In the Spotlight w/ Ken “Legend” Williams & KC Carson

I had recently had the privilege to write up some questions for Detroit’s filmmaker and Executive Producer, Ken “Legend” Williams, and Co-Producer, KC Carson, to talk about their film, Asbury Park, which is dropping November 3rd on Tubi! Thank you guys for giving me this opportunity to highlight your film, but first… Let us highlight and show the readers the trailer of the film.

Trailer for Asbury Park

Let’s get this interview going with my first question, shall we? 🙂

I love to hear folks’ stories and give artists an opportunity to share their stories. This is the essential part of my blog. How did you know when filmmaking was going to become your path? Did y’all always know from an early age or was it a happy accident, as Bob Ross would say?

Legend: I’ve been in love with stories since I was in the 5th grade. Around that time I realized that not only did I love hearing them, but I loved telling them as well. Writing for me became an everyday practice. I loved movies and wanted to get into filmmaking, but I knew I was too poor to attend film school so I brushed that dream aside. In 2006 a friend of mind, who was a huge fan of my stories, told me about a production team who was looking for writers. I offered to write the script for free if they taught me how to make a movie.

KC: Honestly it happened by accident. I’ve always loved movies and film, I even wanted to be an actor at a point in life. Once I met Legend our chemistry and vibe was organic. I made a decision once we became friends that I wanted to do this full time, so I’ve dedicated all of my time and resources into growing and learning every aspect of the film business. This was God’s plan it wasn’t mine, I’m just walking in my destiny.

We have a mutual and an amazing talent within this industry. You  recently teamed up with Tray Chaney on a new project called Asbury Park.” How did y’all meet and get connected with Tray?

Legend: I’ve always been a fan of Tray since he was on The Wire. I followed him on social media. I loved his grind. I reached out to him just to say keep up the good work and I let him know I loved his grind. We’ve been stuck together ever since.

KC: I’m a huge fan of Tray’s work and work ethic. I followed him from The Wire to Saints and Sinners. Legend and I decided to reach out to him because of the value that he could bring to our team and alliance. Once we had a meeting we instantly became family and the rest is history. 

What inspired the story behind “Asbury Park?” And how does it stand out from other films with similar storylines?

Legend: Asbury Park was inspired by my childhood and the fact I was tired of the same  narratives and glorification of drugs and violence when it came to inner city life. Yes there are drugs and guns in urban communities. Yes people break the law. But many people are in circumstances in which they’re just trying to survive. I started carrying a gun at 12 years old. I didn’t do it to be tough, but because I was being raised in a single parent home with my mother, we lived in a neighborhood with frequent break ins and murder and if you called 9-1-1 the police wouldn’t come. I wasn’t trying to be tough, nor was I a bad kid. I was simply a boy trying to protect his mother. Asbury Park tells the story of four young men who are good kids and simply trying to survive.

KC: The story talks about the truth that happens in urban inner-city America. Every city has a ghetto, and every ghetto has a hood, and the story is the same, however the truth about survival and how people got into those situations are usually never told. It’s not always about cars, clothes, and jewelry, this story talks about perseverance, sacrifice, structure, and disciple. The real things that are needed to make something of yourself. The Asbury Park characters are individuals who were forced to survive by any means once they were out of options.

For those not experienced with filmmaking, how long of a process was the creation of this film? 

KC: Legend started the script back in 2018, the film was delayed in 2019 due to an unexpected death of a cast member. The film was set for production for the spring of 2020, and unfortunately the pandemic made us put the brakes on once again. It took quite a few months to complete because we filmed during the heart of the pandemic, and there were a few untimelier road blocks, however we persevered and completed the film.

Felicia “Snoop” Pearson in Asbury Park dropping on Tubi on November 3rd.

Asbury Park drops in just a couple days on November 3rd on Tubi. Y’all have some big names in this film including huge talents like Glenn Plummer, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson from The Wire & the Rapper Peter Gunz. Also, Jamal Woolard, who killed his role as the legend, B.I.G. in his biopic, Notorious, as well as, TuPac’s, All Eyez On Me. What surprised you the most with working with such talents? 

Legend: I learned how easy they all were to work with and how much they were willing to help me as a newer director. Glenn Plummer, Fredro Starr, and Jermaine Hopkins were all very good with pulling me to the side to offer suggestions.

KC: I think I was most surprised at how down to earth everyone was and how they were willing to extend an olive branch to us seeing that we are an independent team. Not one of the celebrities brought an ego or attitude with them. They were very down to earth, humble, and professional. Each person gave us a different outlook and perspective of the business that was priceless.

