business

FlickChix by Maxwell Young

 F*ck Donald Trump.  Roll up. Courtesy of  FlickChix

F*ck Donald Trump.  Roll up. Courtesy of FlickChix

You may already know Love.Char through her sultry themed Instagram photos or seen LifeofLanie in one of her many YouTube vlogs and beauty videos.  Separately, sisters Char and Lanie have grown and leveraged their social media platforms to explore aspects within the music and entertainment journalism industries, as far as styling on set for music videos or interning at The Fader, but their platforms have also provided interesting entrepreneurial opportunities.  Char parlayed her popularity into merchandise appropriate for her cool, curly-haired lifestyle selling lighters, rolling trays, hair picks, and hair products. Lanie, on the other hand, has utilized her talent for graphic design and web development to make custom websites and banners for other social media personalities, while also designing a makeup box: Sweater Weather.  Together, they have teamed up to launch FlickChix, a one-stop shop for custom lighters.

"Char and I started FlickChix because it was the perfect way to join forces.  I'm a graphic designer, and Char had already been selling lighters with her pictures on it.  You rarely see lighters with eye catching graphics on them, so we decided to create some with the intent of people collecting them and displaying them when the lighter fluid runs out," says Lanie.

Rather than buy another generic Bic lighter in a color you've undoubtedly had several times over, not to mention letting a friend steal it, head to FlickChix for a unique lighter experience. The sister's inaugural collection is politically charged, featuring a vintage Barack Obama and a sinister President Trump, although collections will change periodically.  FlickChix also offers a custom lighter service. Perhaps you wanted your own special lighters for an event or your own brand.  Customers can submit their own photos and designs, and FlickChix will create that one-of-a-kind lighter.  Your shopping for dope ass lighters begins here. Spark up in style.

Levels Agency Brings Major Entertainment to Pittsburgh by Alex Young

 Wayne Davis, Elisha Hill and Elijah Hill of Levels Agency photographed by Alex Young

Wayne Davis, Elisha Hill and Elijah Hill of Levels Agency photographed by Alex Young

It is crazy how sports in Pittsburgh drive so much of the city's culture. The athletics move the people's actions and thoughts daily. Football remains a fanatical heritage, but basketball is popular too especially among the city's high school ranks. Leagues like the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League and City League offer competitions against communities, which often turn into friendly and working relationships off the playing fields.

Such is the case with the founders of Levels Agency, an event, management, and marketing agency stationed in Pittsburgh. Twins Elijah and Elisha Hill, residents of Wilkinsburg, and Wayne Davis, a native of Penn Hills, all met off the court at a leadership seminar, then later strengthened their bond playing basketball against each other at Wilkinsburg and Propel.

At our initial meeting in Monroeville Mall, the friends explain to me how they started Levels Agency and began hosting events. It is easy to understand how athletics forged their relationship and influence the confidence with which they carry themselves. Elijah, Elisha and Wayne all wear Jordan Brand sneakers while sitting on two benches conversing.

When the trio studied together at Slippery Rock University, a school 51 miles from the 'Burgh, they grew tired of the weak parties there. 2 1/2 years ago they threw their first party called Project 412. "We expected 100 people if that, and we promoted so crazy it turned out to be 3,000 people," Elijah says.

Levels' success is in large majority due to the network of people they know in Pittsburgh and its surrounding areas. "In some type of way we know the whole city," Wayne says. "If there is somebody we don't know, Wayne knows them. If there is somebody Wayne doesn't know, we know them," Elijah adds. In high school and in college they were cool with everybody, and their basketball careers made them popular.

The groups' contacts allow them to offer opportunities to their friends in Pittsburgh that want to go to a concert, hold a fashion show, model, party, or perform a show. "We get presented with opportunities so we want to give somebody else an opportunity as well," Elijah says.

