What is history without documentation? The two go hand and hand. In the case of Detroit’s Underground Hip Hop trio Slum Village, lead by James Dilla Yancey – There are only a few photographers that had the for site and access to capture the moments that would become history.
One of the first is Robert Waajeed O’Bryant. He was the first and only photographer to travel with Slum for over a decade. His video and photo archive is one of the largest collections to date. Some of which he shared in his Bling47 Breaks series in 2012.
The second is acclaimed California-based B+ (aka Brian Cross) who worked with Dilla for many years when he relocated to Los Angeles in early 2001. He has captured several iconic images including the Jaylib cover for Stonethrow Records.
The third photographer is fairly unknown to the public. You’ve seen his images on album covers, flyers, and even posters. It’s time you meet him for yourself. You should know Yamandu Roos.
Tell us about yourself. I am Yamandu. Photographer from Amsterdam. Born and Bred Amsterdammer in 1978. Half Uruguayan and half Dutch. I root for the Uruguayan national football team and Luis Suarez is my favourite football player cause he bites people when they step on his kicks. I focus on making art… the main thing I do is take photographs and edit the work that I made when I was younger. At the moment, I’m working on 7 different projects.
Where do you live and work from? I live and work from my small crib in Amsterdam
When did you first pick up the camera? In 1991 when I was 13.
How large is your archive of photos of Slum and Dilla? My archive of Slum Village 1999 is not so large. Maybe about 140 shots on BW negative, Kodak T MAX 400 ASA. Shot with a Nikon F3 plus 50 mm lens no flash and a Konica Hexar + 35 mm lens with flash. But the main thing about this archive is not the size but the concentration of stupid nice photographs.
You see: There are peak moments, does not matter what you do or what you pursue, whether you’re a football player a painter or a music man or a chef, or in my case a photographer. There are moments that the gods and universe and the stars are all connected with you and you make some nice stuff. My few encounters with J Dilla and the work that I made was one of my early peaks in my career. From all the work that I made during those days when I was 21, those images are some of the best photographs. I think that that is because there was a good connection between all of us and a hunger to make dope pictures and a drive. I would not stop taking photographs.
How did you first meet them? I had gained status house photographer at Paradiso Amsterdam… so I was always around meeting artists and taking photographs… I kid you not I did not know SV at the time… We just met and the crew was so nice that I decided to hang out and take a lot of photographs. I think it was one of the first and few times I was taken in and around artist all the time. Usually, I was given 3 minutes to take a shot and bounce. Something I totally understand btw. They were staying at a hotel near the Vondelpark and also near Paradiso. This was the first time they passed through. The crew came back a few weeks later.
I remember very well the whole crew that was around. SO it was the three original members of SV James (RIP) Titus (RIP) and T3, then there was Waajeed with the video camera, Ramos breaking everyone’s balls and bullying me all the time but he was cool anyhow. Then there was Tim the manager who was super friendly and Attim (RIP) who was working at Paradiso at the time. For me it was exciting times and a few weeks later everyone came back and we were hanging out again and I took Dilla Baatin and T3 around the city and took them to Fat Beats where I made that famous photograph that everyone loves to use.
Your photos have been used without your permission by many labels and publications. What is your stance on that? I am struggling with this but learning. It’s my own fault and responsibility. Once you put shit out there it will be fucked with in all kinds of ways with respect and with disrespect. I need to learn how to appreciate the love and ignore the ignorance.
Of course you can watermark your shit but this does not make it any prettier. I tried the other day for the first time ever to watermark some Dilla images. But I decided not to do this. My name should not be over a J Dilla picture. That is not right.
What advice would you offer up and coming photographers? So if you put stuff out there be ready to deal with it. My advice is to think well before you give your image to the world. Real people will give you respect and the others you know… let go and let god is what my good friend said. You can of course, watermark… but that is not my style so I will not do that again.
What are your plans with your archive? Love the archive. Take good care of it and do something special sometime soon.