It's Never Too Late to Have a Quinceañera, Especially in the Name of Art by Maxwell Young

Ashley Llanes’ self-portraits will be on view today at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters.

Photographer Ashley Llanes abhorred the idea of a Quinceañera, but eight years later it became the inspiration to her thesis project. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

Photographer Ashley Llanes abhorred the idea of a Quinceañera, but eight years later it became the inspiration to her thesis project. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

La Quinceañera—a coming of age celebration in Latin American culture when a young woman turns fifteen, transitioning to a mujercita. The extravagant ball along with the pomp-and-circumstance is akin to Judaism’s Bat Mitzvah ceremonies, except closely aligned with Catholicism.

Eight years ago, Ashley Llanes rejected her Quinceañera opportunity. A Cuban-American growing up in Miami, Florida, she was surrounded by the tradition and the lineage of women in her family who embarked on the ceremony. Portraits of her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother adorned her living room while her older sisters, who each elected to have Quinceañeras, memorialized their rite of passages, too. Through the task of being a mujercita, there are cultural and gender expectations that Llanes felt misrepresented herself. Wearing makeup and shaving was counter to the girl with the pixie haircut, challenging stereotypes.

“I wasn’t interested in conserving my culture,” the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design alumnus reflected back to her 15-year-old self.

At 23-years-old, however, the D.C.-based photographer has made peace with her “punk-ass” adolescence, and her self-portrait series, La Quinceañera, is a retrospective take on the aesthetics of the tradition. “Now is when I’ve been able to appreciate the tradition and the actual priviledge,” her hindsight is 20-20. “You don’t do this unless you want to look back at your ancestors and say, ‘They did this. Why not me?’”

Personifying the conservative ideals of the celebration and the femininity her parents wanted to see, Llanes’ portraits emulate stereotypical Quinceañera photoshoots. There’s the casual beach shoot and the studio shoot, everything mindful of the cultural notions. I stopped by one of these photoshoots in February to find her hair slicked in a bun, secured by a plentitude of bobby-pins and an encrusted tiara that accentuated her cinderella dress—she was quintessential Quince.

“I shaved everything for this. I became hyper aware of body hair, which was such a weird thing, and for months because I did this project for a year,” Llanes spoke to the vulnerability in the level of vanity she forced herself to maintain; a type of method acting she endured as she considers each of her self portraits performance pieces. “It was torturous because I subscribed to this character for so long.”

Relieved to return to her edginess, septum piercing and all, there is a stark contrast between the Ashley we see in the images and the Ashley who will share her work today at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters for The Latino GLBT History Project’s Voices of Pride exhibition. Come and view her series and stay for the artist talk to learn more about her work with identity.

Voices of Pride

5-9pm (Artist Talk 7:30pm)

1640 Rhode Island Ave, NW

Washington, D.C.

Ever Vigilant, Uptown Art House Curates A Weekend of Music by Maxwell Young

On Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1, let your pursuit of pleasure lead you to “Neighborhood Watch,” Uptown Art House’s two-day curation of music performances at artist Joseph Orzal’s exhibition Hedonist Buddhist.

Flyers by inimitable  Globe Collection and Press at MICA

Located at The Shay, a new, boutique condominium development in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C., embodying the hyper consumptive landscape that’s transforming the city into culturally divided spaces, Hedonist Buddhist subverts the gentrification process. The local community holds sentimental value to Orzal who’s grown up in D.C. and experienced the pressure of rising rent prices and removal of developmental ecosystems. As Martha’s Table, a prominent non-profit promoting access to high-quality education, healthy food, and family support moved further away from its 14th St. roots, it was Orzal who shared childhood photos of Barbara Bush doting on him and other pre-schoolers at the kiddy table. Decades later—now a bourgeoning printmaker—he frustratingly spoke to the Washington City Paper of losing his atelier, Open Studio D.C., to developers’ more commercial interests.