Going on 15-events as Levels Agency LLC, Davis and the Hill Brothers, along with partners Keith James, Malcolm Moore and Sierra Nunley, prepare to host Atlanta artist Young Thug for Summer Jam at The Southside Event Center just off of East Carson Street. Davis and Hills' friends Asco, Hardo, Joel Kellem, and Pk Delay, all rappers opening up for Young Thug on July 31, are "people we grew up with," and they wanted to reach out to them with an opportunity to showcase their talent.

Locally, Levels keeps an ear out for talent while they are at bars and nightclubs on the South Side and at the soon-to-close Altar Bar venue in the Strip District. When they are out of town, the group is just as observant. On a recent trip to Florida, they saw how people in the club react to artist Kodak Black. "A song came on and we were like 'oh yeah, we have to bring that back to Pittsburgh.'" Up and coming singer PnB Rock, who just released a mixtape with star Fetty Wap, will also warm up the stage for Thug.

The company consistently brings authentic hip-hop sounds to The 'Burgh. In the past, they put on shows for rap contemporary and rap legend Shy Glizzy and Lil Boosie, respectively. On October 1 Atlanta's Godfather Gucci Mane is coming to The Steel City.

Responsibly, Levels sees their role in the city's popular culture as "something to do," Elisha says. "We are young, we are all 21, and trying to build a culture geared towards young people. We could do this anywhere outside of the city, but we like bringing it to the city because we are from Pixburgh," Elisha says.

Although the agency currently shows love to the town that raised them, they plan to go national and offer events in cities such as Atlanta, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C. They desire to throw parties during NBA All-Star weekend and connect with the athletes or even sponsor boxing matches in Las Vegas. "Once we reach one level we are ready to go to the next one. We will keep out doing ourselves, and that is why we call ourselves Levels Agency," Elijah says.

With the ability to draw crowds upwards of 6,000 people, Levels pushes their operations in the right way. They read over contracts with artists three and four times to make sure the business aspect is tight. They lean on their studies in Business Management to make sure things are legal, and they always invest their earnings back into the company. Rarely does Levels run into road blocks. One time, rapper K Camp canceled on them a month before the show. Rather than cancel their entire event, Levels quickly booked Lil Boosie as a replacement and had better success.

"We don't even get to enjoy our shows because we are running around working. We throw the show, we sell our own tickets, and we deliver the tickets to people. In order to touch the community you have to be in it," Elijah says. Along with catering to customers, Davis and the Hill brothers pay close attention to the needs of their performing artists. The "rider" lists the performers request are demanding. Young Thug requires Hanes socks and chicken wings. Shy Glizzy demanded 300 glow-in-the-dark Dom Perignon bottles, which most clubs in Pittsburgh do not even stock, so he did not get them.

 Buy tickets to see Young Thug on July 31  here

Buy tickets to see Young Thug on July 31 here

Additionally, the Levels brand is advertised thoroughly on social media, and they have billboards throughout Pittsburgh promoting the Young Thug show, and also commercials that run on channels such as VH1 and BET. But the best way they promote for events is with their faces. Tickets are always on hand when Davis and the Hill brothers commute through The 'Burgh. During our meeting at the mall, Wayne stepped away from the conversation to sell tickets to a mall patron that approached him in the food court. Earlier that day Elisha was in Erie, Pa. selling tickets too.

"Wayne is always on the go selling tickets. I swear it seems like he sells 100 tickets a day," Elijah praises.

I rode in the back of a Kia SUV with the twins on their way to see their Summer Jam billboard for the first time. On the way, I saw Elijah deliver a handful of tickets to one of his partners living in the Hill District. He needed to re-up as many people contacted him to purchase tickets. The Hill brothers also discussed how long they wanted Wilkinsburg rapper Hardo to perform. "30 to 45 minutes," they debated back and forth.

"I'm nervous for everything to play out well at Summer Jam," Elisha says. But, "what's beautiful about what we do is we bring everybody together under one roof for one night to see something good."

