“It’s ‘cuz I got love for the homies, honestly.” That’s what Payton Long, producer, told me in his front yard Thursday night. I had asked him why he chose to host the party I had been at. Long was holding it at his own house here in Austin to promote Human Influence founder Chris Omenihu, member of the Always Proper hip-hop and art collective and the hip-hop community promotion app OffTop.
The event was held to raise awareness for OffTop, an app that would help to bridge the gap between hip-hop creatives, allowing for people to provide content for each other in a streamlined process that’s easy for all parties involved. OffTop’s website boasts the ability to “Instantly capture solo and group creations” and allows for users not only to share with each other but also to compete in OffTop hosted cypher competitions that “reward the community’s best submissions with unique prizes and meaningful exposure.”
The party hadn’t started yet when I showed up, and Long was still setting up his sound equipment. Long’s house is pretty big, and even though there was an upstairs portion, there was enough room for everyone downstairs or in the yard. Even later that night, when it started storming really hard, folks just grouped under the awning over the driveway.
The sound check finished with Long half-jokingly offering the microphone to a few people around the room, asking if anyone was up for an impromptu freestyle sesh. There weren’t any takers, so he resigned himself to throwing on some sample tracks to bide time until more people showed up. The finishing touches were made to the room (dimming the lights, putting glass furniture upstairs, setting up the clothes rack that had all the Human Influence gear on it, etc.) and the party finally kicked off. I squished plugs into my ears and took it easy. The influx of people multiplied exponentially. It wasn’t long before the house was packed. The projector on the wall threw distorted low-res closeups of plants and rainy suburbia behind whoever was at the soundboard at the time.
After a few hours I was fortunate enough to find an unoccupied Omenihu and ask him some questions about the party that night and the Human Influence label.
“It’s about having everyone involved,” Omenihu said. He explained that working with OffTop, Always Proper and Long meant new opportunities not only for Human Influence but for everyone involved. Omenihu was really excited about the prospect of an artistic coalition, explaining that working together meant realization of the goals for everyone involved.
When I asked him about his style and the style he made available through Human Influence, he told me that the way he dressed and how he priced his gear reflected his thoughts on style. Omenihu is tired of brand obsession and the way those obsessions take advantage of people. He told me that’s why the bright pink Human Influence shirts he was selling were priced so low.
The night closed with a superbly skilled Always Proper DJ, who had changed the footage on the projector so that it showed lo-res footage of him and a colleague placing Always Proper stickers around Austin at night. I found Long and Omenihu, thanked them both for an excellent party and excellent music, and climbed in the Lyft my friends had called .
(Editor’s Note: This article was originally punished on March 13, 2016. It has been updated with additional coverage).