completely satisfied with my work and therefore I don't have a best piece of work. However, I can see my own progress and that's where I see the 500 Wall as an important piece. It was a wall where I transferred my canvas work to a very large scale. In this work, I tried to catch the emotion of painting and at the moment that's more important to me than showing characters or stories.

B: What do you use as your muse for creating art?
M: Silence, space (my large studio, going outdoors...) or motion (driving my car or flying to places)

B: How did storytelling become the core focus of your artwork?

M: I love books and have been reading since the first grade. Now I listen to audio books while I'm painting. Books can transport you into new worlds and have the power to make you forget reality for a little while. I wanted to do the same with some of my walls. But as I already mentioned, right now I try to get to the core of the emotions rather than the story. That's a bit more challenging.

B: Has the graffiti art community changed their reception of female artists from when you first started? If so, can you describe the transition of female artists from your own journey?
M: I believe so. But I never focused on the gender thing. I tried to be accepted for the artist I was/am and not as the woman. And usually the way you approach people influences the way they approach you in return. So I never had big issues or problems because of it. But in general, I can see that there are more girls painting now than there was 15 years ago. That way men are also getting more used to it and don't make an issue out of it.

B: What has been your biggest triumph in your career so far, either creatively and/or personally?

M: I have been working extremely hard for many years. Nowadays I am able to paint every single day and on top of it, I can pay my bills with it. I hardly make any compromise in life and can just live the life I always wanted. I think this doesn't happen to many people and I'm very grateful for it.

B: Some artists can separate their alter egos from their personal lives, and then, there are others who don't have personal lives because it’s consumed by their alter ego. How do you separate MadC from Claudia?
M: Even though MadC is there every day, I do have a personal life separated from it. This is mainly thanks to my closest friends who are not any artists or graffiti artists. I can easily travel without painting and just experience a country from a different point of view than the artist perception. The same goes for talks with my friends and family. I think this is very important or it would be much harder to get inspired.

B: One of the unique things about you is that you didn’t just learn art from the streets, you actually earned a Masters degree in Graphic Design. Does it benefit an artist when they combine their design talents with a formal education? Do you recommend it or not?
M: I actually don't really know how much the Master degree helped me on the way. I already painted a lot before I studied and I learned more from observing my surroundings, from understanding how objects and images work or how colors are combined. When I studied, I just learned observing from a professional point of view, but I honestly think that it isn't a necessary step for other artists. What I learned at University that helps me in my daily life is working within set guidelines, how to approach projects and how to document them as well as how to make them happen at all.

B: Typography and letter fonts are the core of the graffiti art culture, but you upped it a level when you wrote books that truly highlighted their significance. Why did you deem it important for people to gain exposure to typography?
M: I think fonts are incredibly important without people really realizing it. Just imagine a handwriting and how different it can be. If some unknown person sends you a note in curly handwriting, you will immediately have a feeling for the personality of this person. The same counts for the graffiti culture. You can clearly make out the personality of a graffiti artist through his/her pieces. In our society graffiti has been misused as a tool for politicians and to make negative propaganda. This is why people stopped looking and just saw it as dirty scribbles. I wanted to hand back a key to people to open their eyes and see all the creativity and emotions that are locked inside letters. That's why I made Street Fonts [typography book].

B: Are there any aspirations you want to achieve either inside/outside of street art that you have not brought to fruition yet?

M: I want to give street art a chance to have more acceptance in the classic art world. There's quite a lot of other artists paving this way right now as well. I just think it will give the generations that follow an even wider range of possibilities. They can either keep it in the streets and have a totally different day job, or they can make art their life through graffiti and street art. Just to have this choice is a wonderful thing I think.

B: As a living legend in the graffiti art culture, what is your perception of the profound history that you have made in this world so far?

M: My world is like a playground where I find new places to play with all the time. I don't think about myself in the graffiti culture or in the big picture in general. I don't think this would be good for my ego or my art. It's important that I focus on my ideas and that I want those ideas to come to life. When you start thinking about pleasing others, selling or becoming famous, your art will become lifeless and random and it definitely won't make you happy.


Check out more on the living art legend MadC here

cinematic shorts | I'm A Mitzvah

Have you ever held a bond so tight with your best friend that even after his/her death, you remain bonded? No? Well, me neither. But anyway, filmmakers Ben Berman and Josh Cohen created a short film titled, I’m a Mitzvah, which highlighted a young man’s unconditional loyalty to his deceased BFF and it was beyond entertaining. The film features a young American guy named David (Ben Schwartz) who is stranded in the land of Mexico with his best-friend’s corpse until they can catch their rescheduled flight back to the United States. Now, I’m sure all of this sounds a little weird but I can assure you that this hilarious drama will be worth your time. 

new music | Vibe by Gamebrand

While most of the country is enduring one of the craziest winters ever, a new duo by the name of Gamebrand (Brandon Canada and Derek Gamlan), decided to go ahead and set the pace for the upcoming summer with a new song titled Vibe. The track is one of eleven on their most recent project release called Pilot, and I must admit that Vibe has me anticipating a dope ass summer. It’s a fun-filled anthem that’s easily reminiscent of Will Smith’s Summertime and I can honestly say that I fuck with it. If given the proper promotion, Gamebrand could definitely conquer the airwaves with this single. Take a listen to the track below and see if it sets a new vibe to your season…literally. 

the fall of creation | Do Creatives Still Create?

