FOUND ME MAGAZINE
This is the first time where I will introduce you all to two individuals I just recently met only months ago. Side note: I have always wanted to write a piece like this but I didn't know that it was possible until this year. Everything fell into place with this, almost comically. When I moved here five years ago, I never thought I would be interacting with the most talented creative youth in the entire city of Houston. I didn't understand how accessible and special local talent really was. I've always considered myself an outsider, someone who simply witnesses community organization rather than someone who truly leads it. These thoughts directly stem out of my personal conundrum of trying to discover my purpose in Houston. But here I am today telling you this story.
Back in January I caught up with my friend and fellow art historian Chanelle Frazier. We met at the staple Double Trouble and it felt like I was enlightened. I hadn't really sat down with her since graduation and she had come home from her work at the National Museum of Ghana full of knowledge and experience. After our meeting ended, we ran into Anthony Obi and Matthew Ramirez. I immediately knew who Anthony was. Anthony performs as Fat Tony and is basically a local legend. The last time I saw him was in 2014 at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH). CAMH presented 20HERTZ: Smart Ass - An Evening With Fat Tony and I took mad notes on his thoughts on Electric Relaxation, Nirvana's performance at the 1992 MTV Music Awards and how "HOVA was wack" but he understood Reasonable Doubt. Overall feeling: *nerdy casually starstruck* I had only seen photos of Anthony. I later learned that Matthew is a writer at Pitchfork, Spin, and PaperCity. He is also incredibly active on Twitter as @theredbackpack. I didn't really process the online identity and intelligence of @theredbackpack until I scrolled through his Tumblr page.
I had to keep my cool because I knew I was meeting them at a professional level. My ultimate goal was to become associates with them. I knew I had a lot to learn. They won an Idea Fund grant (along with other friends - congrats!) to create a publication called Found Me that focuses on "the self-discovery process for Houston’s creative community, specifically people of color to represent Houston’s ascension as the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in America." They were the first awardees I met who were not involved in visual art. I was instantly intrigued with who they were, their project and combined knowledge.
During our conversation I discovered life lessons like which cocktails I should be ordering, the necessity and kind-of dependent relationship of the aux cord and that our social circles circulate but often remain polarized. Evening turned into nighttime and it continued into a group chat (including @selfhaties from The Lories) for a decent run. We realized we're all Catholic by blood, I was called a solider, we discussed PartyNextDoor, someone dreamt we went to Young Thug, I created a film scene, two birthdays came and passed, we agreed Jinya Ramen is lit (@selfhaties was pro Tiger Den smh) and we told each other we would continue to motivate one another.
Everyday we are connecting ideas, information and people. After I met them I discovered I was capable of expanding my network and documenting different types of innovative creative work. I am so happy and honored to interview them. Y'all be on the lookout for Found Me Magazine!
What motivated you all to apply for the Idea Fund grant?
Anthony: Chanelle repeatedly told me it would be a good idea to apply. I consider myself a winner but I've never applied for a grant before. I'm glad we did apply though!
Matthew: To just add to what Anthony said, my friend/his girlfriend Chanelle had been advocating for me/us to apply for literal years. I never thought I could apply because I never considered myself an artist but then I realized that didn't matter.
Shout out to Stacks
See him in the H
Going anywhere the cash at.
What does if feel like working back and forth (cross-culturally?) between music, art and information collection?
Anthony: It feels fresh. I get bored easily and being able to flex several of my talents keeps my work interesting. Working between different disciplines always presents me with the chance to learn something new too. My thirst for new information and new skills is never-ending.
Matthew, did you draw that drawing (your old Twitter picture)?
Matthew: Nah, our friend Emily Whittemore drew it, aka lil_escher aka Are_Kelly. She's a relevant internet user and artist from Houston, currently at CalArts. She once painted a picture of Gunplay that was so dope I was like "who is she" but of course I didn't work up the courage to become her friend until two years later. *Insert Crying Laughing Emoji*
What is self discovery to you? What drew you to this topic?
Anthony: Self discovery is at the core of all I do. No matter what task I have at hand, from songwriting to DJing to journalism and more, there's a big part of self thrown in the mix. I think myself and many American narcissists are faced with the complexity of the self and how our individual voice fits into everything we do daily. That's why we have "favorites" and concern ourselves with Buzzfeed lists of what to like next in an effort to stay relevant and "unique."
