Originally published on October 5, 2017 at tinyletter.com/janewave.
I traveled to Miami, Atlanta, Stockholm, London and NYC throughout the month of August. I hopped from city to city, soaking in each new environment.
Here’s my recap and reflections of what I call The Jane Shin 2017 Summer Tour to officially wish summer goodbye and welcome fall.
Listen to the accompanying playlist of songs from the artists I met throughout my travels.
I started my trip in Miami, spending most of my time in Carol City and Miami Shores. It was my first time visiting The Magic City.
A few months prior in LA, I met up with Carol City-bred rapper Denzel Curry and his great team–Mark Maturah and Rees Escobar. He played some new records he’d been working on for his highly anticipated new album Taboo.
As I told him about my work writing video content for RapCaviar, we started talking about videos he had done in the past and wants to do in the future. Hometown coverage was one of the topics that came up. I mentioned that some artists don’t want to do video content in their hometown because they feel it’s overplayed.
Denzel, on the other hand, doesn’t shy away from where he’s from. Hailing from Carol City, he has a lot of pride for his city and his music is directly influenced by its history and culture. He said he felt he hadn’t had the opportunity to tell the full story of the path he’s carved so far in Carol City and Miami overall.
Inspired by his feedback, I pitched the idea for RapCaviar to head to Miami–to cover the rise of different music scenes in the city through Denzel’s lens. Next thing you know, we were off to Miami.
I’ve always appreciated Denzel Curry’s artistry and creativity over the years–his delivery, lyrics, production, artwork and more. It was humbling to collaborate closely with his team and be there on the ground, seeing how different aspects of his creativity developed in their own space and time:
- Learning about Denzel’s upbringing and spending time in his family’s “den,” their garage converted into a creative space where Denzel first started to record.
- Denzel creates all of his album artwork. His creativity in visual art expanded at the “Zu Mansion” in Miami Shores. The “Zu Mansion” was Metro Zu’s place–Metro Zu was a Miami-based art and music collective that Denzel collaborated frequently with, consisting of Ruben Slikk, Lofty305, POSHstronaut and Freebase.
- The art of the freestyle was perfected at Bel Air Academy, a relic in Carol City, where fellow local rappers like Nell, Twelve’len, J.K. the Reaper, Yung Simmie and more would engage in cyphers. This level of community at Bel Air was also heightened by the creation of Raider Klan by SpaceGhostPurrp in 2008.
There’s more to share, including some great surprises so stay tuned for the full video this coming fall on RapCaviar.
Takeaways from Miami:
- Be who you are. Know who you are. Through Denzel’s own experiences in high school as referenced in his song “Gook,” he stayed true to himself and his own craft that makes his music unique to him. Don’t fall into what you think you “should be.”
- Family is everything. Meeting Denzel’s sweet parents and hearing about the values they instilled in him and his brothers was reaffirming. It reminded me of my own gratitude towards my parents for the lessons and wisdom they’ve bestowed on me.
- Unity is a beautiful thing. The core Miami Raider Klan group and its affiliates hadn’t been fully together in one place since 2012. It was great to learn about their roots and see them reminisce and recognize another’s contributions in building one of the greatest underground rap communities that spread worldwide.
RapCaviar Live kicked off in Atlanta. RapCaviar Live is a concert partnership between RapCaviar and Live Nation. For the inaugural RapCaviar Live concert, Gucci Mane, Mike WiLL Made It and 6LACK took the stage in their hometown. The pride of Atlanta was felt as these reigning local greats showed loved back for their city and fans.
On this Atlanta trip, I also got to finally meet Childish Major in-person. We first connected back during my SoundCloud days when he had a few production credits under his belt, notably Rocko’s 2013 hit “U.O.E.N.O.” featuring Rick Ross that later got remixed by Black Hippy (Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock).
Beyond producing, Childish Major also sings and raps. “Happy Birthday” featuring Isaiah Rashad and SZA released last July is one of my favorite songs. “Supply Luh,” produced by J.Cole, is his newest track that’s out. It was featured in the season finale of Insecure. I think anyone who’s dealt with heartbreak at some point in their lives can relate to “Supply Luh.”
