Phonte is working with a bunch of talented actors, producers and directors from Durham to create a new web series about startup businesses.
Hype, an original web series based in Durham, North Carolina, has been released and can be watched at hypedurham.com.
Hype was created, written and directed by Holland Gallagher (Vacay, Immaculate Taste) and executive produced by Phonte Coleman (Little Brother) and Brendan Bradley.
On its face, Hype is about rap and startups and the nuances therein.
Its a nod to Durham’s thriving arts and tech scenes as well as a nod to Gallagher’s personal background in music production and as an employee of a streetwear startup operating out of a Google-funded incubator.
Gallagher channelled his music producing background, producing the soundtrack to the series via Immaculate Taste record label, which features North Carolina natives WELL$, Angelo Mota, and others.
Coleman was a member of Durham’s acclaimed and beloved Little Brother with 9th Wonder and rapper Big Pooh.
He is one of rap’s most respected figures, working with artists ranging from the Roots to Drake to Kaytranada.
His decades-long rap career is accentuated by a recent expansion into acting, voice acting, and he is the co-host of the Questlove Supreme podcast.
The original soundtrack for Hype was released through the boutique label and creative collective Immaculate Taste, which is based in North Carolina and home to other artists Well$, Angelo Mota, Santi, Alec Lomami, and the Black Hearts Club, and producers Vacay, Lucho, and Tommy Coyote.
Gallagher joined Immaculate Taste in 2014 after he met Well$ and manager Mike Tambashe in Chapel Hill, and has been producing and performing with him (as an accompanying producer) since.
Hype tells the story of Smiles, an exceedingly optimistic young man who is trying to buy the house back for his adolescent love.
He is approached by Ava, a hungry entrepreneur trying to prove herself in the space about starting a new VR company, and he hesitantly accepts.
As the company works toward a major pitch to investors and simultaneous live-streaming concert, they get intertwined in a local rap scene full of interpersonal conflict and combative ambition between mainstay rapper Bulldoze and new sensation Rakim Wilde.
A guiding principle in Hype is that much of a new rap artist or startup company’s success is due to the hype surrounding it, and this acts as a metaphor for each of the characters’ arcs.
According to Gallagher, the overarching question of the series is “How do we use our personal perceptions to mitigate our realities?”
“Hype began as a passion project born out of a desire to tell the story about a place that I consider a home, Durham, North Carolina. As a city undergoing immense change, the type of change mirrored in cities across America (in short: swift and front-facing gentrification), Durham is a place with new stories to tell. Hype was written to tell some of these stories and to provide a visual perspective in a conversation about the area’s future.” – Holland Gallagher
“But beyond the ties the rap and start-up worlds have to myself and Durham, there is an inherent connection between them. The younger generation in America is a self-starter generation, full of a belief in the promise of doing exactly what they want and only what they think is important. It’s an entrepreneurial way of thinking and one that parallels the rap industry and, obviously, the startup world.”
Gallagher says another word he would use to describe the series is “ambition.”
And ambition, of course, is not without its obstacles.
“Where boundless ambition meets the restriction of economy and relationships is another thread in Hype, something I am interested in personally as a young person navigating creative industries,” he says.
Holland Randolph Gallagher is a first time filmmaker, coming from the music production space (as Vacay) where he works with artists across genres including rapper and lead Hype actor Well$.
Director of Photography Bruce F. Cole graduated from UNCSA and then AFI for cinematography.
His most recent film Jinn won awards at SXSW, and this year he was selected as one of Film Independent’s 2018 Project Involve fellows.
Hype features an ensemble cast of Willie Raysor, Andie Morgenlander, Robert Dartez Wright, Leroy ‘Well$’ Shingu, Melvin Gray Jr. and Zen ‘Zensofly’ Stewart, all actors and artists, importantly, local to North Carolina.