I had been listening to DJ Bles One and his group, Don’t Talk To the Cops, for about a year before I got to meet him. Back In May of 2014 I was staying in town for Massive Monkees Day after shooting the Red Bull BC One Seattle Cypher. There was an impromptu mic hand off and Bles spoke candidly about the bboy scene. I’m not saying that all hip hop musicians are like this, but its no surprise that when given the opportunity to boast, many dj’s or mc’s hop up on that soap box, puffed up and list off all of their, so called, accomplishments. And I can appreciate that. Plus you've go to promote when you can! So it was really refreshing when instead of giving that obligatory boast, Bles One candidly prescribed a dose for the youngsters in the crowd. He expressed the importance of individuality and explained that what is most vital for the betterment of this bboy culture is to embrace your own particular version of dance, music, and creativity. Don’t follow. Be you. Only you.
After that night I wanted to collaborate with Bles One ASAP. So in June 2014 while shooting the BC One Paris Cypher for Strife TV I reached out to Bles. He was super generous and hooked me up with tracks both for the trailer and a personal project that I was working on with Bay Area Bboy, Matt Action of the Beatz N Pieces Crew. This seems to be just how Bles and his group operate. They’ve been producing music and giving it away for free on websites like Soundcloud.com and continue to be an example of individuality for the hip hop scene. Regardless of what others think, as Bles later explained to me, they just tune out all of the ‘noise’. They create what they want to hear. DTTTC is also well known for their crazy shows. Bles explained that their ‘on line’ presence is almost non-existent 'but when you come to a show we’ll have sold out crowds of five thousand people. And you just won’t get it until you see us live. It’s a personal goal for us to be the wildest in the room.”
At the end of March, 2015 I happened to be traveling to the North West to help a friend that was moving to Washington. When I knew that I’d be in town I reached out to see if we could meet up. Bles was down! Don’t Talk To The Cops had been like the soundtrack to my life over the past few months. I live north of San Francisco and have at least an hour drive to and from the studio in the city so when I leave for the day, their music is cranked up and on repeat. Plus I figured since they had been sharing their music for free that I would also take some portraits of the band for free. As it turned out the timing for getting the whole crew together wasn’t going to work. But Bles still came through!
It was now 5pm and we’re in downtown Seattle on the roof top floor of a nine story parking garage we found earlier that afternoon thanks to a tip from some close friends living near by. It was cold (well, at least for a couple of cry baby Californians coming from sunshine and 70 degree weather). Just as it starts to rain pretty hard Bles shows up. He’s got on this bright blue corduroy "old man" Seahawks hat, a pin of his partner in crime girlfriend and crew member Emecks and a necklace that he says was just hand-made by long time close friend, Bboy Thesis. He's laughing and mentioning the irony of the rain. “It actually hasn’t rained much at all this winter. But now we’re going to shoot some photos so…" He’s got a brown paper bag in hand. Bles has brought me a goodie bag filled with two limited edition cassette tape albums, two cd’s, and a ‘Champions of Breakfast' cereal box album! I’m pumped. Some serious DTTTC swag here! As we’re walking around on this rooftop, I’m casually shooting photos. Kurt, my friend moving to Washington as we speak, is holding a pop-out reflector over my head so that the camera isn’t damaged. Bles calmly sips his coffee and gives the history of the area, local politics, tech boom, housing prices, he’s pointing out apartment rooftops telling tales of local DTTTC performances. "What are you guys working on right now?” I ask. It turns out that just recently, Bles shared with the band some new material and they’re excitedly moving forward on new albums. “It’s actually been about a year”, he says, since Don’t Talk To The Cops has produced new music. This was a surprise to me, as I feel like I've been discovering new music and seeing posts for events of theirs practically every month. Bles then shares that May 9th he'll be throwing one of the hottest events for Seattle this year, the Them Team 10 year Anniversary. If you haven’t yet, check out Them Team, a group of bboys embodying “the West Coast way.” We continue to explore this space when the next thing I know at least an hour and half had flown by, the rain had passed and beers were open (Do the right thing. Bring beer to photo-shoots). Kurt points out a security guard passing by. ‘Probably a good time to split,’ Bles says. And we’re off.
It’s 7pm and the three of us head towards Bles’ car. We’re a few minutes down the street and he mentions that his car is sitting just in front of what he considers the best cup of coffee in Seattle, Zeitgeist Coffee. Being an unashamed coffee addict I’m fixin for a hot cup. The coffee is super good and we hang out front chatting as another hour or so just flashes by. As a photographer it’s a treat to get along well with the subject of your photographs. At this point I've received some seriously cool gifts, shot at an inspiring location and received an impromptu tour/hip hop social lesson on what was and is happening in Seattle. The only thing that could make the evening better would be some tasty Seattle eats. Which, if I can take a second to share some notable food findings, we grabbed lunch in this same neighborhood earlier before the shoot at Salumi! It was by far the best meatball sandwich that I’ve ever had. Next time you’re in Seattle and Hungry, check out Salumi Artisan Cured Meats. So anyways, back to the story... now we’re all starving and since we were staying near Capitol Hill, Bles suggests, 8oz Burger. “Best burger in Seattle!” he says. We’re definitely going!
8:30pm. Capitol Hill is erupting on a Friday night. It’s raining again, cold, and the colors from the bars and restaurants are reflecting on the streets. Music and people spill out of dozens of doorways. A behemoth of a burger is in front of me, and we’re drinking whiskey. Being an artist I am always curious what the creative process looks like for those who are consistently producing work. Must one establish daily habits to fuel their creativity and remain energized? Or do some just have an inherent fire? After hanging with the guy for a few hours it seems that Bles is the latter. He’s always in the process of learning, sharpening his skills, and collaborating. Every Tuesday at the Havana Social Club, Bles & Emecks throw what they call, Real Love 90’s Jams. You want to time travel back to the golden era of hip hop? You won’t be disappointed! He says that he’s always got to be making something. I find out that not only is Bles managing a team of dj’s in the Seattle area that perform in local high-end salons, but he’s also hosting a weekly radio show, world traveling to dj for break battles, performing at shows, and continuing to create music both for his solo work and as a crew member of Don’t Talk To The Cops. Dude is crazy busy and I admire that energy. This weekend was no exception as Bles also had bboys from Canada coming to stay with him for the Knuckle Up event happening the next day. Plus I had an early flight back to San Francisco in the morning. So we called it a night. It was a really cool surprise that the evening would stretch out and I could hang with Bles and learn a bit more about what makes him tick. I got on the plane the next morning with Don’t Talk To The Cops still on blast as my personal soundtrack.
And if you’re in the Seattle area April 25th, this year's Massive Monkees Day will be an event sure to inspire and you know DJ Bles One will be spinning!