The dispersion of self-proclaimed elite creatives has infiltrated every inch of the internet. Our surroundings include a plethora of products disguised as unprecedented originality but are merely cloned ideas of the next so-called creative. In the essence, do creatives truly create anymore? When is the last time you browsed through social media, an online store, or media content and observed innovation instead of duplication? Well, it’s been a long time for me as well. I understand the idea of “get rich quick” and people pouncing on a lucrative concept but those people should not refer to themselves as creatives. Instead, they should be known as…well at this point it doesn’t matter. I’m not here to bash those of us who have adopted the title of creative but have yet to produce an creation (I say Us because I have fallen guilty to this action also) but rather, challenge those of us who are equipped with talent and vision to actually create something that enhances our creative culture. It can be artworks that destroy society’s repose, designs that demolish the runways to high fashion’s gatekeepers, or even film that provokes a questioning of Quentin Tarantino’s legacy…and so on. It is that level of creativity that we indie creators possess but fail to execute…because we don’t see anyone else doing it. Well, that is sort of the fucking point. We all have the power to create profound things that will shape the world around us, yet would rather clone ourselves to the closest dollar. I’m not preaching as that’s not my lane but since I had to challenge myself to actually create something, I figured I’d challenge you all to do the same. Remember, we don’t revolve around culture, we evolve culture. 


le bullshit de fashion | Fantastic Man x Dior Homme

Bad advertising campaigns run rampant in the fashion industry and serve as my biggest issue with high-fashion puppeteers. Whether it’s a lack of diversity, originality, or if it’s just completely stupid, it truly irks me. Why? It’s simple. High-fashion brands stand on pedestals of opportunity where they can expose the new era of fashion consumerism yet they refuse to do so. I’ll give you the most recent example: Fantastic Man Magazine's collaboration with Dior Homme. The two brands decided to link up to showcase Dior Homme’s Autumn/Winter 2013 collection through a short-film series titled Rotation. The series consists of five films that each includes a rhythm less “b-boy” suited up in Dior while he breaks himself away into a Chris Brown seizure. Now, why do I consider this bad marketing? Well, when I watched the films, I couldn’t comprehend the connection, therefore, I was confused. When I seen the guys breaking, I thought of hip-hop but when I thought of hip-hop, I didn’t think of Dior. Can you see my dilemma? In my perspective, this dance film series would’ve been great with true dancers similar to the Groovaloos or even the Jabbawockeez (No, I’m not trying to be facetious). However, instead of enlisting dancers who could actually represent the culture of hip-hop, the casting director chose some modelesque dancers who couldn’t. So, the bridge was ultimately destroyed before it was ever built and that’s why I think this marketing collaboration is bullshit. They, meaning Fantastic Man and Dior, desired to inject a new choreographic energy into fashion but ended up portraying a fa├žade that even a blind man could see through. So, to whoever conjured up this stupid film idea, please know that you failed miserably and you should’ve resigned from your position last week. Check out one of the five parts of the film below and tell me if I'm wrong.

interview | Fleetwood DeVille

My introduction to indie rapper Fleetwood DeVille was random; however, his delivered truth in this interview steers far from any accidental occasion. His music captivated me through tracks like Cold Chillin’ and 9-to-5 but it is his story that has confirmed my stance as a true fan. With his hard-hitting verses, vast cerebration, and charisma, I can honestly say that for anyone who invests their ear into Mr. DeVille, they will gain a deeply connected return on their investment. Now, if you can't fathom that statement, then I highly suggest you take a listen to his music or better yet, take the opportunity to learn who Fleetwood DeVille is below.  


Bria: Where are you from and where do you currently reside?

Fleetwood DeVille: I was born in Muskogee, OK at the Regional Medical Center three days before 1989 began. I lived there ten years, pinballed between a few other places for the next ten and landed here in Washington, DC in 2009.

B: When the two words Fleetwood and Deville are mentioned, the first thought that comes to mind are both of the classic Cadillac vehicle models, so what inspired you to take on the name Fleetwood Deville?

