By: Aaron C. Williams
Rendezvous Culture is a SoCal-based collective of creatives from all walks of life. Members specialize in a variety of fields, including music, art, photography, videography, graphic design, podcasting and radio.
I first met Neal Hairston on 4/20. I was briefly venturing back onto the weed wagon for the holiday, but looking to take an indefinite hiatus from smoking afterward; which could only mean one thing—I was on one. About three edibles deep and I hardly knew where I was, if I’m being honest. I don’t drink alcohol anymore, yet, for some reason, I found myself at one of Costa Mesa’s bougiest bars. I won’t say where exactly, but let’s just say it wasn’t my idea…
Nonetheless, fate was at work that day, my friends. In walked a 6’3” mofo with a fro. A mutual friend introduced us and he immediately extended an invitation to guest on his Hits101 Radio show, The Artist’s Table with Neal Hairston. Although I wasn’t promoting myself as a musician with a hot new single or anything, I figured it couldn’t hurt and sounded like fun. A couple weeks later I was on-air at Hits101’s facility on the other side of town.
I told Neal that I was interested in starting a podcast of my own, and he kindly offered to connect me with his production team: Rendezvous Culture.
We hit it off. I met Chris Bozonelos (AKA @consumechris) and Michael Westerman (AKA @ma_cualli_tonalli), and I must say, the loving respect was mutual. Both of those guys know their stuff, when it comes to photography/videography and music production, respectively. As a burgeoning visual artist and musician myself, it was nice to be able to share both of my passions with two people who are equally passionate.
The Rendezvous team also informed me that they were slated to host a free music-and-arts event in Downtown Santa Ana—my old stomping grounds. Chris even offered to provide me with a spot to display my own prints, so be on the lookout for that. I haven’t been this excited for a local showcase in a long time. “Underground Atmosphere” will feature a diverse array of DJs, musical guests, artists and vendors. Check out the full list of performers below:
I sat down with Neal Hairston and Chris Bozonelos of the Rendezvous crew for an exclusive interview, in order to give One West readers the low-down on “Underground Atmosphere.” Check it out:
Ace: Hey guys, thanks for letting me be involved with this new event. Where are you both coming from?
Chris: I’m coming from Huntington Beach, I just moved to Orange County about a year and a half ago from Chicago, actually.
Ace: Oh, no way, that’s cool. Welcome to SoCal. What about you Neal?
Neal: I’m coming from Orange. I’ve been in SoCal most of my life. I was in Tennessee before that.
Ace: Dope. Well I appreciate the opportunity to cover “Underground Atmosphere.” Hopefully we can give you guys a little bump with this article. I guess my first question would be, “How did you guys get connected with The Copper Door?”’
Neal: My buddy Danny is a bartender there. He was on my radio show recently, too. I’ve been going downtown for a while now. One night, me and my DJ went down to [The Copper Door’s event] ‘The Big Draw’ and got connected with @ashllax, the mastermind and coordinator of the event.
Chris: She was running another event there before, as well. I ended up meeting her later.
Neal: We met up after that and started talking about hosting one [in June].
Ace: Wow, just like that, huh? Cool, so do you guys have plans to do another one?
Neal: Always. We’re hoping to do it monthly. Maybe even on a weekly-basis, eventually.
Chris: Ideally, we can expand outside of downtown Santa Ana, too.
Ace: Awesome. I can’t wait to see where you guys take it. Let’s dive into a little more background on you guys. When did you both meet?
Chris: We met through mutual friends: Kong and Vibes (who will both be performing on June 12th). We kinda built a friendship first and then started discussing ideas later.
Neal: It happened quick. It probably took place over a handful of meet-ups. We were makin’ shit happen.
Chris: This was probably the fifth or sixth time we had hung out. We were at a Halloween party in Anaheim. I knew he was doing stuff with Hits101, and then he asked me to come through to his show.
Ace: Sweet, sounds pretty serendipitous. So, let’s talk about the night’s performers. Starting with the DJs. What kind of vibes will they be bringing?
Chris: We got EZPZ starting it off, formerly known as Malaam. He just graduated from Cal State Fullerton. He’s got like a house-y, uptempo style.
Neal: I would say it’s going to start with an ambient, energetic vibe. And then we’re gonna go into some live performances. After that, Yojimbo James is gonna carry the rest of the night with some ethereal hip-hop vibes. It’s hard to put your thumb on. There’s throwback, soul, and sampling in there, but at the same time, it’s underground.
Ace: And then what about the rappers?
Chris: So, we have Reaux_s (pronounced “Rose”). He has like a poetic, lo-fi hip-hop style, that’s a little more lyrically-intellectual.
Neal: Then we have Kong, giving you flashes of a Westcoast Biggie.
Chris: He keeps it real. He talks about real shit.
