No Balls, No Glory; A Polaroid Story

TWICE INNA LIFETIME

Posted in BLACK STAR, MOS DEF, Polaroids, Talib Kweli by Ouni on August 12, 2012

Dour, 13/07/12

“One two three
Mos Def and Talib Kweli
We came to rock it on to the tip-top
Best alliance in hip-hop, Y-O

Behold, for you are indeed looking at a legit BLACK STAR Polaroid.

I’m very happy to present this legendary Polaroid here above featuring TALIB KWELI and YASIIN BEY aka MOS DEF, because together they were and still are BLACK STAR.

If you are not familiar with BLACKSTAR, let me be so kind to give you a quick introduction.

Before MOS DEF and TALIB KWELI became who they are now and were still standing at the verge of their careers with each a solo album ready to be released, they decided to put that on hold and make an album together and make their debut into the hiphop game with the critically acclaimed Mos Def & Talib Kweli are BLACK STAR album in 1998.

Exhibit:

The album wasn’t a commercial success, but in times were Tupac & Biggie just passed away and hiphop was orchestrated by Puff Daddy and song lyrics about bling, money and fame were the standard, these two rappers decided to set another example, far away from bling rap & glitzy music videos and talk about other topics that felt more real to them.

Black Star is what people call, a conscious album, soaked with political references, personal philosophies, New York references and definitely an album that took the concept of  black awareness to another level.

The title of the album is a reference to the Black Star Line, a shipping line founded by Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey.

Look at the young Yasiin (then still  known under his artist name Mos Def) & Talib in this DEFINITION video.

Exhibit:

Check out this track with COMMON, one of the members of their Native Tongues crew, a collective where Black Star was also a member of together with A Tribe Called Quest, The Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, etc..

Exhibit:

They also provided a track for The Hurricane movie starring Denzel Washington

Exhibit:

and one of their final appearances together was for DAVE CHAPPELLE’S BLOCK PARTY

Exhibit:

And that was it basically! Right after BLACK STAR both rappers focused on their solo careers and since those were pretty successful for the both of them,  a sequel to this album was never made.

Now, 14 years later, after a few solo albums, some acting gigs and quite an important name change later for one of them, both rappers finally found the time and the need to join forces as BLACK STAR again.

They made a first official appearance together in The Colbert Report performing a track that was leaked before but now officially labeled as a Black Star track called FIX UP.

Word is that there should be a new BLACK STAR album in 2012, but nothing is official yet…

Now, let’s go to the story behind the Polaroid.  :)

BLACK STAR was scheduled at DOUR festival, the festival I like to reference as ‘THE MOTHER OF ALL FESTIVALS.’

DOUR ain’t no joke. DOUR is not for festi-fashionistas. DOUR is not for pussies.

DOUR is for professional festivaholics, the ones who sleep in tents, drink and party untill the break of dawn, pass out in their tents or anywhere else for that matter, wake up at noon and do it all over again. For 4 days in a row.

By day 3 you already see the – what I like to call – DOUR-zombies. Faded folks swirling around the grass fields with red staring eyes dragging themselves to yet another performance in a packed, muddy and sweaty tent.

Dour is for the hard knocks, and quite frankly, I like it.

I have some muddy DOUR 2012 moods for you to enjoy…

Exhibits:

The main focus for me and this blog was a Polaroid from Yasiin & Talib together, since that signified a BLACK STAR Polaroid and in the words of a few hip hop hipsters that is a #veryrare and #emotional item.

Preferable I wanted to have each individual on a separate Polaroid, but with this blog, you simply never know what is possible and what not and you are grateful with what is given to you.

I already met both artist during this A Polaroid Story journey before, and although I was happy with the ones I took from Yasiin, (catch up on that here) I really wanted to have my Talib Polaroids redone, since the circumstances in which I took the Polaroids weren’t exactly…ideal sort of speak. I re-read my trials and tribulations that came along with my first Talib Kweli story, and all I can say is…waw. I was such a rookie back then…!!  (catch up on that tear jerker here)

Going back to my former experiences at DOUR where I managed to take a Polaroid from BILAL after blood, sweat, mud and tears, I realised this wasn’t going to be easy. Last time I chased for Polaroid at DOUR it took me several hours and a hard knock bracelet hustle that started with bracelet NR4 and ended all the way up with bracelet NR11.

