Monday, October 28, 2013

The Happy Rapper invades Art Beats + Lyrics

Posted By on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Smile and the world smiles with you.
Friday night's Art Beats + Lyrics showcase offered up another annual sampling of the best kind of sensory overload - dope visual arts, beautiful creative people, epic performances and, of course, free Jack. (Don't sleep on the social lubricant, shawty.)

In hindsight, it's almost impossible to remember what stood out the most. Surprise guest Teddy Riley turned a heap of thirty-somethings into tweenagers when he zoomed through a set of his '90s hits for Bobby Brown, Guy, Michael Jackson, and Wreckx-N-Effect. The nostalgia trip reached further back with a display of the automated Rock-afire Explosion band from Showbiz Pizza in the '80s. One booth even displayed the original sign from Club 559 - the mid-'90s West End hot spot that put the P in parking-lot pimpin' (amongst other things). And in a headlining set, DJ Quik reminded us why going the route of rhythm-al-ism has given him more to fall back on than gangsterism.

But among the many exhibits that made up the arts side of AB+L, one offered a challenge to the way we perceive contemporary pop's most uncomprimising personalities.

Even in name, The Happy Rapper defies convention. The exhibit by photographer Diwang Valdez, one-third of Atlanta-based music video directing team Motion Family, puts many of his frequent rap subjects in a rare light. That is, showcasing ear-to-ear grins.

Certain mainstream rappers, from T.I. to Gucci Mane, have built successful careers by perpetuating stereotypes via character portrayals as thin as the CDs on which they spin. By capturing them in these black-and-white portraits, Valdez highlights the humanity behind the hip-hop imagery.

As the artist's bio accompanying Friday's exhibit read, Valdez is "known for [his] gritty, authentic portrayal of hip hop's most fascinating personas. But what hasn't been seen - until now - are these candid, behind-the-scenes moments that Valdez has been capturing since 2005. The Happy Rapper is a collection of organic, genuine moments of joy that happened between takes, when the subject's guard was down but Valdez's camera wasn't."

The full exhibit of images is live on his website today and includes a wide range of acts - such as Cee Lo, Big Boi, Boosie, Rocko, Devin the Dude, DJ Drama, Gucci, T-Pain, Killer Mike, Soulja Boy, Waka Flocka, Rich Homie Quan, Lil Wayne, Maino and more - caught in full cheese mode. Not sure if Valdez has any postcards left for sale after AB+L, but hit him up via his contact link and give your postman something to smile about.

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