Where: Philadelphia, PA
When: Saturday, 04.15.17
On the day before Easter, a good friend and I, were walking up 14th Street in downtown Philadelphia. I saw two men having a conversation and one was wearing dope jewelry and designer shades. He looked familiar, so I performed a slick double-take as we were walking past.
I slowed down to see who it was, and thought man that guy with the beard and shades kind of looks like Black Thought from the Roots. So naturally (creepily), I stopped walking one way and tip-toed closer to their direction to get a better chance on an inconspicuous eavesdrop. I still wasn't completely sure even after being four feet away from these two dudes on the sidewalk if I was seeing who I thought I was really seeing. Television makes a lot of people look a lot larger than what meets the eye.
I used one of my other senses, and began to listen to what they were talking about and noticed, this guy whose back was turned to me was rapping off the top for the bearded, jewelry and designer-shades-wearing, man. That is when it hit me that this, indeed, was the one and only, Black Thought.
With camera-in-hand, my face lit up and I turned to my friends and said, "Give me one moment, there's somebody that I have to meet," then I shamelessly pranced right back over to wait for that guy to finish having his big moment, so I could honestly have mine. That felt weird typing out.
So, after this guy stopped him to rap what seemed like 32 bars, unconfirmed Black Thought nicely said to the guy,
"That was really nice man. You just gotta slow down. This rap sh** is about rhythm man, and you got dudes out here who can really captivate people more with that sh** (so on and so forth)."
You get the gist. As smooth as can be, Black Thought was using his off-day, on his home-town streets, teaching. So, I am witnessing what is basically an impromptu student-master moment on 14th St. of Philly, and I was geeked.
So, Black Thought daps him up and says, "I'm @blackthought and you could hit me up there for anything dawg." Confirmed.
He proceeded to walk away to a building. I realized this was my chance to meet an icon in Hip Hop. So, I clear my throat.
"Hey, Black Thought?"
He, turns around, daps me up, and says what's up, man. Surprisingly, I calmly began to tell him how much of a big fan of hip hop I was and for me, he's a legend in the game and the history of MC'ing. We were having a short conversation that just consisted of mostly hip hop.
Pointing to my camera, "You like photography," he asked.
With so many ideas running through my mind, I answer, "Yeah, I'm a photographer." Inside my mind, I'm wondering what kind of thing can I plug or what big thing I can make happen out of this moment without losing his sincere attention. I can't lie, I got nothing to really plug, and also I did not want to abuse his celeb-power that much.
But let's get real, I did want to take his portrait. I mean, why not? This is the sole reason why I carry my 50mm and camera with me anytime I go exploring a city. Because you never know who or what you will see.
So, that is exactly what happened next. I felt real comfortable and asked if I could get a picture.
"Actually, can I take a photo with you," I ask.
"Oh, no problem," he said.
Here's where I took a bold step after realizing how nice he has been with us. As I backed off I then asked, "I know you're probably real busy man, but actually would you mind if I take a picture of you with my camera?" I checked his facial expression around his shades to see if any danger alerts were flying in his mind, cause it would make sense if they were. I continue, "I mean, you gotta flex when you got this fly outfit on, cmon."
He chuckled and said sure go ahead, man. So, I snapped a few shots of him and he knew exactly what to do. I did not say a word as I my nervous fingers set up in manual and fired away.
I exhaled and said "Thanks! Happy Easter, man. My name's Greg,"
He shook my hand as he turned around to leave, and said,
If I would have met him without the camera, I would still be just as happy to share this and as excited to have talked to and seen who, to me, is a rap pioneer.
Here's the nugget though.
What any photographer can take from this is one thing. Whether it's a celebrity, or a rare bird, or even a lightning strike, sometimes you get lucky. But, you won't get lucky if you're not carrying your camera.
P.S. if you do not know Black Thought, that's totally okay. If you do not think he is a big deal or worth this long blog post, that's okay too. He's relevant to me.