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Multifaceted creator Rodney Hazard is taking the world by storm

Originally from Western Massachusetts, the multi-talented creator Rodney Hazard first moved to New York to study design at St. John’s University. After starting his career as a graphic designer, he has worked as a creative director in many fields.

However, over the past years, he has also dedicated his artistic vision to something more: music. With already many successful releases offering a one-of-a-kind sound, his most recent project “Sandcastles,” premieres today.

Sight and sound is everything for creator Rodney Hazard

Art has always been an outlet for the Brooklyn-based creative director, graphic designer, and artist. Whether visuals inform his sound or vice-versa, or whether the two meet somewhere in the middle, it is a realm of his own that Hazard is developing.

His design and music are always “reflecting one another,” he explained.

Also working as a DJ, Hazard’s passion for sharing creativity and emotion with his audience comes before anything else.

Being in front of people and seeing their reactions live. It’s a kind of energy that is unmatched.

Rodney Hazard

And his live performances aim at nothing less. From live beat-making to party sets, the artist always sets out to create a memorable sensory experience for his audience.

Projecting ever-lasting compilations of footage or fractal images (never looping so as to perpetuate the story-telling in his art), his visuals are queued and synced to the sounds he plays.

After a year of trying to recreate that through streaming from home, there is little to contain the excitement of being able to bring his evolving sound back to life.

“Down-tempo melodic trap”

Growing up, Hazard’s record collection comprised tapes by Duran-Duran, and A Tribe Called Quest, all the way to Sade and Bob Marley. His eclectic influences supplied him with a lot to pull from whether consciously or not.

As a result, it is difficult to describe his music. And that’s what makes it so special. Steering clear of defining words, his sound lies in a magical place between afro-beats, hip-hop, r&b, electronic and melodious music.

“Hip Hop is what started everything for me,” says Hazard. Ultimately, the artist’s love for music as a whole is what transpires constantly while talking about his music.

One of Hazard’s first yet most marking collaborations include his time he spent at Diddy Studios in Manhattan with the late rapper, Heavy D, when he was just a senior in school.

Being the first in and last out, everyday, Hazard was forever impacted by the musician’s work ethic, keeping that drive for his craft with him ever since. Starting under Heavy D’s wing, he came out of that period as a close collaborator to him.

Today, he still remembers the importance of seeing every new project as something fresh. He remembers to love every second it, as if he had just started out, the way Heavy D did. With long-lasting passion.

Working magic

Being talented across artistic fields hasn’t stopped creator Rodney Hazard from seeking out collaborators to produce the most engaging work.

His last release this year was titled Mercury Ocean, a 5 track EP. Over the pandemic, Hazard connected with Puerto Rican singer Gigi Santos, making this mini-album a product of this past year at home.

First releasing a track that attracted over 100,000 streams, the duo pursued their endeavors, following Santos’ idea to create a sound that channeled the feeling of “a foreign, underwater world where you can still find your place,” Rodney explained.

A concept that went hand in hand with his approach to making sensory music that seeks to transport the listener, the chemistry between the two musicians led to a sound of its own.

Rodney Hazard’s “Sandcastles”

Unique, transporting music is characteristic of Rodney Hazard’s art. “The world’s my gem,” he said, explaining that being outdoors is always a source of life and inspiration.

Indeed, it is following a trip to Hawaii, which Rodney found absolutely magical, that his new record “Sandcastles” came to be. Honoring the spirit of the place, from mountains to the ocean, the track is a voyage into a different world.

Hazard started the track on the plane as he arrived on the island, and finished it once on site. Being immersed in the original place of inspiration for the song allowed him to create a piece that takes us on a journey with him, filled with textured sounds.

The stereo image of the track is as captivating as can be, as he played with space throughout the production and mixing process, for a final product that plays with our senses.

The sensory quality of the project is complemented by Rodney’s collaboration with visual artist Fractually. Self-acclaimed as the “Fractal God”, the New Zealand native first worked with Rodney on his project “Eagle” earlier this year. Together, the two creatives continue to develop an artistic universe that is rather mesmerizing.

Taking the world by storm

This track is a teaser for his upcoming full EP Sandcastles. Moreover, it is a first taste for the new sound Rodney has been developing, which will be revealed to us with a full album titled Nightvision later this year.

