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  • DANYAKI

    At the young age of seven, my parents and I migrated from Haiti to The City of Dreams in search of a better life. Hassan Gibrin fled from Ghana with the same mission - the only difference is that he was unable to depart alongside his beloved family.

    Hassan, now known as Hass Kwame, thoroughly enjoyed the vibrant surroundings in his hometown of Takoradi.  “The first thing you experience in this environment is its natural elements, hence nature became my first teacher, best friend and resource provider,” he states. “Playing soccer was the everyday thing, and when we were hungry we would turn to nature for all types of plants, fruits, fish for lunch and go back to having fun.” 

    Kwame’s love for the rural habitat inadvertently cultivated his unique sense of creativity.  God’s green earth provided the necessities that Hass couldn’t afford, so he began utilizing nature’s elements to get by on a regular day basis. For example, instead of purchasing soccer jerseys, Hass dug up mud to write his favorite players name and number on his back during games.  He even used leaves from palm trees to build fencing screens around his and neighboring homes.

    Hass’ childhood was joyous due to his intimate relationship with mother earth, but he later realized that the living conditions were actually below poverty level.  “The only way out from out the bottom is by migrating somewhere better - that was my attitude so I was obligated to leave the family behind and jet off,” Kwame lamented.  From 1994 through 1997, Hass travelled back and forth from neighboring countries like the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Guinea until he finally moved to New York in 1999. “I didn’t plan to migrate directly from Ghana to the states because it takes a lifetime to acquire money and the visa, so I was like a nomad traveling for a better life.”

    The Ghanaian lone ranger is currently living his best life in the Big Apple as he is working full-time in the restaurant industry while running his very own clothing line, Danyaki. I recently spoke with Hass to further discuss life in Ghana, come up in NYC and the meaning behind his fledgling label. Check out our conversation below:

    FRENDY:  Were your parents reluctant to let you travel abroad by yourself at such a young age?

    HASS:  As a Danyaki, the last thing you want to do is tell your traveling plans to your parents, that's a no no.  Our parents would love for us to live with them forever, so me telling them that I was traveling without an exact destination is not what they would want to hear. I told them that I was going to visit a friend across town, and it took 17 years for me to return home – I never got to see my dad again.  The most valuable thing in life for me is family, the worst thing in life is poverty. How do you balance that? ‘Cause happiness and poverty don't mix.

    In your case your entire family got their visas and the funds to afford that kind of migration - you got to be at least middle class and/or part of the elite class to be able to do so where I’m from. In the underworld you don't see an entire family migrate in my part of town, it's always the Danyakis who break out unannounced in order to send some remittance home to support the fam.

     

    FRENDY:  What is a Danyaki exactly?

    HASS:  Danyaki is when u are faced with obstacles and hurdles in order to get to the next level of life. The process of the struggle in fighting to get over the hump makes one a Danyaki. So the concept of Danyaki is global, not just me. 90% out of the seven billion people in the world are going through their own “Danyaki” struggle right now.  It has a lot to do with migration, ‘cause if you are not happy with the life you are living, then you gotta make the hardest decision in your life by leaving your comfort zone behind and jet off in search of a better one.

    FRENDY:  Interesting. We’ll definitely get back to this topic later on.  How difficult was it for you to get a job in the neighboring countries you visited?

    HASS:  It's hard to get a job in those countries, you either have to take a bottom feeder job or create a service of your own.  You just got to be creative with your immediate surroundings. People are always going to need help in their day-to-day operations, so you go around and offer them help in exchange for chump change - it always works, so that's one of the smartest way to get by. The most important thing is staying out of trouble, you don't want to mess with the jail system over there.

    FRENDY:  I feel you. Did you know any english before moving to the states?

    HASS:  Absolutely, Ghana is a 100% English speaking country. The entire educational system is English based. However, I grew up speaking three other indigenous languages, which I still speak very fluently, but English is spoken all over the media so it's hard to avoid. Plus, once you enter the school system, you’re all in.