Neal: It’s heavy, but positive… Then we got JACKY X, an energetic, intellectual rapper with Chinese-American roots. He’s really representing his culture. He’s got an amazing flow; he’s really catchy. He pulls people in…
Chris: With that confidence and swagger. (laughs)
Neal: Then we have Vibes hoppin’ on a few tracks with Kong and Jacky, showcasing what he’s got in the works. So, I’m excited to see my boy up there.
Neal: After that, we’ve got our headliner, Curly the Vth (pronounced ‘Fifth’).
Chris: I work for his label, too. So I’m kinda like Director of Photography for HWG (HereWeGo Entertainment).
Ace: Oh nice, Curly the 5th. Didn’t you tell me he has an upcoming feature with Snoop Dogg?
Chris: Yeah. That track will be on his EP, coming out at the end of the month. He hasn’t performed music live in a little while. He’s been sitting on that Snoop Dogg feature. There’s a good chance we might hear it, come June 12th. Curly has kinda taken me in and put me on his team. We have a bunch of projects we’re working on.
Ace: Wow, sounds legit. So, are you guys going to be live-streaming or anything?
Neal: Probably not this time, we want people to be present, so if you want to vibe with us you gotta be there.
Chris: But we will definitely be capturing content the whole night. We’re gonna have several cameramen, and we plan on engaging in candid conversation with those in attendance.
Neal: So, come talk to us!
Ace: Great, now, I also wanted to ask more about “Rendezvous Culture”—where did the name come from?
Neal: We spent like four hours with the original crew members, just trying to figure out a name. First, we came up with “R.N.D.”—like “Research & Development”—but we couldn’t figure out how to play with it from there… We were all just brainstorming
Chris: I think we had a moment, but then we just slept on it. We were really trying to figure out what represented us. Then we kinda added to the original idea, it was like: R.N.D.—E.V.U. But it didn’t sound right. Then, I think Neal was the one who just said: “Rendezvous.”
Neal: We wanted something that was a strong word, and it means “come together”—So it was all about artists coming together.
Ace: Were there any obstacles that you had to overcome in order to get the ball rolling on the event itself?
Neal: Coordinating everyone’s personal schedules, to get together and actually plan the event—you know, making sure everyone was on the same page; that we had the same goal. I think at first we were worried because you’re never sure if things are going to work on such short notice.
Chris: We coordinated this very quickly. We had wanted to do this, so there were a lot of things we had to get done in a small amount of time. We knew how we wanted the event to go, there were just some things that we had to knock out. There was a certain vibe we wanted to emulate, and I think the things we do have taken care of will encapsulate that pretty well.
Neal: We had the big picture, it was just putting the pieces together within the given amount of time that was difficult. Some elbow grease will take you pretty far, though.
Ace: Do you have any advice for people trying to initiate movements or host events?
Chris: I would say “Collab. Network.” There’s plenty of communal opportunities, at least in our area… And if you wanna do something, you go out there, show face, talk shop; and you’ll get a response. If you’re doing things, then go and meet other people who are doing things. I work two full-time jobs. And that’s the mindset I wake up with every day.
Neal: I would agree. I would say, on top of that, you have to find like-minded individuals. You have to be going in the same direction, that way you’re not being pulled in a direction you don’t want to go. You have to be honest with yourself about your value; what you offer; what you’re willing to give. You have to be willing to learn, and apply what you’ve learned. And, at the end of the day, it’s all fueled by a positive attitude; positive energy.
Ace: And you can experience that energy in Downtown Santa Ana on Wednesday, June 12th, at “Underground Atmosphere,” hosted by Rendezvous Culture and The Copper Door (wink-wink)… Now, lastly, where can One West readers find you guys online?
Neal: We’re active on Instagram at @rendezvous.culture
You can find my personal page at: @neal_b4_zod
Chris: And my tag is @consumechris
Here is a complete list of the other members and performers who will be in downtown Santa Ana on June 12th:
Michael Westerman (music producer) – @ma_cualli_tonalli
Zach Repsel (web development) – @zacharyscottssh
Yojimbo (executive DJ/producer) – @dopeuhhmean
Jazu Rangel (cameraman) – @j.j_rangel
EZPZ (DJ/producer) – @ezpz_official_
Curly The Vth (rapper) – @ipleadthevth
JACKY X (rapper) – @jackyxhuang
Reaux_s (rapper) – @lz_rxs
Kong (rapper) – @ogkongrevis
Vibes (rapper) – @vib_es2_2
Danni Blackman (painter) – @danniwhitewoman
ARD!S the Creative (painter) – @ardisthecreative
Kyra (painter) – @kyraaart
Samantha Tagaloa (artist) – @afrospam
Riley Waite (artist) – @rileywaiteart
Scotty Salmon (artist) – @skebahdobop
Big Mike (photographer/artist) – @sealthedeal42
Dalia Perez (artist) – n/a