As Asbury Park comes to life for y’all, I feel it’s very essential to give equal opportunities to black filmmakers to create their stories on the big screen. Do y’all feel that there is such a shift now with social media and the current climate our nation is in the present?

Legend: I think one of the positives that came with the pandemic is that people were forced to view films at home instead of running to the theaters. More content was being consumed which caused the need for more of it to be created. While Hollywood was shut down, independent filmmakers, such as myself, was able to navigate the filming process more freely than the bigger studios. Streaming platforms and social media allows us to go directly to the consumers. This allows us, as black filmmakers, to tell our own stories.

What do you feel needs to happen to elevate more stories to the level of Marvel Studios “Black Panther” to continue to lift black voices and representation of the black community and to make sure y’all are being heard? 

Legend: We need to collectively invest in the telling of our own stories and supporting our own films. Hollywood cares about money, so if we can show that our people will pay to watch films, then we’ll be placed in a better position to tell them.

KC: It’s actually very simple. It’s all about supporting one another. There is enough money to go around so there is no reason for us not to support each other. If our community ever comes together and truly supports one another the way that other communities support each other, we could truly change the landscape and dynamic of the film industry.

As you continue to grow as filmmakers, what did you learn from producing, creating, and bringing this current film for life? 

Legend: I’ve learned that anything is possible. I also see the importance of having a strong team that you can trust. Having KC and Tray on my team makes my job a lot easier because they’re two guys who are brutally honest, but who I know are about their business.

KC: I’ve learned that no idea is too big or crazy. With the technology that is available to us there is nothing that can’t be done. The most important part of this is having a strong team who all have a common goal. No egos, and no pride. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so we make sure all of our links are strong.

Behind the scenes with Legend giving direction to the cast.

I want to thank each and everyone of you for taking the time to allow me to interview and make this connection with all three of you. I have one more question for the both of you. Can you share any advice or tidbits for any young filmmaker out there trying to create and bring their own stories to life??

Legend: Don’t let money stop you from telling your story. If you have a story to tell, write it and shoot it. I don’t care if it’s on an IPhone. Get it done. If you make mistakes along the way, so what. Learn from them and keep growing.

KC: I believe that there is a valuable lesson learned even in defeat. So don’t worry about mistakes and what you don’t know. Ask questions study and learn, however the most important part is to finish the race. Don’t stop or quit and there is always an audience out there even for the most peculiar topics. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from fulfilling your dreams and destiny.

In The Spotlight w/ 1neofmani

I sit with LessWork Local Lifestyle’s owner, Breyon Sommerville aka 1neofmani, in Madison, Wisconsin. A brilliant mind that’s determined to make a way and not just be a wave with his street-wear, music, and business, as he continues to prosper under the LessWork brand.

For those who aren’t aware, share with the audience who 1neofmani is versus who Breyon is.

1neofmani is a local artist focused on motivating the self-starters who carry the weight of creating something sustainable. My goal is to create a template (using my career as an example) for local rap artists to follow by sustaining their lifestyle while remaining Local. That’s the first thing. Outside of everything I do, it all comes back to the music. 

“My music is the soundtrack to my real life.”

Breyon is the 1st and last. I am my father’s first and only child and the final of 4 (3 boys and 1 girl) children on my mother’s side. I am now a father myself, currently of two intelligent little girls whom I plan to incorporate in my work as they grow a more natural interest in the business. However, there isn’t much of a difference between myself and my moniker. I am still me regardless of the many hats I extend. 

You have multitudes of skill sets that are portrayed daily for the masses. What is it all that you do as an artist and an entrepreneur? 

That’s a great question because, as an artist, you are an entrepreneur without question. I do whatever it takes to sustain my lifestyle. I run a for-profit black-owned business that focuses on local artists that rap. Offering street-wear apparel, lifestyle photography, niche artist branding, and studio recording w/ Oddly Arranged Media, with who we share a roof, with their offices located down the hall from LessWork. As a local artist and company ambassador, my job is to create soundtracks to the lifestyles of local artists. No matter the genre. I want my message in music to be that transparent. #WeTheWayNotTheWave because our music and business contributions are directional. As to alert other artists on how to move locally in a global way.

You title yourself as “The Brains” of Lesswork Local Lifestyle. Still, you are also mostly the face throughout the social media platform, and the local artist known as K.I.L.O. What is the story behind how the Lesswork brand was born? 

