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As a documentarian, writer, and the host of the web series “Instant Vintage,” Tyron de Harlem is a journalist driven by his mission to preserve the history and culture of hip-hop, while showcasing the talents of its most innovative artists.
Born and raised in Harlem, New York, de Harlem grew up surrounded by music in the St. Nicholas Projects. “There was a park at the back of my building and there would be a lot of times when I heard loud music,” de Harlem said. “Oftentimes, it would end prematurely because gunshots would break out and shit like that, but I just looked forward to those times when a DJ pulled up with a sound system and played records.”
Although he had friends that rapped and made music, de Harlem gravitated towards journalism as his way to participate in hip-hop, inspired by his childhood collection of classic hip-hop magazines like “XXL” and “The Source.” de Harlem said that he found his calling as a journalist after finishing his formal schooling.
“My teachers used to always encourage me to write, but I ain’t really want to write about schoolwork,” de Harlem said. “Years later, when I figured out more about who I was and what I wanted to do, I just started seeking out artists that I respected or whose work made me feel something.”
De Harlem has since turned his love for hip-hop into a career in documenting the genre. He began writing about the culture and interviewing artists, eventually transitioning into video production. His web series “Instant Vintage” is a testament to his dedication to preserving the history and legacy of hip-hop. The series is the companion interview segment to the online “Off Top” freestyle series hosted by Hoboken streetwear store Top Shelf Premium.
The show is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the lives of some of hip-hop’s most innovative artists. Each season features interviews with a diverse mix of artists, producers, and industry insiders, showcasing the vast spectrum of talent within the genre. Season One included appearances by Willie the Kid, V Don, Buck Dudley and Billie Essco, while the upcoming season two promises interviews with Fatboi Sharif, Roper Williams, BoriRock, and MichaelAngelo.
De Harlem’s goal with “Instant Vintage” is to highlight the genre in a tasteful, respectful manner — focusing on the intricate storytelling and technical skills of the artists. He aims to counteract the clickbait nature of modern media and celebrate the brilliance of those who contribute to hip-hop, as he has strived to do his whole career.
De Harlem was one of the first journalists to cover the early music of Westside Gunn and Griselda Records. The journalist shared that what initially drew him to Griselda was their ability to transport listeners to Buffalo. “My favorite thing about rap is when you hear a project from a place that you’re not from, and you feel like it’s taking you there, like traveling via the music,” de Harlem said.
De Harlem interviewed the then relatively unknown Buffalo rap group at a studio on the Upper East Side in June 2015. “I thought I was just gonna interview [Westside Gunn], but he pulled up with Camouflage Monk, he pulled up with Daringer, he pulled up with Conway, and Mach-Hommy was there,” the journalist said.
His 2015 Griselda interview laid the groundwork for an eventual collaborative relationship with Mach-Hommy. The pair reconnected after the New Jersey rapper released his 2016 album “HBO.”
“It’s always on his terms, when he’s ready he’ll throw up the Bat signal,” he said. “That day I first met him, I thought he was standoffish, but he was just being himself.”
After his first interview with Mach Hommy, de Harlem eventually became the go-to journalist for the enigmatic artist and his rapping partner Tha God Fahim. The journalist recently appeared in a picture that documented a meeting between Fahim, producer Nicholas Craven, and Jay-Z.
As a documentarian, Tyron continues to educate himself on new artists and stay informed on the ever-evolving hip-hop landscape. De Harlem shared that he has recently been listening to a mix of both rap and pop music, enjoying the works of Detroit rapper Bruiser Wolf and LA artist G Perico. “It’s really about just tapping in with the people who are as enthusiastic about the music as I am,” de Harlem said.
—Staff writer Ryan S. Kim can be reached at email@example.com.
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