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From my hotel next door I’d stroll about 75 yards into Factory around 11:00 am, sit down on one of those comfortable sofas, plug in my laptop, fire up the wi-fi and order coffee and breakfast.
China is exactly 12 hrs ahead of east coast time so I’d start checking emails and making Skype & iChat calls with those in the states still up and awake while also checking my Google News page. Sean and the rest of the Factory creative staff would stroll in around noon and begin to get the various pieces in place for that nights screening. On the 13th the first issue was my lost piece of luggage had all the DVD’s in it so plan B was to hit a strip where there are several DVD stores where apparently 80% of the stock is bootlegged in perfect packaging. A Chinese DJ friend of Sean’s had gotten a copy of the 25th anniversary edition of Wild Style at one of these spots but we went and checked all the stores on Boot Leg row but none had any left. Plan C was to down load a copy via bit torrent which took a few Hrs and there’s no telling if it was gonna be up to par until the down load was completed.
Around 6:00 pm people start to stream in for dinner and to get ready for the film. An eclectic mix of ex-pat scene-sters, hip advertising folks from various agencies and there Shanghai counterparts along with Chinese street wear & Hip Hop heads. At 7:30 we are about to start the film when Sean strolls in with my missing bag! I was now able to do grab a quick shower & a change and pop the film in Wild Style for the appreciative crowd.
Sean “Cavo” Dinsmore is an old friend of mines from the downtown NY scene circa 1980’s. We ran in similar circles and I remember him and his partner Lionel, a smooth Haitian cat were in a nouveau ska band called the Toasters popular at the time. They would leave that band and form a duo called, “Unity Two”, a salt & pepper off shoot of the Toasters and they quickly got signed to Elecktra records and dropped a single that went into rotation on my show YO! MTV Raps right at the jump off in like 89-90. So after seeing Cavo regularly at spots like Danceteria, Negrils, AREA and on Ludlow St where I lived at the time, I’m now seeing him & Lionel on my show on Saturday nights.
As it goes in the fast lane people veer off the road and I lost touch with Sean until Myspace and then Facebook. He let me know that he’d been globe trotting to various international hot spots DJing and managing places in Mombai, London, Thailand, Hong Kong and now Shanghai. Sean knows hip hop well and was into it early on in the 80’s as well as being deep into reggae and other listenable genre’s of danceable music. So we began to plot, plan and build via skype about how to get some real understanding of Hip Hop culture and flavor to the worlds most populous country, China and it’s 1.8 billion population.
He connected in Shanghai with a successful digital add agency owner, Darryl Arnold who along with his brother built a world wide add empire with offices in 16 cities called Profero and Shanghai is the base. Here Darryl built a building in the Hong Kou area where the first floor is called Factory, an interesting combination of restaurant, lounge, recording studio, gallery, boutique and digital video production. Sean is the creative director and invited me to come over to be artist in residence for a week and screen a series of pivotal Hip Hop films and docs while meetig with backers for bigger things we have on the drawing board.
My first night in Shanghai was easy as I checked in to my hotel which conveniently is right next to Factory, a surprisingly massive structure just finished and opened for business 2 months ago. The decor is a warm combo of raw concrete and and wood under a 20 ft celling. 30 members of the Profero staff do there thing up stairs and downstairs at Factory another Sean who’s Factories chef from Cali, a tall white Hip hop head keeps the gourmet munchies flowing and Sean “Cavo” keeps a nice blend of early reggae and classic Hip Hop as the back ground sound track.
I sit down as chef Sean brings out several plates of his flavorful gourmet specialties and I meet Darryl and his guests for dinner, a nice American couple who strike up a convo with me excited about why I’m here in Shanghai. His card read Mark Wagner, Pres & CEO of General Electric China, a Profero client.
Sean takes me on a quick spin around Shanghai on our way to a spa so I can unwind and un-clog my pores. All I see on the way are massive looming skyscrapers, residential and business. A new architectural battle ground thats all gone up in the last 20 years. Later I sleep like a baby.
Air Canada was the right move for my flight to Shanghai. When your gonna be trapped on a plane for 15 plus hours it’s essential, if it’s possible, to have one of those personal plane pods where your seat goes flat for optimum bed like sleep. I broke night before I left hence I managed about 10 hrs snoozing in 3 parts and at one point while in the bathroom I looked out of the window and all I could see was snow. Hmmm, north pole I thought? For a second I thought of the recent flight from Brazil that went down and I retreated to my pod and went right back to sleep.
There was plenty of decent food, video, film and audio content but the one feature not working on the personal video player was the animation showing what part of the planet your flying over and knowing how many hours to touchdown. I watched an informative Canadian doc on David Ogilvy, the Madison avenue advertising legend and a Russian produced epic feature film called “Mongol” about the rise of Gengis Kahn. A very appropriate DVD for this trip as Genghis ruled about half the world in his time including all of China and I was watching it during the last few hours as we were actually flying over China.
When the plane landed in Shanghai the steward got on the P.A. and informed us not to stand until we stop and the medical inspectors get on the plane and check each of us for signs of the flu. Moments later in walked several people in head to toe white gauze jump suits with surgical masks on carrying laser looking guns which they pointed at each of our far head and fired an inferred beam to instantly take our body temperatures. On guy a few rows back had to be zapped a few times because apparently if your too hot, you can go into quarantine and or get sent right back home!
After clearing customs and heading for my bags I noticed one of mines sitting in a row along with others taken off the carousel. That proved to be a bad sign as I soon realized a bag was missing and it was the bag with my personals and the films I brought to screen at the Factory.
I was soon informed by a young China man at the Air Canada luggage desk that my bag would be on the same flight I came on tomorrow and would be brought right to my hotel. Not a good way to start an important trip half way around the world but I’m happy to report the bag got to me just in time to change my underwear and gear and pop the DVD in for the first of the five screenings, Wild Style.
All I can say about Shanghai is…NEW Frontier!!!
There’s lots of glitzy and far from glitzy high rises, lots of pockets of poor folks barley getting by, a meager middle class, lots of ex pats from everywhere and tons of potential! 18 million people in this throbbing city and every body seems to out and about at once. Wild!!