Guess who’s back with another #apolaroidstory ?
But not with the story you’ll think it is. Then again, who gives a fuck, nobody is going to read this anyway. Who the fuck reads these days? If you are here, welcome, I guess you still read. Congratulations.
My last feature was Ms. Lauryn Hill in 2019. I still can not believe that actually happened. On the other hand I also know I’ve worked for that feature. Put in a lot of love, discipline and dedication. I did that for more then a decade now. I started this little blog in 2009 after all.
T.I. once warned me that if I would do this for the ‘love’ I would lose. Looking back, I find his words to be rather prophetic. He wasn’t wrong.
Not going to lie. It’s ‘love’ and ‘dedication’ that has me questioning a lot lately. I was already tired in 2019. Then a few months later the pandemic hit and I didn’t even had to worry about my next feature, or to the prepare my next interview or worry about my lack of views and likes and shares. There simply wasn’t anything to share. No more touring, no more artists, no more interviews, no more…Polaroids.
Sure, I thought about doing Zoom interviews, but after watching so many Zoom interviews I realised there is nothing new to it and besides ‘views’ and ‘relevancy’ the main item would be missing: The Polaroid. There is no point without the physical proof of the Polaroid. My tagline is ‘An Instant Moment Through Music’ for fuck sake. It’s not ‘An Instant Moment through Zoom. Unless I made everyone believe taking Polaroids from a Zoom screen would be ‘art’. People are surely dumb enough to go for that gimmick, but hey, I let that go too.
Mark Ronson told me that ‘A Polaroid Story’ should not bend to ‘relevancy’ rules. That APS is timeless and can keep on going forever and should appear when I have a feature that matters, not a feature that is ‘relevant’. Beautiful words of course, but the reality is that relevancy, likes, followers and numbers are real and this platform cost me more than I ever got out of it. That is a harsh, cold reality. And again I hear the words of T.I. running through my head. He told me years ago, after seeing my work that I would come across this point. He also called me a ‘nice hustler’. “You are a hustler. But it’s a ‘nice’ hustle, you hustle is ‘nice’. To this day I still wonder if that is even good thing?
My platform is already challenging to keep up, but keeping my YouTube alive is even more challenging. It’s not that there is an artist passing by every week in Belgium 52 weeks straight right? Then on top of that Youtube changed it’s rules for monetising and the yearly miserable 75 euro I get out of my Youtube channel was cancelled. I laughed when I had the notification. Fuckers. Sure. I have to be a slave of the machine and make videos at a 2 weekly basis at any cost. Man, I would be so rewarded in views if I just went DJ Akademiks on this platform and aired all the private business and dirty laundry. But I don’t. ‘Love, Dedication, Honour’, right? I keep standing behind these words, but I keep on hearing T.I warning me that I would not make any money from this platform if ‘LOVE’ of music and hiphop and artistry and music interviews would be my main mantra. He then gave a few examples of artists who went by that mantra to make his point. For reasons of ‘discretion’ I will not mention these artists he mentioned. But boyyyy, was he right! Say about AK what you want, but the no fucks he does not give is very liberating for me to see. Years keeping my mouth shut and being ‘discrete’ and letting people treat me and my platform like shit gave me exactly that. SHIT.
I had a lot of time to think. About what I want and about what I don’t want with my platform. But then I remember, I am not really in the position to want or not want. My platform is based in Belgium. I have to bend, bow and break for any opportunity with the genre of artists I portray. And again, there is that little thing hanging over my head. Views, Likes, Shares, Followers. I don’t have much of those don’t I? Not as I should. Or atleast that’s what I am being told.
What I did decide is no more APS Local features. Why? I am not subsidized by the goverment like so many other Belgian platforms, let them go highlight local artists, I’m done. The ones I highlighted barely shared their interviews, making me question why I highlighted them anyway and barely had any views. Nah. Local artists will be for local platforms. APS is not local, it’s international and I have to accept that. Local artists will remain local, they have to accept that too, welp!