Collaborating with Washington Project for the Arts, Orzal is confronting such social dynamics in the heart of the battle being waged between the transplants and the natives. The exhibition space full of art and literature, amplifying political activism and awareness of civic manipulation, is directly below the resident who complained about the noise level of go-go music being played at the nearby Metro PCS store. Perhaps you’ve seen or participated in the public outcry of this intolerance through the massive #MOECHELLA/#DONTMUTEDC protests, trending on Instagram and Twitter.

Orzal has enlisted a number of compatriots to elevate his exhibition in the name of D.C.’s artistic heritage, and this weekend, Uptown Art House will offer an array of music performances that remain vigilant to the city’s underrepresented creative communities.

This Friday features sound selections by P0STB1NARY, a collective of DJ’s and vocalists spearheading the non-binary movement of gender and genre through heavy techno and house sets. If you haven’t caught them at Studio Ga Ga or The Line Hotel, this is the night to do so. InTheRough will also be present through an ethnographic lens, sharing Polaroids and music that inform the District’s contemporary cultural scene.

Saturday is a strong showing of the city’s esoteric rap community. In his latest project, Tribe Ties, Thraxx King harnesses a cadence and spiritual energy that resides in occultist teachings. Jamal Gray as Black Noise Filter—the eponymous name to a long-awaited sound collage—recontextualizes his family lineage of music and impact in Chocolate City, meditating on social and universal constructs. And Sir E.U, the great, with The First Church of Back, debuts a live rendition of his most recent collection of songs, REDHELLY/Twin Towers, complete with a post-grunge aesthetic. Let’s rage.

Neighborhood Watch

Friday, May 31 & Saturday, June 1

1921 8th St, NW


Other college radio stations could learn a thing or two from WVAU and Maliyeah Grant by Maxwell Young

A lot of people come to D.C. and take what they can get out of it, without giving what they have to it.
— Maliyeah Grant, Senior, Events Director, WVAU, American University

As a transplant living in Washington, D.C. (by way of Pittsburgh, Pa.), I can attest to a foreigner’s urge to experience the cultural heritage of the city. For those who have never visited, it’s hard not to feel this compulsion if for nothing but the fact that most of these experiences are free. It’s like tasting your favorite sweet treat for the first time—the rush of energy, the colors, the sensory immersion—you’re insatiable. It’s a natural part of living in a new environment, wanting to interact with its people and communities.

“I guess everyone was trying to connect with D.C. culture,” said Maliyeah Grant at the Tenleytown Chick Fil A, a popular spot for her American University classmates, no doubt. The Senior from York, Pa. opened up about her gradual involvement in the District’s creative scene running parallel to (and at times intersecting) her collegiate radio career, with Nappy Nappa’s social media acting as her entry point. “ I started listening to him on SoundCloud and following local artists. We started going to events at Uptown Art House and talking to people who aren’t from AU.”

Maliyeah Grant (left) at WVAU’s prom in April 2018. Photos by Jason Brandon

Maliyeah Grant (left) at WVAU’s prom in April 2018. Photos by Jason Brandon

The Art House is actually where I first met Grant. Last spring, she rented the now defunct venue space for WVAU’s annual prom. Just a year following my own graduation, the early-twenty-somethings’ youthful energy was contagious and I became nostalgic of simpler times. I thought about the house parties and DIY shows Rob Stokes encouraged me to see my sophomore year, like MILF and $uicideboy$ on the same bill. I wished my friends and classmates were privy to those untapped worlds so that we could experience them together. Yet, there was Grant looking eerily similar to SZA in her “Love Galore” music video, amplifying that same spirit through her school. Rather than merely being a part of the vibe, this time she was curating it.

Such foundational experiences can have a compounding effect on someone who is eager to support the arts, especially someone like Grant who has university resources and money at her disposal.

“There’s a responsibility when you move somewhere that you’re not from to engage with the community in a positive way. A lot of people come to D.C. and take what they can get out of it, without giving what they have to it,” she said.

Although WVAU is a campus station, the internet network is committed to highlighting locally-based talent, whether that’s playing music on air waves or inviting artists to interviews. It’s about bridging the arts and academic communities to not only expose young people to identities and perspectives they might not have considered before, but also fostering future collaborations. The station’s early 2000s party, ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot,’ featured sounds from D.C.-based collective MXDHOUSE while Greenss is slated to offer an exclusive set at AU’s Batelle Atrium in support of Stephn, who is releasing his album Time Before Us with WVAU on February 22.

