Up-and-coming photographer Knowbody Shoots proves a camera can give you a look into parts of hip hop the average person may never see. Since beginning his career photographing Afropunk in 2019, he’s seen backstage mayhem involving Westside Gunn, screaming fans for J. Cole at Day N Vegas, and Kodak Black getting unusual mayoral support.
“[Kodak Black] had the mayor on stage saying, ‘Everybody, you like Kodak Black? There’s a parade inside my city, yeah!’ He was all happy and everything. I’ve never seen anything like the mayor coming out for a dude,” Knowbody Shoots tells REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Knowbody Shoots discusses the difficulty with photographing the “Super Gremlin” star, watching Westside Gunn surprise fans with an on-stage wrestling match, and shooting J. Cole at Day N Vegas.
Who was the first major artist you photographed live?
It was EarthGang at Afropunk in 2019. At that festival, you looked around and saw the future of fashion, and EarthGang looked like two people straight out of the crowd.
How did you shoot them?
EarthGang was the first time I had to capture two people at once. To get the most dynamic picture, I would wait until they were about to cross paths because sometimes they spread out on the stage. One person went left, and one went right to engage everybody. One of them would come in front, and one of them would go behind. So, I would catch them both together facing different directions.
That was the same festival where Alicia Keys popped out, right?
Yep. So, Tierra Whack was blowing my mind performing. She was going in, and then suddenly, there was smoke and everything. And then Alicia Keys comes out smiling. I was thinking, “Yo, what is happening?” She came, and she played the piano. I got some photos and videos of that.
One challenging part of the job is photographing superstars in photo pits. You did so at Day N Vegas 2019 for J. Cole’s set. What’s your advice about how to do it effectively?
I vividly remember that pit experience more than most pit experiences because of the energy. The photographers were in awe. Cole walked out and just stood in front of the microphone. People in the crowd were hanging on the gate just losing it, and he was standing there smiling, wiping his face, getting ready to go in. For the pit experience, it is super fast-paced and high-intensity. If you’re standing in the middle and getting the middle shots, you can move, and somebody else will take your space. Then you got the energy between the crowd and the artist. There’s an energy where you turn to get a crowd shot, and they love it. As a videographer and a photographer, our No. 1 goal is to capture the moment effectively.
Some of your best photos have come from shooting Westside Gunn. Any exciting stories from his shows?
While he was performing, something bumped me from behind. I turn around, and it is a dude in a full [WWE] Kane costume. Then another dude is dressed as Hulk Hogan, and they’re literally wrestling on stage. The Kane dude choke-slammed the other dude on the stage. This is not a wrestling ring. Westside Gunn literally had dudes wrestling in the middle of his performance.
One of the last shows I shot was a Westside Gunn show in Miami. This one was very interesting. We were waiting, and it was getting late. Finally, he comes on a little bit later. As soon as he started rapping, one of the other photographers told me security saw somebody they didn’t know and grabbed them up a little too aggressively. It turned out it was Westside’s son. Next thing you know, we needed a whole new security team because they got whooped on (laughs).
You have also shot Kodak Black. What was that like?
The second time I shot Kodak was at Kodak Black Day. He had the mayor on stage saying, “Everybody, you like Kodak Black? There’s a parade inside my city, yeah!” He was all happy and everything. I’ve never seen anything like the mayor coming out for a dude. It was tough shooting Kodak because you never know what he will do. He has so many people on stage at one time. It’s like he’s rapping with his back to the people on stage. He is definitely challenging to photograph because he does a lot of looking down. He’s the opposite of a performer [such] as Curren$y because Curren$y performs like he’s doing what a photographer told him to do. It’s like a photographer tells him, “Come over here, give a lot of energy; make sure you give every part of the crowd some energy. Be very animated and be very funny. Stop here and take a little bit of pause. Stop here and smile.” He gives everything you need. He is not challenging at all.
What do you have coming for the rest of 2023?
I’m looking forward to working on some of my projects that are expanding my portfolio. I’m doing things that I haven’t done before. So, I’ve done a lot of live show photography, but I also want to get into some backstage interviews. I want to get into some lifestyle shooting. When I talked to Westside Gunn, it gave me a different view of him than his music. It personalized him, so that it almost changes how his music hits when you listen to it. So, I want to give other people that same experience. I want people to find something about Larry June, Curren$y, or Lupe Fiasco. I want them to share that feeling you get when you connect with an artist you’ve been listening to on a different level because of something they said or related to.