Hennessy Artistry – The Time Of My Life
Black Thought (The Roots)
Well, on Saturday night, thanks to help from the homie Tafari http://mindspill.bygbaby.com and the wonderful and lovely Nina Moreno over at fusicology.com , I was given the opportunity to shoot the invite-only Hennessy Artistry event at Bert’s Warehouse. At about 8:45 pm, I received a call from Tafari telling me that if I wanted to shoot the event, I needed to be at Bert’s by 9:30. After a shave, a brushing of the teeth, and a quick whore bath, I was ready to roll!
Questlove (The Roots)
I got to the venue at about 9:25. It was raining, and quite chilly. Once Nina arrived, I went in with her crew and was immediately escorted backstage. As I swept through the venue and the crowd, I couldn’t help but notice my lavish surroundings. Did the curtains I passed through instantly transport me to South Beach or Las Vegas? The interior was beautiful, with an elevated and sectioned-off VIP. The bars were stocked with bottle after bottle of free Hennessy. The crowd was so…dignified – not a single Plies to be found!
Questlove and Black Thought (The Roots)
As I arrived backstage by the rear entrance, I couldn’t help but notice that Tafari was nowhere to be found. Immediately upon my arrival, I was told that the talent was about to arrive. I readied my gear, despite having no clue as to what was about to happen. I guess I expected the talent to make a grand entrance, surrounded by a swarm of paparazzi. After all, there couldn’t have been more than 5 photographers back there with me. Security quickly came up and said “OK, The Roots are about to come out. These 2 guys go first (*points to the 2 guys*), then you guys go (*points to me and the other 2 photographers near me*). Then, just as low key as you would expect, Questlove and Black Thought calmly walked in front of the backdrop and posed. No flurry of paparazzi. No “flashing lights” (well, not that many anyway). Just “you take a few shots, now you take a few shots, make a fast, all done.”
Marsha Ambrosius (Floetry)
After The Roots left, there was a considerable amount of downtime, giving me an opportunity to text Tafari. “Dude! Where are you?!?! I’m backstage and we just got some set-up shots of The Roots in front of a backdrop!!” Tafari: WHAT?!?! By the time Tafari arrived, there had been no more guests. (I later found out from JD, formerly of Real Detroit, that we had already missed Travie McCoy.) During our wait for the arrival of additional talent, Tafari and I were able to chat with celebrity photographer, Johnny Nunez (Google him, baby!). The celebs LOVED him. Every one that came in greeted him as if he was family. Next up, was Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry. She was stunning, and I was able to capture the image you see above.
After Marsha, the celebs started to come through a little more quickly. We shot the cast of “Detroit 1-8-7,” as well as several of the Detroit Pistons. Toccara came through, and was mad cool. She laid claim to Tafari as her “side piece.” We also shot Jay Electronica (more on him later). Then, Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest came through and blessed me with this wonderful mugshot! 🙂
Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest)
All the was left now, was to wait on the main event. Each stop on the Hennessy Artistry tour featured a secret surprise guest. The first show had Erykah Badu. The second show had Bobby Brown. Who was Detroit going to get? To Tafari’s pleasure (and the displeasure of whoever is going to have to clean his underwear), it was Chaka Khan.
As Chaka Khan was leaving (and Tafari was picking himself up off the floor and towel-drying his crotch), we could hear the show starting out front. For the time being, work was over, and it was time for drinks. Well, at least for me it was. 🙂
I proceeded to the bar and made quick work of 3 Hennessy Apple’s (Hennessy and Apple Juice Cocktail). I chilled and watched the show for a bit, and it was awe-inspiring. You know how you can hear an artist on their CD and they sound phenomenal, but then when you see them live, they suck? This was not the case at Hennessy Artistry. The Roots and Q-Tip were BANGING!!!! They were BETTER live! The club was shaking, the crowd was hype, and the drinks were flowing. “This can’t be life!”
Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest)
One of the coolest things for me, was that the celebrities who were not performing were just walking around the crowd with all the rest of us. I look in one direction, and I see Derrick Coleman. I looked behind me, and I see Toccara dancing. I look to my right, and I see the cast of “Detroit 1-8-7” living it up. As I returned to the bar, I walked right past Greg Monroe, Vernon Hamilton, and DaJuan Summers of the Detroit Pistons. It was surreal.
I decided that break time was over, and it was time for me to get some shots of the performances. I downed my 4th Hennessy Apple, only to realize that it was still relatively early – not even midnight. This would give me sufficient time to metabolize my drinks.
The Roots and Q-Tip essentially hosted the show. They never left the stage, and it was a blessing. They were unadulterated dopeness! Jay Electronica came out next, and man… dude was SPITTING. Q-Tip had to fan him off, because his bars were TOO hot.
Now, I’ve heard Floetry many-a-time, and I like and respect their music quite a bit. Still, I was not prepared for the eargasms I was about to experience when they brought out Marsha Ambrosius. She sounded absolutely phenomenal. Music to my ears, literally. Travie McCoy came out and really worked the crowd into a frenzy. As an aside, I’m curious. Is he no longer a member of Gym Class Heroes? And what’s with the “Travie”? Travis sounds better. #JustSayin
The crowd was hype, and everyone’s drinks had them on high. It was time for the finale. Q-Tip announced Chaka Khan, and the crowd went wild.
She was amazing. Still on top of her game, she whipped the crowd into a frenzy. I think I saw Tafari do the running man, for some reason. She wasn’t out for long, but it doesn’t take long to slap someone upside the head with awesomeness, and that’s just what Chaka did. As she left, the rest of the performers began playing to the crowd. Questlove autographed his drum sticks (I initially typed “drumstricks” and thought, “Wait, like chicken? No, that’s not right.”) as well as the tops of his drums, and threw them into the crowd. Tafari actually snagged one of the drum tops, nearly decapitating a poor defenseless child in the process. OK, maybe it wasn’t a child, and maybe she wasn’t poor or defenseless, but it was still pretty gangsta. Artists started filming the crowd on their iPhones, taking pictures of us, and shaking our hands (I actually got a handshake from Q-Tip, and Tafari got one from Chaka Khan). And, as Q-Tip danced off stage, the crowd began to make its way toward the exit.
Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest)
Tafari and I made our way back backstage – scratch that, we returned back stage – for a little after-show mingling. I ordered a Hennessy Berry, just for a change of pace, and was reminded that not all change was to be believed in (thanks Obama!). That drink was dreadfully nasty. Most of the performers had retreated to their dressing rooms, but Tafari managed to snag a picture of himself with Marsha Ambrosius, as well as Questlove, with the help of yours truly behind the camera. It was a truly a night for the ages, and I’ll never forget it. I’m both thankful for, and appreciative of, the help of ANYONE who was involved in allowing me to photograph this event. I would say that I hope it’s not my last, but I don’t intend for it to be, so I won’t allow to it be.
Finally, if you want to see all the rest of the photos that I had no intention of uploading into this blog post due to space on the blog, the number of pictures, and my ferocious laziness… check them out in all their hi-res glory on my Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/dtownpistonsfan/sets/72157624964553555/ . While you’re doing everything I tell you, make sure to check out Tafari’s blog http://mindspill.bygbaby.com and follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/photosbytafari . Also, check out Nina Moreno’s site, Fusicology, as well http://www.fusicology.com Finally, keep in mind that you can click on any picture in this blog and be able to see it a “lil mo big.”