[Exclusive Interview] Professional Photographer Xavier Thomas (ArtLikeUs) Takes His Shot

What happens when passion meets motivation? Ask Uniontown, Pennsylvania native Xavier Thomas. It wasn’t too long ago that Thomas was finding his way while honing his craft. Now he’s turning his craft into cheese.

A few years ago Thomas launched his own photography brand called ArtLikeUs. The prolific photographer quickly made a name for himself in the Pittsburgh region, shooting Hip Hop heavyweights such as Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg, Young Jeezy and more.

Cardi B

With building a foundation for his brand, it was now time for Thomas to build. And it wasn’t long before he began to do just that. ArtLikeUs received a major boost after a photo taken by Thomas, of rap veteran Fabolous, was shared by the emcee and mainstream outlets like XXL and The Source.

“I was with Heemi and he had a show in New Castle. He was opening for Fabolous and Red Cafe and we went out there and he did his performance. When Fab came out…at that point he was still the legendary Fab. Like I couldn’t believe I was looking at that nigga. I was in the crowd in low-key awe. At that time that was the biggest celebrity I had ran into.”

Thomas took the opportunity and was able to secure a – pun intended – fabulous shot of the Brooklyn emcee. “I swear it seemed like he walked up to the front of the stage and was looking at me, and I took a picture. It felt like he was almost posing.”

Fabolous

That night’s photo (shown above) went viral and a new relationship was soon created.

Thomas continued to work with Fabolous and has taken photos of him all across the country. “Fab is real laid back,” Thomas said. “He’s real chill and funny. He’s just a real nigga, but famous as fuck.”

Most recently Thomas worked with Fab in Philadelphia at the Live Nation produced Made In America festival. Thomas said his experience working the music event was highlighted with an unexpected encounter.

Thomas recalled his time during the event at the D’usse Lounge. “It was heavy…and then they said no more pictures and started locking the shit down. I’m at Made In America, I knew what that meant,” Thomas said. “But I didn’t want to stop shooting pictures because if I didn’t shoot it, it didn’t happen.”

“So then I see headlights, and I’m like someone is really violating, that’s wild,” he said. “And then (Jay Z) steps out. And then Beyoncé and Blue get out. So I’m mind-blown right now. And then these niggas come up the steps, and in my head I’m going crazy. But in that situation I couldn’t let it show.”

Jay Z & Fabolous – Made In America festival

While definitely a milestone for the young photographer, Thomas said his most memorable moments range from his time at DJ Khaled ‘s house to spending time with Fabolous to having full access at a Wiz Khalifa concert in Pittsburgh.

“That was like the ‘I made it moment,’” Thomas said about working the Wiz show. “I’m shooting the reason I started shooting. Like the reason I picked up a camera is right in front of me on this stage, in front of thousands of people. And my duty right now is to take pictures…man that shit meant so much.”

Similar to his relationship with Fabolous, his time with Wiz has also taken him around the country to places like Atlantic Records in New York, Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, and even to Wiz’s mother’s house.

Wiz Khalifa

So what’s next for the photographer? The sky is the limit. Right now you can catch him on the road less traveled, striving to reach the next limit, while taking photos of your favorite emcee’s favorite emcees.

Check out more of his featured photos here on our website, and also at artlike.us.com. And stay tuned…because it’s only a matter of time for this aspiring photographer.

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[Hot New Video!] Jimmy Wopo – “Lane Life”

The city of Pittsburgh has taken some pretty big loses over the last few weeks with the shooting death of up & coming rapper Jimmy Wopo, and the East Pittsburgh police fatally shooting an unarmed Antwon Rose.

While a somber “Steel City” now looks to pick itself back up, the team behind Jimmy Wopo recently released his music video for “Lane Life.” The latest Wopo visual gives you the Pittsburgh rapper as he was known to be, “Lane Mane.”

  

According to a statement attached to the video, Jimmy Wopo’s upcoming project “Muney Lane Muzik 2,”  is scheduled to drop later this summer. 

The statement reads: “In memory of Pittsburgh’s rising star Jimmy Wopo, his team releases the music video for his track “Lane Life”. Look out for Jimmy Wopo’s upcoming project Muney Lane Muzik 2 which will drop later this summer via Empire. Make sure you SHARE this one everywhere and LONG LIVE WOPO.”