This type of positivity is important for Pittsburgh's nightlife community, especially for the black people who frequent clubs and bars and often get stereotyped for their attire or forced to adhere to a dress code or get denied from throwing events at certain establishments.

"It's crazy because sometimes the color of your skin does play a factor in some things, but at the end of the day you have to support us because we keep getting bigger," Elisha says.

"We represent blacks well," Wayne says, and "the people that come to our shows respect us," Elisha continues. There is no funny business at a Levels Agency event because the people that attend their functions appreciate what the group is delivering to the city. Police presence also keeps everyone safe. And, after originally discriminating and turning down the event company for shows on the South Side and other areas of the city, club owners now realize the business value Levels brings to the table. Their celebratory atmospheres, popularity, and success make Levels Agency a desirable entity to do business with.

 The Hill Brothers at their Summer Jam billboard in the Hill District

The Hill Brothers at their Summer Jam billboard in the Hill District

The trio carries a chip on their shoulders because people took a while to recognize their full potential, but "we are always positive and use that as motivation," the Hill brothers say.

When Davis and the Hills got their first taste of success at their first party, Project 412 in New Castle, Pa., that was when "we saw how many people we could bring together," says Wayne.

Ever since then as Levels Agency, the group strives to entertain the city of Pittsburgh. Their show on July 31 with Young Thug, presented in part by iGrind Global, is another example of bringing major talent to the city people will appreciate.

As Levels goes forward, they will continue to take "logical risks" to achieve broad success from a platform that can entertain people across the world.

Southside Event Center

415 Bingham Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15203

 

 

Thrift.Wear.Repeat by Alex Young

Clothes are at their best when you can see the character worn into every thread.

In collaboration with ThriftLorde$, InTheRough Style presents Thrift. Wear. Repeat, a look book intended to accentuate the distinct garments curated by Brown Dixon and Tobore Edeki of their burgeoning Instagram hustle.  Thrifted clothing may be old and faded, but the time endured with its previous owners and their cultural significance adds vitality to every thread. 

From the purple logo to the purple brick wallpaper to the purple packaging, ThriftLorde$ is a visual experience spent perusing long lost clothing items your mom labeled "DONATE" and threw into the Goodwill box.  That was, of course, before Brown and Tobore rolled through to resurrect the Beatles 1964 American Tour t-shirt and Charles Woodson's Oakland Raiders Reebok jersey as timeless vintage wear.

There are websites to buy dead stock Supreme and Hood by Air T-shirts, as well as other over-hyped garments.  ThriftLorde$ is not that place.  While scrolling through their more than 8000 posts, it is not uncommon to see some fresh vintage Hilfiger gear or rare vintage Nike silhouettes.  Brown and Tobore aren't about the hype.  Their offering is a tailored closet that is representative of their own style and experiences.  George Mason and VCU garb are staples in the Lorde$ rotation as they claim Virginia roots.  Explore some of the additional content the duo publishes and the context of the style they project becomes clear.  A video of  a Nike basketball commercial of players dribbling and shuffling to create a freestyle beat prompts the nostalgia associated with the retro Ben Wallace Pistons jersey conveniently selling for $18 further down the feed.

Nike basketball freestyle commercial circa 2001🔥🔥🔥🔥 Credits: @kstaxkz⚡️ #ThriftLorde$

A video posted by ThriftLorde$ (@thriftlordes) on

 

Instagram is just the first touch point of the ThriftLorde$ brand.  You'll also find a gofundme link in their bio providing users the opportunity to donate towards the Flint Water Crisis. Their website is another commercial intersection, but it is also home to the more personal side of Brown and Tobore, as their creative outlets--paintings, graphic design work and blogs--take over the foreground.  

DM your email and receive an invoice plus $3 shipping.  An online business doesn't need to have a laborious checkout process.  Before Instagram, Brown and Tobore were using eBay to push their various pickups.  Allen Iverson Georgetown jerseys were hot-sellers, but that didn't keep the auction-style platform from taking its 10%.  After cutting out the middle-man, ThriftLorde$ boasts over 8000 potential customers. 

