Artist. Shooter. Designer. Photographer. Producer. Creative. Visionary. Young fly nigga. These are some of the many words that describe Dunnie West.
Many people call themselves artistic. Many may say they’re creatives. Hell, many might even boast about making pieces of art that will stand the test of time. However, none are like him.
“I don’t think I’ve really met that many creatives who are as hyper-aggressive as me. It just is what it is,” West exclusively told REVOLT. “I have to fucking be the best. If I’m pitching ideas and there’s 100 other people in the room, best believe I’m going to be the one who fucking wins. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but it’s going to be me.”
“I have to fucking be the best.”
West’s mission through his work is simple. He wants to inspire, influence and provoke. While working on every single project thrown at him — which are a lot — he makes it a point to do everything to the highest degree — no matter who he has to fight.
“A true creative director, in my opinion, is somebody who can ideate a vision understanding all the elements going into a project, create something, then see it all the way through to the end exactly to what they envisioned it to be. Unwavering,” West said. “And that’s fighting with finance, fighting with legal, fighting all the time. Literally, it’s like you push that shit all the way through because you know and believe in your soul this is the best possible thing it should be for whatever it is that you’re doing.”
West knew that he wanted to conquer the art world at a very early age. Ironically, in college, he hated his photography class, but was determined to be great. “I was like, ‘You guys all suck,’” he said when talking about his former professors. “Even the teacher I was like, ‘You suck.’”
“I was like, ‘Your biggest accolade is a local magazine cover?’ By that time I was like, ‘I’m already working with rappers who are literally syndicating their albums around the United States.’ I’ve already hit a higher high than you. And you want me to edit and shoot just like you? I was like, ‘I’m not trying to be popping in this little ass city. I’m trying to have my work global.’”
The thing that pushes West to be a beast at all times is the fact that Black people need to see themselves in a better light – and in much more of it — in the arts. Black representation in the industry is severely minimal. It’s so lacking that Black youths can barely find creatives who look like them to admire.
West wants to change that. By doing what he does and being who he is, the talent aims to show rising Black artists that they, too, belong in such a space that doesn’t prioritize them and give them as many opportunities as their white counterparts. West is living proof.
“When I first started in this game, with my best friend Perez (who also works in REVOLT’s digital department), we were the only Black creatives, practically, in our area… We did not know, or truly understand at the time, how bad representation really meant for us,” the artist continued.
“It made me start to realize, though, there really are not Black creatives. There are not Black artists I’m able to look up to. Everybody I look up to is a rapper or a drug dealer. That’s it. That’s sad to say, it just is what it is. So, when I got into this, I was like, ‘Somewhere within all this, I want to be able to use a platform that I’m creating and building as a way to inspire other Black artists.’ This is a real thing. This is a viable way you can make a living.”
“I want to be able to use a platform that I’m creating and building as a way to inspire other Black artists.”
The fact that white artists were calling the shots, and deeming what was and wasn’t “cool” in West’s early stages of his career didn’t sit well with the rising creative. This revelation was the fuel that he needed to really take his art seriously and show Black artists that they need to take ownership of their own culture.
“When I first got into this, I saw that white creatives were steering the narrative on everything. They were the ones constantly setting the bar with everything that I did from photography, film, design, merch… That used to really put a bug in me, it was really fucking annoying,” he said. “Because why are we not taking this serious with our level of influence? Because at the end of the day, they may be the ones setting the bar, but we know where they’re stealing the shit from.”
West can be compared to an artistic mad scientist, as he focuses all in for the greater good of his vision, people and culture. Now that he’s in a position to lead the charge, he deliberately creates Black images that always have us looking on point.
“Now with my work, it has a lot to do with especially when I’m highlighting us, it’s making sure that we’re seen in the best possible light,” West continued. “The [REVOLT] Summit is a good example. I told this to AT&T. I was like, ‘No matter what we do and however we’re going forward into this partnership, anytime it’s something for us, anytime it’s a visual, a photo, Black people have to look fly as fuck.’ I was like now that I can control the narrative, I can control our representation, we about to look exactly like how we supposed to look: Fly and godly.”
The blessing and the curse of being a full-time creative are factors that West take in stride. Being the visionary he is would eventually put him on Sean “Diddy” Combs’ radar. In 2014, West would get hit up by an employee of Puff’s on Instagram, go in for what he thought was just an informal interview – but was actually an interview to work for Cîroc – get hired, and right afterward get asked if he was interested in interviewing for a position on Puff’s social team.
