Talking ‘Til Infinity’ (@tillnfinitydoc) With Filmmaker Shomari Smith!

I am hip-hop magazine caught up with Oak­land film­maker Sho­mari Smith and found out more about his doc­u­ment­ary “Til Infin­ity”.
Q. Who is Sho­mari Smith?
Hmmm…Shomari Smith is a visu­al artist, and a lov­er of hip hop music and cul­ture, but also most import­antly i’m a hus­band, a fath­er, a broth­er, a son from East Oak­land Cali­for­nia.
Q. Tell us about “Til Infin­ity”. Why did you make this doc­u­ment­ary? What does hip-hop mean to you?
“Til Infin­ity” is a full length doc­u­ment­ary film cel­eb­rat­ing the 20th anniversary of the release of the Souls of Mis­chief’s clas­sic 1993 debut album “93 ‘Til Infin­ity”. We take an in-depth look into the Souls’ his­tory and the events lead­ing up to their Jive record­ing con­tract sign­ing. We also explore the stor­ies and the cre­at­ive pro­cess behind the mak­ing of the entire album track by track.
This doc­u­ment­ary was made for many reas­ons, but the most import­ant reas­on for mak­ing this film was to cre­ate some­thing that would con­trib­ute to hip-hop cul­ture in a pos­it­ive way. Hip Hop was the first art form I dis­covered that spoke to me as a peer. The artists looked and dressed like me, they were from the same type of city envir­on­ment, they spoke slang, they were young, I could com­pletely relate to the music, the b‑boying, the djays, and most of all the graf­fiti. I almost felt as-though this music was being made for people like me only. I had no idea it would spread world-wide. So Hip Hop, to me, is everything. I was born in the mid-70s and had the oppor­tun­ity to grow up along-side Hip Hop. “93 ‘Til Infin­ity” accom­plished the same goal of con­trib­ut­ing some­thing pos­it­ive to hip hop 20 years ago influ­en­cing and inspir­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of emcees, djays, and pro­du­cers who would fol­low from Kanye West to Eminem and so on. This album also served as a bridge for many north amer­ic­an east coast hip hop listen­ers who felt like there were no emcees in Cali­for­nia who pushed the bound­ar­ies lyr­ic­ally. When you hear the Souls of Mis­chief, there is no ques­tion around their lyr­ic­al skills. The Souls story is an import­ant piece of Hip Hop his­tory that must be told.
Q. You had such a roster of Hip-Hop artist to inter­view. How did it feel inter­view­ing all these legends who have had such a great influ­ence on the cul­ture?
It was amaz­ing to have the oppor­tun­ity to speak with Phife Dawg, Dante Ross, De La Soul, King Tee, Stretch & Bob­bito, Ice Cube, Mobb Deep, The Phar­cyde, Yasi­in Bey(Mos Def), Murs, Too $hort, Black Moon, Talib Kweli, Red­man and count­less oth­ers. As a fan of the music it was a dream come true. With any pro­ject I’m work­ing on, I remind myself to enjoy the jour­ney because the pay-off is in the pro­cess. I really would stop and take some time to soak in each moment dur­ing the mak­ing of this film. It was great to ask these greats about moments in hip hop that I had been fol­low­ing for years.
Q. Are there any artist you would have loved to inter­view and did­n’t get the chance to, if not why?
I had a list of “hope­fuls” for this film. I was able to get, at the very least, a “shout out” from the major­ity of the artists on the list. But I really wanted to do a form­al sit-down inter­view with Ice Cube because of his dir­ect con­nec­tion with Del Tha Fun­kee Homos­api­en, The Souls, and Hiero from their very early stages. Ice Cube played a huge roll in mak­ing their dream appear “reach-able” when they were devel­op­ing a young rap­pers. I would have loved to hear Cube’s per­spect­ive on the early Hiero move­ment. The sit-down inter­view did­n’t hap­pen because Ice Cube is a busy man as you would guess but his staff was very respons­ive and gave me an oppor­tun­ity to get a shout out from him back­stage at the Rock the Bells music fest­iv­al in L.A. in 2012. I also wanted to do a sit-down inter­view with ?uestlove with whom I met after an after­noon DJ set he per­formed in my homet­own of Oak­land, CA in 2011. We were sched­uled to do an inter­view that day but he had just spent the last 2 hours stand­ing behind the 1’s & 2’s and was super tired so he gra­ciously gave me an on-cam­era shout out and a con­tact email to set up a form­al inter­view. I took steps toward con­tact­ing him though that email and also spoke with his man­ager­’s office a few times through a con­tact I received from a friend who is from Philly, but his team nev­er respon­ded. Also dur­ing my first day of shoot­ing back­stage at the 2011 Rock the Bells music fest­iv­al in San Fran­cisco I spoke with Com­mon briefly about answer­ing a few ques­tions on cam­era. He said yes, but had a few vis­it­ors in his trail­er who were wait­ing on him and he would be avail­able in a bit. I went to cov­er the Souls’ meet and greet for about 20 minutes and when I returned to Com­mon’s trail­er he was gone. The oth­er hope­fuls were Eminem, Kanye West, and Phar­rell Wil­li­ams and I was­n’t able to get a response from any of leads and con­tacts I had for them.