I also dropped by LVRN Studios to hear new music from iivrson (whom I mentioned in my last letter) and catch up on where he’s headed as a new artist. Summer Walker, studio manager and key architect and interior designer shared some of her incredible artwork she’s been working on too. Sharing good energy is always a blessing.
Takeaways from Atlanta:
- Whenever I visit Atlanta, I come back feeling like my place in music exists for a reason, and I have the power and platform to share my voice and make an impact by moving at my own pace and way.
- Live experiences are key. If you’re an artist, having an online presence and following is important, but being able to go out and touch people in real life and hone your craft as a performer is key. The potential to pick up new listeners is huge too.
I then made my way to Stockholm for Spotify company onboarding–three days chock full of information on the story, current priorities and future of Spotify. It’s been a fun adventure since joining the company in February when so much in the music industry is evolving.
Please check out spotifyjobs.com if you spot anything interesting, and let me know. I’d love to see more good people I know working at Spotify too.
I also got to catch up with my good friend Marie. She was one of the first community managers at SoundCloud in Berlin and was quintessential in helping me get onboarded when the SoundCloud SF office opened up as the first US satellite office. She now lives in Stockholm. We ate well and shared plenty of laughs and memories together.
Takeaways from Stockholm:
- My work is important and so is my voice. It’s wild RapCaviar has developed as its own entity and brand within Spotify. To see the ways in which this company is growing and developing tools for artists is exciting to be a part of.
- Hard work brought me here. I’m counting my blessings to be able to travel abroad and gain so much perspective by being in another country.
After Stockholm, I flew to London for a weekend. I hadn’t been there since the winter of 2009 when I spent my days buried in books at the British Library. I was conducting research for my senior thesis then, so it was nice to be back and see London in a different light.
I reflected on how much has changed in the eight years that have transpired since I was a hungry college student.
Friends and former SoundCloud coworkers Jami and Maytal hosted me in their cozy flat in North London. They were the nicest hosts, and they made the best egg sandwiches for breakfast. Subscribe to Maytal’s recipe newsletter called MaytalEats.
It was nice to see them and also reconnect with our fellow former colleagues Ed and Laura. They had all moved to London from Berlin. All five of us were on the SoundCloud Community Team at one point in time. It was a pleasure reminiscing and talking about our paths over fish and chips.
I also got to see Little Simz and the Space Age crew. Space Age threw a party as they released new gear. Little Simz had a music video shoot for “Zone 3” featuring Tilla, Josh Arce and Chuck20. It’s been a treat to be in the company of these kind, talented and interesting people whenever I have the chance. Even if I missed the Solar Eclipse viewing back home, to be in their hometown and catch them during the making of the “Zone 3” music video was worth it. If you haven’t heard Little Simz’s latest project Stillness in Wonderland yet, do yourself a favor and get familiar.
Takeaways from London:
- Health is important. Take care of yourself and be good to yourself. Know when you need to rest. Even though I felt pressed to make my London trip as exciting as possible, I was tired so I did my best to relax and slow down–walking everywhere and stopping to admire the different flowers, watching people play tennis in Finsbury Park and finding the perfect soundtrack to my train rides.
- Working at SoundCloud was an unforgettable experience (read my five year reflection post), so it’s not surprising that the people I’ve worked with and grown with as coworkers have become important to keep in touch with. I think for many of us who previously worked there, SoundCloud was unlike any other job, so there’s shared camaraderie of the blood, sweat and tears that were shed.
- My time in London reminded me how much I admire my courage and independence. Slowing down on this trip allowed me to step back and think about how much I’ve grown since my last visit in 2009, but my courage and independence remain intact. It’s fun thinking about how I was on a different life path then too. Music hadn’t even crossed my mind as a career path then, but music has always been my companion.
NYC was the last leg of the Jane Shin tour. I’ve been to New York a handful of times, mostly short and sweet visits. But I always leave NYC more stronger and motivated.