    FRENDY:  That’s awesome, I didn’t know that.  Which part of New York did you initially reside in? How difficult was it for you to get accustomed to the hustle and bustle of the city?

    HASS:  In New York, I lived in the Bronx due to Ghanaian density.  I actually still live there. Life in New York could not be difficult at all for me, it's easy. The hustle and bustle is not comparable to Danyakis upbringing - it's easy here.

    You gotta understand one thing, the income disparity is unimaginable - it's pretty much from 0 to 100 real quick. The fact is no one loves leaving their comfort zone and migrate to a new terrain to start all over again, it could be a lot of wasted time starting from the bottom. But it's not a matter of choice, it's a matter of survival.  Surviving in NYC is nothing to complain about, I love it. I was around a lot of inspiring people so I was motivated to figure out my situation - I’m still on that journey and enjoying the process.

    FRENDY:  What was your first job here in the concrete jungle?

    HASS:  My first job in New York was in a 99 cent store in the BX, and then two different places before moving on to a discount clothing store by the Yankee stadium in the Bronx, that was my last gig in that borough.

    Since I never stopped searching for more opportunities, a friend of mine invited me to his spot in Harlem called ‘Scheme,’ one block away from Apollo theatre.  It was the spot to shop for people like Swizz Beatz, Fabolous, Raekwon, Dipset, etc. and they needed one more person work. That's how I ended up on 125th in Harlem - It has been my favorite place ever since. Working at Scheme was the best thing that happened to me in New York. The exposure and the inspiration I got from working there motivated me to get back to creating - I met every hip hop artist and some of the behind the scene guys, I met major clothing designers as well. I had an amazing time working there, it's out of business now.

    FRENDY:  When did you start taking art seriously?

    HASS:  Like I said, working at Scheme exposed me to the fashion and music industry.  The cool kids in Harlem were all about grinding - all I heard around me is “I am a DJ, rapper, writer, producer or a manager.” Everybody was doing something, except for me, so I began figuring out what to get into. I contemplated doing music but then in 2002 I met a young black kid from Newark, NJ who owned a brand called Omavi Clothing Co.  He stopped by the shop to show how his label was doing.  I got his business card, chopped it up and eventually called him back to say that I could help him spread his business in New York.  He took me in and we flew to Vegas for the magic show that August - that’s how I left retail behind.

    FRENDY:  Did you attend school in the city to sharpen your design skills?

    HASS:  Oh yeah, I did attend school - I mean I couldn't have done this without the fundamental education I received from the school system. So I left retail for the manufacturing/wholesale side of the business, that's when I started sketching and drawing. But then I realized I needed to get back to school to pick up from where I left it.  But before that, I needed to buy a Macintosh (Mac) - it's expensive and I didn't have the money, so I left the clothing world alone and started working in a restaurant in SoHo. 

    I saved up money and signed up at F. I.T. (Fashion Institute of Technology) for pre-requisite classes. Meanwhile, I was working my way up in the restaurant from a stocker to a busboy to a food runner, then finally a server so I can make enough money to pay for tuition and supplies and rent. I was making enough money so also signed up for more classes at S.V.A. (School of Visual Arts) and Pratt Institute, for industrial Design classes. I also attended tons of private studio art classes in Chelsea and SoHo and other parts of the city as a hobby. 

    Those three art and design institutions changed the way I looked at shapes, forms and spaces. The simplest abstract forms that the average human eye ignores, that’s the difference, and school really helps with that.

    FRENDY:  What sparked the idea to create your brand?

    HASS:  What sparked the idea was me meeting Hakim Stevens, a young black guy who walked into Scheme, the store I worked in on 125th street in Harlem. I was hooked after that! I took his card and connected with him soon after and started working for him, I got my exposure to the business side of fashion from him.  I was also inspired by a very beautiful, young black girl who was designing for Baby Phat by Phat Farm (owned by Russell Simmons).  She came to the store to check on their merch - it blew my mind and I saw myself capable of working in the fashion industry as well. Besides, every young kid in Harlem I met was doing something productive, mostly in music though. So I've been searching for something to sink my teeth into since day one in Harlem. I just didn't know what it was gonna be.  I never thought that clothing brand designers were young and looked like me since I didn't know any - I've always thought the extreme opposite.