That’s Undeniable. To convince others that #LessWork Way is the way. We must win big on our own terms and template our approach to assure it’s measurable and worth pursuing again and again. That’s the formula. I am the brains because I created the formula LessWork lives by today. If you looked at the music scene in Madison five years ago, local artists were focused solely on being affiliated with the talent side of the local industry. No other artists or companies created lanes for other artists to embrace being local when the music was turned off. Here we are today, more artists connecting themselves to some form of merchandise. We have more active L.G.B.T.Q. and female hip-hop artists than ever before. Black-owned businesses are hosting pop-up shops weekly. Artists are starting to see the end at the beginning of what they are doing. I am fully aware of the influence our ways have encouraged this saturated inspiration. Scroll down memory lane on LessWork (K.I.L.O. & 1neofmani) social media involvement and then come back to today. LessWork, in the representation of local artists, stands for collaborations without waiting for validation. We’ve always controlled our own narratives inside and outside of the musical spectrum.

What is the purpose of Lesswork Local Lifestyle? What are you hoping artists and/or supporters will get out of it? 

LessWork purpose is served daily. We operate on our own terms and created Madison’s first hub for local artists to engage and feel accepted as creatives. Currently, we’re hosting a GoFundMe page (LessWork Lifestyle 1-Stop Solution) with intentions to launch the world’s 1st subscription-based hip-hop production house in 2022, God-Willing. Once fully operational, LessWork will be modeled after companies with modern business models. Such as Planet Fitness and Netflix. Where users pay low dollar amounts monthly and receive maximum value as we plan to make our money based on the database of our users. To learn more about LessWork Local Lifestyle, the best thing to do is to visit our physical store or log in online. 

You just dropped a new single called “Another 1ne.” What inspired you to create this new song?  

That’s actually an unreleased single. We are currently testing responses from my immediate music supporters. The supporters who heard the single have all great answers thus far. I use that as confirmation that I can stay true to myself musically, no matter where I take it artistically. It will definitely get tweaked more if I tend to use it on any material. Which is dope because this is not a record my immediate supporters would even expect from me. “Another 1ne” is an upbeat motivational-chanting record layered in auto-tune to emphasize the melodic lyrics. I speak directly to myself within my music because I believe in writing about your real life. From constantly going back and forth with music, I am now preparing to release my first solo project. I’m still debating whether to release it on any other platforms besides LessWork for the first year, then maybe re-release it for online distributors. Still cooking that 1ne.

You have another single displayed throughout the streaming services called “Love Is Love” that you dropped in 2020. Are we expecting more music to be published by you? Any plans for an album/mixtape soon?

“Love Is Love” is the first of many solo releases from my upcoming project titled “1ne of 1ne,” which will feature 11 essential songs displaying who 1neofmani is as an artist and exposing listeners to my way of thinking. All my beats are provided in-house by my hometown teammate, 9 Got Hitz (9GH). My recording sessions are also completed by an in-house engineer and fellow recording artist Marcus Porter. 

By the way, you are correct. That record is available everywhere for purchase, including on the LessWork website. This record set the tone for me visually, allowing me to highlight LessWork and Oddly Arranged Media contributions to Madison. 

*Spoiler Alert: I plan to shoot all my videos from the office location to maximize the value of the entire building inside and out. In turn, this will make it easier for current and new supporters to follow and catch up to my career’s process. The next video we’re planning to shoot is titled: “Wittus,” which a snippet of it can be heard at the end of the “Love Is Love” video.

What inspires your lyricism and message within your music? What are you hoping fans get out of your music? 

I’m my biggest fan and critic, so I write to impress myself 1st. Then I include my environment as I view my music as the soundtrack to my real life. I hope my fans gain a perspective of my thought process and catch on to how I’ve positioned myself and the assets centered around me. #WeTheWayNotTheWave 

Which other artists influence your creativity, whether it’s music, fashion, etc.?

It’s a gang of people that influence my creativity. Most of them are not recording artists, though. I don’t limit my contributions to the realms of artistry. Music, in general, is a tool designed to play on human emotions. I am great with words, and I overstand the power they hold. I find influence within the risk-takers of the world who humbly accept positive recognition and hold themselves accountable without bias regarding their flaws. If this person or people happen to rap or make music, it makes it that much more inevitable for us to in some way connect. The contributions I’ve made and plan to make are not out of necessity. I want to be clear on that. All and everything that I do is based on survival mode in my life and career. 

Are you aware of the T-Pain rant that went viral about artists sounding the same? Do you believe in his outlook? 

