|dc.description.abstract||The greater Baton Rouge, La. area is one of the richest and most soulful wells of rap talent in the
country and a bastion of local hip-hop infrastructure in the South. Bootleg CD salesmen stand
outside seafood shacks hawking the newest mixtapes by rising local stars, 16-year-old artists
become parish-wide sensations within a matter of months, and strip clubs rule the night with
music from surrounding neighborhoods.
Inspired to carry the spirit of Alan Lomax’s pioneering folk song recording expeditions into the
present-day, I chronicled the vibrant scene in Baton Rouge proper and its rural hinterlands --
small towns like Clinton, Jackson, and Saint Gabriel, where tightly-knit groups of artists make
music in relative isolation. I tried to provide an intimate but far-reaching view of a long-ignored
culture that possesses an astounding vitality and a sense of social urgency.
The result was two-fold: a sweeping photo essay (“How Life Is”) covering numerous locations in
and around Baton Rouge, and a film (“Till We All Gone”) honing in on the town of Clinton
(population: 1,653) and a small group of rural romanticists there.
Many of the rappers I met who show up in the photo essay and film view their art as their main
vessel to honestly express themselves and process their day-to-day reality. There is a strong
emphasis on using raps to tell the truth in an autobiographical sense. A mix CD will be flecked
with blues cadences, mournful dirges, and transcendent club anthems. An unusual emotional
range emerges, encapsulating love, loss, and the space in between.||