    So being exposed to that young girl from Baby Phat (who I fell in love with on the spot in my mind after she told me what she did for a living) and Hakim Stevens sparked the creative muscle in my brain - that's how I started entertaining the idea of creating my own brand.

    FRENDY:  Can you explain the symbolism of the paint splatters on your merchandise?

    HASS:  Yes! The symbolism is simple, fun. And it's more of a colors thing than paint splatters for me. I love colors, I enjoy playing with colors, I love childish and innocent color play - it reminds me of my childhood. So whenever it's time to create with colors, I relapse to being a child version of myself that created innocently without wrong or right, just creating and just having fun with colors, that’s my secret of approach. I don't consider myself a painter, that's why my process is called Ideation.

    Furthermore, my pieces goes beyond painting on fabrics, it comprises of experimenting with different treatments such as rip and repair, bleached out effects and also plain indigo basics. Artistically I am very interested in the abstract found within shapes, forms and spaces regardless of colors. And frankly nothing brings me peace and happiness than colors, let alone mixing and creating with it. It's all in the name of ideation.

    FRENDY: I'm guessing ideation is when you are creating without the interruption of the ego?

    HASS:  Exactly. I don't like to create art as an adult, I rather create as a child. Ego, arrogance and overthinking happens when u create from an adult point of view because you are chasing perfection instead of having fun. My goal is to mimic what I would have done as a kid with all these colors in front of me to create. Ideation simply means brainstorming. In any industrial design class, Ideation happens when we poured all types of ideas down without overthinking it. Usually we couldn't wait to get over the ideation to go to the next stage of design and the finish the products.

    For whatever reason I fell in love with the ideation of creation without overthinking. In my color theory class, I fell in love with playing with colors and then in my industrial design class fell in love with ideation. These two classes reminded me of my childhood so I mashed them all up to create art and design from my childhood point of view, which is innocent and fun and happiness. Ideation is liberating, there is a sense of freedom that comes with creation using the ideation approach. And I’m hooked.

    FRENDY:  How does the Danyaki ideology bleed into your clothing?

    HASS:  Practicality - Danyaki ideology bleed into my work by way of colors and physically getting my hands dirty. Danyaki is also a process of DIY, you got to get up and go change your condition by any means necessary, that's why I physically hand paint or treat and ideate with every piece, which means I can only make a limited amount of one of a kind pieces batch by batch.

    Doing things yourself for your own good and self improvement is the ideal ideology of Danyaki. So Danyaki’s ideology itself is the practicality and the religion of physically doing to improve thyself.  Danyaki is not Danyaki if you are not practically doing. Danyaki Art&Design Ideation means practically creating while having fun as an innocent kid.

    FRENDY:  Where are you currently selling your pieces?  Through an online store or brick and mortar shop?

    HASS:  Danyaki is currently sold online at Danyaki.com and in stores around New York City, mostly in Harlem and the Bronx.  But most importantly, I do week-end pop ups in Harlem at Red Rooster to physically connect, share and have dialogue with my art loving supporters who patronize my Tastemakers Rack on weekends.

    Social media has also played a major role in bringing people out on weekends to check out new pieces. My absolute favorite part, though, is interacting with the supporters - it’s sort of like being on stage and performing live for the people. It's therapeutic to see my regulars and new supporters stop by to connect and reconnect. 

    The weekends Tastemakers Rack is an extension of my studio, it's an exhibition and conversation of art and design among art lovers, Q&A sessions as well. I call my supporters Tastemakers, because they are not buying clothes, they are buying the art and experience of ideation. I don't only set up to sell, but also set up to invite a community of art lovers and tastemakers and share creativity offline.

