Fans of hip hop might be familiar with talk show host Jabari Johnson, whose show Jabari Presents documents the creative lives of rising and established artists in the genre. Johnson might be better known as the host of BET.com’s Face to Face, where he interviewed such celebrities as Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj.
After pitching the season season of Jabari Presents to networks and not getting any bites, Johnson decided to go the route so many filmmakers are going these days: crowdfunding!
The next season of Jabari Presents promises a greater diversity of interviewees, moving beyond music to moguls and rising stars across fields and industries.
“I don’t think that musicians are the only people kids should look to for inspiration,” Johnson told me in an interview. “When young people talk about being very successful many times they reference artists and I’d like that discussion to change.”
Below Johnson talks about his plans for the next season, including what he looks for in an interview and even teasing us with what kinds of artists he’s looking to profile (see video at the bottom)!
What qualities do you look for in potential interviewees? And/or in your experience interviewing celebrities, what qualities do successful creative people share?
I want people to be inspiring and have stories of doing something unconventional to reach their goals. When I see that level of drive and the type of audience they’ve developed, I usually reach out to them. The common thread between my interview subjects is work ethic. It takes a lot of hard work to be the best and usually success takes a long time to achieve. Those that work at it constantly and continue to work even when they have “made it” all share the same characteristics usually.
What made you produce your own show independently?
I pitched and was turned down by a number of networks, so I thought I should make something that competes with the quality of what is on TV. I really wanted to just make stuff that I thought was interesting in a way that wasn’t being done on TV.
Why did you choose to expand the focus of the show in season two beyond music?
I don’t think that musicians are the only people kids should look to for inspiration. When young people talk about being very successful many times they reference artists and I’d like that discussion to change. There are so many options in life and I think because music is more overcrowded than ever that’s why people think that they can do it too, but there are so many other career options that I’d like people to begin to aspire toward.
What distinguishes your show from other documentary programs (black or otherwise)?
When people think documentary they equate that with boring, voice overs, a lot of pictures, etc. JabariPresents is very exciting and cinematic. We are trying to push the envelope not just in the storytelling but in the content of the film. Season 2 will be very cinematic and a lot of my artistic touch will be showcased throughout. My cinematographers are really extraordinary guys so the visual aspect of the show will be amazing.
Do you have ideas on who you will interview? Can you tease us with a few?
I can let you guys know one of the pieces will be on a teenage hip-hop group from Philly called OCD: Moosh and Twist. I’m not going to say anything else but you can check them out on YouTube and see what they are bringing to the table.
What other projects do you have in the pipeline, if any?
I just finished my first feature film which is a documentary on Tinie Tempah (the UK’s biggest hip-hop artist) and that will be out at the end of the summer in the UK. I’m very excited to have my first film released, especially in another country so I’m looking forward hearing the feedback from that.