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An artist’s image extends further than what the camera captures and NBA Youngboy’s has been out of focus at times. From spousal issues to arrests, the teenage MC began to cultivate a disparaging picture of himself as a troublemaker. Jacques Dupre, a 23-year-old photographer and Hampton University graduate, aims to change that one photo at a time.
“My goal with NBA Youngboy is to change the media’s perspective on him because he’s really not a bad kid. He really likes to have fun. He’s intelligent,” Jacques told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the photographer explains how he finessed photos of Cardi B, Beyonce, and Blue Ivy; what sides of NBA Youngboy the media doesn’t show and how he balanced school with his photography career.
How did you link with NBA Youngboy?
I was out in Louisiana chilling with my sister and she knew somebody that hung out with him. This was before he started rapping for real and I started shooting photos for real. I linked up with him and chopped up, but I think we were just smoking and chilling. Then, we left. I started shooting by sneaking into concerts. Once he got big was around the time I had started shooting for real and I snuck into one of his concerts, and chopped it up with him again. I don’t think he remembered me, but after that time it was a go. That was around the beginning of 2017 or probably the ending of 2016... Graduated from Hampton University in December  and I was on the road with Youngboy from January until May, when I walked at my graduation.
What other shows did you sneak into to photograph?
I snuck into the Lil Uzi [Vert]’s show at my school’s homecoming on [October 11, 2016]. I bought a bullshit camera. I put it away. Homecoming comes around in 2016, in my sophomore year, and I didn’t have a ticket. I think the ticket was sold out, too. So, I said, ‘I’m just going to finesse in with this camera and see how it goes.’ That’s just what I did. I went pass a few security guards and told them I’m Uzi’s cameraman. I made it seem like I didn’t even go to Hampton [University] (laughs). I ended up shooting the concert, got onstage, got backstage. I was like, ‘Oh, this camera shit is a finesse.’ I went to every homecoming in the area— Norfolk State University, Virginia Tech University, Old Dominion University — all with my camera. I’m still a sophomore in college, so I’m doing all of this while in school.
I kept sneaking into shows and the artists started picking up my pictures and posting them on the ‘gram. At every show I snuck into, an artist posted my shit that same night. That’s when I got looked at by this company, Fresh Empire. They promote a tobacco-free [lifestyle] to the kids and throw free concerts across the world. They had just got a grant from the FDA for about $1.8 million. I got a contract with them and was networking with managers, artists, and all of that. I ended up meeting this one dude who told me about flight clubs where you have someone who works at the airline that can get you to fly for damn near free. I had that from 2016-2018. I flew anywhere in the world for $100 roundtrip. I’ve probably taken 300 flights. I’m glad I found my passion while in school.
What is it like photographing NBA Youngboy?
I feel like we have some type of bond when he’s onstage and he knows that I’m there. He makes eye contact and raps to the camera. He’ll interact with me and not just the crowd. In post-production, that helps the photos be live. Every photo and video on his Instagram, I’ve shot.
What was the most memorable NBA Youngboy show you’ve shot?
All of them be live. But, the JMBLYA Fest in Texas [on May 3-4] was live. It was before Rolling Loud [on May 10-12]. So, it was probably his first festival. The crowd was crazy. I had never seen anything like that. His biggest song at shows is probably ‘No Smoke.’ At his shows, I’ll either be vibing out in the pit or onstage and doing my thing. I’ll be listening to the music. But, I will really be in my own zone.
Going back to your finesse game with the camera, I saw you were able to get a photo of JAY-Z and Blue Ivy at Made In America 2017. How’d you do that?
I was shooting for Cardi B at the time. That was around the time Cardi B was getting hot. She had just dropped ‘Bodak Yellow.’ Beyonce, JAY-Z, and Blue all watched Cardi B’s performance and when she was headed back to the car, they left from backstage to pull up on her. The security guard was like, ‘No pictures.’ Then, he grabbed my lens. I actually have a video a JAY-Z and Blue walking, and the security guard — this big Russian white dude — snatching my lens. I told him I was there for Cardi B and he didn’t take my camera.
When Beyonce pulled up on Cardi B, I saw people taking pictures on their iPhones and I was like, ‘I might as well sneak one in with my camera.’ I did some off to the side. I was on Cardi’s side. They couldn’t tell me anything. But, they ended up saying something again after that. Cardi B told me, ‘Yeah. Chill on taking pictures.’
How close are you and Youngboy on the road?
We go to the mall all the time in every city. We be riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes in Louisiana. My goal with NBA Youngboy is to change the media’s perspective of him because he’s really not a bad kid. He really likes to have fun. He’s intelligent. He gives me suggestions on books. Even though I’m 23 and he’s 19, whenever I have a problem with a female, he always has the perfect thing to say. The advice he gives me about females is like he’s lived on this earth before.
What’s on his rider?
He doesn’t really ask for anything. He really just like pulling up to the show, going onstage, and leaving. He doesn’t really like hanging around in lounges or anything. I’ve shot for other artists, as well. I’ve shot for Moneybagg Yo, Cardi B and Yo Gotti. They’ll request stuff like bottles. Rich The Kid’s people backstage are cool as shit. We’ll smoke backstage, drink and turn up.
When you’re backstage, how do you know when to take pictures and when not to?
When I take pictures, I’m a fly on the wall. I’m damn near invisible. So, I’ll take whatever shot I want to take. It’ll be my decision whether to show it to whoever I shoot or keep it in my archives for a rainy day. I can’t tell you the artist, but, I got some photos of an artist in front of the White House. I got some shit of Youngboy on top of the Rocky steps in Philly. I have some behind the scene photos of Cardi B onstage that are really hard that no one’s ever seen before.
You’re everywhere. I saw that you were also at that Roc Nation’s Grammy brunch in 2018.
(Laughs) Yeah, that day was wild. I was walking with Yo Gotti after I had shot a behind the scenes video for him in Florida. My man 20KVisuals put me on to that. After that, Gotti flew me to New York and I had to sneak my camera in my suit jacket. Gotti had pulled up on JAY-Z. So, I pulled my camera out to take a picture. They had already warned me two or three times about taking pictures. Man, they took my camera. They were about to take out the memory card and do something with the memory card. But, I was like, ‘It ain’t that serious. I didn’t even take that many pictures.’ Gotti had the iPhone X when it had first came out. So, I ended up having to take pictures off of that joint. The photo of Gotti, JAY, and all of them together was on an iPhone.
Do you have to adapt like that at live shows, as well?
I remember one time I was shooting Yo Gotti’s show and security was tripping about me going from the pit to the stage, back and forth. I guess he didn’t recognize me. I really had to get in damn near altercations. Gotti’s team came over and we all got into an altercation. Then, a nigga tried to push me and put his hands on me. The security [was] taking their job too seriously. That was a time I had to adapt.
You were also his photographer on the road, while you were in school. How did you balance that?
He’ll have one or two shows during the week. But, all of his shows be on the weekends. So, I’ll go to a show and then come right back to school. I would be doing this three or four times during the week and all the time during the weekend. I’m a computer and information system major. That shit [was] hard as shit.
What are some mistakes you made on that Yo Gotti tour that helped you in your career?
Basically to keep everything business. It’s better to keep things on a business tip. Another thing is if they’re willing to pay you a certain amount, what are you really worth? On my JAY-Z shit. I started off doing free work. I started off sneaking into shows and doing free work, and getting no bread. That really humbled me to a point where I was like, ‘If no one wants to give me any bread, I have to get it myself and reinvest with myself.’