Many have adviced me I should quit this platform. I swear there are more people pushing me to quit this thing then people who tell me to keep pushing. People validate out worth success. This platform is not the definition of that. Matter of fact, this platform is the oppossite of ‘Success’. People love to talk about ‘the grind’ but when they see somebody keepin’ keeping on’ for many years, they don’t see it as success, they see it as struggle and failure. “Are you still doing the Polaroid thing there?” Yes I still do the Polaroid thing… there.
Many question why I still do it. I questioned myself even more why I still do it. But here I am, still doing it. Why? At this point I don’t even know. Habit? Stubbornness? An addiction to pain, humiliation and suffering? Lord knows. But my platform is a teenager now, what am I supposed to do, leave my teenager to the streets? Nah, I can’t abandon my baby like that. I want to sometimes, but I simply can’t. I just. Can’t. Stop.
The pandemic was a nice break from APS. I didn’t have to drag myself with my tiny production and no budget ass to another artist feature. I welcomed the forced break. I focused on finishing my prototypes for the Polaroid blow ups I worked on for so many years. I have a manufacturer and a finished product. On the other hand, the pandemic was also the period where not one, but two Belgian book publishers completely wasted my time. One wanted a foreword by Kendrick Lamar or Kanye West as a condition to publish my book (Sure, sir, I have these people on speed dial, sir) the other just made a whole lot of beautiful promises that literally didn’t go anywhere but a final meeting where they told me they were not going to invest in the APolaroidStory Retrospective Book after all. Yes BLM was a great ‘momentum’ the publisher said but that has passed and right now, they were” just not going for it anymore.”
I was so exhausted I didn’t have anything to say but let the tears stream from my face, wetting my mask to a wet clot, speak for themselves. I was so fucking done. I promised myself if there ever would be a coffee table book I simply had to front the money myself. I will never ever ever do a meeting with any book publisher ever again. What a waist of time, I can’t even stress that enough. I was done, done, DONE.
Then the pandemic was ‘over’ and 2022 reopened. But frankly, none of the 2022 bookings interested me. To be real, every festival and show in 2022 was just a bandage on a gaping wound of an industry trying to re-open and re-cover but not worth my effort and time, or the little money I have left to invest in the platform. Brand deals? Not doing those. Brands are the new evil to me and I refuse to let them and their faux woke ideals infest my platform, I’d rather be broke as fuck and real as fuck. Knowing my worth and all. Even though I am not worth much atm. I started this platform begging for endorsements and I all I got was: “Your target audience is not our audience but good luck.” So fuck brands and their sudden awakening for ‘black content’ and ‘black art’. Go fuck yourselves with your new found woke enlightenment. I’ve been awake before you decided to ‘woke’ and you have been sleeping, so go back to bed with your faux brand wokeness. Makes me roll my eyes.
And then there was….Tik Tok. By the end of 2022 into 2023 my content went viral on both IG reels and TikTok, more specifically my interview with…bitch you guessed it! Smino.
I had people in my inbox: “HAHAHAH YOU ARE GOING VIRAL BITCH”. I told them there was nothing to laugh about the fact that my content was traveling on TikTok or IG reels with no credit, no reference and not one fucking view or follower or sub to my own platforms. It’s not a ‘compliment’. It’s a slap in the face. Another one. Matter of fact, it’s theft. Then there is the famous feedback: “You should be grateful these accounts post your content, atleast you get you followers.” Then I show how much followers I got out of a Million reach on TikTok: 60. It’s the equivalent of a sandstorm and me receiving 60 sand grains. I should be ‘grateful’ for 60 sand grains when a fucking sand tsunami went over an account with MY hard earned, fought for, researched for content. Sure.
Again, people see ‘outworth’ success and think that’s great. Going viral on other peoples platform who don’t bother to credit you but find the time to rip off your videos from the only platform they are on – Youtube – a platform you are demonetised from because you no longer are up to par with their latest ‘content creator’ standards is not ‘success’. This notion that you should take it as a compliment comes from people who never made a damn thing in their lives from scratch. To see other people assemble thousands to even up to a million of views on their platforms from MY content but seeing my own content suffer on my own SM platforms was the most frustrating experience of 2022. I was forced against my will to be on TT, because without my content being on TT, this allowed people to use my content and escape copyright claiming. If I use 10 seconds from a song from an artist I am interviewing to score my interviews, I am copyrighted and demonitized. But randos can just take my content from Youtube and put it on Instagram and Youtube because ‘I am not on there anyway’. This snippet went viral on TikTok on various channels and I had to copyright every one of them.