I believe he and whoever else feels that way are entitled to their opinions. As an artist, I have created my best music while dealing with the highs and lows of this life. My advice is for any recording artist with an opinion about anything. Put it in words and make a record of it. Or simply, #WriteItDownOrYouPlaying.

What do you think is the best philosophy for artists to strive to be seen or heard without being seen as a copy of another artist? 

“When your goals and your heart are aligned, you are going to be successful.” So be yourself. I wanna’ look back on my life with no regrets. Living 100% of my truth and actively pursuing what is in my heart; eventually, I will be rewarded with the fruits of my labor. I really believe that. Trophies and cloud smoke. We Say, 🏆💨 – 1neofmani of LessWork. 

Post Traumatic Stress (Poetry)

I stand in front of you on this stage with a smiling mask.
But give me a minute or two to unmask and ask,
What do you really know about post-traumatic stress?

Day in day out weight is oppressed in the hearts and chests.
Very little does one see his/her life as a personal success.
For adrenaline, many involve a life that becomes transgress.

Through time natural facial expressions and habitats change.
Insomnia becomes normal, even the bags under the eyes become rearrange.
Our moods are irritable, anxious, and estranged.

Nightmares, flashbacks, and reminders limits activities,
Fireworks are always ruining summer festivities.
Very rare can one ever overcome this particular sensitivity.

Frustrations and sympathy grows for the high number of suicides,
There are more of us alive than those who gave up on their lives.
The ones who are still breathing, still feel invisible to the world.

Many try to use humor and sex to cover up the actual feelings.
Instead of opening up, solitude is actual a comfort to hide the dealings,
Of strangers and family who fears the lack of knowledge and adaptations.

Truth, there is the misconception of medications, very rare do they improve,
Drugs and alcohol are the first things those who only want self-help turn to.
Natural healing & therapy is best suited for those who are desperate to move on.

We may look strong on the outside due to the imprinted war face,
Nobody ever takes the consideration, deep down fragile as a pencil case.
Doesn’t mean the survivors are more dangerous than a terrorist.

When it comes to the survivors of post-traumatic stress,
Majority find exceptions in the imperfections, a new strength.
That is the most important factor in an unfamiliar multitude force.

2014©H.M. Gautsch

The Roots of My Passion: Hip-Hop Music

As my articulate works blossom, you will witness my passion within the music community, mainly hip-hop & rap genres. You are probably wondering how the hell some woman from the small-town USA demographics and mentality would turn out to have such an admiration and love for the hip-hop community and the black community.

We didn’t have a lot of diversity where I am from, but we had a very few biracial kids we grew up with and biracial cousins in our own family. So that in itself taught me the basics of acceptance. For my passion for the hip-hop community in general, I blame my brothers (laughing). As early as I can remember, specifically fourth grade, I remember Andy (the oldest) driving us to school half the time rather than riding on the bus. It all depended on his schedule, to be honest, but we would listen to different music, but preferably Hip-Hop and R&B, because that is what Jon (my other older brother) only listened to while growing up.

We would listen to The Lox, Boyz II Men, Da Brat, Will Smith, 2Pac, Biggie, Snoop Dogg, etc. I was rapping along lyrics that my mom would probably have flipped about if she knew that was the type of music my brothers listened to around me. Can you imagine a ten-year-old white girl from an area where it’s so tiny that two towns had to join to be one school district? Let alone with only two biracial kids in the entire school at the time blasting “Gin & Juice” by Snoop Dogg in her big brother’s car? Yeah, that was me (laughing).

Three music albums would define my fandom and passion for Hip-Hop and other similar genres. The very first album and artist that would draw me into hip-hop would be Est. 1999 Eternal and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. My brothers introduced me to the next album, the Dr. Doolittle Soundtrack, released in 1998, produced by Timbaland. I was twelve at the time. Ginuwine’s song “Same Ol’ G” was my jam considering my last name started with a G, and I even had big dreams back as a kid. Aside from Ginuwine’s song, that album has fire after fire for each artist’s single put on that album. The second album would be Tupac’s two-disc Greatest Hits collection album released in 1998, only two years after his death. 

The rest is history, and the exposure of hip-hop culture through access to MTV, BET, etc… would open my heart and eyes when it came to enlisting. My experience with the military truly cultured me with diversity and various backgrounds that represented the melting pot of the United States of America. The fallacy that felt so real within our military community made me believe that as long as we carry the US Flag with pride (or whichever coalition forces worked with us in Iraq/Afghanistan), you were my brother and sisters in arms.

