Devon-Ramdass-Lenaugne-2018
Creative Media

Caribbean Artists on Art: Devon Ramdass | Our YouTube Future

I was so excited to find a Caribbean YouTuber who took his content and video quality seriously that when I contacted Devon Ramdass in December for this interview, I (the dumbass) assumed that he was only influenced by Casey Neistat.

Devon told me, “Casey has definitely stapled the “drone shot followed by handheld” sort of look for vlogs. I look up to him in terms of content quality of course, but I am definitely more influenced by people like Sawyer Hartman and Peter McKinnon.” Huh.

You see, all of Devon’s vlogs open with flawless drone shots overlayed with instrumentals then he cuts to a hand-held. Neistat does a lot of that but I’ve come to realize that intro isn’t special/rare. Devon is less interested in the aesthetics of Neistat’s mini movies and more in the style of Sawyer and McKinnon. “Their style and color grading makes you feel a certain way when watching their videos and that’s what I hope to achieve.” Huh. I need to do more research.

Devon is a Trinidadian tech-entrepreneur and a speed-talker. The two combinations make some words fly over my head when I watch his vlogs, but the organic interactions between he and his friends (#smashlife!) gives me a peek into this whole other culture and that’s worth it.  It’s unfair that his vlog channel does not have more than 1,100+ subs. but he is still appreciative of it all,“Everything I do at the moment is all thanks to YouTube. Before starting my main channel where I do tech reviews, I didn’t have the simplest idea of what shooting editing and producing a video in general entailed.”

His main channel, Devon X Scott, has been up for about three years and the moment he decided to take it seriously and the moment things started to turn around were simultaneous. “If I had to pinpoint one specific moment it would honestly be the day I got my first Adsense cheque (Devon made a video on making money from YouTube, watch it, here). To experience doing something with your computer and a website and then seeing a physical cheque come in your mail is a pretty amazing feeling!”

Devon does technology reviews and content production for local Trinidadian dealerships and gigantic companies like LG and Samsung. “Since starting [YouTube], I now do videography and photography professionally and I own a relatively successful graphic design company. All of which birthed due to having to learn those skills to further my YouTube channel.”

Yea, you read that right. YouTube gave him the opportunity to create the beginnings of an enterprise.

I believe the beauty and ultimate success of of YouTube is it’s intimacy, it’s an intimacy that T.V. and movies can’t give us. It has this great ability to connect the most random group of everyday people with a range of  talents to create a YouTube culture and anybody can add to it.

I told Devon that we have social media stars here in Jamaica who are making a living from using their personality to add to this culture but that I think they don’t have the true professional mindframe that even the youngest of American Youtubers have. The biggest problems we face in Jamaica are that generally: video quality and editing are not taken seriously, vlogs are boringly long and plotless and video releases are inconsistent and uncreative because everybody wants to be a comedian.

Devon agreed that Caribbean YouTubers’ video quality is poor, the same thing happens in Trinidad. He basically told me the same thing that Romario Lynch did: we have very low standards in the Caribbean when it comes to art. Devon said, “If you look at most widely known productions locally especially TV ads and segments, they set the bar pretty low in my opinion.” Romario said, “I notice, across all fields of work [in Jamaica], much attention isn’t paid to detail or quality of work. I see it in ‘fancy restaurants’ where they just use the cheapest ingredients.  I see it in construction and even carpentry where work is decent but not perfect. There are people can cook and there are people who create dishes. There are people who can work a camera and there are people who capture moments… Creativity isn’t as valued out here as it is overseas.”

And this is sad because YouTube not only helps an individual, but a country. “My YouTube work has resulted in monetary gain locally here in Trinidad and Tobago due to companies contacting me for video production purposes,” Devon said. “Being noticed by those large companies really showed me the sheer power that platforms like YouTube and its international reach can offer to creators, even if you’re in the Caribbean.”

However, both Devon and Romario believe that the creative fields are growing so rapidly that in time things will change. “Truly I believe that the next generation will raise the standards in terms of video quality for sure,” Devon said. And I believe him too because the funniest part of all this is that we have everything we need to start a Caribbean YouTube revolution: content and culture… Devon said, “Being a “good YouTuber” isn’t just about the gear you use, but the content you produce. If your content is on point, that’s the most important thing.” …we just need to work on the rest. Especially since it’s so easy to start too, a modern smartphone is all you need. That’s how most Youtubers started out and most importantly, that’s exactly how Devon Ramdass– one of The Caribbean’s rising YouTube stars in my eyes– started out. –Bless.