For the man that started out as a graphic designer to becoming a creative director, that’s not even all: Hazard has another record in the works and scheduled to release August 6. It is called “Smokey,” so keep an eye out.

In the meantime, take a minute to experience Rodney Hazard’s last single “Sandcastles,” out now.

Why we need more women in hip hop photography

As part of a scene with an evolutionary stake in hyper-machismo energy, women in hip hop navigate a particular set of obstacles. Women in hip hop photography still face systemic exclusion, despite having been a part of the movement from day one.

It isn’t merely that these photographers aren’t being culturally celebrated on par with their male counterparts. It’s also that the language and attitudes surrounding women that deal with technical equipment prevent them from their best work. 

women hip hop photography
Queen Latifah for Lisa Leone, NYC early 90’s (image via Rolling Stone)

The notion of a kind of Black masculinity stems all the way back to slave tropes of the Black male, where Black men are responding to that conditioning and the referential notions of them as ‘boys.’ So then their response [in hip-hop] is pushing back in a machismo way… The hyper-machismo, the hyper-sexuality in rap and hip-hop — all that requires and depends on the subjugation of women.

Professor Ellen Gorman for The Hoya

The state of women photography today

In a study from 2018, 69 percent of participants said that they faced discrimination as women in hip-hop photography. More than 54 percent said sexism presented obstacles to their success. 53 percent cited industry stereotypes about women, and 49 percent reported a simple lack of equal opportunity.

women hip hop photography
Contact sheet from photoshoot with Big Boi and André 3000 from Outkast by Janette Beckman, NYC 2003 (image via lensculture)

The culture of dismissing women in hip-hop photography has long-standing roots in the tech industry at large. Advertisements for cameras have often relied on the sentiment that women are inept, to drive home the point that their technology is so easy, even a woman could use it.

“The Kodak Girl” is a well-known example of this sentiment. Dating all the way back to the late 19th century. In the mid 20th century, the advertisements began to target women as housewives.

These ads implied that the burden of capturing their children’s early days falls with them, and that failure to do so would reflect on them poorly as mothers.

women hip hop photography
“The snapshots you want tomorrow, you must take today!” 1939 advertisements from the Canadian Kodak Corporate Archive via Ryerson University

Standards of “good photography” that have been crafted entirely by men are also holding photographers back. An all male photographer community perpetrates, for example, the sexualization of hip-hop icons as feminine objects.

Men and women experience life differently and have different perspectives to offer, yet the view of what constitutes ‘good photography’ has largely been defined by the work of men … To remain relevant and authentic, the photography industry must seek to become more diverse to fairly reflect the communities it reports on

National Union of Journalists via The Conversation

Women owning their own image

women hip hop photography
Snoop Dogg on the set of “What’s My Name” by Lisa Leone (image courtesy of Dazed)

Megan Thee Stallion recently took to the New York Times to reflect on how this distinctly male gaze perpetrates violence. In the piece, she writes on the cultural obsession with Black women’s bodies, and inescapable sexualization.

She mentions how Serena Williams had to defend herself to the public for wearing a bodysuit at a match. The attention should have been on Williams’ accomplishments as an athlete. Plus, the objectification is disrespectful towards her career as a champion.

Just as a lot of hip-hop music contains explicitly misogynistic sentiments, so is that reflected in visual content it inspires. And, women in hip-hop photography are just a few of the groups who are affected by this.

Megan Thee Stallion for the New York Times

This is concerning for its effect on young girls growing up in this media culture. Not to mention, the creative limits it places on visual media in the music itself. 

The hot girl coach closed out her critical essay by talking about owning her own image. She says she laments the cruel judgment she receives for presenting herself as a sexual being. While the Houston rapper is not a photographer, women owning their own image is an industry-wide imperative. 

But you know what? I’m not afraid of criticism. We live in a country where we have the freedom to criticize elected officials. And it’s ridiculous that some people think the simple phrase “Protect Black women” is controversial. We deserve to be protected as human beings. 