“Putting funding towards local artists. That’s a big way I like to connect the two [communities],” Grant said.

Other universities could take a page from American, WVAU & Maliyeah’s script. Of course, there are some who already align with this identity. Oberlin College brought a full blown mind-melt to Ohio, booking the Model Home combo of Nappy Nappa & Pat Cain along with Sir E.U and Rob Stokes in December. Treat the arts like any other community outreach program and bring culture to campus. It doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars spent bringing major artists to the quad. Local experiences are relevant to the student experience, plus, they inform the real estate you inhabit.

Photos by Jason Brandon


Written by Hibak Mohamed

Photo by  The Fiends

Photo by The Fiends

In 2018, we heard from Bas with his third studio album “Milky Way.” In an interview with Mass Appeal he said, “It felt like for the first time I put together something that fully encompasses all aspects of me.” The evolution of Abbas Hamad’s signature sound wasn’t over night. From the “Quarter Water Raised” mixtapes to “Milky Way,” we have been able to watch the maturation of his discord. I first heard the MC on J Cole’s track “Cousins,” and I instantly gravitated towards his hunger and drive. The grandeur of Dreamville’s music has been distinguishable and highly anticipated as of late. Label heads Jermaine Cole and Ibrahim Hamad have cultivated a movement beyond music. By amassing a roster of talented artists, Dreamville has been able to distinctively set themselves apart in the game.

“Milky Way” by the Queen’s MC, is truly an embodiment of his international identity. Bas’ father was a diplomat so they moved often when he was younger. He was born in Paris, France and moved to Queens when he was eight. During his childhood he also spent some time in Qatar. His worldly view shaped his identity and flows into his art. On the intro track “Icarus,” Bas declares, “I been giving New York City a new sound.” His New York cadence coupled with Afro-beats and Caribbean rhythms make this album stand out sonically when compared to his earlier works. Bas pays homage to his Sudanese roots with the album artwork, a picture his cousin took of him while they were visiting the Nubian pyramids in Meroë, Sudan.

His love for travel translates into his music and it’s even more evident in the samples he used for “Milky Way.” In the upbeat track “Tribe,” Bas sampled “Zum-Zum” by Edu Lobo, a Brazilian singer from the 60s. On “Boca Raton,” the brazilian funk sound is a sample from Sango’s “Para a Luz.” The electronic chords in “Fragrance,” are by French multi-instrumentalist FKJ. In the track “Designer,” Bas sampled British musician Tom Misch. Bas has never been one to limit himself in regards to his music. Bas previously worked with The Hics, a British electronic band on his last album “Too High To Riot.” I was happy to find out that Bas is planning on releasing a collab album with the band.

“This album is about finding ground. About not poisoning your own well.”


Throughout the album, Bas centers the theme of love. He also relays moments of weakness and vulnerability in his music. On “Barack Obama Special,” he says, “I tell nobody else how it feels / I cannot share the stress I'm feeling.” As the album progresses we note that Bas has overcome his challenges. On “Designer” he raps, “My fears make me feel great...let the pain go I choose to move freely.” In this album, Bas is letting go of the pressures of the music industry and shifting the focus to the love in his life. During the release of “Milky Way” on Instagram he wrote, "This album is about finding ground. About not poisoning your own well. About finding and tethering yourself to the love that truly fulfills you. Love of self. Love of others. Lovers. Family. Friends. Fans. You’ve all given me all the affirmation I’ll ever need.”

Personally, this album was a stand out because of the fluidity and replay value. Even the visuals we got for “Tribe,” “Fragrance and “Boca Raton exude a feel good ambiance. You can really tell Bas was having fun with this one. “Milky Way” is a testament that Bas’ music is just as versatile as his passport. We also have the “Revenge of the Dreamers III” tape to look out for from the Dreamville camp. Bas is currently on tour and after you see this album live there’s no denying the milk.