[cover image by: Devon Ramdass]

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Creative Media

1/4 | April

Today I want to share with you some of my favourites from the first quarter of the year.
Listen

Songs:

Impatient” by Jeremih is the better of Late Nights’ two best singles. The album was quietly released in 2015 without much fanfare but this song is a gem. “Impatient” makes me see Jeremih in a new light, he is a true Rn’B artiste not just a pop hybrid. The song is a slow jam: Jeremih’s voice is smooth– he oftentimes drops into deep sensual whispers making you float– his voice brings back a R. Kelly’s “Your Body’s Calling” vibe from the 90’s. Ty Dolla $ign is here too with a line about lotion that is the funniest thing to me. THIS is my 2AM song.

Without You” by Lana del Rey is the song said to have inspired Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.” Taken from her best album in my opinion, Born to Die, the song has a grand operatic, orchestral feel that swallows you and abandons you at the same time making you understand the pitfalls of love. It is synth heavy but it’s also a dreamy 1950’s love song only with lyrics like, “Though you’re so dope/ Your love is deadly.” This a fusion that Del Rey is well known for. I am not a fan of her music, all her songs sound the same to me, but sometimes, once in a while, I get caught in the hippie web and go searching for new music and it so happens that I ended up finding something worthwhile this time. Unlike some people though I don’t copy what I find (ahem, ahem).

Album

Intro by Dexta Daps. Can I tell you how happy I am to see that Jamaican artistes are taking album releases seriously? 12 free songs, 12 hits, 2 features: 1 with Alaine and the other with Daps’ protege Blakkman. ⅓ of the album is for baby making (parental advisory, strong language), but the rest go from songs about innocent and tortured romance like in, “Love Again” and “Be Good”; to a Lovers Rock Reggae song so clean the Jamaica Tourist Board should use it for ad coverage (“Love Vacation”); to a celebration of life and blessings in,“I’m Blessed,” “Superhero” and “Toast,” and finally to a brutal dissection of ghetto life in, “Coke” and “Grow Rough.” Few talking points: “Owner” is Rn’B fire. The Gospel used in “I’m Blessed” is mad overlooked, it is straight out of Chance the Rapper’s hand manual. “Coke” with the “Stranger in Moscow” guitar notes told me that this album was going to go places. “Only U” holds me down for reasons that I can’t explain. “Toast” is now my anthem and lastly, the video graphics for the album makes the collection even more beautiful. One word for Intro: versatile. A great start for the young don.

Watch
The Night Of.

John Turturro and Riz Ahmed in a scene from season 1 of The Night Of, 2016 (photo credit: HBO).

The Night Of

An 8-part HBO miniseries that came out last year detailing the worst night of a young Pakistani’s life and the trial that followed. A college student, Naz has a hazy night with a mysterious girl, wakes up to find her dead, and is then arrested for her murder. The Night Of is as much a coming of age story as it is a mystery; in prison Naz meets Freddy (Omar from The Wire) who breaks and molds him into a man. (BTW, I just finished watching season 4 of The Wire and I tell no lies when I say that the show has my heart entirely. My soul kryptonite. Swear.) At home, the series shows the realistic and unglamorous struggles of a family of colour with a son in prison, how important money is but also how invaluable integrity can be. His lawyer, John steals the show though. He manages to be funny and pity worthy in a single shift and his season finale speech… the man needs an Emmy nod.  

Youtube

The Nerdwriter and kaptainkristian

Two channels that round up interesting media in a visually appealing way. Whether it be music, artistes, comic origins, politics or culture, each channel produces content with precise details that comes from keen observations. You are educated and entertained at the same time like with Nerdwriter’s analysis of Michael Mann’s style and story execution in my favourite movie of all time, Heat as well as his explanation of how to examine art (mad helpful). There is also stuff like kaptainkristains praise of Childish Gambino’s confluence of talents and how necessary this is for his type of art while he also informs his subscribers about the comic origins of Bugs Bunny. Enlightening and fascinating. I wished I learned this much in school.