HERE is the snippet on my TT. Make thàt one go viral. On my platform. For fuck sakes.
Man, this platform really tested my patience.
So what did I do? Made a fucking TT, copyright claimed one account after the other and warned everybody who would take my shit from my Youtube and not credit me I would come after them relentlessly. No More Mister Nice Guy, as J Cole once said. In my case, No More Misses Nice Bitch.
And here we are today. At the story behind this Polaroid. You are not going to believe this.
You can probably feel through my writing how I feel tried and tested by the universe when it comes to this platform. But the universe was far from done. Matter of fact, the universe was ready to come in…hard.
A request came in for an APS interview feature with Smino. I absolutely love Smino. My first interview with him was such a delight. I love him as an artist and as a person. So I said hell yes, let’s just kick back off where we last left off.
Smino was booked in Trix, Antwerp where he would perform part of his Luv For Rent Album tour, an album that was released late 2022 and that was finally up for a Europe promo tour run.
I was told I would get 20 minutes and some time for the Polaroids. I accepted and off I went to Antwerp. I arrived at the venue about a solid hour before to set up. My production means are limited. Sound is always challenging. I am not a radio with a studio. I am a run and gun tiny mini production that goes where I am being told to go and make the best of it. That’s how we role with APS. Many camera men think this platform is fancy job and the red carpet is being rolled out when I arrive together with the catering. No. This platform is as run and gun as it is poor and grimy.
And that was the room I was assigned to for the interview. A poor, dark, cold, nasty backstage. Me and my camera man looked at each worried. How the hell do we light up a handsome black man in this type of doom and gloom room? I said to my camera man and the label representative: “This room has bad Feng Shui, bad juju, bad energy, I can’t do an interview in this space.”
So again, we had to put on our ‘fix the problem’ mentality hat on and decided we had to do the interview in a cold glass windowed artist cafetaria right next to the room we were assigned to by the venue. While my camera man was setting up his frame, sound and angles I was very focused on finding a white wall. You have to understand, all my features are made in a very limited time frame. I don’t get 60 minutes to do my job, I don’t get the time to take a series of strong Polaroids, I get 30 minutes max to do everything. APS is not an important promo asset, APS is not based in an important market for most artists neither. The perception is that Paris, London and Berlin are the cities and markets and press that is important. ‘APS’ is just a cute little thing to do. Nothing more. Nobody cares I ask ‘good questions’ and research my interviews. Nobody cares. Because the views and likes and shares are not there. Nobody cares I still write the ‘Story Behind The Polaroid’. People are on TikTok. People do.not.read.
So. When an artist sets foot on my ‘set’ I have to know and prep beforehand éverything, even the backdrop for my Polaroids. And here comes the hammer, the story behind this freaking Polaroid.
As I was feverishly looking for a white wall in the cafetaria that only consisted of perfect glass windows I saw a perfect white wall. I said to my camera man: “I found a white wall, it’s outside’ and then I consciously walked straight towards that white wall, only to plant my face against the perfectly clean glass windowed wall I was surrounded by.
I smashed my face to the wall, heard the biggest bang I have heard in a long time, heard a crack in my mouth and something drop on my tongue.
That’s when it hit. Pun intended.
I walked my ass straight into a glass window. With purpose, love and dedication.
My camera man yelled; “OUNI! YOU OK????’
I looked up from the glass window I just smashed my face against, saw my foundation on the glass and the shape of my face sticking to it and the dusty white chalky powder of the tooth I cracked against it.
I chipped my tooth, cut my upper lip and busted and cut my nose. I looked like I just survived the first round of an MMA fight. I spit out my front tooth, looked up, realised what happend and went in total panic mode. My camera man caught the tooth, yelled something like “Ouni, Ouni, you should save it, put it in milk asap!” and started running around frantically looking for milk.
I was still in shock. Then I cried. Then I called the label rep while crying to please come ASAP to the interview set-up. Then cried some more. The label rep came. Calmed me down and guided me through breathing exercises because I was so fucking shocked about what happened I was hyperventilating.
