Beating back gentrification and Taylor Swift — Video series New Wave New York asks the Big Apple's brightest young creatives for their beef with a city changing beyond recognition before their eyes.

The world is fucked, the city is gone.”

When MC Wiki of New York noise-rap collective Ratking spat those bars on ‘Protein’ from last year’s So It Goes LP, it struck a chord with listeners who felt that the Big Apple has been rotting in recent years and a younger generation that feels shortchanged by their city.

Native NYC youth are pissed off with the post-9/11 disappearance of the ‘gritty old’ city thanks to the policies of an establishment with a dull and sanitised vision of what New York should become. This process manifests itself in fast-paced gentrification, police brutality, the snubbing-out of local communities and the loss of diversified cultural and artistic scenes –  ultimately squashing the city’s identity. This peaked when Taylor Swift – a recent import to NY – was crowned as the city’s ‘welcome ambassador,’ galvanising the grass roots to stand up against the corporate selling-out of NYC

Roy Vlcek, a 20-year-old Tribeca local has seen this wilful mischaracterisation of NYC since his childhood and came to the conclusion that art was the only weapon to restore the city’s long-held living idiosyncrasies. Without a budget and just a $350-rented camera, the young writer, filmmaker and student at Columbia University went out to give a platform to the city’s voiceless and gave birth to the New Wave New York (NWNY) project.

NWNY is a set of video interviews with young New York artists – from Brooklyn to Manhattan, from Harlem to Upper West Side – who vent their resentments towards New York and share their inspirations, motivations and mind-set. The series is paving the way to a soon-to-be-released short documentary, featuring the city’s brightest young creatives alongside defining cultural figures like Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon.

We spoke to Roy to find out more about the project and his beef with the Big Apple.

What exactly is NWNY?
NWNY is a visual platform that strives to document native New York artists’ experiences, influences and aspirations. This documentation consists of an interview about the city and any events with the featured artists: gallery openings, film shoots, album release parties, runways; whatever moves people are making, I try to help them document and build through that.

How did you come up with the project?
Coming up with the idea for NWNY has taken my entire life. All of the beautiful people you see featured are my friends, collaborators, classmates, co-workers and, most of all, neighbours. More than anything, this project is for the preservation and benefit of NYC. I’ve come to a realisation here that many things in life are transient, but a strong oral tradition can last forever. There’s a lot of fugazy-ass shit out there, but across the board, my neighbours responded with straight facts. I’m 20 and the oldest person I interviewed was 21 at the time. We all have a unique perspective of how the city has changed over the last twenty years because we had around 6-8 years of the ‘gritty NYC’ of old. Then in the post-9/11 era, we’ve lived through 10-12 years watching our city become a racist police state that is attempting to replace its natives with marketers, stockbrokers and others. The purpose of NWNY is to transmit that experience through the sum of everyone’s intimate personal experiences.

What impact are you looking for with NWNY?
For starters, that the creators form stronger and more collaborative bonds with one another through recognising themselves as part of a whole, while also being recognised for their own accomplishments and creativity. Also that this peeking-into-our-world-through-video allow some of my friends to receive the acclaim their talent and charisma demands. Lastly, that more young people invest in art or tangentially-introspection.

Why did you feel video was the best medium for your project? What’s there about it that excites you?
Word, video is interesting because I’m a film student at Columbia, which is really a highbrow, conceptual way to learn how to make films. You know, talking intellectually about what makes films great as opposed to making them; or training to become a New York Times film critic. I feel like my camera style speaks for itself, it’s minimalist in production values. There’s a reason for that, there is no budget for this project. I borrowed $350 from a homie to rent a Canon 5d one weekend and shot like five interviews at a house party at my parents crib while they were out of town. After that, there was a couple of Nikons, a t2i with a telescopic lens, all shit. Regardless, it just goes to show you that NYC is a place where you gotta figure shit out for yourself and make it happen, instead of talking about what making it happen means for the history of man and shit like that. I just gotta do it. So I felt like the camera is a tool through which I can most easily translate the experience of being an artist here. Well, that and my writing.

What sort of changes occurred in NY so the city’s young artists joined arms to restore its lost soul?
There’s a lot of bullshit happening in NYC right now. Racism, classism, greed… The list goes on. We’ve all experienced this together. By no means am I the spokesperson of these guys, I can’t speak for everyone involved in the project, but I create art for the purpose of fighting these negative problems with a positive solution for the artistic movement that’s happening right now. I’ve been able to realise this goal of mine and been able to share it with so many people and that’s a beautiful thing, all without a budget, only positive energy and an upbringing in the city. We need to stay positive as people and creators in order to use our art to influence others positively as well.

The Big Apple is still an inspirational place for young artists or is it losing its touch?
Fuck yeah this place is still dope, but it’s also changing due to gentrification. This question is actually a meditation upon which NWNY was partly conceived, so I’d prefer to answer this by telling you: watch the videos. You tell me if it’s losing its touch or nah.

What do you do for a living and how does NWNY fit into your life?
I’m a student uptown at Columbia University so I’m constantly running downtown or to Brooklyn to get footage of an event or show someone a new cut of their interview before it goes up. Shit’s pretty hectic, but I’d have it no other way. I’m having the best time of my life right now.

From night to day, what would be the first thing you’d change in New York?
I’d change the way the educational system is set up. All public schools: no elite Upper East Side havens and no abandoned Bronx dead-ends. Everyone should have to interact with diversity when they are here. Besides, why wouldn’t you want to?! This is the place where you can meet some of the most interesting, creative souls of all time! Why not have an open mind about it?

What other plans do you have for this project?
I’m going to release a documentary featuring a bunch of the artists soon, just showcasing what our lives are like. It’ll be live and with an appearance from Wu-Tang legend Raekwon. So that’s definitely a big time look. Just building with the people who helped me from the jump and shooting some more of my own dramatic stuff, writing and reading more, becoming a better and more disciplined man. Just living my life and seeing what I can do to help the city and the people around me.

Check out more New Wave New York videos.

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