GUEST INTERVIEW | Jerome Baker III vs. Modi
[Feature image courtesy of The Fab Empire]
Jerome Baker III Interviews Modi
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Modi and I’m one of the minds behind DC to BC and Trillectro, two cool passion projects I started with my friends Quinn and Marcel. We’re all from DC, and we all went to Boston College, which is the meaning behind DC to BC.
Who / what is DC to BC? Trillectro?
DC to BC started as this radio show that Quinn and I did during his freshman and my junior year. He really wanted to do a radio show, so he interned for the first semester on an existing show before they let him get his own show. He persuaded me to be a co-host, and the premise was pretty simple: we just played shit we liked and wanted to share with anybody who’d listen, including a lot of local DC artists. We were on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 11 pm to 1 am, and through some solid social promo and word of mouth, we ended up pretty popular. This was around the time Kid Cudi, Wale, J.Cole, and that era of artists were coming up. We would hit them online, from Myspace to Twitter, and they’d call in to our show. A lot of people couldn’t listen to the show because the bandwidth at the time was maxed out because we had so many people listening. So we decided to record the shows and toss them up on a blog, which was also called DC to BC. I liked to write, so I started writing about the artists we played, and other artists that I thought were cool. And that’s how it all really started. This was back when music blogs were a thing, and we’d win awards from VIBE and XXL or whatever for being a top blog. This is like 7 years ago.
After me and Marcel graduated from college, we decided to head back home to DC and create a company. We turned it into an LLC but didn’t really do anything with it. After Quinn graduated from college, we threw our first real event, a graduation / Memorial Day cookout. It was our first time bringing people from online, offline. And we saw the success, so we decided to start working on other projects. We always wanted to put on a concert, and we were all really big Kendrick Lamar fans around this time, so we decided to bring him and ScHoolboy Q out to DC. After that first show, we saw that we had a knack for this type of stuff, and a year later, almost to the date, we produced our first festival, called Trillectro. We’re currently planning our 6th edition of the fest, so we’ve been at this stuff for a while.
Being able to cultivate such a strong and local fan base has been impressive — what are some of the roadblocks you’ve had to overcome to make all things DC to BC and Trillectro as successful as they have been?
One of the biggest things I learned early on is to separate my personal brand from the actual brand. Early on, because of the success of the blog, DC to BC was pretty strong online, and really resonated in DC and Boston because those were the two places we repped. I think because I was the member of the team that was out and about moving and shaking, as well as the main person blogging, and because all of my social handles were @DCtoBC, people would think I was the brand. Plenty of people didn’t know my name but they’d call me “DC to BC.” After I graduated and moved to New York, I realized that nobody understood the significance of DC to BC because they didn’t connect with either city. Plus, since the internet moves so fast, you’d have to have been into that blog scene back in the day to remember us from the internet. Most people to this day think the BC stands for British Columbia. When we created Trillectro, we introduced it to the world on its own accord. From the consumer’s perspective, there wasn’t a face, a person or a region affiliated with it, it was just its own thing. It’s not tied to any specific regions; it’s much easier to build a brand when your personal brand isn’t directly tied. We have Trillectro-affiliated events in LA, and there are plenty of people who attend who are completely unaware that our festival exists on the East Coast. There are no constraints, and I think we’re in a position now where we can build the brand globally with relative ease if we wanted to. These days, DC to BC is like our holding company, the umbrella organization that houses all of our creative projects we work on, and the only people who really see “DC to BC, LLC” are the people who write us checks or handle our taxes.
Modi: “One of the biggest things I learned early on is to separate my personal brand from the actual brand. “
What has you excited, culturally, in 2017?
Honestly, I’m most excited to see what happens with international music. I feel like up until recently, Americans didn’t really pay attention to what was going on outside of the States, but all that’s changing. People always have something negative to say about Drake, but I think he’s been huge in bringing attention to people like Skepta and Wizkid. You’ve got dudes like Diplo producing for South Korea’s CL, you’ve got Davido on the cover of the FADER … I was in London a week ago for work and decided to tack on a few extra days to explore the scene. The shit they’re playing out in the clubs there? Light years ahead. They’re hip to everything we’ve got going on in the States and then some. It’s really intriguing. I really want to hit Japan, Germany, and Sweden because I hear great things about their scenes. I love the US, but I feel like the future is embracing the music coming out of these international cities.
Why do you think the DC music scene, which has great strengths in all genres of music, hasn’t received as much national and mainstream fanfare as other cities?