Browse the selected images above in the look book, and ThriftLorde$ will accommodate you on their Instagram page here

C//C for ITR: Entrepreneurship and Indie Labels by Maxwell Young

Today, we pick up the conversation with Cautious Clay regarding his involvement with a young, DC record label, Proper Vibes. The traditional framework of the music industry where an artist is signed under a record label has limited artists' ability to control his/her sound and act.  Before the disruption of the internet and music streaming services, like Napster, Spotify, and SoundCloud, artists had to rely on the financing and connections of major labels to distribute their music.  As a result, artists have had to relinquish some of their artistic freedom to acquiesce to the more popular or mainstream sounds those labels try to capitalize on; however, what we've seen over the past several years is a shift in control.  Artists of all popularity have begun to cut out the intermediary record labels to start their own independent entities to distribute their art.  Not only have large independent labels, like Jay Z's Roc Nation or Top Daw Entertainment, risen to prominence, but the accessibility and innovation of the worldwide web has enabled emerging artists to form their own collectives to promote their music.  No longer is it necessary to have support from bureaucratic executives looking to take advantage of musicians, all it takes is a click of a button to make your content accessible to everyone. 


MY: You opened up for Lido right?

JK: No, no that was Keylow.  He actually lives in this building, too.  He’s a chill dude.  He runs Musx, which is a promotional company.  It’s a music app, it has a pretty big influence.  They just did a showcase with Moving Castle, which was pretty cool.

AY: It’s funny that you mentioned that.  I think in the EDM community there’s a culture of doing things on your own.  Honestly, you guys are pushing your art and product on your own.  You have Proper Vibes and this app you just mentioned, it seems like there is this big underground community of people doing things on their own.

JK: Yea, for real.  I mean really that’s the way it is.  It’s so funny because even only being a producer for a year and a half, I feel like I’ve seen the gamut of just the major leagues to doing your own thing to being an instrumentalists and not even knowing how to produce, like I’ve seen this all since my freshman year of college and it’s just been crazy.  I feel so fortunate to be at the position I’m at right now because I’ve worked with people who work at Warner, you know, but at the same time I wasn’t producing at the time.  And then you have these people who are not even linked to that who are just making it on their own and their just doing it.  They organize their own bookings, their own shows, their own publishing; everything is just them and it’s just crazy to me.  It sounds novel, but I think it’s really cool to think about.

MY: Touching on that, what has it been like working with Proper Vibes?

JK: I help organize some of the events with Proper Vibes, but Proper Vibes is nothing but family, they’re great guys.  They have just been a platform for me to have a community that can work around each other.  We kind of work together and make our own stuff.  We started off in very much a similar way, I’d say, like Moving Castle.  It’s just a really cool community for us to throw shows and events.  I mean, we are a record label, too, but I’d say we are more so kind of an events entity right now.

AY: How receptive has the community been towards your events?  Are you getting nice turnouts and growing a fan base as well?

JK:  Oh yea, we are definitely growing a fan base.  We’re going in a positive direction, which I think is great.  I think there have been some logistical issues over the past year that we’re working out, but it has been nothing but positive.

 

Introducing UberEats Food Delivery Service by Alex Young

Uber has been the next best thing since sliced bread for a while now. The transportation company based in San Francisco has made getting a ride as simple as downloading the app and pressing a button. Now the company looks to continue its revolutionary pedigree into the food delivery service, introducing UberEats. In Los Angeles and Barcelona Uber now delivers meals from partnering restaurants directly to the hungry customers. New York City too will have UberEats, offering options from American Cut, Num Pang, Scarpetta, and more. Look to spend $9 to $12 for lunch and $10 to $15 for dinner. Access UberEats within the Uber app in LA and Barcelona, NYC soon to follow suit. Read more at ubereats.co.