Megan Thee Stallion for the New York Times

Lisa Leone, a woman in hip-hop photography

Legendary hip-hop photographer Lisa Leone, for example, knows first hand what it’s like to have to assert her own vision. But for Leone, navigating hip-hop as a photographer and a woman, has always been an intuitive path.

women hip hop photography
Nas recording Illmatic, shot by Lisa Leone

Growing up as a B-girl when hip-hop was becoming a cultural phenomena, the New York native is known for her work on Nas’ Illmatic recording sessions, and TLC’s Creep, among other projects.

She rose to fame shooting her close friends for their publicity photos, and was touching down in Long Beach to shoot “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” with Snoop Dogg before long. 

Leone has never let stereotypes about her femininity interfere with her work, brushing aside comments when necessary to get the shot.

She recounts feeling angered by the treatment of women on set, but says those women usually had their own backs. Everyone who met Leone could tell that she grew up in the culture, and knew not to test her like that.

Lisa Leone for The Notorious B.I.G.

I was a B-girl, so if somebody had an issue or wanted to come to me in a certain way, I knew how to come back and set it straight. And I guess they could read that I was part of the culture, I wasn’t an outsider, I grew up in the culture so you feel that. 

Lisa Leone for Dazed

If ever the culture was questioning the need for women in photography, Leone’s legacy would be the first answer. 

Women in hip-hop photography gaining recognition

Men are still dominating the commercial photography industry, up to  89% – 96%. But women are mobilizing now more than ever before, to increase representation in every realm of photography.

In Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, women are celebrated as an integral part of the hip-hop community. Curated by cultural journalist Vikki Tobak, the book is a meditation, in part, on the brilliant women who made the hip-hop what it was and still is today.

Nicki Minaj for Angela Boatwright, Queens 2008 (image courtesy of Document Journal)

Legendary photographer Janette Beckman’s work with Run DMC and Salt-N-Pepa makes a central appearance in the book. Alongside them, Angela Boatwright’s contact sheets of a young Nicki Minaj delivers a paired down image of the rapper that’s still saturated in her signature attitude.

There were so many women who documented the culture, and women photographers were going deep with it… their photos often have a very personal, human portrayal of the artist. Telling that story, incorporating the women’s stories in the book was intentional but also not hard to do given how actively involved women photographers were.

Vikki Tobak for The New York Times
A Tribe Called Quest for Janette Beckman, NYC 1990 (image courtesy of the artist)

As the hip-hop industry continues to involve, there’s hope for women dominating the scene behind the lens too. Up and coming photographers are gaining access to more opportunities, and legendary women are still at large capturing the industry.

Hip hop needs photographers that are women, because hip-hop wouldn’t be what it is without them.

Janette Beckman is the hip-hop style photographer changing the game

Janette Beckman is an extraordinary hip-hop style photographer. Her work spans decades and across continents, and thus she is an icon in the music industry.

Beckman is a legendary hip-hop style photographer who first captured hip-hop through her lens in its infancy. We take a look at who she is and some of her most iconic photographs of hip-hop royalty.

hip-hop style photographer
Janette Beckman at BEAT Positive opening reception, NYC, November 21st, 2019 (Theo Wargo)

Janette Beckman: From England to NYC

Beckman hails from London and first spent much of her professional time there covering the punk scene with her photography.

She worked for a variety of publications such as Sounds Magazine, The Face, and Melody Maker. Then, in 1982, she moved to New York City.

janette beckman
Sex Pistols, 1977, Hyde Park (Janette Beckman)

Upon arriving in NYC, Beckman sought out work to flex her photography muscles.

She presented her portfolio to a variety of record companies and publications for a chance to photograph popular artists and shoot album covers.

Almost every company turned her down due to her past working on capturing London’s punk music scene.

The punk scene was gritty and grimey in its presentation and feel and much of her shots captured that. This style clashed with the glossed-up and airbrushed aesthetic of most music photography of the time.

Moving on from her rejections, Beckman discovered NYC’s growing hip-hop scene. And she was intrigued by how much it mirrored London’s own Punk scene.

Beckman took her talents to Def Jam where she met Lyor Cohen. And it was here that she received one of her most iconic photography assignments, photographing Queens rap legend, LL Cool J.

Rock the bells as a hip-hop style photographer

janette beckman
LL Cool J, 1985, NYC (Janette Beckman)

In music photography, you never know what shots will become iconic until they stand the test of time themselves.