First interview I set to do in 3 years and I smash my fucking face against the window. I started yelling into nothingness and screamed: “THIS IS SPIRITUALLY NOT OK.”.
I yelled that for a reason. I yelled to the universe because I feel the universe was telling me to quit and then I felt a stubborness coming over me, a stubborness that is only assigned to the mentality of a bull. I told the label representative. For all the gods in the fucking universe, I did NOT loose my tooth for nothing. I will not fucking leave this site with a cut lip, a busted nose and no front tooth and the risk of not getting a dental appointment for weeks for fucking nothing.
Ofcourse the universe decided to try me some more. The label representative came back telling me the interview is delayed with no real outlook of when it would take place. “The artist is picking an outfit.” Then I was told my interview that I prepared the night before for hours, researching like an idiot, was cut from 20 minutes to 10 minutes.
I didn’t care. I am used to artist showing up late for interviews, I am used to my interviews being cut from 20 minutes to 10 minutes, hell I am used to showing up to an interview and having it cancelled one minute before. I am used to disrespect to a level I can’t even explain, because I never talk about it.
I didn’t care. I told the label rep I was not leaving the location with an interview and Polaroids and that the universe could go and fuck itself and it’s subtle signs for me to quite this platform.
And so it happened. Two hours, one carefully constructed Libra outfit, a chipped tooth, busted nose and cut upperlip later, Smino walked in, not realising what transpired before. I told him I lost my front teeth, he asked if I was ok, I felt tears coming up, pushed them down, told him I was “totally fine, duh” and did the interview feeling like I was the most unattractive ever in my life, embarrassed as fuck and a bit pissed I had to wait for two hours with my head pounding like my heart.
You can watch my second interview with Smino here. And SUBSCRIBE for fuck sakes, because if not I will be forced to make TikTok’s titled:
“My worst experiences with artists doing a decade of interviews.” Please don’t force me to do that. Nobody wants me to do thàt.
So. Subscribe and I’ll shut up and be ‘discrete’ even though being ‘discrete’ is the worst fucking strategy in these clout chasing gimmick days.
WATCH IN HD – This is an apolaroidstory.com video document featuring ‘SMINO’. Story behind the Polaroid following soon.
I pushed through. I didn’t give up. I didn’t go home without an interview and without new Polaroids.
I bossed up, flipped my middle finger to the universe and said: “Fuck you too”.
After the 10 minute interview wrapped up, I had no energy to take any concert footage, packed up my gear and only wanted to go home and cry.
I could not muster up the energy to watch a Smino concert, I wanted to go home and feel pity for myself for just a minute or two and endlessly wonder if the universe gave me a sign that I should quit this damn platform.
The label representative offered me to drop me and my camera man off to the train station so we didn’t have to drag our gear through public transport hell. The label representative was pissed off as well. Her boyfriend has been waiting for hours in the car waiting to go to a family dinner. Interviews being delayed have consequences, but if you live in a market that is not important nobody cares about your damn time, that includes the time of the label representative who apologised profoundly to her partner and said: “The interview was delayed for two hours with no reason and ow yes, Ouni smashed her face against the window and lost her tooth, it was just a hell of a day I am so sorry we missed our family dinner.”
Her partner, who I never met in person looked back from the front of the car, saw my defeated face, my busted mouth and my crooked smile and said:
“Don’t give up Ouni. It’s when things are the hardest you should not give up and keep on pushing. “
I was shocked. How did he know I was SO ready to give everything up after this interview? I never met this person.
I nodded and felt tears coming back up again. I took at as a sign from the universe to keep going.
“Through the wire, to the limit, to the (glass) wall.”
Smino has a song titled ‘No L’s’ – I titled this Polaroid ‘All L’s’ because I took a lot of L’s to get this Polaroid. Could have titled this feature ‘UP EN TENDE’ but only West Flemish people would understand. So this story is about a whole of L’s I took to the face and the zero fucks that I have left to give.
Thanks for reading, whoever still reading this.
And subscribe to my damn Youtube channel for fuck sake.
I am going to start writing like nobody is reading.
Maybe that will get up my views, likes, followers, subs and ‘relevancy.’
Oh well, fuck relevancy.