I feel like DC is overshadowed by politics. Every kid has taken a trip to DC, but it was to check out the monuments and the White House. Nobody really got to see the rich culture DC had. I didn’t grow up in the punk scene, so I can’t really speak much on that, but on the hip hop side, I think we were just late to the party. Instead of rap, it was go-go, which is just such a DC thing and it didn’t really resonate with people who weren’t from the city. We’d play go-go on the show and people who weren’t familiar were like, “what the hell is this?” I had friends, like my man Ellis, who didn’t listen to rap at all. He’d only have go-go CDs in his car. That was just kind of the mentality, we didn’t need hip hop, we had go-go. But eventually rap crept in; in my eyes it was people like Wale and tabi who really opened that door. When they were starting to pick up steam, we were there to help tell their story via the blog. And now you’ve got plenty of artists, from Phil Ade and Chaz, Glizzy and Trel, Goldlink, the list goes on. You’ve even got dudes like Kamau, DJ Carnage … you’ve got Kali Uchis, plenty of other people making noise who hail from the DC area. I think as the world gets more familiar with our culture and scene, the more success we’ll have on a national and hopefully global level. But we’re definitely moving in that direction.
Modi: “I feel like DC is overshadowed by politics. Every kid has taken a trip to DC, but it was to check out the monuments and the White House. Nobody really got to see the rich culture DC had.”
If you could form a super group with one producer, one singer, and one rapper, who would it be and why?
I’d definitely bring in Pharrell on the producer side, not only because he’s my idol, but because I think his creativity is unrivaled. Why not make him the backbone of the group? Shit, he already sings and raps too! I’d add in Brent Faiyaz because he’s from back home, and everything I’ve heard, whether solo or with [his group] SONDER is crazy. I’d have to round it out with Missy Elliott, because why not? That’s a fye DMV supergroup right there.
Wizards all day, not even a question. I don’t even know anybody on the Caps outside of Ovechkin. Shout out to the Caps though.
2017 and beyond for DC to BC looks like …
Honestly, we’re just gonna keep on building our festival and getting more familiar with this space we’re in. Outside of that, just learning through the people we meet and experiences we have through these activations. It’d be cool to get Trillectro international, I know that’s a goal of all of ours at some point, so yeah, stuff like that.
Modi Interviews Jerome Baker III
You’ve been fortunate enough to tour the world through DJ’ing. What’s one of your most memorable journeys?
I’ve been fortunate enough to DJ at the Do Over in Los Angeles twice, once in 2009 and the other in 2010. I think that is the best party in the world and the respect it garners is unmatched. Being given the opportunity to rock twice was super inspiring for me.
Being a DJ is a 10–12 hour a day job. I’m in consistent (daily) communication with DJs in DC and various cities across the country trading and discussing music all the time. Staying up on music charts is a huge necessity if you want to be successful as well — using Soundcloud, Apple Music / Spotify, and smaller sites that are catered to DJs help expand what you are able to play and see your sound fresh and new.
Jerome Baker III: “Being a DJ is a 10–12 hour a day job.”
Rock Creek Social Club (RCSC) has come a long way from our conversations at the Stussy/Commonwealth store and #GoodLife Tuesdays. What’s been the most challenging part of fostering a culture?
Remaining consistent while pushing for something new is a challenge we have always accepted. How do you work within the existing framework, yet bust it open and expose people to “new” and “different” offerings? We are always interested in improving the familiar, but and introducing something thought provoking and enjoyable.
Favorite RCSC collaboration or project you’ve worked on?
RCSC just dropped a collaborative basketball with Spaulding that is ILL because I’m a huge basketball fan and it speaks to me on every level possible. We also dropped lighters and ashtrays that are great because accessories are dope!
Muriel Bowser calls and says, “Jerome, I need you to put on a party for me and my people. Pick your two favorite DJ’s in the city and your favorite venue and we’re gonna pack that bitch out.” Where is this party going down, and who is spinning alongside you?
Obviously the party is going to be at U St Music Hall! DJ-wise being able to use just 2 DJs to would be impossible (because there are so many great DJs in dc)! I would have to bring StereoFaith to rock because I believe he has unmatched range of music and music history on the East Coast! He can rock Britpop, reggae, indie rock, hip hop, and do it seamlessly, which is incredibly impressive and underappreciated. As far as another DJ (just one?) I would have to go with Spinser Tracy (if he’s in town) or Malcolm X. Both of them are literally the best DJs on the club scene right now that can take u on a musical journey all night (s/o to DJ Face, Cuzzin B, Harry Hotter, Quartermaine, Billy the Gent, DJ Biggs and everyone else that kills it!).