I worked from the NYC Spotify office for the first time. I spent time with members of my NYC-based team and reunited with more former SoundCloud colleagues who now work at Spotify as well, like Brendan Codey (we held it down on the Community Engagement team) and Jean Edelstein, an extraordinary writer and the reason I got this gig as a writer on the RapCaviar videos team to begin with.
On the first night when I arrived, I was transported back to the Bay for a moment. I attended Rayana Jay’s listening party for her Morning After project held at Atype in partnership with The Girl Mob.
Rayana is a talented artist and singer whose soulful lyrics and confidence can move anyone in the room. KQED listed her as a woman to watch.
She’s also supported by a great team–Evangeline Elder and Carmena Victoria, pka DJ Red Corvette. These two great women are the forces behind the Women in Music, Bay Area festival and conference that debuted this April. I was honored to have been invited to participate in their “Women in Music Behind the Scenes” panel.
I also spent time with great friends, like the incredibly talented designer and illustrator Hannah K. Lee. Hannah and I met in high school and bonded in our “Publications” (newspaper and yearbook) class. She just recently published Language Barrier in which her design, illustration and typography shine and provoke thought about our lives and connections to others.
I also always make it a point to spend time with my friend Jordan Caldwell too. Our paths crossed at SoundCloud in 2015, and she’s easily one of the best people I’ve met. She’s been working on her incredible sound and art installation project series, Manifest. Learning about the project and hearing about her progression towards it for the past year has been inspiring. Manifest is a physical installation that explores sonic and visual art through multi-sensory experiences. The first of the series is launching with Sunni Colón the week of October 16. If you’re in NYC, please check it out.
On one night, we enjoyed what she calls a “typical night in Brooklyn” as we caught Andre Power’s opening night residency A Night with Andre Power at Schimansky. There, I reunited with various lovely people, including Shaniqua “Haarlem” Branch, the brains behind Vate Row Records, home to Jimi Tents, Thatshymn and more.
I made some new friends too. I met Philly rapper and singer Ivy Sole in person for the first time. Among many other things we talked about, we also learned that we have an awesome mutual friend named Devin Hobdy who is in the band Bathe. They went to college together. Devin and I were former SoundCloud colleagues together, and we always had the best times swapping music recommendations. I’m happy when I learn how small the world is, especially when I know that one stellar individual also knows a mutually-known stellar individual.
I attended Afropunk Festival for the first time in Brooklyn at Commodore Barry Park. The festival slogan is: “No Sexism, No Racism, No Ageism, No Homophobia, No Fatphobia, No Transphobia, No Hatefulness.” It was a beautiful celebration of black culture and a poignant reminder that it’s important now more than ever for people to unite and fight for Black Lives. Black Lives Matter.
I also got a chance to meet up with the Brooklyn collective, NXGN CBNT. They broke down the making of their latest project Zoom as we talked about the state of music today and where they’re headed on their path towards making great music and building community.
Speaking of community, I visited my friend Tea Leigh who was one of the first “SoundCloud Heroes.” SoundCloud Heroes was a SoundCloud community ambassador program I led from 2011–2013. Tea still makes music, but she’s built an incredible business and community with her stick and poke tattoo mastery and recently opened up a studio and community space called Welcome Home in Brooklyn. Learn more about her in Coveteur.
Takeaways from NYC:
- Find your community and support your community. Whether it was learning about how NXGN formed or meeting up with Tea who’s nurturing her own thriving tattoo community, there’s always more power and beauty shared when more worlds come together. I’m learning to figure out how I’m building my own community. I’m doing it now, but one of the ways I hope to grow it is by sharing posts like these to shed light on the people and things that inspire me. It’s important for me to use my voice to bring people together.
- Always treat people with kindness and respect. It will go a long way especially because you don’t know who you’ll be working with later down the road or crossing paths with again.
It was a whirlwind August, so it took me some time to digest, process and write this post-travels. Now that I’m finding ground again back home in LA, I felt it was important to document my reflections and the different emotions and experiences I had. Thanks so much for reading.
Until next time,