[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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Artist: Lil TaRus

Song: “No Problems in Life”

Location: Houston, Texas

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Dear Hip Hop…

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Dear Hip Hop,

What happened to you? Are you okay? We watched your birth in the late 70’s and was intrigued by the gifts you offered our culture. Then we saw you bloom as an adolescent in the 80’s and eventually come into your own in the 90s. The 90s appeared to be your Golden Age, as you became a global sensation. Honestly, maybe that was when your identity first became compromised. The game was forever changed. What was once young and exciting now seems to be going through a mid-life crisis. Who are you trying to be? You lost yourself and in return we lost you. Nas was wrong when he said that you were dead. I know that you’re still alive…but you’re not well. You’re looks are quite deceiving, but I know you, and it’s time for an intervention.

Now a multi-billion dollar phenomenon, we barely even know you. LL Cool J taught us to how to “Rock The Bells,” now I sit back as artist like Desiigner and Future spit lyrics that only 3 out of 5 people usually get correct.  And what the hell is a Lil Uzi Vert? And are you serious about this Lil Dicky?

So many questions, but I feel like there is not enough of time. Soon there will be a changing of the guard, but I’m nervous to see who gets the baton. Yes, Drake does numbers, but do we really covet an artist who only bullies artists he knows he can body? Drake gets dissed by Joe Budden, and we get no response? If this was the 90s and Drake got dissed like that, he’d be Lil Zane to us by now.

All I’m saying is that you’re not the same and I’m calling you out. However, there is still help for you. The problem is, I just don’t know who is going to save you.

Regardless of how I feel, you still speak for our culture. I just fear that you’re not really saying anything.

 

Respectfully Yours,

Ron Fisher

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