As expressed in my first Dedication to the District post, DC has a ton of reasons for topping Forbes’ latest list of Coolest Cities in America. A city permeating with soul and an abundant culture that’s not going anywhere but up, I believe its tenacious population is the true force that prompted this acknowledgement. DC & PG County’s millennials in particular are proving there’s no lack of originality nor willingness to work, to seek out creative approaches to life.
They are dynamic, and they refuse to accept a mediocre existence, instead opting to nurture their passions and build from the ground up.
Below are all prime examples of just this type of DC/Maryland millennial -- ambitious friends and peers that I’ve known as far back as grade school, some since high school, and others that I bonded with in college. They are either part of a group of other young talents who have pioneered creative projects, or have launched their own remarkable ventures. It’s been a true blessing to be surrounded by numerous individuals within my age group who have unbelievable motivation.
Each of them will tell you that they are working towards something bigger than themselves; they don’t set out to be the “cool kids on the block,” however, they are precise examples of why DC’s coolness factor has skyrocketed.
They are all adding to its culture in their own ways and setting the pavement for a whole new era of inventiveness.
[Featuring 4 of 8]
Film: Jimmy Jenkins // United Empire
Jimmy is the area’s youngest director, with not only multiple stage play credits under his belt, but at only 23, a feature film written, directed, and produced by himself. Transpose the Movie tells the story of two families whose unfortunate situations cause their paths to intertwine, bringing them along a heart gripping journey of physical and emotional pain, questions of morality, the challenging of personal beliefs, and divine realization.
Premiering earlier this summer at the Magic Johnson movie theater in Largo, MD, Transpose brought out an incredible audience who seemed to all agree that it was one of the most impactful films they had seen.
Jimmy was quite the class clown back in 4th grade, and that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. While on set, his jokester personality will have the whole room roaring with laughter one moment, but silent and attentive at the very next once his get-down-to-business mode flips on as he calls the shots with confidence. While recently getting to see Jimmy and his production team in action on set of one of his next projects (that boy be working, ya’ll), I witnessed in-action the sheer drive and dedication behind what he does. I can only describe that feeling as refreshingly powerful.
He’s dreaming big and actually living those dreams out -- making films, producing music, managing artists, and spearheading events. United Empire is the umbrella company that brings it all to life.
Established by Jimmy and two friends, UE has a colossal empire in the making that will be one of, if not the first, of its kind to come out of PG County.
“DC has taught me a plethora of things, but most importantly it has taught me to stay humble, work hard with my head down because the fall to disgrace is much faster than the climb to happiness.”
Photography: Lloyd Foster // BlackStarZulu.Tumblr.com
Lloyd, my good friend and personal photography guru, has an admirable knack for capturing raw, authentic stills the old school way -- with a vintage film lens. It’s 2014, and most of us take a million photos with our digital cameras’ seemingly unlimited storage capacities, choose our favorite ones and deleting the rest, finishing up with a few photoshop edits or simply a filter thrown on for good measure. Photographers like Lloyd, however, are taking photography back to its roots. He shoots with an extra careful eye, almost frugally, since film doesn’t have an “erase” button and can be quite pricey to develop. This type of picture taking may not be instant in nature, but when his photos do materialize, they’re often perfect as is.
Lloyd’s photos speak volumes, communicating “instant classic” with nearly each one he posts. They provoke a desire to learn who the subjects are and what their stories would tell. He can shoot anything and make it look good, but his true luster comes mostly from street portraits and authentic settings all around the city. Although the scenes are typically everyday environments, and the individuals are typically everyday people, when you gaze at these images you still wonder what brings them to these surroundings, and how they arrived at this exact captured moment in time.
That’s what powerful photography does to the inquiring mind -- his style definitely carries moving capabilities that capture the viewer as distinctly as he captured the photo.
“I just really enjoy capturing people in their natural state. There’s a lot of life in DC and I’m trying my best to capture it.” Lloyd’s current online gallery has become quite notable in the Tumblr world. His photography has been published in the Washingtonian Magazine (I liked to think I helped with that), featured on KCRW’s music blog, recognized by Highsnobiety.com, and more. Even though I get nostalgia for my hometown every time I view his photos, I always look forward to seeing who and what his lens focuses on next.
Lifestyle: Shya and Maya Jones // Protocol Powerhouse
Shya and Maya, the most stylish set of twins I know, have a clear eye for suave aesthetics -- when it comes to designing a savvy head-to-toe look, they know how to get the job done. It’s apparent why they are the stylists as well as part of the executive team of up and coming artist management agency Protocol Powerhouse. Protocol aims to be a one stop shop for the modern day cultural figure, whether he or she be a musician, model, actor, photographer, or artistic connoisseur of any field.
The team encompasses hair, wardrobe, and makeup styling, photography, production design, and event planning, which will cater to specific needs of diverse clientele. True to its name, it’s undeniably a powerhouse in the making.
"Our dream is to create an internationally known Lifestyle brand; however, the DC Metropolitan area will forever be the birthplace of Protocol,” comments Maya. “The tremendous support, motivation & inspiration of our city will get us there.”
The multifaceted brand is arriving with a bang, going even further than providing comprehensive services for clients. It will also be introducing community initiatives that lend makeovers and giveaways, beauty videos and self-love advice, looks into the personal style and traits of its team members, as well as behind the scenes access to “Your Backstage Protocol.”
As cliche as the phrase may be, teamwork does make the dream work. I am excited to see what’s in store for Protocol and the creative forces that have joined to put this appealing vision to action. The thorough and professional foundation Protocol is being established on, along with the passion these ladies have, will make for a blossoming business. "The DMV area is packed with extremely talented & hard working people,” says Shya. “New York & LA- Yea sure, they're your best bet... right now. DC is a strong platform for all artistry & getting stronger by the year. The drive is crazy here, & the world is starting to get the picture." I couldn’t agree more.
Music: Larinzo “Lightshow” Williams // WelcomeToTheLightshow.com
Raise your hand if like me, you enjoy quality 'trap' music.
Straight from Southeast DC and onto stages, into iTunes playlists, through headphones and speakers in homes all over, Lightshow’s sound has lit a spark that’s helping finally push Washington’s rap scene to the forefront.
One can hear the undeniable gravity in his tone on each track; he spits in flames for rhymes that pack passion and confidence. His music delivers an intense flow that details his inner-city upbringing on 10th Place.
Like in most other metropolitan regions, there is an overabundance of aspiring rappers in the DMV -- I went to school with a lot of them. Lightshow, however, is one former classmate who I can say has a gift for standing out among the masses (not just your typical one hit only hype). He is constantly working to release hit after hit, while still taking his time to craft songs, and just as importantly, craft his business moves in a manner that resembles the practices of established artists.
Having a consistent logo, a professional website, and marketing strategies such as last year’s fan-engaging Life Sentence campaign to go along with his music releases, his blueprint to success offers a polished complement to the unpolished, “gutter” life experiences that he lyricizes. He’s collaborated with Wale, opened for Nipsey Hussle, and already managed to become the favorite DC rapper of many, but he hopes to become an elite name reaching a worldwide audience. With a large social media following, higher profile performances on schedule, and mentions from publications like XXL, Source, and Complex, he’s certainly on his way.
I’ve got four more inspiring innovators of the Coolest City to wrap up the series, coming next week! If you found this post insightful, please share it with anyone else who is interested in contributing to and spreading culture in DC’s young creative atmosphere. Even if you aren't from DC, leave your thoughts below!