The 21-year-old rapper, was tragically gunned down in a drive-by shooting on June 18, in the Pittsburgh’s Hill District. His death marked the second loss of the day, following the murder of Florida rapper XXXTentacion just hours earlier. 

Rest in peace Travon “Jimmy Wopo” Smart…

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[Hot New Video!] Childish Gambino – “This Is America” (Official Video)

Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino has delivered an epic look into the African-American experience. Using a gripping visual and ad libs from some of your favorite rappers, Glover does it way big for the culture. In my opinion, Donald Glover gets right what Kanye West recently got wrong… “a choice?” Really Yeezy?

In this video, Childish Gambino paints the picture that many privileged Americans have tried to ignored. The careless murders of blacks, Jim Crow, and police injustice are all portrayed, while Gambino struts his stuff with a distracted youth. Check out the latest by Childish Gambino and let us know what you think by commenting below and/or finding us on Facebook.

 

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[Hot New Music!] OG Bobby Blendz – “Survival of the Littest” mixtape (Stream Here)

OG Bobby Blendz is back with some serious heat.

The West Pennsylvania native recently drop his latest mixtape Survival of the Littest, and some already are saying that this may be his greatest project to date. The mixtape is a crockpot of crazy beats, plenty of features, and lyrics that leave you with plenty of after thoughts.

Stream Survival of the Littest below, and let the playlist guide you through tracks such as “Diluted in a Dream,” “She Blowed” featuring Joe Grizzy, and “Put in Work” featuring TEN/27.  And try not to hurt your neck nodding to songs like “Give em That,” “Bang out the City,”  and “Caught a Lick” featuring Wes Penn.

Check out the mixtape and let us know which track is your favorite by commenting below.

Keep an eye on this up & coming artist/producer and his movement BlackSandz Music Group, because if this any indication of what to expect from this group…it’s only a matter of time.

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1998: Hip Hop’s Golden Year (A look back at 20 years ago)

As the New Year’s resolutions fall to the wayside, we can look now at what 2018 has to offer.

Let’s begin with yet another celebration: Two decades ago, this very year, more than 60 incredible Hip Hop albums were released.

Following the deaths of legendary emcees Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., Hip Hop was looking for new leaders, which led to a pivotal time for the culture.

Albums such as Jay Z’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, OutKast’s Aquemini, and DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, all dropped in 1998, and respectively – all were deemed as classics.

And let’s not forget Lauryn Hill’s game changing album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which went on to win five Grammy Awards the following year.

Big Pun’s Capital Punishment, Camron’s Confessions of Fire, Noreaga’s N.O.R.E, and Juvenile’s 400 Degreez were all a part of that magical year in Hip Hop as well.

Pretty much every Hip Hop act that was relevant or near relevant in 1998 dropped an LP in 1998…sheesh…DMX dropped two albums, lol.

So step away from your workload and take this needed trip down memory lane…or visit it for the very first time.

Check out the images below and take a look at some of the best albums 1998 had to offer.

[Hot New Music!] Drake – Scary Hours (EP)

Surprise, surprise! Champagne Papi drops a surprise EP ironically titled Scary Hours, which is either a play on the time in which it was released – midnight – or a description of the current times (Thanks 45!).

The EP’s title could also be seen as an extension of his tweet from July 29, 2015. That night he broke the internet with his Meek Mill diss “Back 2 Back.”

Either way, we have two new singles from Drake: “God’s Plan” and “Diplomatic Immunity.”

Ride the bounce on the Young Exclusive, Cardo and Boi-1da-produced “God’s Plan,” then enjoy Boi-1da’s and Nick Brongers’ soulful production of “Diplomatic Immunity.”

“God’s Plan” and “Diplomatic Immunity” are available everywhere now. Listen to the tracks below.

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[Hot New Video!] Friday Da 13th ft. Hanz On – “Brought it on Yaself” Hosted by DJ Kay Slay

Rhode Island rapper/producer on the rise, Friday Da 13th, is back with a new visual for his record, “Brought It On Yaself” featuring Wu-Tang Clan affiliate Hanz On. The track is from his album Heaven In My Headphones, which was released in October and hosted by DJ Kay Slay.

