#12For12 / Albums/Mixtapes / Interviews / Music / Videos

The First Step: A Look Back on the Day the Future Began (ft. Charmingly Ghetto & Decriminals)

It’s been a while since I sat down to write. I’m a writer. I always have been, and that’s what I’ll always be. I’m other things too… but when it all falls down, I’m a writer. Words are indescribably powerful, particularly when they’re woven together the right way at the right time. I’ve always been fascinated by the ability a writer has to influence so many simply by doing what it is they do best. And that privilege has always fueled me.

This has been an incredible year. So many good things have happened in my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the people I’ve met and the opportunities that have come my way. All that, though – which I’ll go into detail about either later on or in a separate piece – has led to me being more busy than I’ve ever been before. So, what does that mean?

It means it’s been a while since I sat down to write.

I’m gonna take a few minutes to write right now, though, because I have a story to tell. Well… I don’t know if it can really be classified as a story. I’m not sure how it’s gonna turn out yet. I know at least part of it will be a story. The rest might just be some rambling, but I promise it will be entertaining. And hopefully you’ll be able to take a lesson or two from it.

This story is about how I met Ian Steinbach (@GoodwinWinsgood) and the rest of the Decriminals (a production company based out of Emerson College) crew through Charmingly Ghetto. For anyone that hasn’t kept up with The Fresh Heir or my personal moves this year, this story doesn’t sound interesting yet. But for anyone that has… this is everything. This story got me to where I am now, and it’s going to carry me well into the future. It’s a story about three people moving forward individually and joining forces through positive energy to create something so much bigger than themselves as individuals. It’s about destiny… not one that was written in the stars, but one that was created. Lemme get into it.

Above is an interview from back in February that I did with Charmingly Ghetto – better known around the city as simply CG – one of the most talented, well-respected emcees in Boston. I couldn’t tell you how I met CG. Everyone asks me, but I never have a definite answer. The funny thing is, everyone I know that has a personal relationship with CG seems to be in the same boat. No one quite knows how or when they crossed paths with him for the first time. In my eyes, that’s a product of him just constantly grinding his ass off. What’s the use of a formal introduction when you’re always ready to work? I know I had talked to CG for the first time at least a month prior to the interview, but all I can remember is his phone call from the night before.

CG called me and said he was getting up with a few kids from Emerson the following day to plan his next music video. He told me he had recently met and connected with them (of course) and that they had access to great camera and audio equipment. Knowing I was still working to get my site off the ground, he asked if I’d want to do an on-camera interview with him that would benefit both of us. I said sure, and later that night I got a very formal email from Ian introducing himself as a co-founder of Decriminals and confirming that we’d be collaborating on an interview with CG the following afternoon. The professionalism of the email made perfect sense at the time – looking back at it now that Ian and I have become good friends, it’s hilarious that our relationship started off so business-like… but that’s also a huge reason why we were able to build such a positive working partnership. We built the right foundation.

It was rainy, dark and cold when I woke up the next morning. CG texted me some random address in Cambridge where we’d meet to shoot the interview. I seriously debated telling him I had a headache and that we should reschedule for another day. I just wasn’t feeling it. But something made me get up, type the address into my phone, and hop on the T with nothing but my backpack and a few questions scribbled on a sticky note.

Lemme pause the story for a second. Remember when I said I don’t know how I met CG? And how most of our mutual friends and colleagues say the same thing? Well, as I came to learn a month or so after the interview, Ian knew exactly how he and CG crossed paths, and it’s because he chopped and screwed “Niggas in Paris” and published it on his Soundcloud that the three of us ever found ourselves in the same room together.

That leads me to bring in a fourth character into the cast. Andy Bustardone of my personal favorite writers (SoulCulturePrefix Mag, etc.) I’ve gotten to know this year, found Ian’s chopped and screwed “Niggas in Paris” and blogged about it last fall. Naturally, Ian began surfing through Andy’s site after his track was posted, and there he found Charmingly Ghetto – specifically, his acclaimed Study A’Broad mixtape, which Andy had recently written about. Ian realized CG was from Boston and immediately reached out as a co-founder of Decriminals to connect on visual content in the near future. One thing led to another…

Fast forward to February of this year. I walk up the steps of an old white house on Prospect Street and knock on the door. Ian answers. I walk into the living room and there setting up camera equipment are Evan Mann, Will Finnegan and Sam Dubin – Ian’s partners in Decrimeinals. CG was sitting on the couch in his normal getup – jeans, a black coat and a backwards Red Sox fitted. After a little smalltalk, we got the interview underway.

