BY NICK DONNELLY
AS AN ENGLISHMAN PERSUADED by American cultural influence since birth my first trip to the United States was viewed in my head from the offset as pretty much a homecoming. As soon as I arrived I tried my best to avoid the majority of obvious brainwash as I was here to put my spin on things (Im pretty good with avoiding bullshit after a few experiences in the music industry). After going through what was tourist rigmarole of the first things you see in New York – skyscrapers and everything you have already seen on Woody Allen and Scorsese movies we had more of a thirst for experience not sightseeing.
We were staying central Manhattan that night so we dropped off our equipment quickly and hit the Deli on the corner to pick up the first thing that caught eye and that I’d never heard referenced in the decades of pop culture I’d been pushed; Four Loco was the thing that first caught our eyes and me and Oliver (Whitehouse) both picked up a can with no idea what was coming next – I had a shoot in Brooklyn a couple of hours later but people that have worked with me know that rarely stops me. We would later learn that Four Loco is a forbidden fruit in the country and I would use this to my advantage to prove to people I was working with that I don’t drink tea like they may think.
“Oliver had previously said to me years ago that if there is anywhere to be homeless its New York so we went to test this out for the night at least.”
The morning after a crazy night I had to shoot again early before we went to Rock The Bells festival – as a hip hop site you would expect me to write a review on how the experience was but I wont insult your intelligence as a reader – you know what a festival that contains Erykah Badu, Nas and Lauryn Hill is like.
Where we were staying that night fell through so we were faced with a good old-fashioned night of homelessness in New York. Oliver had previously said to me years ago that if there is anywhere to be homeless its New York so we went to test this out – for the night at least. Again we were central Manhattan so it wasn’t a worry of any drama but more to my concerns was that I was shooting again in the AM – we found a takeaway to catch a quick 20 mins sleep in as well as under a tree in Central Park.
Next day I cant even remember what happened I got wavey to disguise my irritation – I remember I shot a music video though you can check it online on the site at some point – if you cant tell which one it was then I managed to achieve my job again and if you can then at least the story is better than the video….
New York was starting to get good now we had a new place to stay in the East Village of Manhattan and we were staying with the biggest Legends of the trip Dave and Marrissa who happened to be from my adopted home city Newcastle – two art lovers with great taste who were more than happy to welcome the New York City rap scene into their homes. But like anything in this business once you start to get settled onto the next one…
Washington on paper a Presidential state would seemingly be our dullest experience yet… but I knew a place that was seemingly corporate on an international scale had to have some real character that they were hiding away…
I wanted my trip to America to be away from simplicity and comfort; Oliver is also a fond traveler around Eastern Europe so we decided to stay at a hostel in Washington to get a real impression on what this city is really like. I wanted to feel that of an artist touching down in foreign territory and learning from it rather than stay at the typical Hilton hotel – this is of course not an easy route to take when we found the place we had to sleep outside in the pouring rain unsheltered for hours until the hostel opened.
“they found it hilarious that I was drinking a 40oz. they took a few photos I hope never surface further down my career. To me it was no different than drinking a White Lightning back home back in the day in Burnley”
After a day working on set we got back in to the hostel which was as damp inside than it was on the outside. It was the first game of the American Football season and we were invited to sit in the lounge with the group who ran the hostel. The people seemed to find it hilarious that my choice of drink to watch the game was a 40oz (I brought some through from NY as they not easy to get hold of in the Presidential state). To me it was no different than drinking a White Lightning back home back in the day in Burnley or drinking a Tudor Rose in Newcastle – this is when I am most comfortable but yet again I was destroying a stereotype of British lifestyle that we are perceived like over there.
I don’t like telling people in my personal life what my career is but I think under constant barrage for my understanding of hip hop, the 40oz choice and being white I told them but without showing them links; staying at a $10 a night hostel I blatantly am not very good in their head – that’s a place Im happy being at to keep a bit of normality in conversation,
The next day in Washington was standardly very different we got private access to one of the main theatres in the city, went through to the cities number one radio station and we got VIP treatment in every club in town. The contrast in environments is one of my favourite parts of my career I get as much enjoyment from the rough life as the high life I couldn’t focus fully on one or the other.