Ride into East Flatbush, Brooklyn and you will be smacked with a wave by Surf. He’s known in the streets, an entrepreneurial hustler, an intern at Vibe Magazine, the first black gallery guide hired at The Guggenheim and he was featured in The Source for his dope street style. As you can see, he’s a force to be reckoned with in NYC, which is why I wanted to know more about Surf. We touch on his internship, giving back to the community, his favorite artists and more.
ToD: When did your passion for writing about hip-hop begin? How did you land the opportunity with Vibe?
Surf: I actually never really was a “writer” to be honest but I was always an appreciator. Hip-hop has been my life since as long as I could remember. So, I would say my passion for hip-hop in general started when I was 5 or 6 at my grandmother’s house from my uncle who had a crazy CD collection. When he would leave the crib I would sneak into his room and dig through all of his CD’s and it just opened me to a whole new world. For me to be so young at the time I felt so advanced because I knew a lot of kids my age didn’t know the music I knew. The opportunity with Vibe came from my big bro Mikey-he’s the music editor of Vibe. He plugged me in and I just been rocking with them since August of this year.
ToD: What were some of your favorite publications growing up?
Surf: Can mixtapes count? If so, then definitely that. I only used to get some Source Mags from my uncle from time to time but mixtapes, the actual hard copies you had to buy at the CD stores or the Africans, those kind of tapes. That was how you knew rappers had beef before the internet because it was more of a street thing. Mixtapes when I was growing up during my pre-teen years were way different from what they are now. It was something you had to know about and couldn’t just go online and download, you had to go to those spots or steal them from someone you knew. Mixtapes kept me in the loop.
ToD: Do you want to own and run your own publication one day? What would it include and how would it involve the community?
Surf: I had ideas of combining my favorite music platforms in one but if I say too much then the idea won’t be exclusive. For now, I’m sticking with Vibe to see where this can get me. Hopefully I can bring new direction slowly but surely to Vibe and do whatever I can to help them get the grip they once had on culture again. It’s every mans dream (or at least should be) to own a company/business but no one knows what the future holds so we’ll see. I would give back to the community by building within it. Buying property, keeping stuff for us, bringing new things to my neighborhood that you would never expect to see like art galleries, street-wear boutiques and even a museum. I know it just all seems like dreams but this is the kind of sh*t I think about. Somebody has to think next level so I figure why not me? Before they take everything over, I want to make sure we have some stuff of our own. I would buy my whole neighborhood if I could.
ToD: How are you already giving back to the community and if you haven’t had the chance yet, what are some things you hope to accomplish?
Surf: I’m still within the community. I’m still young, still growing and haven’t reached that next level to where I can give back financially. What I would say I give or hope to give is inspiration for you to do other things. I wanna show people it’s okay to break out your immediate environment and explore. It’s okay to like things that may seem “white” or whatever the case may be and get into different circles but still keep it hood. When I’m in Manhattan, I’m in a whole different mix between work and other sh*t I’m into but at the end of the day when I go home, I’m still Surf from the 40’s. I still see people I knew for years and they still see me as the Surf they always knew and I love that. I love that I stay true to myself but be able to do other things that people in my environment wouldn’t normally do. I want to inspire other people to do same and do the sh*t they want to do but still be the same person. Until I’m at a point where I can give back monetarily, for the moment, I just want to inspire not to sound cheesy or cliche.
ToD: How can Vibe and other pubs become more involved with our culture and society and reassure the public that we will not be broken from this recent election?
Surf: By giving us the information we actually need and not feed into this propaganda bull. By being the voice for the people and being for the people at the same time. Not focusing on whatever sells but the truth.
ToD: What are your thoughts on people wanting rappers to speak on BLM or police brutality?
Surf: I’m all for it. Don’t wanna comment too much on this because I can go for days but Black Gods matter and we always did. This world is ours and it has been ours. One day we are going to take back what was ours. I will just leave that at that.
ToD: Who is someone that you have always wanted to interview and why?
Surf: Hov, because he is God to me. He is possibly the greatest man to ever walk this Earth in my opinion. He kicked down so many doors and showed us how we got to do this. You have to make it to where you can’t be denied. He is a Sagittarius just like me so I know I already think like he thinks-I just need to master it and get higher than the level of thinking he was on. He said in a song, “They say a midget standing on a giant’s shoulder can see much further than a giant”, so imagine if I got to pick his brain and got the tools I need to see far. Hov has the keys. I want to be so major for this world in whatever I do that I make Hov proud. That’s a goal of mine.
ToD: Who are you currently listening to?
Surf: I listen to a lot of “old” music but that’s just me. I keep the same like 10 albums in rotation but I do switch it up. My favorite album of all time is Only Built 4 Cuban Linx by Raekwon and that dropped in ’95. I’m a big Meek Mill fan, that dude gives me so much motivation. He is a representation of everything I feel I am. A young black man from the bottom trying to grab it all. We didn’t have the same story necessarily I never sold hard drugs other than a little weed or pills, nor was I in the field like he was but he represents the struggle in general and I’m familiar with that. Meek gives me that push to keep going and the way he stunts is to strictly motivate and show you that you can get it too if you grind. He’s the voice of the streets. Other than Meek, I’m a big Vinny Chase fan. He never really made it too big but his music always did a lot for me. If I was a rapper I probably would have a swag like his which is real street artsy. To be honest, a lot of music out today doesn’t move me and I hate to say it so I’m real selective on who I give my ears too.
ToD: Where are some of your favorite spots to go shopping?
Surf: I really only wear street-wear. I wouldn’t say exactly where I go but I shop mainly in Lower East Side, Downtown or certain vintage spots all through the city. I never shop online because that’s corny to me (lol). I can’t give away the spots, if you know you know.
ToD: What is it like working at the Guggenheim? What have been some of your favorite exhibits?
Surf: I’m a gallery guide and the first black one they ever hired at that. I love that job. I just started so the show they did on Maholy-Nagy and Agnes Martin. I’m ready for the next show we do called, “Visionaries”, when they basically go into their collection and pull out all the stuff from the big artists everyone knows like Jackson Pollock, Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall and of course Kandinsky. That’s the All-Star game of art right there.
ToD: Who is your favorite painter/artist of all time? If you could have one artist to paint your self-portrait who would it be?
Surf: As a kid it’s always been M.C. Escher but now that I have seen more art and spend time with it, I would have to say Wasilly Kandinsky. He was a Sag just like I am and I never knew that until I started working at the Guggenheim but once I saw his work, I fell in love. He was one of the key founders of abstract art and I love all his abstract work. My favorite painting from him is called, “Black Lines” and we actually own that at the Guggenheim and I’m blessed to be able to see it everyday. I even bought a replica of it so I see it almost 24 hours a day. He was an abstract painter and didn’t do any objective art and a portrait wouldn’t be something he did-he was more on spontaneous figures and forms. I probably wouldn’t want a painting of me anyway (lol) but he could definitely paint me something else. Rest In Peace to Kandinsky.
Surf wants to leave everyone with these words: “Ya’ll ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Follow Surf on Twitter.