According to West, however, that second interview, he did terribly. So, he tried to bounce from the office as quickly as he could when Puff’s manager at the time noticed the young man in a suit and asked what he was there for, took a look at his portfolio, brought him back into the office to speak to Puff himself, and the rest would be history.
“At the end of the day, [white artists] may be the ones setting the bar, but we know where they’re stealing the shit from.”
“I got to meet Puff a couple minutes later. Kind of just said some real shit to him, then I ran the fuck out that office. I did a terrible job, I was like, ‘This is over, it didn’t go well.’ Turns out it did. And I joined his social team and grew through the ranks through a whole bunch of trial and error with him and that was it,” West recalled.
And with that, the talent is now officially the new creative director of REVOLT Media & TV, where he’s ready to do a complete 180 on the network’s image and everything visual coming out of it. “I know we have a long road ahead of us, but just seeing that we’re the only true authentic source for us to get that information, to see good representation of us, a platform to strive to be on, a place where we can grow, a place that we can cultivate and incubate artists and creatives and future executives, it’s like alright, it’s that time now,” he said. “Enough of the old has been pushed out. It’s time for the new.”
The decision to come to REVOLT was actually years in the making for West. Back when the network launched in 2013, he – like countless of other creatives around the country – responded to Diddy’s “Calling All Artists” PSA looking for talent for his brand new hip hop network. West said within the first month of the PSA, he probably applied 100 times to no avail. “I had given up on REVOLT. I always find it funny to end up working for the guy who owns it,” he grinned.
In 2015, West got promoted to creative director of Combs Enterprises after working on Puff’s social team for a year. In that role, he led creative for a number of the mogul’s brands such as Cîroc, DeLeon, Sean John, Bad Boy Records, Blue Flame Agency and more – all except REVOLT. According to West, he saw challenges in trying to work with the network due to its former creative leads. So, he let REVOLT rock. And in 2017, West left his creative director position at Combs Enterprises, but remained on as a consultant.
However, as fate would have it, the inaugural REVOLT Summit kicked off in 2019 and West was brought on to serve as creative director for the event. This was the first time he was ever really hands on with the company. It was then that he truly saw how much potential REVOLT had to shape culture and the minds of Black youths, tomorrow’s leaders. Fast forward to 2020 and West is officially onboard with the brand.
“Deon [Graham, VP of REVOLT’s digital department] was extremely integral in making me come here. When he became VP of digital, me and him had a real ass conversation about where he saw the network was and where he wanted it to go. And we were literally in lock step in that conversation,” West confessed.
“We about to just look like exactly how we supposed to look: Fly and godly.”
After their discussion, West was sold. “I was like, ‘I have no problem now,’” the artist said. “I will be there to support that vision. I will absolutely go be the lion in the cage to get you to where you feel it should be because we both know what Puff wanted REVOLT to be, but I don’t think at the time they really understood what it could be.”
West has big plans for the network — from completely “exploding” what doesn’t work now for the greater good of the company to even producing a dope Black anime series in the near future. Yes, Black people watch and love anime, too. “My passion has always been to launch a Black anime,” he admitted. “I got lucky to meet Aaron McGruder and Carl Jones [when I was younger] when they were doing the ‘Boondocks.’ …Got to work with Carl, which was super fucking dope… And I was just blown the fuck away because I didn’t know a Black guy could do these types of things.
“When I got introduced to that, then ‘Boondocks’ became what the ‘Boondocks’ is for us, I was like, ‘Whenever I get the opportunity, if it’s just starting one would obviously be great, but I would love to create and have an ecosystem almost like Netflix or a high-level production company to be able to pump out Black anime.’”
The artist is more than ready to get to work. One major trait that the talent believes REVOLT has been missing thus far is something that he’s determined to give the network in his new role.
“A true north star of where the culture was, is, and is going,” West replied when asked what REVOLT’s creative has been lacking since day one. “We’re forever adapting. We’re changing, we’re evolving. The beautiful thing about hip hop is this shit is a wild beast. It never wants to be tamed. It never wants to stay still. It’s always just growing.
“And more recently, especially, I would say within the last decade, it has just skyrocketed in diversity, and just this taste level. I think that really bothers me a lot… I feel like the original way REVOLT started was perfect for the time that it launched. But, I did not feel that creatively, it evolved as much as hip hop evolved.”
“The beautiful thing about hip hop is this shit is a wild beast. It never wants to be tamed.”
To say REVOLT’s new creative director is confident that he’s the perfect man for the job would be an immense understatement. He admitted about his wide-ranged skillset: “I’m probably one of the last few of an old breed who can touch and do almost everything within creative. Design, photography, film, edit, sound design, animation — I will fucking learn and do as much as I can.”