This year I decided to try my luck and ask for a press accreditation, so I could at least save on my APS summer expenses. Doing this blog doesn’t come cheap, trust me!

To my big surprise, I quickly got an answer back replying to me that my accreditation was approved and that I could have a press bracelet. In a small note the mail stated that although they wouldn’t give me a NR4 this year, a  NR11 wasn’t an option either. :)

Hà! Apperantely somebody from the DOUR staff read my A Polaroid Story and last years effort was rewarded with a higher bracelet number.

I thought it was really interesting how Dour gave me a better bracelet but still wanted me to fight for my Polaroids. Fine by me, you know I like a good challenge right?

So once I arrived at the festival I quickly found out that I was blessed with bracelet NR8!

This meant that I was only 3 levels away from a ‘All Access Areas’ bracelet and that I was probably also more allowed on places around the festival that I couldn’t enter the previous time I was there.

Now, the interesting thing about that bracelet was the fact that I could enter the photographers trenches with it. Even mòre interesting was the fact that this bracelet allowed you to stày there, even after the 3-song photographers rule, just as long if you didn’t take anymore pictures during the concert. I love how every festival has their own rules and that I can use them in my advantage. :)

So there I was standing in front of the main stage waiting for Talib & Yasiin, figuring out how the heck I was going to get backstage…

Exhibit:

…when I suddenly decided to send a text message to a friend of mine who I stumbled upon while entering the festival a few hours before.

His name is Richard, a fly camera boy who is notorious for his party report videos and visual concert reviews for his video channel called An Overdose Of Awesomeness aka AOOA.TV. He shoots mainly for more electronical music acts and is currently also serving STEVE AOKI as his  personal camera man whenever Steve is playing in Europe.

I knew Richard since we worked together on this fashion video and he always told me that we should work together for A Polaroid Story. A tempting offer, however, video cameras and this blog go together like fire and oil. Explosive…

My artists hate being filmed when it is not for an official press medium and it jeopardises my end result, which is the Polaroid.

The minute my artists see a big camera, they get suspicious and they no longer want to cooperate. I’m not even going to explain what effect it has on their bodyguards and entourage.

It’s already a big challenge do this blog with an assistant, get the assistant extra tickets and have the assistant take my exhibits, something I always have to ask in advance to the artist ànd their management. My Polaroid camera makes them curious, all other cameras make them nervous, video cameras simply make them pissed.

I quickly received a text message back from Richard, telling me to hold tight around the photographers trenches and wait for him. Minutes later, there he was.

Richard has all the right bracelets, he is a camera man who provides artist with cool backstage material, awesome concert reports and cool ‘on the road’ footage, so obvious he has a ‘Access All Areas’ bracelet wherever he goes.

He told me this: “Look, just come with me, and act like you are with me and that you are part of my team. If they see my bracelet, they never ask the bracelets from the folks that I’m with, and quite frankly, I never get asked to show my bracelets anyway, because the minute security sees my face once, they know I’m with the artists and they let me be. So let’s just do this.”

He grabbed my hand and of we went, straight for the backstage area… We managed to slip through security since they were just checking up on people who left the backstage while we were entering it, and in only 15 seconds I was backstage ànd behind the main stage.

Richard said: “You see, piece of cake right?!” and shrugged.

Next thing we had to do was get òn the main stage, so we could keep a good eye on Talib & Yasiin. When we tried to enter the main stage stairway, security didn’t allow us to go up because apparently everything was on lock down untill the artists arrived.

Only minutes later a dark van arrived with Talib & Yasiin and their entourage in it,  the doors immediately opened, and the entire crew left the car and went straight up the stairs to go to the main stage.

Richard whispered in my ear: “Now Ouni, go, go, go, just walk behind them like you are with them, security will not notice, trust me…” while he pushed me gentle in the back.

My heart was racing (I’m still such a pussie) but I tailed the entourage and walked right behind them, and only seconds later I found myself òn the stage.

