In Conversation With
Xavier BLK: the DJ That Keeps Jack Honey’s
Art, Beats & Lyrics Show Running

Xavier BLK
musician

Xavier BLK’s story is the culmination of childhood dreams turning into a professional reality. Growing up in Brooklyn and the South Bronx with Caribbean roots, BLK was always surrounded by the raw energy of music, from raucous block parties to local festivals. This early exposure to music would soon become a lifelong passion, one that he’s successfully made a career out of.

As an accomplished DJ now based in Georgia, he’s a veteran of the nightlife scene and one of the most recognized figures in Atlanta’s music community.

Drawing upon his wealth of nightlife and DJ experience, BLK has not only been instrumental in shaping Jack Honey’s Art, Beats & Lyrics programming, but he’s also taken a more hands-on approach to recruit talent for the show. We spoke to BLK to dive deeper into his background in music, his evolving role with Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics, his advice for emerging artists, and more.

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Tell us a little bit about your professional background and how you got into music.

I grew up in Brooklyn and the South Bronx, so I was always around the energy of music and eclectic New York City culture. I got my first set of turntables as a teenager and that was my first dive into the music industry — learning how to DJ before [the internet] and digital software. I had to learn old-school style on vinyl and a friend actually gave me a VHS tape of DJ tutorials.

That was my first exposure to being on stage. After doing startup gigs in school and churches, I was finally able to start in clubs and perform alongside a lot of artists I grew up looking up to. In college, I was able to be a part of event planning and student unions that were responsible for bringing entertainment to the campus and some startup radio stations as well.

I got a lot of experience behind the scenes of logistics, planning, and bringing people together for a common cause, which was entertainment and partying. I’ve combined all that experience into what’s my love now, which is my agency — WERC Crew Productions. We specialize in experiential and events.

Could you describe your sound for someone who’s never heard you spin before?

I’ve always been this eclectic mix of everything that makes up who I am. Caribbean blood is rich in me, so anything with that global pulsating sound — from reggaeton, reggae, dancehall, dembow. I like to put it all under what I call Tropical Bass, and that can lean towards Afrobeats, cumbia, and Baile funk from Brazil. I also grew up in New York in the ‘90s, so I also have an affection for Old-School Boom Bap Hard Rap music, and R&B and Soul. So it’s always hard to label it, but Tropical Bass and Soul is where I really fit well in.

Tell us about how you originally got involved with Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics, and how your involvement with the show evolved since the first year you participated.

Jabari [Graham] came to one of my first events in 2014 and was just there as a fan. He liked the music, the DJs we booked, and we connected there and he said, “I have a tour [Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics], it’s been running for a few years and we need some help on the production side. I love what you guys did.” We’ve been connected ever since.

My official capacity would be considered Tech Stage Production Manager — initially, I had select duties that Jabari and the team delegated towards me; now I manage the entire stage and talent component. Anything that has to do with the performing artist and the stage aspect, it’s fully within my team’s control. From advancing the tech between AV vendors and the artists’ management to the assembly of any lighting, maintaining the run of shows throughout the day, communicating with artists’ team the day of, making sure they’re getting from flight, to the hotel to the stage, and sound set.

Jabari and I have a good relationship now where he’s asked me a lot more curator-type questions like, “Do you think this talent might work for this market?” I have a little bit more say in the talent portion now and what might work best and where.

What’s it been like working with the Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics team?

The Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics tours have been ideal scenarios where each member of the crew is an all-star at their respective role. I may be responsible for the audiovisual portion and the stage for performances, but it is an art show. So there’s the building of the sets, the walls, making sure the delivery trucks are getting there, and working with the local teams that represent Jack Honey.

There’s no overlap with the entire production team — everybody knows their position and what they’re supposed to do. So there’s rarely any missing links or confusion. It’s just a seamless flow.

What’s your most memorable aspect of working with Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics throughout the years, what’s been your most memorable experience so far.

I’ve been big as a DJ and a curator with my company WERC Crew. Our place in Atlanta is bridging multiple worlds and fusion of this genre. I love that I’ve been able to see that represented in Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics too where on the musical side, it’s a hybrid of talent that bridges the classic throwback artists and some of the guys that represent the future of music.

Last year we had Little Brother and D Smoke and it represented this one legendary underground rap group. I think that’s been the most memorable experience because that really doesn’t happen — they typically keep it very safe. So I love the fact that they understand how to fuse the two worlds together.

How have you seen the Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics community celebrate and support these new emerging artists in different ways than other art exhibitions?

Typically, art exhibitions of this magnitude will highlight established visual artists already. I love that although they will work with some really incredible and more esteemed artists, you’ll see pieces, murals, and installations by burgeoning artists, and just the fact that they give them a shot is really amazing. The fact that these emerging artists can have their pieces shown in potentially 8-10 markets throughout the country is a huge deal — that rarely happens for a visual artist that are on the come up.

Seeing some of those creators join us for some of these stops in other cities that they don’t live in, and see them standing by their pieces and talking with thousands of people viewing their work, and new faces that are experiencing their art for the first time — that would have never happened otherwise. I’ve seen how the Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics community really elevates emerging artists through exposure nationwide.

As a curator and creative consultant, how do you stay on the pulse of these new talents and up and coming artists?

The biggest difference between myself as a director of an agency and as a DJ is that we’re really connected to the culture. I know that can sometimes be a trendy thing to say, but in most instances, when an agency or consultant gets hired, they operate from the vantage point of working from an office, or observing the trends from a distance, watching them online, or maybe they might talk to somebody who’s really connected in that community.

With myself as a DJ and my agency WERC Crew, we’re connected to the cultural taste-makers and the early adopters in so many markets to where we’re really in the streets and have that vantage point of being able to see artists on the rise. We know their management, and we’re ultimately invested in the culture and have a firsthand relationship with who and what’s coming up next. Whether we get contracted to produce activations in Atlanta or other markets, we’re not necessarily having to scout for what’s happening. We’re pretty already connected to the individuals themselves and their teams.

What’s your best advice for emerging artists and musicians who are coming up right now?

Definitely study the game now more than ever. We definitely had to research and study, and now success comes faster than ever. Getting catapulted to worldwide notoriety in a short time, sometimes you don’t have the slightest clue about what’s touring, how do I read my contracts, how do I maneuver through digital platforms of music, etc. So many artists now are realizing they don’t necessarily need labels and the big arm behind them and they can do it on their own. So as you’re doing it on your own, just make sure you study the craft a little bit.

Credits
Photography: Xavier BLK
Photography: Kat Goduco Photo