Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ’Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’
Jamil “Aries” Purnell doesn’t capture the moment if he doesn’t have a connection to who is making it. As a photographer whose snapped photos of 6lack, Deante Hitchcock, Baby Rose, and others, he’s able to get the best out of them because he knows them beyond the music.
“Most artists I work with are ones I have a personal connection with. That gives me access most people don’t have to intimate moments. I treasure those and the artists treasure those. Out of respect for the artists, I don’t post them,” Purnell told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the photographer talks capturing candid moments between 6lack and his daughter, watching DaBaby getting carried away on stage, and capturing Snoh Aalegra at her best. Read below.
How did you first link with 6lack?
I’ve known 6lack for a while. His first manager Dymond Peebles has been one of my close friends since high school. Her and 6lack were best friends, and that’s why she ended up managing him. I left school in 2017 and quit my job to jump into the film industry full time. That was when 6lack was doing his “Free 6lack Tour” and he had two back-to-back shows in Atlanta at The Tabernacle, and I shot both of them. From that night on, it’s been history. It’s been family.
You shot the entire “East Atlanta With Love Tour.” From a photographer standpoint, what songs got the best reaction from the crowd?
Definitely “Balenciaga Challenge.” It’s one of his more raw hip hop tracks even though he’s an R&B/hip-hop artist. The crowd always goes crazy for “Switch” because that’s the part of the show where he asks, “What do y’all want to hear?” It’s so funny because the majority of the crowd usually yells, “Switch!” Also, “Pretty Little Fears” with J. Cole. We were on tour when we found out “Pretty Little Fears” was nominated for a Grammy. We woke up in the morning to that news. Right before he walked out onstage that night (December 7, 2018 at The Pearl in Las Vegas), he said, “I just found out this song was nominated for a Grammy.” The song dropped and the crowd went crazy. At Music Midtown, here in Atlanta in 2019, there were thousands of people uttering every word he said.
You’ve shot him since 2017. What are the 6lack shots — the shots you expect to get when you shoot him?
My favorite 6lack shots are when I catch him in a jump during certain songs like “Problems.” That’s always the song he does after he walks off stage and people think it’s over. He comes back out to “Problems” with his shirt off and fire. That song is high-energy, so he jumps up and down. One of my favorite shots is when he’s jumping mid-air. He usually has his hand up in the air, his feet are together pointed down, and I feel like he’s a super Saiyan in the air.
You got a great shot of Snoh Aalegra and 6lack backstage at one of her shows after they released the “I Want You Around (Remix).” Did 6lack perform it?
Nope (laughs). Funny thing was, we were at the studio and knew Snoh was coming to town. So, we were going to pop out and support. I was shooting, as well, and 6lack came into the pit with me while I was shooting, so he could watch the show. The fans started realizing he was there. I think she even gave him a shoutout and it got a little crazy. After the show, we went backstage, talked for a second. Big shout out to No I.D. and Isabella.
With Snoh, what sort of shots are you trying to get live?
Yo, I look at Snoh as baby Sade. Look at her. Think about young Sade when you always saw her side profile with the long hair, and wearing a lot of sparkles and glitter. That’s Snoh. I love that she always wears something that sparkles and shines. With her, everything looks very intimate and soft. She definitely interacts. The good thing about her is that she works with photographers. So, when she laid down on stage she was right in front of me and I got some amazing shots of her on the floor with this amazing pink and blue color in smoke with sparkles from her sequin from her outfit. She’s also one of my favorite people to photograph live.
What artist did you have to adjust for the most while shooting them?
Not an artist, it’s The Masquerade, which is three separate venues here in Atlanta. There’s Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. Hell is the smallest venue and that one puts me to work. The pit is literally right next to the stage. The stage isn’t a normal eight-foot high stage. It’s a three-foot-high stage. I shot Lil Pump (on December 2, 2017) when he performed at Heaven. Blue and red lights are enemies to photographers, and Pump used nothing but blue and red lights. He threw purple in there every now and then, but what purple is just a combination of blue and red (laughs). There was a lot of color correction going on that night.
Are there photos you haven’t put out because of how candid the moments were?
People haven’t seen most of my photos because they’re candid. Most artists I work with are ones I have a personal connection with. That gives me access most people don’t have to intimate moments. I treasure those and the artists treasure those. Out of respect for the artists, I don’t post them. I’ll send them to them and they can do whatever they want.
Can you describe one of those photos you haven’t released out of respect for the artist?
I’ve been at a couple of 6lack’s daughter’s birthday parties. Those are very precious moments. I’ve also shot 6lack with his daughter on Father’s Day including this year’s Father’s Day. Those are precious moments. Some of my favorite photos are the building of the album. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed to be an integral part of this third project. Some of my favorite stuff is photos I get to take in the studio while working on the album. I love taking photos and videos of the process before anyone knows what’s really going on.
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last day of tour. thankful for everyone and everything. y’all made this the best tour ever. we danced, cried, sang, laughed, and y’all helped me during a time where my body wasn’t even at 100%. humbled and lucky to have the best fans/family in the world. now i’m ready to spend some much needed time with my best friend. see you next tour
When you say “third project,” you don’t mean this 6 PC EP he just put out, right?
Nope (laughs). Remember that was just an EP. This isn’t season three. This isn’t what everybody is talking about.
Did you and 6lack have any shows planned that got canceled due to COVID-19?
Oh, yeah. A couple of them. We even had a makeup show that had to get canceled for COVID-19. There are things coming through right now that we’re not able to move forward with because, first and foremost, we want to make sure he’s safe. He has a 3-year-old daughter. We don’t want anybody to put him or any of us in a situation that would hurt the babies. It’s unfortunate, but safety comes first.
Besides 6lack, who’s your favorite person to shoot live?
DeAnte Hitchcock. That boy is crazy, even though he’s retired the moonwalk. He has so much passion and so much energy for what he does. That’s also family. Shout out Chris Patt[erson].
Deante is great live.
Oh, also DaBaby. I love shooting him live. He’s a character in terms of how he performs and interacts with the fans. That boy puts on a show every single time. He leaves everything out on the stage. I shot both of his Atlanta shows on tour and his performance at Rolling Loud New York.
Rolling Loud New York was a madhouse. How’d you end up shooting him through all of that?
I saw Spicy Rico and James Rico of [DaBaby’s video production team] — the “Reel Goats — in the Artist Village [backstage], and I was there with Brooklyn Johnny and everybody else. His security guard was like, “We’re about to go onstage right now. You better come or you won’t be able to get over there.” I remember DaBaby was about to jump in the crowd and everybody was like, “Is he really about to jump in the crowd?” Next thing you know you saw Kane (DaBaby’s bodyguard) diving into the crowd (laughs). Kane is the most agile man of that size I’ve ever seen. If you remember, DaBaby threw his [socks and shoes] in the crowd. After he got off the golf cart [backstage], Kane threw him over his shoulder like a baby and carried him because he didn’t have any shoes. He tossed him over his shoulder and DaBaby was like, “Hey, man, put me down. I ain’t no kid. I’ll whoop your ass” (laughs). This is back when DaBaby and his brother would randomly try to run up and fight Kane.
How has the COVID-19 affected you and what you’ve been able to do at live shows?
I’m not a fan. I really miss live shows and be able to shoot. I’m not too much of a fan of all of these virtual concerts because I can’t be there and you miss the personal interaction. I miss hanging out and chopping it up with my friends, the artists.