Up And Coming

GB: A Unique Hip-Hop Hopeful Hailing From Boca

When I first met GB three years ago, I didn’t know at the time of his ambitions and goals nor of the immense level of talent he had.

I only knew him as a young man looking to get initiated into the fraternity that I was advising at the time.

Flash forward three years later and he’s on the cusp of reaching the next level.

GB is the definition of a millennial artist using the resources at his fingertips to put his music out there and take advantage of the open web to leave his mark. It was important for me to use the platform I have elevate GB to a larger audience.

I remember distinctly hearing GB play his guitar here and there and I thought, man this kid has talent. Of course I didn’t know what was yet to come. From performing at sorority philanthropy events to performing at actual nightclubs for the first time, his future is brighter than ever.

I asked GB, who is now in his senior year at Florida Atlantic University if he wouldn’t mind me speaking with me to share his story, his ideas and his passion.

RISE: First off, tell the readers something you want them to know about you?

Something you should know about me is that I do my best to keep out negative energy. Positivity is the answer to life, you can do and be anything in the world. If you believe in yourself and set your sights on goals that incorporate your passions and talents, you will be successful.

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RISE: When did you know you wanted to pursue music?

I knew I wanted to pursue music the day that I turned 20. I released my first album “Phenom” along with 20 tracks that featured my rap and singing debut. I could feel in my heart everything seeming to fall into place, each time I write, reminisce or think up something new. Music is truly my love and passion, no matter what comes out of it, I feel accomplished in knowing that.

RISE:When you dropped your first album “Phenom” what did that feel like?

It felt nice dropping my first album “Phenom” with 20 tracks because it was [and is] something that rarely anyone is doing. The doubt of my peers really pushes me harder and harder everyday, support definitely builds you the most though. I released my second album “The Bakery” with 21 tracks just to prove to people I could do it again and come even hotter. With my third album release “TRILLA G,” it was all about capturing the best aspects of my artistry. I released 8 tracks that all pushed for futuristic style and vision. My main goal now is to just keep pushing singles in hopes of making that one hit song that everyone falls in love with.

RISE:Who are your musical influences?

My biggest musical influences at the moment would have to be Bryson Tiller, Jeremih, Chance the Rapper & Frank Ocean. My passion for music started with John Mayer but I really enjoy listening to music that enhances my ear for R&B influenced hip hop.

RISE:Who are you listening to right now?

I am really selective with what I am listening to, I have been listening to Frank Ocean’s new album “Blonde.” I am in love with the pop influenced vocals; With this type of sound coming back into the mainstream, as well as influencing myself, my own music is being taken with ease to listeners of all genres.

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RISE:Who would be your dream collaboration?

I would love to make a dope R&B influenced track with Bryson Tiller or a party influenced hit with Chance the Rapper.

RISE:Who are other up and coming artists that you have worked with in South Florida that you hope make it big?

My favorite artists in Boca Raton are Mansa, Vaughny Vo & Ali Embry. I have worked with plenty of producers & engineers that deserve credit too: MaClean Studios, Influence Studios, Lykia, Equus & more. They have all been big parts of my evolved sounds and I appreciate all their efforts and advice. Other than that, I have worked with so many artists, going on 100 hip hop songs in the past two years. I really enjoy working with people and making music that people can enjoy and possess as their own as well. That is what it is all about.

RISE:Tell me about what it’s like working with other people who are also trying to break into the music scene?

It is great finding those artists that have the same mindset as you. A lot of people are really only focused on breaking into the music scene and don’t have the talent or work ethic that comes with that success. The best collaborations are when the music comes from the heart, you should take each confrontation and learn from it. Each artist I have made music with has taught me something whether it be what to do or what not to do.

Listen to one of GB’s songs: 

RISE:How would you describe your sound?

The sound that I am consistently working towards in my own mind is a mix of positive catchy lyrics, a marketable theme throughout, hard-hitting instrumentals topped with impressive pop vocals that could impress any listener with soothing melodies. I am very persistent on my new sounds being based around my singing.

RISE:How often do you go into the studio to record?

I record at least a couple of times a week. I have 4 studios in Boca that I flip flop between and make my music at. When it comes down to it, I built my own recording studio in my room and I am able to record literally at any moment of the day. Whenever I am feeling something heavily, I will not wait around, I definitely feel at home in the studio.

RISE:Do you ever feel creatively stifled? If so how do you combat that?

Most definitely, it happens to the best of us. Whenever I am feeling stuck on something, I will just put it away and work on another topic. It always seems to brighten a new light when I come back to something at another time with a fresh mind and full attention.

RISE:What is the headspace you put yourself in when you go into the recording studio?

I really just put it in my head to be comfortable. You never want to push it too hard or blurt something too loud, studio recording is a lot different than singing live. By the time I get in the studio I know the lyrics so well that I really try and focus on the pronunciation of every word and melody.

RISE:If you wish you wrote any one specific lyric or bar, what would it be and why?

