There’s undoubtedly no question that today’s society seems to find a safe haven when it comes to music as a whole. Universally music crosses all walks of life, from the bevy of diverse genres, to recollections of groundbreaking albums, and favorite performances. The latter seems fit as what captures the hearts of many music enthusiasts, as not only does this resonate in their minds for ages, but it undeniably makes an impact on their lives to some extent – often unforgettable and powerful – to say the least. In a day and age where viral videos are running rampant and making regulars household names, here lies the reoccurring problem of those who are merely attention seekers, and those who want more than just fifteen minutes of fame, simply referred to the long-haulers.
In the midst of the thousands of cookie-cutter Hip-Hop oriented sites, very few are consistent when it comes to obtaining top-of-the-line exclusive content; well, like New Music Cartel’s own XclusivesZone. Solidified as the crème de la crème of all Rap driven websites, over the years this online stop-and-shop spot has become synonymous with the recognition of its’ fellow NMC counterparts, as well as other respectable outlets such as: RapRadar, KarenCivil and HipHop-N-More. However, it takes a resilient team effort for any company of this caliber to achieve such success and, of course, this is certainly no different.
Standing in as the Robin to his partner-in-crime Batman, or in this case XclusiveZone’s Mr. X, is none other than Bronx native David Downer, who has somehow etched his alias right into the “overnight-blogosphere” Hall of Fame. For much of 2013, he’s been serving up the visual fastballs, and he has firmly established himself as one of the best videographers when it comes to snapping Hip-Hop concert footage and interviews. With numerous big name artists and radio personalities to have sat down (YG, Peter Rosenberg, Black Milk, Chanel West Coast, IamSu!,) and aligned to Downer in the past year, the Bronx born lens-man seems more determined early in this new year, having already scored an interview with Brooklyn rapper Maino (as he ranted about being the self-proclaimed “King of BK”), which has garnered a whopping 171,549 views on WorldStarHipHop. Interestingly enough, one must wonder how one of the most sought after camera men in Hip Hop today got his come up, right?
Well, I go behind the scenes with the rising David Downer for a rather informative conversation, where he tells his thrilling Bronx tale, and spills the beans on his next endeavors and his motivations.
So, David Downer, please tell the readers how you began in the videographer field and how and when did you start working alongside XclusivesZone? Was there an outlet you began working on before this, or was this just a chance encounter?
Nothing happens by chance, everything definitely happens for a reason. I’ve been grinding man, grinding. All that hard work is starting to pay off. I got my start working with a good friend of mine who is an artist, ItsFriday4eva. We were doing everything on our own. I was shooting all of his content on a Canon point-and-shoot camera and edited everything through a program called Roxio. But I made it all look dope though [laughs]. He got the attention of E1 Music who signed him to a deal and that’s when I knew I had an opportunity to really kick the door down. I got me a Canon SLR and went out on the road traveling across the US. After the E1 Music stint I started a couple of blogs of my own and saw an opportunity to use my camera capturing concert footage. I literally went to every show and paid my own way. I pretty much sent my footage to every blogger in the universe. Some stuck and some didn’t.
Since I was usually the first one out, they naturally wanted to watch. X hit me one day out of the blue and, well, I don’t even think he remembers this. He said he really liked my work. The major blogs were watching. I kept that in my mind for a long time and it fueled me to be better. After a while I started to receive offers from a ton of websites but not the ones I wanted. I actually reached out to X, and wrote him an extremely long email about what I thought I could do for him. He was with it 100%. The rest is history. But the thing about myself and X is we always speak about what we could do different and improving. Not the hottest song out, not the craziest video, but how are we going to take this game over. PERIOD!
How did you get into filming and cameras?
I’m the definition of if you put your mind to it, you could make it happen. I’m 100% self-taught. I learned everything from Youtube and Google. No joke. Everything from Photoshop, to After Affects and Adobe Premiere. I don’t have a degree or a certificate. I just wanted to do whatever it took to help an artist and play a role in his development. It actually turned into a passion. Too many artists have guys that just hang around and do nothing. Everyone has to play a role or their useless. Useless people get you nowhere. I was just playing my role.
Can you tell us a little bit of your upbringing in the Bronx and how that has been instrumental in shaping who you are today and molded your work ethic?
My upbringing has been everything. I grew up on 225th street between Barnes and Bronxwood, which is right off of White Plains Road. Anyone who knows that area knows that it’s not the friendliest of neighborhoods. But my parents provided a sense of security and shaped me into everything that I am. My mom and dad came to this country more than 30 years ago from Jamaica just wanting to live the American dream. They worked hard to provide for me, my three brothers and two sisters.