FD: When I started out rhyming in ‘04, my name was Franchi$e. Don’t judge my dollar sign; I was 15. Actually, it happened arbitrarily. Freestyling in Algebra II class and at the lunch table, coming up with cool punch lines and winning a couple battles had cats calling me “The Franchise” at school. And I wasn’t even really disciplined or particular about writing raps at that time. The name went from school to my neighborhood and from there it stuck. I never really was a fan of the name, though. Steve Francis hadn’t disappeared from the NBA yet and there was a dude I’d known since 7th grade who rhymed and also went by Franchise. Then, to pour more salt on the situation, Dem Franchize Boyz dropped “White Tee” in I believe 2005. I knew I had to get as far away from the name as possible. The name change came near the end of 2006. I’m a big alliteration guy and all my favorite rappers got first and last name aliases. So, first, it was Fleetwood Fran; then I thought about connecting the Cadillac theme and put DeVille on the end. When I came up with that, I knew it was fly enough to drop Franchise altogher…ha. I put ElDorado in the middle and made DeVille an acronym: Defeating Evil, Verbally Inciting Love, Liberation and Enlightenment. And there it is, as Elgin Lumpkin say.

B: Explain your first connection to hip-hop and your coming of age story through the culture.

FD: 1998 and 99 were my true introduction to holding a stake in the culture. I was nine years old until the end of the year. Aquemini and Hard Knock Life, Vol. 2 dropped on the same September Tuesday [September 29, 1998]. DMX had put out his first LP and I was riding through Austin, TX with my mama to all three of them. Jay-Z was instantly my favorite. His intelligence and confidence were things I could feel immediately, and a song with such ominous subject matter as “A Week Ago” was easy for me to understand even at nine years old. Aquemini was an album I loved from the first moment I heard it and my love for it has only grown as life has placed me in spaces to appreciate it on a visceral level. Black on Both Sides [by Mos Def] dropped in ’99…and I have yet to hear a better album.

When I was 12, I knew that I wanted to be involved with hip hop as either a producer or a DJ. Watching Rap City and seeing how the DJ got love while just sitting back in the cut killing shit intrigued me so much. I was all in The Source peeping Numark turntables with the Robin Harris eyes. I’d had a keyboard and a drum set already, so I was into making noise and I asked my mama for a beat machine for my 15th birthday. She came through, but I didn’t have any of the accompanying equipment needed to actually make beats or any idea that there was accompanying equipment needed. So that deflated pretty quickly.

I started rhyming my junior year of high school and my initial drive was a competitive one. I went to school and saw so many cats not only freestyling, but also being on the bus, in class and in the cafeteria playing the stuff they’d recorded at home, and a lot of it wasn’t good. I thought to myself, “I KNOW I’m capable of being at least sharper than these cats if I focus on writing”; at that point, I pledged to write at least a 16 each day. I banged out on that mission for about six or seven months before I missed a day. I had a ton of stuff written and nowhere to record; I went to Walgreens one night after Bible study with my mama, copped a tape recorder and a 10 pack of Maxell cassettes. From there it was on. I completed my first mixtape, in the most literal sense, the next year, 2005. I started passing it out at school once one of my homies figured out a way to get the audio onto CD. I got a response I never really expected but I believed that I had something worth pursuing. I told myself, “I’ll come back to making beats, but the focus is rap for now.” I’ve still yet to make my return to beats…ha.

B: How do you define great lyricism and how do you feel your music is a correlation of that definition?

beyond the canvas | Dale Grimshaw

My experiences as a child in a very difficult and potentially violent environment, has had a strong impact on all parts of my life. My father was a violent and cruel man, whose presence in the family home caused physical and emotional pain for us all. My mum was the focus of his violent behaviour and she really suffered at his hands. We were left homeless after fleeing the family home. We lived in so many places after that, including a caravan in a farmer’s field and also a gutted farm house that was home to chickens – the chickens still came in to visit after that! My oldest sister witnessed a lot more than me and sadly I believe it really brought the worst out in her in later yearsBeing a child in that type of situation is a nightmare. All the things that should be there to support you and help you develop as an adult are undermined by the fear and unpredictability of the situation. My mother did her best to protect us, but she was lonely and vulnerable herself. Despite all that happened in the early days, my Mum’s love has shone through for me and I have held onto that as an adult, despite losing her tragically early when I was only nineteen. Without this love, I can’t imagine how I could have carried on and achieved anything as an adult. I’m always intrigued yet horrified when I read in the paper about murderers or people that have sex slaves in their basements. Neighbours are quoted as saying things like “ooh he was such a quiet and polite man… who would have thought”. Sociopaths can be the most worrying, as we like to think we can summarise and judge people quickly and accurately – but we can’t always. Who knows what some people are up to behind closed doors… My work really started taking off when I realized that it was ok to express some of the darker emotions in my art. For a long time I kept a lid on all these feelings. My piece called ‘Exorcism’ is the first piece in which I found my creative voice and it’s still one of the most powerful images I have ever painted.

-  Dale Grimshaw (As told to Patrick Palmer of Ragazine)

Source: Ragazine