 

Always inspired by the struggle, the graffiti artist turned emcee’s focus is to help uplift those who have endured similar tribulations, proving to them that it is possible to overcome the perils of poverty while maintaining a positive outlook on life. From Newport, Rhode Island’s largest public housing project – to producing for The Investigation Discovery Channel – Friday Da 13th has shown that no matter how humble your beginnings, if you set your goals high enough and believe in yourself nothing is unattainable.

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[Hot New Video!] Young Ledgen – “Destined to Shine”

Pennsylvania rapper Young Ledgen has put the city of Johnstown on his back as he has dropped video after video in the last few months, all culminating with the release of his anticipated mixtape, Signed to the Bank.

 

His latest visual, “Destined to Shine,” is yet another look at one of the bangers on his current project. The video is dope and the track speaks for itself. Check out the visual to “Destined to Shine” below and listen to Signed to the Bank above.

 

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[Hot New Video!] 60 East – “Almost There”

60 East has taken his talents on the road and he’s now back with new product. The California emcee is delivering a fresh installment of his dope project The Freeway Series, and gives Hip Hop heads a sample of his work with his new visual for “Almost There.”

60 East takes viewers on tour with him to Europe in “Almost There,” which is also the lead single to his upcoming release The Freeway Series Vol 2: Cruise Control. The video begins with 60’s appearance at the 15th annual Hip Hop Kemp Festival, then continues with scenes from his recent European tour, traveling through the continent and performing in various countries.

 

“Almost There” and the rest of the EP is produced in its entirety by long time friend and collaborator Phil The Pain.

Listen to The Freeway Series Vol 2: Cruise Control, which is available exclusively for free on 60’s website sixtyeast.net.

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(Exclusive Interview) Hanz On Drops New Music and Talks About his Relationship With the Wu-Tang Clan [Hip Hop News Now]

Staten Island emcee Hanz On is working hard to rejuvenate Hip Hop and supply listeners with that vintage New York sound, all while focusing on his label Hanz On Music Entertainment (H.O.M.E.) — which will be releasing Method Man’s new album — Meth Lab 2: The Lithium.

The Wu-Tang Clan affiliated rapper recently dropped his final album, BARCA. The new project is filled completely with heat and features collabs with Ghostface, Raekwon, Method Man, and more.

“One of my personal favorites is ‘Hate My Hood.’ I felt like that song had a lot of substance to it,” Hanz On said. “A lot of this song is reality for me.”

Other stand out tracks on the album include “Smoke Like We Do” and “Big Sky.”

 

Hanz’ relationship with the Wu is evident in his music.

“We grew up together, or they see me grow up,” Hanz said. “When I started doing positive things they came out to support me.”

After several run-ins with the law and multiple brushes with death, Hanz On transitioned from the man he used to be, to the emcee we know today. He credits his transformation to Method Man, Raekwon, and other members of the Wu-Tang Clan.

“You can never take nothing away from the pioneers,” he said, “you always got to show the people who pioneered this shit for you and made the runway for you gratitude and respect.”

Hanz calls his relationship with the Clan a little brother/big brother type of thing.

“The hard part is just you know, as far as the writing aspect of it, trying to keep up,” Hanz said. “It’s hard trying to keep up, but I’m comfortable around dudes.”

The New York native describes his sound as having a New York edge to it.

“I like to say that I have a New York element to me, that’s why I never really tried to explore all the new shit coming out, you know trap music and shit like that,” Hanz said.

“I kind of look at that music as a down south type of sound. I just want to keep that New York edge at all times.”

“Not that I’m talking down on that music, I just can’t get into it. It’s different, but dudes is doing what they do.”

“I can’t get into the throwing my money in the club an shit like that, I can’t get into that whole wave,” he said. “My wave was shoeboxes and safes, and saving your money…that’s where I came up at. So fast-forward now, my shit is about bank accounts and savings and checkings.”

As you can tell by now, Hanz is all about his business. The emcee turned label exec is very optimistic about where Hip Hop is taking him and also the future of his label.

“We got U-God’s son in the studio, we got Meth’s nephews in the studio, so we got a lot coming for the end of this year going into next year,” he said.

He noted that Method Man’s new album, Meth Lab 2: The Lithium, will be dropping on his label, Hanz On Music Entertainment, in August.

“Everybody stay close to me…we got a lot going on.”

Check out the latest visual by Hanz On, “Big Sky,” featuring Method Man below.

 

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