Unbelievable. This must have been the fastest backstage sneak-in éver since I began this blog.

I found a dark spot where I couldn’t draw much attention and I watched how Mos & Talib were getting ready to go on stage.

I always enjoy watching those moments, you know, when an artist prepares themselves to make an appearance? I still think it’s magical in a way…

Asking for Polaroid pictures right before a performance is mostly a big no, so I decided to sit back and enjoy the show and be ready for my moment when it came along.

I have a little video  (mind the sound quality, this is shot with a simple Canon G12 in red light :s)

Exhibit:

Right before the concert finished I asked Richard if he could help me with my exhibits since I didn’t have an assistant to help me out and he was carrying around a quality Olympus photo camera. He agreed and I quickly explained that the only thing I need are a few napshots from the minute I encounter the artists and aim my Polaroid camera.

The concert finished, so this was my moment. The artists and their entourage immediately left the stage, Yasiin already escaped on me and the only one left was Talib Kweli and….

Well. The good thing with having Richard around was the fact that he filmed everything….EVERYTHING and I didn’t even notice untill everything was done.

So with no further ado, for the very first time in the history of this blog…you can actually WATCH what happened…

Exhibit:

And this is the excellent Polaroid result of that moment:

Exhibit:

I already reached one goal, the next one was getting another Polaroid from Yasiin and from how things were looking, it was not going to be easy.

There was already a van waiting for the artists and their entourage, ready to make a quick exit from the festival, so I knew my time would be extremely limited and it could turn out to be all or nothing.

After waiting for 15 minutes Talib came out of the backstage lodge where the artists were having a final drink before departure (there was a peep-hole through the black plastic fencing :) and he immediately jumped into the car with his wife. I saw no use bothering Talib again, I got what I wanted after all, and honestly he kinda intimidates me a little. :)

10 minutes later Yasiin left the backstage lodge aswell and I immediately approached him and asked for A Polaroid. To my big surprise he immediately said no.

When an artist says no, I never, and I mean néver go and ask them again. I respect their decision, plus I have too much pride to beg for a Polaroid. Begging ain’t sexy and when you immediately respect their decision they are always surprised, because artists are used to the opposite.

In this case however, it turned out that Yasiin said no because I didn’t know Richard was filming behind me… Yassiin told me that he did like my Polaroid camera and thàt was my opportunity to remember him that we already met…

This is what happened…

Exhibit:

After he realised that we already met, Yasiin started to have doubts and then the following happened:

Exhibit:

Isn’t this amazing?! The very first time I have footage of doing what I do and quite frankly, it looks amazing!!!

I was so happy with my Polaroids and so nervous while doing my thing that I never noticed that Richard filmed both Polaroid encounters. Although I was a bit sceptic when he told me afterwards, I have to admit it kinda looks cool right?

I was blessed to meet Talib Kweli & Yasiin Bey together as Black Star and meet them for the second time during this A Polaroid Story journey.

Twice inna lifetime, and i did it just like the Black Star song lyrics said:

“Yo, we been through this before right? (Word, word…) So we
figurin’, if we gonna do it, we gotta freak it, y’know what I’m sayin?
(True, true, true…) Cuz everything gotta go up from here, right?”

Bigger and better.

Love,

Ouni

PS:

Do you like the video material? Is this something you would like me to consider doing more in the future? Don’t count on it too much, but if there is a possibility I might re-consider to do this again…Let me know in the comment section…

Special thanks to:

Richard from AOOA.TV, Dour festival for my bracelet and Thomas for the additional festival pictures. 

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3 Responses

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  1. Lee Stuart said, on August 12, 2012 at 21:52

    HAPPY FOR YOU

  2. Urban Soul (@urbansoulmag) said, on August 13, 2012 at 00:43

    More videos, yes please :) And great story, as usual!

  3. Christophe Jauquet (@cjauquet) said, on September 7, 2012 at 11:30

    Video’s add certainly in showing the effort you need to make for it and it increases the respect people will give to your work. At least, that’s really how I felt watching it. And on top of that,… seeing a shy, fragile and unsecure Ouni… just adorable :-))


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