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Photographer TheDonLikeCheadle tells the visual story of Dave East's rise to fame

He also admits to almost cancelling their first meeting.

Not many people, including photographers, have watched first-hand the rise of some of our favorite rappers. Most of us did not see the hardship and growth that the artist went through. But photographer TheDonLikeCheadle is not one of those people. He's not only seen, but taken pictures of Harlem's Dave East since the beginning, capturing the highs and lows of his music career journey.

REVOLT TV talked with TheDonLikeCheadle about his experiencing shooting Dave during which he shared never-before-seen pictures (in chronological order) and also tells us about his favorite photo.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hey! I'm "known" as The Don Like Cheadle. I wear a few hats, like I own Inspire Or Retire brand. According to Dave and Wayno, I am no longer allowed to introduce myself as Jamaal [laughs]. So, with that being said, my alias comes from a line in a Joey Bada$$ song called "Indubitable." At the time, I was heavy into acting and into actor Don Cheadle's supporting roles. Constant employment was and still is my goal.

How did you get into photography?

I started with graphic design, creating mixtape covers and cartooning IG users, as well as celebrities. Eventually I picked up a camera to get out from my desk and connect to the power so I could have a fighting chance at my entrepreneurial aspirations. I would say that's working well; better and quicker than I expected so I'm fairly new to the photography game compared to most. I've been in it for about 2 1/2 years. It's a trade that grabs a hold of you and your wallet. But with results, it's 100-percent worth it.

TheDonLikeCheadle

How did you become one of Dave East's main, consistent photographers?

Well, with Dave and The Triangle Offense team, I was one second from never meeting them. I was asked by a friend to come on a very small local tour that he was putting together, to help provide some visuals as a favor. I had no idea who Dave East was at the time. The morning of, I wasn't feeling up to the task and actually planned on calling it off. But I happened to be the only person around with a plug to a rental spot with a van and a discount. Dave was obviously too tall to spend time on the road in a car. At this point, I could not provide a rental and go back on the favor. Not to mention, the rental was under my name.

I shoot what I see. And what I saw was an up-and-coming rapper with a fighting chance whose life was changing before his eyes and everybody watching. It looked exciting and fun. Kind of like that dope turning point in an inspirational movie, but this was every day. I tried to show that through my images. I made it a point to capture Harlem guys having fun given that they are naturally perceived as serious guys. Wayno took to it the most. I feel like me and Wayno are often enough on the same page. So, while dropping off the rental, I could tell he took to the images the most and understood the value of what's put out via social media defining an artist's perception.

TheDonLikeCheadle

Did you notice a change in your photos as Dave rose to fame?

As far as my photography, it was a bit gritty early on. However, as the scenery and Dave's clothes and jewelry changed, I guess I kind of leaned toward a cleaner look. With the growth, I always wanted to target the look of a Wiz Khalifa or Future social media photo. In the hands of lookers, I felt it could put him on another level visually. Especially in the minds of fans simply looking at quality photography and content.

TheDonLikeCheadle

As a photographer, how is it working with him?

Working with Dave is dope. My experience with the Triangle Offense was my first time being a part of a dope team full of dope artists and creatives who all grew together simultaneously. We all plug each other in.

What's your favorite shot of Dave East?

My favorite photo is the one below. I have yet to figure out why. Honestly. Maybe something was going on that I forgot about but I'll say this photo stands out for me. Aside from images of him and his daughter Kairi.

Dave East
Dave East

What do you enjoy the most about shooting him?

I like shooting Dave because I feel like he is a perfect canvas as far as the industry goes. In my opinion, a lot of times an artist stature and perception holds them back. Music can be the dopest in the world, but if the ladies aren't attracted to you some way, somehow it's hard. Especially today where everything is based on visuals and "mood." Dave, being tall and slightly gritty, with some clean-up, can fit into any box when needed. He makes my job a bit easier.

From your perspective, what has the photographic journey been like shooting someone who rose to fame?

I kind of touched on this before. It's huge everyday, scenery change. Offices vs. random couch. Uber vs. random car. It's good to have a balance of both. One practical example be bigger crowds or lighting. Literally, the lighting on bigger and better stages makes a difference. You have a little more to pull from so you can tell the lighting person, Hey, can you help me out and do this or that?

What do you hope people will take away from looking at your photos?

I hope when people view my photos that they either feel like they were there in the room or really wish they knew as if they missed out on something. Oh yeah...or want to pick up a camera because I make it look easy. That to me is the biggest compliment other than someone saying, 'I wish I took that photo.' I do that all day long. Healthy amount of envy [laughs].

Take a look at the rest of TheDonLikeCheadle's photos of Dave East, some never-before-seen, below.

TheDonLikeCheadle

TheDonLikeCheadle

TheDonLikeCheadle

TheDonLikeCheadle

TheDonLikeCheadle

TheDonLikeCheadle

TheDonLikeCheadle

TheDonLikeCheadle

TheDonLikeCheadle

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