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“SOMEONE’S GOTTA DO IT”: Local Creative Propels Boundaries of the DMV Artist Community

December 15, 2016

Local creative, Koleco Elizaire, stage name KNoiMnoT, is truly multifaceted, creating substantial art in many different mediums: DJing, curating, sound engineering, lyricism and more. However, some of the best artists within a community, despite their talent, innovation and drive, can often go overlooked when they are the type of people who are too busy lifting up those around them before they can get to themselves. Koleco is one of these artists. As a person he is ambitious and has a glowing energy which is followed by nothing but success.

 

Koleco Elizaire | Photo taken by “Dusty”

 

For instance, he recently put himself on a national tour as well as opened for a sold-out concert hall at Howard Theatre for 21 Savage, among other accomplishments. It seems that while lifting up those around him, he has simultaneously shown dramatic success in his own right. Yet, why is it that this accomplished artist still has not received the recognition he deserves? It may very well have to do with where his artistic community is located: DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) and the nature of that environment.

 

Koleco (on right) opening for 21 Savage | Photo taken by “Dusty”

 

 

Koleco originally grew up in PG County, Maryland. His close friends are all creatives, many being from high school.

 

While starting off as a poet and lyricist, Koleco never limited himself to one type of art and has always pushed himself to explore other mediums once he mastered one.

 

I think in high school I kind of taught myself how to convert different [genres of art] like, for example, if I see this photo right here I could play a song that could fit with this photo, you know? […] I use my perspective.

 

Expanding from the creative energy he surrounded himself with while in high school, Koleco and his friend, Neiko Gianni, stage name NKOGIANI, began Last Niight, a collective and movement that functions as a platform for creatives to immerse themselves in an inclusive and vibrant experience within their community. Since its inception, Last Niight has grown into a well recognized and respected brand, especially among locals in the DMV community, curating events and creating experiences and dialogues among creatives.

 

“After being a lyricist, even with Neiko, we both [were] like, okay, so we have the music, but it seems like a lot of people… in this area it’s kind of hard for us… it’s like, how can people actually see what we’re doing, feel what we’re doing. […] That’s when curating came to mind. We started getting more involved in the community. Supporting more. Showing more love. Like, showing people a different side. A different side of art.”

 

Koleco (on left) | Photo taken by “Dusty”

 

 

Last Niight highlights and celebrates the relationship between the artist and the audience. It’s a movement that was created in response to Koleco and Neiko’s own experiences within the art world, based off of viewing performances, art shows and other local and global events. They then took what they learned and articulated how they wanted to improve it. Essentially, Last Niight is a hybrid creative collective based off of all that they have experienced themselves with an additional intimate style which they crave. 

 

Last Niight differentiates itself from others like it, challenging the act of curating and event planning in the local artist community. Similar to Koleco’s disposition, Last Niight goes above and beyond expectations in terms of creating an experience.

 

“Around this local area, a lot of people who are my age or younger throw art shows but… aren't really curators. Their focus are more so on the money than the art. I was like […] I’m gonna show people why shows should be like this, you know. […] It’s like, almost every weekend there’s an art show. The key is, moving up, different levels. […] I was like, I wanna make sure people see this. I wanna make sure corporates see this. I wanna make sure that international people […] see what’s happening right now. So I hit up some of my people from Parallel Diamonds, some art show people, some great artists. […] That was my first show. I was used to everything but I had a bigger space, which is a retail store.”

 

Koleco works at the Urban Outfitters in Gallery Place while Neiko works at the Urban in Georgetown. After their coworkers got a sense of the boys’ style through social media and how they interact with customers and people in person, they were very much interested in coming to their shows and seeing what they were really about. In response, the crowds loved Last Niight and the energy they brought and vouched for Koleco and Neiko. When Koleco’s manager mentioned that he wanted to have an event, it all started to fit together.

 

“We used our experience from going to a lot of different shows, global shows and concerts, and we see what to do and not to do […] We do curate shows, we always put it in the perspective of a customer, or a person who is coming to the show, you know. […] We put the artists and the crowd at the same level because that’s very important. We want people to understand who we are and what we do. It’s like, Last Niight we can go from 0 to 100, we can be very down tempo, we can be very uplifting. And it’s very important to have a personal connection with the audience. […] Like, a person should be able to dance if they feel like it. Yell if they feel like it. And it’s very important ‘cause a lot of people […] have ego.. At Last Niight there is no ego, you’re just like me.”

 

I had asked if this would be somewhat of the philosophy behind Last Niight. He thought for a moment and said, “Kind of, I never thought of it that way, but I would say [it’s] more of a standard”.

 

However, a lot of what Last Niight is depends on the community it’s communicating with. The relationship between Last Niight and the DMV is co-dependent. To look at the success of Last Niight is to examine the disposition of its environment.

 

“Around here, it’s kind of hard. People really not tryna feel me. I got a lot of support around here, but the bigger people like Trillectro and BC Fest […] people don't really recognize me. […] They just didn't care.”

 

While Last Niight has been a success and its following is continuously growing locally and even outside the DMV, it’s still difficult for an individual artist to transcend themselves to a wider platform, such as Trillectro and BC Fest. Hopefully, with time, he will be able to achieve this, possibly by leaving the DMV, getting known outside of it, and then returning full force. In fact, Koleco has already begun this step.

 

After establishing himself within the DMV, Koleco expanded from Last Niight, putting himself on a national tour. As an artist myself, this decision was incredibly motivating. Going on tour is often thought of as something you can only do when you have a manager. Going on tour always seems to be something an artist has to wait to do, hope for, not something that they can do themselves. Koleco decided to break through a boundary that a lot of artists stop short at.

 

“I’ve been networking for about 4 years. I went home and I contacted certain people to ask if I could stay at their crib if I came through and they all said yes. […] So basically, that’s a tour right there. All I had to do was pay for the transportation to get there. Now, a lot of people thought this tour was about DJing, it wasn’t. I DJ’d at a lot of places but it was more so about connecting with a lot of people other than social media. More so in person […]. It’s something more personal. More intimate.”

 

But the tour did not come without its threats and risks. Traveling to unknown cities with little to no idea of what you’re doing can be intimidating, especially traveling outside of the country which Koleco plans to do this upcoming year.

 

“I don’t need somebody to tell me — who can’t go on tour? Only I can make that decision. And I did it myself. I could’ve gotten shot. I could’ve gotten killed on tour. Cause I went to places I didn't even know. […] I’m Black. People dying for no reason. Honestly, when I was going to California, I was like… I don't know what the f-ck I’m doing right now… […] But, I was like, someone’s gotta do it.”

 

Despite the challenges Koleco has faced throughout his travels and within his own environment, he maintains a positive and light-weight energy which is contagious to those around him. From his more relaxed, mellow mixes on SoundCloud, to his electric sets in person, to his thoughtfully curated events and shows, Koleco brings a new and innovative insight to all of his projects. It’s only a matter of time until his horizons broaden further, especially with all that he has in store for 2017.

 

Photo by “Dusty”

 

 

Special thank you to Koleco Elizaire for his wisdom and generosity as well as Dusty for the wavy photography.

 

 

- KNOIMNOT -

SOUNDCLOUD: @knoimnot

INSTAGRAM: @knoimnot

 

- DUSTY -

INSTAGRAM: @africanist

 

 

- WRITER - VIBE CREATOR -

NATASHA ZASTKO

SOUNDCLOUD: @tashaze

INSTAGRAM: @tashaze

 

 

 

 

 

 

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