West would later add: “I’ve been blessed that my background and tenure in creative has made me so diverse in so many fields. I can just spot shit wrong from a mile away.”
Besides his art skills, West’s personality also makes him a great fit for the role. “I’m authentic, I’m real. I love everything there is about the culture, I love everything the culture has given me, I love myself,” he continued. “All those things make me a better man, make me a better boss, make me a better creative… I feel [like I’m] the perfect fit to make sure that REVOLT is unwavering to who it is and who we do it for.
“And people may think that this is an awkward ideology for a creative, but I take what I do extremely serious. And I know that great art and great creativity can inspire millions. It’s like we have to be very cognizant about what it is that we do and what it is that we put out. Even if it’s as boring as a recap post or a social clip out, there’s a lot of little hidden details in there. There’s a lot of dope stuff that you can do that in some way, shape or form can either steer a new narrative, create a whole new lane, or set a new brand standard.”
REVOLT Media & TV turns 7 years old on October 21, 2020. Compared to other hip hop outlets that are out there – some have been around for over a decade – the company is fairly young. However, it’s the first and only one of its kind in terms of being an established TV network that’s truly for the hip hop generation and the Black youth who aspire to one day be as big as a mogul – if not bigger – than REVOLT’s Chairman Sean “Diddy” Combs.
“I feel like REVOLT is still a young kid. It kind of came late into the game when there were a lot of already established music and ‘cultural’ channels. But, we never really had a chance to really make a staple for ourselves. Everybody knows REVOLT and they know it’s attached to Puff. But, it never really made a statement,” West affirmed.
“I’m young and I’m Black.”
“It’s never really [been] known for anything. The way ‘Sopranos’ is known to HBO and it set the bar for a lot of those things, REVOLT doesn’t really have that. I really am interested and excited at being integral and helping us make a strong staple. Whether it’s our first show, our first podcast, something that’s really just so signature to us that it starts to change the tone of how people look at the network.”
West even has aspirations for the channel to become a place for upcoming artists to come and grow. “I also want people to look at REVOLT as a hub. Like come to us. Let’s develop you, let’s develop the content. Let’s get your chops up…REVOLT can be that springboard. It can be that platform where you also find yourself, and we just help amplify that for you and help you get rich.”
He added, “Come to REVOLT, we got you. We gon’ treat you right (laughs).”
West is determined to proudly let it be known that REVOLT isn’t just for the culture, but the people who work at the company ARE the culture. He said: “I’m definitely excited about letting people truly know and understand this is not a room full of old ass non-cultured businessmen running a television network. For the first time ever, you really have young brothers and sisters running a network.
“And from the creative side, you have somebody who — I’m not saying has an affinity for the culture — I was raised in this shit. I can’t run away from it. It is who I am, I bleed this. I wholeheartedly want to always contribute back to something that’s given so much to me. That’s the core of everything that we do, everything that I do just as a personal creative.”
As for the obstacles that West believes he’ll face in his new role, he’s not afraid to take them on headfirst, either. If anything, the obstacles should be afraid of him. When asked if he foresaw any hurdles as REVOLT’s new creative director, West answered, “Absolutely. I’m young and I’m Black.”
He continued after laughing: “I would say the real hurdles aren’t going to be from a creative standpoint. I’m excited about tackling all that. I’m not nervous about any of it… I feel like the real hurdle is going to be growing the gap that people have of understanding REVOLT is a truly unapologetic authentic forum for us. That is going to be, to me, the biggest hurdle because you have other places out there who hide under the context of being for the culture when they’re not.”
As for how West wants the general public to view REVOLT moving forward with him now onboard, it’s quite simple – and with zero apologies given. “I want people to look at REVOLT as a place with pure, honest, unapologetic Black,” he affirmed. “We’ve had us curated and dictated to us for so long that that’s not the case anymore. You come here because you do want to see yourself in some way, shape or form across the network. And that’s what we’re going to do. That’s what I’m going to do – until they kick me out.”
“We’ve had us curated and dictated to us for so long that that’s not the case anymore.”
Big things are on the horizon for the company with the one-of-a-kind artist leading its creative department moving forward. For the first time in its history, the network’s art will be led by a not-so-typical looking and sounding talent, but one who knows his shit, nonetheless.
This year for REVOLT will truly be its lucky No. 7 with West’s fashionable late – yet perfectly timed — arrival. Whether it’s the drip from the artist’s paintbrush or his style, the company’s visuals will now always be straight – or in this case…West.