Beckman’s shot of LL Cool J in 1985 is still one of her most iconic photographs. It captured the 80’s hip-hop essence perfectly.

It’s all iconic, from the Kangaroo hat to the boombox on his shoulder and also the chains that capture the gritty New York street persona of the genre at the time.

It’s defined, charismatic, and full of personality that only hip-hop artists like LL Cool J could pull off on camera.

This photo paved the way for defining what a hip-hop photoshoot could be. And it is also used as the basis for capturing hip-hop artists today. Personal and engaging with the audience to get a real glimpse into what the artists is about and what they stand for.

A hip-hop style photographer who has it all

In a 2020 interview for Def Jam chronicling her work, Beckman described her process in shooting her subjects as a hip-hop style photographer.

One thing she’s careful of is telling her subjects how to present themselves in front of the lens. She realized that people are much more natural on camera if they can be themselves.

Thus, in a genre where individuality is key, even among groups, letting hip-hop artists be themselves and place themselves in shots only adds to the photograph. Take the iconic shot of Slick Rick for example.

janette beckman
Slick Rick, 1989, NYC (Janette Beckman)

This shot of Slick Rick captured by Beckman was entirely staged by Slick Rick.

Rick walked over to the staging area and dropped his bag in front of him then proceeded to grab his crotch and posed for the camera. Beckman only had to capture the image.

This approach to photography is at the core of hip-hop. Experimentation, collaboration, and also just having fun are the pillars of this genre, and artists in mass were comfortable with Beckman chronicling their rise.

As a hip-hop style photographer, you have to let your subject rock, and then be ready to capture something special at any given second.

Janette Beckman’s staying power

One of the most impressive things about Beckman is how long she has been positioned as a mainstay in hip-hop culture.

She’s photographed legendary acts from various decades such as A Tribe Called Quest, Andre 3000, Dr. Dre, and more recent artists like Joey Bada$$ and Lil Tecca.

hip-hop style photographer
A Tribe Called Quest, 1990, NYC (Janette Beckman)

It’s clear that her stamp and influence on how hip-hop is captured and presented as a culture is important and relevant still after all these years.

There also seems to be no sign of her stopping. As long as there are artists who create, Beckman will be there to capture them every step of the way.

For more on Beckman, check out her official website here.

Pharrell’s BBC teams up with A Tribe Called Quest for legendary collaboration

Streetwear fashion brands’ collaboration game keeps going up, this time with Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club linking with iconic Queens rap trio A Tribe Called Quest.

The collaboration includes a capsule collection as well as an exclusive music release from Tribe.


In a press release, BBC addressed the mutual respect between Tribe and Pharrell:

“With a strong history dating back to the 1990s, A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) and Pharrell Williams have maintained a relationship based on their deep appreciation for music, making this capsule a fitting partnership by joining music and fashion.”


Tribe’s nominal frontman Q-Tip also spoke about the opportunity to work with Pharrell, who he considers a colleague and brother:

“I consider Pharrell to be a colleague and a brother, so we as Tribe are more than elated to be collaborating with Billionaire Boys Club on a fashion endeavor of this magnitude.”

The press release described the collection, available at BBC’s SoHo location in NYC and ATCQ’s website:

“The capsule—split into two offerings that will be available at Billionaire Boys Club NYC and on ATCQ’s apparel website, respectively—includes classic hoodie and t-shirt silhouettes, hats, a patch set, and a limited-edition leather varsity jacket manufactured by Golden Bear. Designs marry Billionaire Boys Club classic logos with ATCQ’s stick-figure logo along with their infamous red and green album cover artwork seen on The Low End Theory.


The collection also features a tribute to late great Tribe member Phife Dawg:

“In addition to the varsity jacket statement piece, the capsule includes a homage to the late Phife Dawg of ATCQ, with a black pullover hoodie featuring the words ‘FOR MALIK…’ printed across the chest. Two versions will be made available with the BBC version adorning a reflective 3M spaceship outline graphic on the back and the ATCQ version seen embellished with 3M reflective prints of ‘ATCQ’ on the sleeves and ‘5’ on the back of the pullover.”

Along with some fire clothes, ATCQ are dropping a new video for “Space Program”, available exclusively on Apple Music.

Go cop, go peep, be a part of an historic collaboration.