Q. The doc­u­ment­ary is because of the debut album 93 ’til Infi­in­ity by Souls of Mis­chief. Albums such as Ill­mat­ic and The Mise­du­ca­tion of Lauryn Hill are forever ref­er­enced and are seen as time­less mas­ter pieces, do you see any albums which are out now which can be immor­tal­ised the way these albums have been?
I believe clas­sic albums define an era. “93 ‘Til Infin­ity”, “Ill­mat­ic”, “Only Built For Cuban Links”, “Straight Outta Compton”, “Mise­du­ca­tion of Lauryn Hill”, all define spe­cif­ic eras in Hip Hop for me. With these types of mas­ter­pieces, you press play and you allow it to play from the begin­ning to the end. It’s hard to declare an album an “instant clas­sic” imme­di­ately upon it’s release but there are a num­ber of albums from the past few years that I feel have the poten­tial to achieve hip hop immor­tal­ity:
Kooley High “Dav­id Thompson”
Kendrick Lamar “Good Kid M.A.A.D. City”
Actu­al Proof “Black Boy Radio”
Apollo Brown & O.C. “Trophies”
Cas­u­al “The Hiero­phant”
Pro Era “PEEP-The aPROc­a­lypse”
Joey Bada$$ “Sum­mer Knights”
RapS­ody “She Got Game”
Q. Which oth­er dir­ect­ors inspire you to break bound­ar­ies?
I admired all of the young Afric­an Amer­ic­an dir­ect­ors that emerged from the late 80’s and early 90’s, Spike Lee, F. Gary Gray, John Singleton of course because they decided to tell their stor­ies from the per­spect­ive of a young black male in the United States. Whenev­er you trust your own per­son­al vis­ion, there’s a pos­sib­il­ity of break­ing bound­ar­ies. Hip Hop cul­ture is based on push­ing the bound­ar­ies that have been set up in our soci­ety, and my doc­u­ment­ary was made in the spir­it of Hip Hop cul­ture. We need to exper­i­ence stor­ies from all walks of life, from all cul­tures and regions.
Q. If there is a film you wished you dir­ec­ted, which film would it be and why?
“Til Infin­ity” would have been that film for me if I had not taken on this pro­ject. I had every oppor­tun­ity to make the stars align for this film and I took a chance and trus­ted my gut feel­ings. It would have been pain­ful to see this film hap­pen and not be the one respons­ible.
Q. Although you are a dir­ect­or, in a fantasy world and your were a record­ing artist, which 5 artist dead or alive would you love to work with?
If I had the oppor­tun­ity to work with any artist dead or alive as a record­ing artist I would jump at the chance to work with The Ummah (A Tribe Called Quest & Jay Dee A.K.A. J. Dilla), Patrice Rushen, Roy Ayers, Michael Jack­son, and Hiero of course!
Q. Do you have any oth­er future pro­jects you can tell us about?
“Till Infin­ity” is my is my sole focus at the moment, but I am work­ing on a short about the Casual/Saafir, Hiero/Hobo Junc­tion Battle that will pos­sible be avail­able on the DVD extras of “Til Infin­ity”.
Q. What does 2014 hold for Sho­mari Smith?
Regard­ing the film, 2014 will hope­fully be a year where I am able to share this pro­ject across the nation and pos­sibly the world and spark the next pro­ject or inspire the next first-time film­maker to take a chance and fol­low their pas­sion.
Q. Tell us where we can see the doc­u­ment­ary.
My next screen­ing will be hap­pen­ing in the Bay Area as a part of the Oak­land Inter­na­tion­al Film Fest­iv­al April 6th 2014., you can find out more inform­a­tion about future screen­ings on our web­site
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Digit­al Mar­ket­ing and You­Tube chan­nel man­ager who loves that good hip-hop.

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