    FRENDY:  What’s the reason behind your name change?

    HASS:  The reason behind the name change is pretty much cracking the shell off my back and busting out as an artist versus the person I was expected to be. So for me it's a new day, new person, new stage, new career, new platform and a new name. I look at it as my stage name.

    Being born on a Saturday means that I am naturally connected to that divine day. Because I don't celebrate the date that I was born but rather the day, which was Saturday, I don't see why my name shouldn't reflect such a day.  Hence, I went back to officially claim my name, “kwame.” The name change for me represent growth and independent.

    FRENDY:  If you were able to go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self during trying times in Ghana?

    HASS:  The only advice I would give my younger self is to, maybe, spend more time at the public library to absorb more information. But how can one study with an empty stomach? So, in reality I would not change anything looking back - no regrets. I only wish I had spent the lost years with my family, but you can't have your cake and eat it too, so it is what it is. C’est la vie. I’m happy how my life turned out.

    Danyaki contact:

    Instagram

    Facebook

    Twitter

  • Cozy Tapes Vol. 1

    What's good everyone!  I apologize for the lack of posts, but your boy is getting to the paper and I'm sure y'all ain't mad at that one bit.  

    Speaking of accumulating cash, the "Money Man" himself, ASAP Rocky, and his ASAP crew have finally unleashed their highly-anticipated sonic compilation, Cozy Tapes: Vo. 1 Friends-.  The ASAP Yams tribute consists of 12 scorching tracks and features an assortment of Hip Hop's brightest stars, including Tyler The Creator, Skepta, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty and more.

    Check out the project below.  While your ears are getting cozified, be sure to read my latest Grailed article on Rocky and Bari's prosperous lifestyle brand, VLONEHERE.  Enjoy!

  • Smoke DZA & Rocky Are Strapped

    Smoke DZA may not look like your typical political buff, but he most definitely is aware of the atrocities that will ensue if Donald Trump wins the presidential race.

    As a result, The cannabis lovin' lyricist unleashed his latest sonic complilation, rightfully titled George Kush Da Button: Don’t Pass Trump the Blunt (epic right?).  The highly awaited (see what I did there?) mixtape includes features from Wiz Khalifa, Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson and frequent collaborator A$AP Rocky.

    Rock out to the two Harlem spitters latest banger "Nine" below:

  • Yamborghini High (Official Video)

    In this week's installment of Wavy Wednesday, The A$AP Mob finally unveiled the official music video for their A$AP Yams commemorative banger, "Yamborghini High" featuring Juicy J.

    Thought the song was trippy? Well it's visual counterpart will make you feel like you're on a trip that'll seemingly never end.  It features the whole A$AP crew cozy'd up in their own apparel and bathrobes (of course) driving around in Lambos.

    Check it out below:

  • Jukebox Joints

    Harlem's self proclaimed PMF has just unleashed the visual for his soul sampled track "Jukebox Joints" produced by Kanye West.  Although Yeezus didnt make an appearance, casting director Arelie Gutierrez and co. did a great job in featuring quality eye candy.  It even included a dope cameo from my majestically spirited homie Monica Hernandez in the 2:37 and 3:29 mark.

    The Illusive Media directed clip remains truthful to A$AP Rocky's new-found trippy persona.  Indulge below:

  • Happy Birthday Charlie

    Yesterday, hoods across the globe celebrated the birthday of Hip Hop’s Waviest king  Max B.  The Harlem hustler is currently in jail facing a 75-year sentence but that doesn’t stop his legacy from flourishing.  Erick Shaw, my former co-worker at BAPE, paid a tribute to Biggavelli (his first cousin) by showcasing a very rare picture of them on Instagram.  He captioned, “happy birthday Charlie, I miss you more than you even know.  But I got a strange feeling God’s conjuring up something for you soon, I can feel it”.