Matthew: Self-discovery to me isn't just about "finding" yourself, like, oh you just wander around then figure out who you are. It's a process, but it's also a thing that evolves. I don't think there was ever a time where I consciously thought to myself, "ok this is who I am" and felt wrong about it, even if now I look back and am like "lol I was garbage in 2010." I pretty much am an introspective shy insecure person who spends most of my time thinking about how I could improve myself, so the topic just naturally came to me.
Are you more interested in individual's creative process or the creative product?
Anthony: Creative process, for sure.
Matthew: Creative process. I listen to podcasts and read articles about people who I don't really care about, just to hear about their process. So many times it's more important/enlightening to me than the final thing.
When are you expected to publish this and where can we find it?
Matthew: Either late 2016 (per the restrictions of the Idea Fund) or early 2017. You can find it around relevant spots in Houston, but we might also make it available to be shipped out across the country.
Anthony: You can find it at our issue release party here in Houston, Texas.
What do you hope from this project?
Anthony: I hope to meet dozens of new, interesting people and explore their motivations. Hopefully their determination and passions will inspire me to stay focused in mine.
Matthew: I hope to give a forum to people we think are cool/interesting/unique. Like so many other publications try to get you to "buy into" this image of something that's cool because I dunno someone conventionally attractive looks sad while taking "arty" photos. We're not trying to be a glossy thing you read once then forget about. It's not a "lifestyle" thing. Like even if you don't "care" about a particular person we want you to get something from them. I feel more like a person shepherding a thing into existence more than like, a "creator". I want the people to be the magazine, yanno?
How would you describe the arts scenes of Houston? What are your goals for Houston's creative community?
Anthony: Houston's art scene is always looking to be more respected than it currently is. That hunger has lead some to bitterness but for the most part I think it keeps Houston artists always wanting more. And that mindset keeps art interesting. I have no overall goals for our creative community. I just want good work to come from my hometown.
Matthew: Yeah to add onto Anthony, people across all mediums (music, art, writing, etc) always want to feel more respected than they are, probably because so many people ignore Houston unless it's like, Drake talking about how much he likes Houston rap. And then sometimes I feel like it's a "big fish, small pond" situation because people here can be feeling themselves a little too much and it's like "chill my guy." I wouldn't say I have "goals" for the community other than to shine some light on people (well-known and under-known) we think are cool/interesting/unique/transcend typical ideas of what "cool" means. I wouldn't want to be a part of any scene. Scenes are mostly wack.
What makes Houston special?
Anthony: Houston has a unique vibe different from every major city in the world. We've produced a lot of weirdos and alternative thinkers. Look at our legends that dared to be different such as DJ Screw and Jandek. You can't get that flavor anywhere else in the world. Houstonians are a mix of conservative upbringings that fondly recall past and progressive experimentation that helps us separate ourselves constantly from that past.
Matthew: Houston is special because it's like secretly a progressive city draped up and dripped out in conservative/Texan/southern values. Like sure there are parts that are regressive/racist/sexist but that's also everywhere else. People are polite but also hella petty which I also think describes my personality. I think it's cool I went to schools my entire life that were diverse, I didn't have a white friend until college. I also think it's cool that people from here DO have a chip on their shoulders, because we can recognize that a lot of people wanna be from Houston without having to deal with humidity, historic floods, and traffic. Every filmmaker wants to be Wes Anderson. Every rapper wants to say they're influenced by DJ Screw even if their engagement with Screw goes no further than "listens to June 27th Freestyle once." Every creative writer wants to come to the UH grad program. Everyone loves Beyonce.
Do you all feel like witnesses?
Anthony: I witness passion every day, yours and my own. I'll harness it for creative purposes from now until forever.
Matthew: I mean only in the sense that I'm observing things from afar take place then I try to determine if they're classic or trash. I wouldn't presume that I'm witnessing something if it ends up being wack (for example who is calling themselves a Riff Raff fan in 2016 even though we all jammed "Larry Bird" in 2011?) The only thing I'm interested in witnessing is a group of young people "doing their thing" and hoping that it ends up being tight. At the end of the day we all just are really trying to do our thing.