S5EP1 : 'Keep It Cute' ft. Ty Valentino
Hi ºF-TV family!
How are you?!
I know it's been awhile since we've released an episode but we took some much needed time off in the beginning of this year to reflect, recharge and revamp our vision. 2020 was quit a rememberable year full of mixed emotions. One of the highlights for me, as the producer, was actually watching my work on television! I know it may seem odd, especially because I edit and create all of my own content HOWEVER my love/struggle relationship with editing, only allowed me to watch footage for the final product, and not necessarily to acknowledge, what I have created these past few years.
2020 was a big surprise to the entire world, nonetheless, it allowed many of us to take some time to step back and reflect on our lives. I'm so happy to say that I continued to create episodes each month last year, despite not being in a studio and having technical issues at home. I was proud that I completed Season 4 and that people trusted me with their stories to make it successful! BUT 2020 also made me realize how exhausted I was.
Before the pandemic, I was doing my usual routine. Working two jobs (sometimes three), freelancing in between, creating art when I could, adulting (aka paying bills while living solo) and running back & fourth to the studio to produce a show every month. I've been doing that since 2014. And as you can see from our previous Seasons, especially Season 2 and 3, our LIVE productions had A LOT going on! Which means, I would be busy in between whatever time I had to put all of that together. By myself, with no car, no support team and living broke & fabulous lol. It was hard but before the pandemic, that was my normal. I am still so grateful to volunteers that became my crew members, who would actually show up (shout out to them) because often finding help was one of the many challenges of producing at a community led station. I also realized how my lack of taking time off or not having a lot of time/support available to me, caused me to make mistakes while producing in both pre & post production. I am also bad at asking for help so being overwhelmed was also my norm. I also never talked about some of the gossip I would hear folks say about me (jealously & underestimating me I presumed) and would just keep it in and keep producing (because you can't let anyone destroy your greatness out of their own insecurities). But I must admit, it hurt, it still hurts and probably that's why I was overworking myself to prove a point that was not necessary to make BECAUSE my work speaks for itself. But when all of this is happening at the same time and the journey feels good but lonely, I guess you keep going because, its your norm.
I am thankful for 2020 because although it striped time from those I wasn't ready to say goodbye to, it also gave me time to pour more into myself. When I watched S4EP2 on television last year, I was finally able to really take in what I've been doing for the past 7 years and I am really fucking proud of myself! Don't get me wrong, it's still a lot to do and many times, I'm unsure of where this path will take me BUT I know that creating ºFarenheight TV has given me the blessing to grow both personally & professionally so even if the dreams I have in my head for this platform doesn't come true, I'll be glad knowing that there was 'once upon a time' where I created fearlessly!
Sorry for all that mushiness lol but I thought it was only right that I kept it real with ya because you're my ºF-TV family and I am SO thankful for you! So getting back to business, I've been thinking of NEW ideas for this platform! One of them is creating more diverse content, using different mediums and expanding our YouTube channel (please subscribe). BNN, where we have filmed for the past seven years, was closed for a year due to COVID restrictions. Being out of the studio, although it felt weird, gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I can continue to create beyond the studio walls. I am happy to say that Season 5 will be the year we create outside of the box! This Season, we're featuring guests from around the nation!
Our first episode, which premiered this month on June 3rd, features an Atlanta Rapper & Youth Activist, who's music will make you groove!
Welcoming to the virtual ºF-TV stage is, Ty Valentino!
"I got a story and why can't I tell my story and who can tell my story better than me."
I had the blessing to meet Ty Valentino through a Youth Program dedicated to supporting and uplifting young activists in the health & social justice field. One of the things I admired most about Ty, was his unapologetic attitude to be himself. Sometimes when you're attending virtual conferences or zoom meetings, it can get a little dull and serious but what I loved about Ty, was that he always brought his charisma with him, making you laugh and listen to him as he openly shared some of his most vulnerable experiences. It's one of the many things I admire about this young soul, his vulnerability to be open and how he brilliantly expresses his emotions through his music, which he has been creating since 2018.
During the height of the pandemic, Ty got offered a teaching position in our hometown Boston and had to make the brave move up north, despite not knowing much about the culture of our city and moving during a scary moment in history. You see, in Atlanta, COVID19 wasn't seen so much as a big deal, as it was up here. Some folks were still living their normal lives, without masking up, despite the Mayor and some activists warning them that they should. When Ty moved to Boston, he was introduced to the big culture shock of our city. "Everyone was wearing masks" and as we know it, you wouldn't be allowed into certain spaces without one. To make matters worse, he found out he was living with COVID19 and had to stay at the Marriot Hotel in downtown Boston for two weeks before being approved to go back to work. Ty and I discussed how that moment was a big eye opener to him about the complex effects of COVID19. "Of course you have Covid gurl, you were partying with the folks in Atlanta," he exclaimed to himself when he found out his positive result. With this virus, sometimes you don't have symptoms and that's one of the scariest parts of it for me. But thank god he was fine and kept safe until it passed and once it did, he changed his behavior as well. "Boston changed me, Boston is the reason I wear masks."
During that process and settling into a new city and eventually moving back home later in the year, Ty also had the time to reflect & create. "Quarantine put a lot in focus." He explained that he was amongst the many people who lost their jobs (like we did) during the pandemic and so he went 5 months without working. During that time, he worked on his music both as a form of joy & therapy. "A lot of music came out of quarantine just because I had time." And it was a lot of great music!