Tune in to Too Deep For the Intro Podcast for more.

Opaline - a night of iridescence by Maxwell Young

Opaline is an intersectional program of art, music, and food curated by Briona Butler aka Surrealistma.  It returns February 1.

The inaugural Opaline on December 1, 2018 photographed by Maxwell Young.

The inaugural Opaline on December 1, 2018 photographed by Maxwell Young.

Washington, D.C.—A feeling, or mood if you will, Opaline first manifested on the Instagram pages.  A tumblr-like onslaught of black excellence and beauty, opulence, and iconic hip hop and R&B figures became hard to ignore: Quintessential Kelis—her signature green epitomized in a pair of fierce sunglasses and a subtle ombré.  Tupac and his mother Afeni.  Hyper-sexualized fruits.  Avant-garde fashion.  Iridescent crystals.  Cozy Diddy.  And a young Mos Def freestyling in a New York park all conveyed potent levels of nostalgia.

This sentiment was transmuted at Dwell DC, an artsy, knick-knack-filled clubhouse tucked away in the Northeast quadrant of the District.  Performances by MARTYHEEMCHERRY, Nappy Nappa, Lulu Sunflower, and Pangelica as well as DJs Moses and Greenss buoyed the first monthly events in December and January.  At the last Opaline on New Year’s, I watched Dreamcast and Nappy Nappa run through their collaborative track, “Dolphin Squeek,” a glitchy bop that appears on Dreamcast’s most recent offering, The Lost Tapes vol. 2.  A bowl of black eyed peas and collard greens—a dish supposedly bringing good fortune in 2019 catered by Green from Within—added a savory element to the night while Sir E.U filtered through his library on the turntables.

“It’s important for me to create spaces for us to be together and cool it,” Butler told me over brunch at The Diner in Adams Morgan.  “For me, music is a very spiritual healing tool.”

Butler is no stranger to orchestrating music programming in Washington, D.C., and growing up as a military brat in Southeast and Northeast, D.C. as well a PG County, Maryland, she has a vast experience of what the DMV’s art community can cultivate.  During 2017 and 2016, Butler was integral to the Glow End Theory series presented by CMPVTR CLVB that focused on reinvigorating the divine feminine, featuring artists like Alex Vaughn, Odd Mojo, and DJ Little Bacon Bear.  She noted that the inspiration behind her desire to create intersectional events was derived from Sanaa Fest, a party series founded by D.C.-based artist Yaya Bey in 2015 that provided a tolerant environment to showcase creatives in the DMV and New York. 

Butler reminisced about one of the parties in which Afrovelvet, no foreigner to InTheRough pages, had a fashion show and the iconic female duo Oshun performed.  “I feel like the Sanaa Fest changed the course of my life.  That was a seed that made me want to be off what I’m off.  I have mad respect for Yaya.”

Opaline, however, is solely the brainchild of Butler.  The genesis of the idea came as a way to amplify the voice of her childhood best friend, Babby, who’s angelic crooning has enchanted guests over the first two shows.  The Baltimore-based singer’s impromptu a-cappella  set on New Year’s hushed the entire audience, centering the room in a moment of serenity.

Only two parties underway, “a night of iridescence” as Butler refers to Opaline is still in its infancy, but the optimism around the movement is evident.  Already it has engendered a feeling of comfort with familiar faces returning to engage with the series.  Butler doesn’t see Opaline as just a party, though, rather as a multi-media brand.  Her Opaline mixes on SoundCloud convert the visual aesthetic of the program into a sonic palette while highlighting rising talents in the community.  Greenss’ assistance with the audio mixing in the inaugural set is a nice segue into his own offering of tracks in mix 01.

The third Opaline will be held at The Village Cafe on Friday, February 1 with performances by Bobbi Rush, Nate G, Sir E.U, Naygod, Hoeteps, and Free.GG along with an art installation by Rap Rumi. Stay tuned for the next Opaline mix.

Friday, February 1

The Village Cafe

1272 5th St NE

Washington, D.C. 20002