    Four days before Max’s birthday, one of his close friends Chinx Drugs was fatally shot in Queens.  Revolt TV caught up with the incarcerated lyricist to get his feelings on the unfortunate passing:

    The senseless violence truly has to stop and with the elevated conscious of former street legends change can actually occur.

    To read my exclusive sitdown with Erick on the personal memories with his iconic cousin, click HERE.

  • What's Beef To Rocky?

    Last night, a new song from ASAP Rocky surfaces that’s inspired from the Notorious B.I.G’s dark anthem “What’s Beef?”. I have no clue where the tune came from but it surely is a head-knocker.  Shout out to the P.M.F for always stepping up his lyrical chops! There's no doubt that Flacko's forthcoming album will spice up the summer.

     No clue if this haunting single will end up on At.Long.Last.ASAP but enjoy it while you can below:

     

  • Everyday

    Not too long after his public speaking duties at the Red Bull Music Academy Festival in NYC, the self-proclaimed Pretty Flacko unleashes an absolute banger titled “Everyday”.  The ferocious tune features the unlikely yet sonically intact pair of Miguel and every mother’s favorite crooner Rod Stewart.

    Unfortunately, Rocky recently stated that his album At.Long.Last.ASAP will be pushed back all the way to June 2nd.  Hey, at least we won a great consolation prize with this Mark Ronson produced scorcher!

    Indulge below:

     

  • ASAP Rocky Is CRWN'D

    Last Week, Elliott Wilson sat down with ASAP Rocky during the Tribeca Film Festival happenings to conduct his infamous CRWN questionaire series.  In the two part interview, Mr. Wilson dives head first (pause) into the PMF's world of music, fashion and hallucinogens!

    Check out the outcome below:

     Watch part 2 HERE.

  • All About The M'$

     Right on the heels of landing a second coveted Complex Magazine cover, Harlem's Golden (grilled) Boy A$AP Rocky unleashes the money gettin' anthem rightfully titled "M'$". No, it doesn't stand for 'M Dollas' but rather "Millions n*gga! ".

    The Honorable C.N.O.T.E and Mike Dean produced hit can most likely be found on rocky's forthcoming album A.L.L.A.  Shit, with Mike being in the scheme of things I won't be surprised if Yeezus finds a perfect track to bless on The PMF's body of work.  

    Welp, until then indulge below:

     

  • Max B: The Real Story

    Merry Christmas everyone!  Y'all been rocking with the kid for quite some time now and my appreciation runs deeper than Richie Rich's stocking full of gifts.  To commemorate such blessed occasion, allow me to present a special piece on Charles Wingate better known to the hoods of the world as Max B.

    For years now there has been tons of speculations surrounding the Harlem street legend but as you know there's two sides to a story and then the truth.  It is my pleasure to introduce the homie and fellow BAPE employee Erick Shaw who just so happens to be related to Biggaveli.

    Below is the transcript of our brief sitdown pertaining to his immortalized cousin:

    Frendy:  You've been working at BAPE for about a year now and it was only 2 months ago that I found out you were related to Max.  I'm assuming only a few individuals know about your relation to him?

    Erick:  Yeah.  It's funny how people come across or figure it out lol.  I usually do a good job of keeping it a secret.  The only people that really know that I'm related to him besides my family obviously is my closest friends.  They actually got to meet him.  For those that don't know and aren't aware, he and I are 1st cousins.  His mother and my mother are sisters.  My mother being the baby and his mother being the eldest female out of 8 kids.  We make up 10 grand-kids so it's a big family lol.

    Frendy:  What's your fondest memory of Max?

    Erick:  I have a few fond moments of my cousin and I.  It's funny because he considers me his favorite so I take that to heart.  One memory I have is when I was little, his sister and I used to always come home from school and play Super Mario on Nintendo.  We'd get to the last level and no matter how hard we'd try we could never beat it.  Charlie would come from outside doing whatever he was doing in the street and we'd tell him to help us out.  He'd beat Bowser in 2 minutes flat!  Made it look so easy lol.  Another memory that I have with him is when I graduated High School and he surprised me by showing up.  Everyone was so shocked to see him.  Here I am carrying a normal convo with him as if it's nothing while everyone's jaws are dropped.  That was a pretty cool moment for me.