I never comprehended or understood the miseducation and various issues as a child, or even right away with the military. However, the music and entertainment that was presented to me never stopped me from enjoying the events that provided and supported each soldier’s, airmen, etc… with salsa nights and hip-hop nights. These events were meant as morale boosters for those homesick in a war zone. It was a different atmosphere that I didn’t know really existed before the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I sensed it, considering I was one of the few white folks going to every single hip-hop night throughout my tour in Taji, Iraq, back in 2006-2007.

My love for hip-hop would expand lyrically through artists like T.I., Kanye West, Eminem, Twista, etc. Of course, Mike Shinoda would release his album, “Rising Tied,” under his Fort Minor brand back right after I finished Advanced Individual Training, and I would play that album non-stop all through my deployment. The females would get so damn annoyed with me in the barracks, because “Where’d You Go” was my song during that deployment, and I would also have it as my ringtone for my phone at the time (laughing).

My battle buddies from Waco, Texas, whom I would bond with, would introduce me to artists like Tech N9ne as we pass the time with Spades on a nightly ritual working overnights at the dining facility. I would be more stoked when Bone Thugs, who are my all-time favorite hip-hop group, would release an album called “Strength & Loyalty” to help me get through the rest of my deployment in 2007.

Thank you for reading my blog. In return, I give you a playlist of Hip-Hop and R&B music that helped me through my deployment on Spotify!

In The Spotlight w/ Marcus Porter

As I sit here sunk into this black leather couch surrounded by anthem beats and blue saturated walls writing these questions, I am witnessing and studying Marcus Porter in his own process. Honestly, it’s the usual vibe of productivity, we are just missing two of our team members. The show must still go on, while I marinate in Marcus Porter’s lyrics and story.

The pandemic really was tough on everyone. How were you able to keep yourself afloat, mentally and physically,  during our lock-down?

During the pandemic, I was able to sit back & create without having to feel rushed. But, of course, I also did a lot of reading and anime watching

Anything you discovered about yourself during the pandemic? 

 I discovered my love for all types of art again. I had lost it because I wasn’t focused on it or trying to seek it out. But once I did, I fell in love again.

I have had the privilege to sit in the studio with you recently. You have a very intriguing writing process when it  comes to your songs. Can you tell the audience how that process goes? Which comes first for you, the hook, the  verse, or the beat?  

 The beat is usually the first thing that comes, and sometimes it’s just a simple four or eight bar loop. Then I typically start humming to myself until I find something that sticks. Sometimes it’s the hook first, but lately, it’s been the verses to come then the hook. But I always write from my heart.

You just dropped the single, “Born Black”, how did that come about? What influenced the song?  

“Born Black” came about during quarantine when George Floyd was murdered. So the song is a reflection of my own life experience. It was also influenced by many others who’ve dealt with racism, mistreatment, & death simply due to their skin pigment and social injustice. I was born black. Along with others, we’ve been seeking, fighting for, and addressing our shortcomings when it comes to black women & protecting them from the nonsense we deal with.

What do you want your audience/listeners to take with them after listening to “Born Black?” or any other song  you create?  

I am fighting for everyone and know the struggles we face, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I just try to be relatable and give them good content and sound to vibe to no matter what the scenario. My music represents my experiences and who I am as an individual.

Performing in Portage, WI. 6.19.2021

“Born Black” isn’t the only song you have with a feature on your upcoming album. Who else is featured on this  upcoming album? 

I have a few different features for the project. They are Chakari, K.I.L.O., 1neofMani, Juciee Monroe, Jay B Coolin, The King, so it’s pretty stacked on it. Each one came through and did their things; I appreciate them all.

You’re not just a musician. You engineer first many, many local artists. What came first for you as an artist? The  producer or the musician? 

The musician was always first, but I engineer because there weren’t many around, and I had an interest in it and wanted to create the best-sounding project I could. So I went to school to really learn the skills that have made me a better musician, from producing to the final master.

How and when did you discover that music is what you wanted to do with your life? What’s your story? 

I’ve known music was my calling since I was about 7 or 8, but I really knew right before I went to high school. I was interested in sports, but it was fading because all I wanted to do was write and make music. So my story is… Dad is a DJ, and mom did some drumming in drum core, and they made this young man who loves to create music and help others however he can.

What type of story are you trying to convey in your music? What do you want your audience to take with them  after experiencing your music?

The story is my story, but also everyone else’s too. I write music to have self-reflection. If you feel what I’m saying, then you’ve been there or are there, and I’m on the journey with you of this thing called life. I want to be as relatable as I can while still giving you a vibe.

If you want a taste of Marcus Porter’s story, make sure you check out his new single “Born Black”