[Originally published in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times, May 2nd, 2014]
When I ventured into the underground rap world of New York City, I discovered a tight community, a new wave of artists, the New New York. Many of them performed on the Beast Coastal tour. They grew up together or met through hip-hop and have now created something of a family. Their sense of brotherhood inspired me to start photographing rap shows.
The story of these kids is one of triumph over odds — how friendship is driven by passion, motivation and love. I love these guys and want them to be successful because their hard work deserves it. My work looks to cherish the moments in between the chaos with these artists: the calm before the storm or, even, the calm that underlies the storm.
When you capture hip-hop, or anything that displays action, it’s easy to get stuck shooting clichés. I collect the experiences I have with these artists — all of whom I thankfully call my friends — that show their sensitivity, their determination, their love for their art and their love for one another. That’s what’s important: showing the substance beneath the style.