Ty released his first EP, Mizedukation of Kontrol in late 2019 and he describes it as a personal project that conveyed how he felt as a young free man. "I came home from prison, I was 21, I had a lot to say. This album wasn't for me to prove to anybody that I can rap or that I knew about music, but just release how I felt." Being incarcerated is a tough experience to survive and if you're blessed to be released, the transition back into society is very difficult, especially the intersectional challenges of being a Gay Black Man in America. Ty entitled this album 'Mizedukation of Kontrol' partly because he felt like everyone was trying to control him at that time. Including his parents, society and his relationship with God. He was struggling everyday with his identity as a young adult. He also was greatly inspired by one of his musical idols, Ms. Lauryn Hill. "To me 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill' is the best rap album ever." It's his favorite album! Lauryn conveyed her feelings about love, culture and her identity as a Black independent Artist, in a brilliant composition of music that we still celebrate today! Ty felt exactly the same way and when he came back home, he needed to compose his own manifesto to who he was now.
Some of our favorites on the album are his singles like "Blue Diamond" (watch the video on Youtube above) which Ty conveyed, was his way to tell the world he was here and ready to be who HE wanted to be.
In 2020, Ty released his second EP entitled, Imperfections of a Vibe. The album was originally going to be a 70's theme concept partly because Ty was inspired by the gay liberation of that era and also because he had such great appreciation for the disco sounds of that decade. When he released his first single and one of our favorites 'Take My Sh*t Back (T.M.S.B.) featuring another talented Atlanta Artist, Butterfly Ty, he got astounding reviews! Ty was so excited to write/produce that single and it felt so good to him to have people actually listen to a project that (this time) he made an effort to share with the world. It's a song we look forward to rollerskating to ourselves! Watch the video on Youtube above! Ultimately, midway through, Ty changed the theme for 'Imperfections of a Vibe' and decided to experiment more with sounds.
His second single, 'Pop' was the second beat he listened to in pre production of Imperfections of a Vibe and soon he had words to match that vibe. "The song is about a breakup with a friend," something some of us have experienced and Ty isn't shy to let his ex friend know how he feels lol. You can also watch and listen to the song on Ty's YouTube page!
So what inspired the ATL Artist to pursue music? Ty gives credit to his parents and grandparents for introducing him to a variety of music as a child. "I don't know how to do anything without listening to music. I cook I listen to music. I'm chilling I have to listen to music. I'm driving, I'm walking, I'm running...music is always in my ear." And we couldn't agree more! But Ty didn't start taking music or writing seriously until he went to prison. In school, Ty used to write poetry and the genre was his entry into becoming an artist. "I love how I could say a lot and say nothing. I love the fact that I could give you smilies and metaphors and I love when I perform, the reaction I got from people, people liked my poetry." When he was in prison, poetry and writing became his escape and it gave him an opportunity to reflect and express his feelings. "All of my songs were about love and bad relationships, mistakes and bad feelings." It was a form of therapy for him but he didn't think he was going to be a rapper at first. He thought he would become a songwriter for other Artists but once he finally came home, he realized, "I got a story and why can't I tell my story and who can tell my story better than me." And the rest was music history.
Since then, Ty has released two more projects and it currently working on his third EP! His latest single, 'Keep it Cute' is on replay on our Spotify playlist and you should add it to your song list too! What I respect about this young Artist is his desire to excel. When you listen to Ty's music catalog, you can definitely see the growth in production & his confidence as an Artist and I love that he is taking his time with it and being brave enough to show us the process. It's not always easy to find your voice as an emerging Artist and it could be an extra challenge when you're working in an industry that is always changing and always trying to fit Artists in a box. Ty credits his growth to his team. "All my music has been mixed & mastered by the same person." He told us that while he grows as a lyricist and creative, so do the people he works with. This makes their bond and creations better each time because they're evolving together.
"The America I live in, even if I wasn't Gay, I would still be a Black Man."
In honor of #PRIDE month and #blackmusicmonth, we also asked Ty if he feels liberated as a Gay Black Artist. "I'm in the music mecca of the United States right now. I'm in the gay mecca of the United States right now. So I'm going to say 'Yes' BUT I know someone in Wisconsin may not feel that way. Somebody in Tuscaloosa, Alabama may not feel that way. Somebody in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they may not feel that way because they don't have places like I have... I have outlets that I can literally go to...Atlanta, Georgia is the best place to be for a Gay Black Man to be who wants to feel comfortable in their own skin." Ty shared with us the complexities of navigating life as a Queer Black person. He explained briefly how far we've come as a society but how much more we need to do! Especially when it comes to protecting, supporting and empowering our LGBTQ community. One thing I can say for sure, is that Artists like Ty Valentino, are creating history. When we looked back at other Queer Black Artists of our time, they were so courageous to express themselves proudly during a time that was way more cruel to their identifies. Legendary Black Queer Artists such as Sylvester, Ma Rainey, Jackie Shane, Billie Holiday ad countless more, paved the way for some many Black Queer Artists now to succeed. I believe every time we have been blessed to witness the greatness of these artists (and other unsung artists we may not know about yet), their impact, importance and gift to society will continue to help further liberate and empower many future generations to come. Their existence is revolutionary!
It was such an honor connecting with this young soul. We're so proud of his journey and look forward to hearing many more albums from him. When he's not creating music, Ty is also passionate about empowering his peers to care about their health & wellness. This month we also recognized National HIV Testing Day and encourage all of you to get tested and empower your peers to do the same. You can get tested for FREE at an HIV testing location near you or a FREE 'At Home Testing Kit' delivered to you!
Please support our extraordinary guest and listen to Ty's latest single 'Keep It Cute' (now steaming on all music platforms) and keep that energy all summer long! In the future, Ty wants to have his own record company entitled, 'Valentino Vitals' and hopes to continue to grow in his artistry. His advice to all Artists is "Be true to you firstly" and the blessings will follow.