Sunday, March 30, 2014

if I stay here, trouble will find me

I spent a few months with Dracey as part of my recent project documenting rappers from North Portland. The package is a multimedia piece that includes sound clips, photographs by Beth Nakamura and these short documentaries I made of each rapper. For the video on Dracey, we went back to the three-bedroom apartment he once shared with 13 other people. We also visited his old high school, where he recorded his first album in a utility closet.

Glenn Waco revisits the places that inform his music from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

To see the stories, check out Straight Outta St. Johns.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

all I learned was that gravity can be painful

Dequante McDowell talks about changes on Hell Street from Cabin 7 on Vimeo.

Nine hundred is small enough to sense a shift in population. When someone new touches down, the people of Delhi notice.

When we first got out of the car four years ago, two guys immediately pulled over. Rob and Talkhead wanted to know who we were.

The next year, I walked into a convenience center at the edge of town. A guy slid over just before the door closed.

"Where you from?"

"Oh, my whole family is from here," I said, chipper and trying to belong.

"No," he said, looking down at my boots, distressed by design, not work. "Where are you from?"

"Well, my mom grew up here. I grew up in West Monroe."

He shook his head.

"I live in Oregon," I finally said.

We've been stopped by cops twice -- once because they didn't recognize us and once because they remembered us from the year before.

And best of all, we've been stopped by people with stories to tell. Pam Sykes pulled her jeep over, mid-railroad tracks, to ask what we were doing in town. She hasn't been able to shake us since. And Dequante McDowell, the 19-year-old in today's video, flagged us down last April as we cruised Chatham Street.

Chatham isn't Hell Street anymore, he told us. It's What the Hell Street.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

to places we don't know

Sunny March days on the beat, following sisters Kiera Brinkley and Uriah Boyd around as they prepare for a dance duet:

You can read the story on Oregonlive.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

back down, down to the downtown, down to the lockdown

Aubree and I are headed back to Louisiana in a few weeks, so I'm putting together a few vignettes to hype up the trip. Here's one from last April. Chris, Erin and I met Archie Lee Harrell at his church on a rainy afternoon. Chris was still brainstorming score ideas, and he sat down and played one of his ideas.

Diary of a Misfit teaser: Chris Johnson works on developing the score from Cabin 7 on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

If I mentioned all of my skeletons, would you jump in the seat?

My big multimedia project about Portland rappers came out last week. It's a package of four stories and three videos I made, along with black and white photographs from Beth Nakamura. I feel really grateful to have had the time to work with these musicians on telling their stories. NPR Music and Longreads both linked to the project, and it looks like the boys have sold some records in its wake. I went on Oregon Public Broadcasting this week, too, to talk about the stories.

Check out the whole project, called "Straight Outta St. Johns," for the full effect, but in the meantime, here's one of the videos.

Egbe Vado: A loss threatens the rapper's dreams from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

Egbevado Ananouko’s family left West Africa banking on the American dream and found minimum wage jobs instead. Like other St. Johns teenagers, Ananouko saw hip-hop as a path out of the neighborhood. Rap music’s tales of gold chains and suped-up cars gripped Ananouko. But unlike his peers, the wiry, thickly accented Ananouko built his music studio hoping to secure something more pedestrian: acceptance.