    Frendy:  For those who don't know, explain Max's relevance in Hip Hop and how did his nickname "Biggaveli" come about?

    Erick:  Well, that name comes from 3 artists.  Bigga is Biggie and Jigga is Jay Z and of course Veli at the end for 2Pac.  Those were the artists that he looked up to coming up and that's how the name came together.  He does everything to the max so "Max Biggaveli".  He's responsible for alot of the lingo in New York including the iconic word "Wavey" and "Owww".  Max put out hood classics like the "Public Domain" series, the "Domain Pains" series and of course mentoring French Montana into what he is today.  And to think, he was primed to be something big.

    Frendy:  Did you know much of his street life?

    Erick:  I was still pretty young to comprehend his street activities.  As I got older, I started to piece things together.  He spent alot of time in and out of jail with his two brothers Michael aka "Mike Murder" and Eric (who was murdered).  Charlie was the only brother out of the three to have both parents around (for the most part) but the streets still called his name and majority of the time he answered. 

    Frendy:  To be honest, I really don't know the set of events that led to Charles' arrest.  Can you elaborate on that situation?

    Erick:  Basically what happened was, there were two desperate parties attempting to rob the same person/persons and claimed that my cousin was the mastermind behind it all.  Mind you, he wasn't even present at the time.  If my knowledge serves me right, he was doing shows when it happened.  If I'm correct, Max was found guilty for 9 out of 11 counts for Manslaughter and Conspiracy to commit robbery.  SMH, It truly hurt me because before that he was in jail facing a 2 million dollar bail that was later paid.  To just have him home and then I gotta see him go away......sucks alot.

    Frendy:  Any update on when he'll be free?

    Erick:  There are alot of dates people are giving out.  From what I know, he still has to do a considerable amount of time.  On a positive note, he's got a new lawyer team and is fighting for a retrial.  As for as release date.....that's in God's hands.

    Frendy:  Do you still keep in contact with Charles?

    Erick:  Of course!  If I'm not speaking to him, I'm speaking to my aunt about him.  Last time I spoke to Charlie was like a month and a half ago.  He was trying to have me work with one of his engineers to  make music and before that he tried to get me to work with Dame Grease.  I can't front Grease was kind of a asshole lol.  That's another story though...

    Frendy:  What's Max's biggest misconception?

    Erick:  People seem to think that he's this troublemaker but that's not the case.  We all make bad decisions.  He just tried to live his life and sometimes the company you keep can also be your downfall.

    Frendy:  Any thoughts of working in the music industry like your big cuz?

    Erick:  Like him, music is also my passion.  I kinda want to take a different approach than him though.  Seeing him go through all of this and watching his life change from feeling like you had nothing to having it all and then having it taken from you....that will make anyone open their eyes!  It hurt me so much but at the same time it helped me realize what mistakes not to make, how to move, how to trust, and how people perceive you when you're down.  I learned so much from him and we didn't even spend that much time together because of his lfe decisions.  Despite it all, I still love and want to do music.  If there was an opportunity to work with Charlie I would in a heartbeat!  Not just because he's "Max B" but because I want to keep him close to me.  Keep him out of trouble and bond more as a family, doing something we both love.

    Frendy:  I appreciate your time E for giving us a deeper insight into Max's life and your relationship with him.  Any words you'll like to leave with the people?

    Erick:  I just want to say thank you to all of your loyal fans that have supported him for years.  Y'all mean the world to him and myself because you guys help keep his work alive.  We just gotta hope and pray that he gets his time to come home.  I guarantee if he does, things will be different.  He'll be staying home for good this time.  But again thank you and stay wavy.

     

    Written by: Frendy Lemorin