My dad was a chef at the Waldorf Astoria hotel and dedicated his life to ensure people have the best experience possible through their meals. My mom worked with the mentally ill for the majority of her life. She basically devoted her life to helping others who couldn’t help themselves. This might sound crazy, but I think that’s what you’re doing when you’re shooting concert footage, or doing an interview. You’re helping promote that specific artist. It isn’t about me, it’s about that artist. That’s how you build relationships, making the artist look like a million bucks. I owe my work ethic to my folks, definitely.
As a lens-man on a site like, XclusivesZone, do you ever feel threatened by other cameramen in the game, or do you feel you’re above the rest in terms of quality? What sort of sets you apart from your fellow peers and all?
Never threatened, it’s all love. I respect all my peers and they respect me. I think what sets me apart is my turnaround time. Whether I’m at a show or doing an interview, it’s definitely all business. I’m obviously going to enjoy it but no after parties or nothing like that with me. I handle my business, network as much as I can, and then I’m home editing right away. I’ll be up all night working on it to be released the next day…guaranteed.
How valuable would you say the Internet is to [name] branding and content?
The Internet is everything. Back in the day they had street teams and other resources. The street team is in your pocket now. You could promote yourself or a business just by pressing send. It’s a unique time we live in now. If you’re not taking advantage of it or not investing in yourself via your internet presence, what are you really doing?
What has been some of your most captivating experiences thus far since being in the music industry, from the crazy nights to the maybe unforgettable events, uh, what have been some memorable highlights as of present time?
There have been plenty of crazy nights. The one that stands out to me the most is the SOBs shooting in 2013 for the Fat Trel show. It’s one of those situations that you ask yourself is it really worth it. For me, the answer is and was—absolutely! I was back in there the very next week. The Travis Scott show when he had everyone and their mother on stage was also crazy. The A$AP Ferg show [at SOB’s] earlier last year when I was damn near killed when “Work” came on, is also a memorable moment for me.
Networking plays a major role in the industry. How have you managed to keep all your relationships intact and still tackle responsibilities on a daily basis?
People who are just beginning in this industry see it as very large and cumbersome, but it is actually really, really small. You run into the same people at these events and it’s up to you to say “hi my name is this and that, and here’s my card.” Social media makes things a hell of a lot easier, too. Once in a while you reach out and build a relationship. This business ultimately depends a lot of who you know and a lot of what you can do for me. Eventually, you will need someone and someone will need you.
Following this talk of friendships, what has been some of the best advice someone has passed down to you in the music game, or over the years?
The best advice I got was from the legendary Pete Rock. This was before I was even working with E1. I saw him in a Best Buy store and spoke to him for a brief second, and I told him what my goals where in the industry and he said “when you get there make sure you stay there.” I didn’t really understand that at the time but now I certainly do.
What’s currently in your iPod? Who is next to blow in your opinion?
I listen to just about everything that drops but I got the new Ty Dolla $ign EP and Fabolous’s “Soul Tape 3” mixtape in heavy rotation right now. As far as next to blow…I’m a Bronx guy, so I’m naturally biased. So, to me, it’s Denzil Porter and Doley Bernays. Outside of the Bronx, I would have to say Bodega Bamz, Devin Miles, Deniro Farrar, Dillion Cooper and Kris Kassanova. There are certainly some more familiar artists that are going to blow, such as Smoke DZA and Iamsu. I also think Isaiah Rashad is dope.
And what’s your current stance on Hip-Hop’s immediate future, say, good or bad?
I might be in the minority but Hip-Hop is in a very good place. Hip-Hop crosses a lot of genres. There are Hip-Hop records on Z100. Kendrick Lamar performed with Imagine Dragons at the Grammy’s and then did a show with Dom Kennedy two nights later [laughs]. That’s exciting. Then you have other sides now where Hip-Hop radio stations are a lot more open to playing records that might not be as commercial. You have a lot of artists that you cannot put into a box. They’re just making great music. Hip-Hop is indeed in a very good place.
What’s next for Mr. Downer? What’s expected in the next five years?
First and foremost, it’s Xclusiveszone or die. Blogs are the new record labels. Blogs are the new radio. I’m going to continue to make the most original content possible. It’s not just going to be concerts and interviews, it’s going to be much more, so stay tuned for that. Well, the next couple of years, I feel I could make a major impact on a label on the marketing side. That’s where I want to be. I’m going to do everything in my power to get there. My goal is to exceed the heights of Kevin Liles, Lyor Cohen and Barry Weiss. My goal is to be the first David Downer.