Bring the Pain and Killin’ Them Softly

So I decide to watch a stand up comedy show once per week because I think comedians are the smartest people on the planet. I go back and skim through specials I watched when I was younger until I find Dave Chappelle. He’s signed that $60mil deal with Netflix and is in the news a lot so I say let’s go back to the year 2000. Let’s go back to back to Killin’ Them Softly… then to Bring the Pain. If you watch/rewatch Killin’ you will see Chappelle’s undoubted influence by Chris Rock’s 1996 Bring the Pain which changed the game, Rock turned black anger into entertainment gold. It is probably the best comedy show I’ve seen to date; Rock is  jumpy and well-rehearsed but also observant and timeless for this (I haven’t seen Pryor yet so this may change). Both shows are poignant and sadly still accurate today. Rock’s Back People vs Niggas, “Who’s more racist: black people or white people? Black people. You know why? Because black people hate black people, too.” is something which everybody still uses today. Chappelle’s delivery is more relaxed and you are fooled into thinking he’s telling you an off hand story but his analysis of what white vs. black people can get away with, male and female relationships and America’s deep seeded racism are deeply thought out and blurs the line between fact and fiction. And, if nothing else, you will love his, “white people voice,” there is nothing else like it. Watching a special a week is the best thing I ever did for myself in recent memory.

Read
Lily's letter.

Lily’s Letter to President Obama which The President answered (image credit: The White House).

The New York Times article, “To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation.”

The article details a journalist’s interaction with The White House team which dealt with the letters that President Obama received daily. “President Obama was the first to come up with a deliberate and explicit practice of 10 letters every day.” 10. No less, no more. But more important than the number was the order, the journalist noted of the lady who did this job, ”She could set the president up with a letter from someone gushing about the Affordable Care Act and then another from someone on the margin whose life was made worse because of it [and]… “Sometimes on Friday, particularly on Friday, we’ll end with one that’s like, ‘Hey, I like the way you tie your tie.’ ” She called that a chaser.” There is also a small interview with the man himself in which you learn the process by which some of the letters are answered. The article is fascinating, you get to see a select few yourself, and you get to understand the love and the hate that the American population has for The Obamas vs. other administrations. It’s a lengthy read (took me 3 days to finish while I read it on and off) but well worth it.


The Bullsh!t Award (inspired by A Girl With Something To Say )

Bruh, I ain’t heard “shETHER” or “Another One” since “No Frauds” was released in March. YYYYYY? Couple of facts first: “shETHER” is on the top 10 diss tracks of all time list but Remy killed herself with “Another One.” Nicki disrespected the Rap culture by 1. not responding until she felt like it and then 2. by responding with sh!t. All 3 songs she released, 3 of them don’t add up to 1 when compared to “shETHER” but Hollywood just proves without fail, that fame trumps talent mo’ time. #ImAFanOfTheArtNotTheArtiste and so Nicki Minaj and her fans get The Bullsh!t Award for the quarter.


Honourable Mentions

The movie Hush. It’s the new thing in seems: creating home invasion movies with a disabled victim. A deaf woman is tormented in her home by a sadistic killer. Hush is the yin to Don’t Breathe’s yang. If this film does nothing for you, it should at least teach you the power of your own weaknesses #walkingparadox and that is a good thing.

Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” by Wet and “Focus” by H.E.R. “Focus” speaks for itself, it is a dreamy, soft Rn’B track that merges the presence and voice of Bryson Teller and Kehlani to help create the mysterious artiste’s sound. Beautiful and sultry but not new. “Don’t Wanna…” is the best single from Wet’s 2015 EP Don’t You. The song is just under 3 minutes but it feels like you move in slow motion, like this is what forever feels like. With both songs, you listen and feel textures, moods and everything else that Indie and Rn’B music ought to give you. Listen to both with headphones for the full ‘pressed effect.

Etel Williams and Hanna vs. GrangePolitics is a messy business. In the recent UWI Mona Student Guild elections one of the candidates was disqualified from the race and the dark underbelly of The Guild’s role at the university reared its head. The Guild has a responsibility to protect, inform and represent the student polution yet the response to the disqualification was lacklustre and pitiful. The Guild pretty much threw Etel under the bus as if he was the first to breach the very vague rule in the  constitution; offered a poor explanation to the students as to why he was disqualified– they instead chose to cast full blame somewhere else– and then moved on with business as usual. Once more it is proved to me that The UWI Guild is more ornamental than functional.

And then this month Lisa Hanna aired The Culture Minister, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Granges’ dirty laundry without hard, concrete evidence (rookie move) in parliament showing that even in one of the highest offices in the country women just can’t keep petty cat-fighting alone. Well done to both student and government representatives, Jamaica’s moving along nicely as a political force thanks to the both of you.

[cover art by: Thomas C. Fedro]


 

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