Screen shot 2012-12-24 at 10.08.47 PM


I was out of there within twenty minutes. Right before I left, though, Ian handed me a Decriminals business card and reminded me that he was eager to work more in the future and willing to cover live events or shoot video interviews for my site free of charge. I’d heard that before. I didn’t think anything of it. Dapped him up, stuffed the card in my wallet, and went on with my life. So did he. And so did CG. We came together, did something cool and all went our separate ways.

Turns out Ian and I didn’t go our separate ways for long. Enter Next Anyextee, CEO of Amalgam Digital.

Next and I had started building a relationship a month or so prior to the day I met Ian. Next hit me up later on in the week with an offer. His video director, Brian Petchers, was shooting a new set of visuals for Cam Meekins in Boston in just a few days. Next asked if I wanted to do a video interview with Cam. I was thrilled. I had just gotten my first interview under my belt, and now I was getting asked to interview a kid who had a video on YouTube closing in on a million views. This was big.

I remembered Ian handing me his business card and expressing how much he’d love to collaborate on another project. I gave him a call and told him about the opportunity – he told me he didn’t care if he had class that day, he was one hundred percent down to bring his crew and make the interview happen. It did, and it was a great feeling. The future had truly begun.

It’s now the last week of 2012. The amount that Ian (and Decriminals as a whole) and I have accomplished together since we met ten months ago is absurd. We’ve done six more interviews (including this one with Logic that’s about to hit 50,000 views at the time I’m writing this), collaborated on our #12For12 project – which has been an incredible success (and which CG is a part of), developed working relationships and friendships with the majority if not all of the top up-and-coming hip-hop artists in Boston, and are now employed together as part of Cam Meekins’ visual and marketing team. And that’s just scratching the surface.

The bottom line is, Ian has become one of my closest friends, and both the Decriminals and Fresh Heir brands have benefitted hugely from the unplanned partnership.

And this is all because of Charmingly Ghetto. And Andy Bustard. And Next Anyextee. And Ian… and myself.

Here’s what I’m trying to say with this story:

You don’t necessarily have to see the future – at least not every step. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” CG, Ian and myself all did that as individuals. We could never have foreseen us meeting up that cold February day. Our futures as individuals and as a trio changed forever that day, but all we knew was that we were shooting an interview. No strings were meant to be attached. Shit, I almost didn’t show up.

But I did, and I’m so thankful for that. We had worked so hard prior to that day to build our brands as individuals, and through coming together for one project that benefited each of us in a small way, we did something so much bigger. The pieces all fell into place. We created our own destiny.

I ran into CG at the Boston Music Awards three weeks ago. He was nominated for hip-hop artist of the year. So were two other #12For12 artists (Moe Pope and DutchReBelle). So was Cam Meekins. Ian and I arrived with Cam, but we were there to celebrate with everyone no matter who took home the crown (and you better believe I was thrilled for Moe when he did). That night was special… the type of special that words can’t describe.

CG had a huge smile on his face. We fought our way through a ridiculously crowded room and dapped each other up. He rubbed my head and said, “I’m proud of you.” I said the same thing right back. We went our separate ways. Back to business as usual.

I’ll never forget those words. It all began ten months prior when CG asked me if I wanted to do an interview with him filmed by a few kids from Emerson. Little did I know, that day would change my life forever, and it really hit me the night of the BMAs. We were all there together at the biggest music awards show in the city of Boston. Not just CG, Ian and myself… but Dutch, Moe Pope, Cam, Next, and no less than a dozen other artists, journalists, bloggers and more that we’ve built relationships with together in the past ten months.

I owe Charmingly Ghetto a huge thank you – for his timeless art, sure. But more importantly, for his inspiring ways and for the fact that through his own hard work, he changed my future for the better in indescribable ways. It’s become the ripple effect that some people can only dream of. I consider myself blessed.

2013 is going to be a monumental year. I can’t speak for the city before I arrived here in 2009, but since then, the Boston hip-hop scene has never been in a better place. Not even close. And I’d like to think that gloomy February day when I did a five-minute interview with CG and a few kids from Emerson has something to do with that.

Work hard, do things for the right reasons, follow your heart, and the pieces will fall into place. If you don’t take anything else from this piece, please remember that.

Anyone who read this, thanks for playing your part in making 2012 such a special year for me. I couldn’t be more excited for the future.


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