There are countless lyrics that I love to be honest? In every song there is something that I probably enjoy most about it, but when I first started rhyming I said “Like a foreign student way he study abroad, know the heavens must be the real the way she shaped by the gods, GB must stand for Gary Blessed…” and that was how I was stuck with “Gary Blessed” being the acronym for my initials GB. Before that song, GB just stood for Gary Baker.

RISE:What was it like to take the stage truly for the first time at Crowbar in Tampa, your hometown?

It felt so nice to be on stage performing the sounds that I had been working so hard on. I had been on stages before considering I have been making music since I was 16 and played in my own band in high school, but this was definitely the first time it was 100% my music. It felt like the start of destiny.

RISE:What is your end goal with your music?

I have really grown an obsession with music, my first end goal started out just getting a feature with my favorite rapper at the time, Cam Meekins. My ultimate end goal would be me as a major recording artists, the executive of my own label, have a few businesses that incorporate my own brand and different lifestyle aspects, and consistently release music that is noticed and perceived by the world in a positive way. In the least, I want to be recognized in the music industry and make a living from it.

You can check out all of GB’s music here: https://soundcloud.com/garyblessed

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: GB/ Instagram

Art Personalized: Millennial Designer Caitlin Ashley Tries To Get Us To Look Around Life

Too often in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we forget to take a breath and look at the beauty and art that exist around us. 

But one millennial designer named Caitlin Widener is trying to get us all to do just that.

Widener’s Caitlin Ashley Custom brings the beauty of the world alive in clothing pieces made for women, in the forms of skirts, pants, and blouses, among other styles.

The brand is based in New York City and describes itself as being “wearable art, unique for the individual” on the brand’s official website.  

The description continues labeling the brand as “hand painted and inspired by everyday on goings in the world,” and that “every woman is unique, just like this line and wants that vision to transcend when worn.”

Widener’s inspiration for it all began when she moved to New York City in 2014.

“At the time I was doing fashion blogging and it was fashion week, my first experience,” Widener said. “Everything was on such a grand scale and in some ways had me doubting my place amongst it all.”

It was then when her mind began to reel and the pieces began to fall into place.

“There was an event in particular that I had been invited to that week. It felt as though I had nothing to wear on my current budget that would set me apart from the crowd,” Widener said. “Sitting in my room, I was making an attempt to brainstorm ways to show originality. There was an old white dress hanging up and it got me to thinking, what if perhaps I painted on it? I have painted all my life and perhaps it was possible to combine two of my greatest passions together?”

It was then when the first of many pieces was born.

“I painted a rendition of van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” It was a hit. I realized this was something I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life, it’s like everything came together and finally made sense.”

Widener’s brand is still growing, having nearly 1,130 followers on her official Instagram page filled with different examples of her colorful and intrinsically unique designs.

CAITLIN ASHLEY SPRING/SUMMER is now available online. Feel free to check out the pieces and more images like this one at caitlinashleycustom.com (link in bio) Would really like to extend a big thank you to everyone who has followed and supported me on this journey, thus far. Believing in yourself is crucial but having friends and family believe in you as well is truly everything. I’m constantly working towards becoming a better painter/designer. This is going to be a long journey and I won’t give this up for anything. If you don’t have your dreams, what do you have? Endless love to the people who inspire me everyday, you’re indispensable xx Photo taken by the immensely talented @tomfraud in the beautiful city of Marrakech, Morocco. @lahandira #caitlinashley #custom #spring #summer #marrakech #morocco #tomfraud #lahandira #nyc

A photo posted by Caitlin Widener (@caitlinashleycustom) on

With time, there is hope that the brand will continue to flourish.

“The brand is still very new. Just over a year in,” Widener said. “It’s currently working with other brands on collaborations and creating time capsule collections for small boutiques.”

Since that first event that drew her to paint her creation on the old white dress, the inspirations for other pieces in the line have come from many different sources, including those found in the outside world.

“The best thing I can do for outside inspiration is put my headphones in and wander around the city a bit,” Widener said. “You start to notice things outside the box, colors in a puddle, flowers coming up through the sidewalk, street art that transforms a building.” 

The designs pictured on her website show the wide array of different creations, including artsy dresses, inspired skirts and other pieces that almost seem like wearable and usable masterpieces.

As for what continues to inspire her to create more pieces today, Widener states that it continues to be the same drive that initially led her to create her early creations.

“Today’s inspiration is still a lot of the inspiration that was at the start. Really just creating things that I love and in turn, reaching out and sharing it with others,” Widener said. “It’s so important to keep that fire to create fueled and never forget what made you start in the first place. Always come back to the roots.”

As for what the future holds and if she will begin to create designs for men as well, only time will tell she said. 

“Last year there was a small stint of time where I dabbled with men’s ties and really loved it,” Widener said. “Got a lot of great feedback! For the time being, my focus is with women’s apparel but it’s something I would love to progress into in the future.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credits: Caitlin Widener/ Submitted

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