Daniel Mondragón is a 25-year-old photographer who was born and raised in the Mission. As part of our series Young Mission Talent, Mondragón takes portraits of his favorite young artists of the Mission District and talks with them about their art.
Antonio Washington is a 26-year-old music producer who was born and raised on Bartlett St. in the Mission. He has been producing since he was 13 (half of his life) and created his own independent label Kontraband Entertainment when he was 18. It was then when Antonio says he started taking it seriously. Today Antonio has a single under the name GunPlay being sold on Amazon and iTunes featuring recently departed artist The Jacka as well as Despize, another Mission artist.
I met Antonio in 2008 when I first started photography. He was already making music but during my two-year stay in Los Angeles from 2012-2014 I noticed he was increasingly making more noise through social media. He was collaborating with big-name artists like E 40 and The Jacka, Dominic Newton, a 37-year-old rap artist who was shot and killed a earlier this month in East Oakland. The friend’s death was still very much on his mind.
“We had a lot of work in store for the public and what happened to him was really a tragedy,” says Antonio “Rest in Peace to a great friend, mentor, and my brother The Jacka.” Antonio says this will only fuel his work and he will carry lessons taught by the 37-year old rapper forever.
Antonio has worked with other artists including Beeda Weeda, Cokeboys and Killa Tay.
¨I don´t take breaks, ¨ says Antonio with a huge grin on his face. “I have beats and my clothing label just dropped. I am always making moves with my music or with my artists. It never stops.¨
Highly ambitious, Antonio says “I would like to get into the mainstream music industry and work with the best artists out there. I definitely see myself making beats for the biggest names in rap and hip-hop.”
I ask ’why we don´t see more young artists from the Mission or even the city in mainstream music and entertainment. ¨They probably don´t have the heart or they are scared so they have one foot in and one foot out, you have to be 100 percent committed and believe in yourself. If you keep going and work hard it will pay off in the end,¨ he says.
Within the arts, especially music, style or sound is reminiscent of the geographic location where it originated. For instance, southern rap beats are slow and chopped, while east-coast rap sounds mainstream and funky. “The Mission is beautiful and unique, I’ve made a lot of connections and have done my best work here because we have so many resources around us,” says Antonio who’s music is inspired by the Mission. His heavily synthesized bass punches with a style that is reminiscent of Bay Area culture but is also unique. His new song GunPlay, for example, demonstrates Mission influence it its synthetic drum sets. This sound is almost always associated with gangster rap or music expressing violence, something Antonio has experienced in his community first hand.
When asked what it was like growing up in the Mission, Antonio says, “it taught me to think before I move. I saw everything from gang-violence to drugs and alcohol use. Homelessness and people I knew fell due to their circumstances or bad decisions they made. Today I think about my actions before acting because of how and where I was raised. It also taught me to always be aware of my surroundings, you should always know where you’re at and what is going on in the Mission so you can stay safe. It’s not a bad neighborhood but it’s important to be alert.”
I wonder how Antonio feels about the changes in the neighborhood. He lives in a three- story complex with more than a dozen units. “It´s changed a whole lot, I´ve seen all kinds of people move in and out of my apartment complex,” which is located on 20th off Bartlett.
The young artist has his eye on the future and tells me about what is next. “I have a compilation mixtape, an instrumental mixtape, and collaborative work with artists from everywhere in the country. Growing up in an open-minded city has helped me be open to working with other artists. Not everyone has the same style and often times we need to adapt to be able to work together, that’s how great songs are made. For example I am working with a rapper from Miami who is coming to the Bay Area to perform.”
“My music is for everyone! I don’t just make hip-hop and rap music, I make R&B and commercial sound as well. I made a commercial in jingle form for Serrano’s Pizza,” a collaborative effort with a local pizzeria which happens to be downstairs from his apartment unit.
To other young artists Antonio advises, “Never give up, just keep pushing, keep on pushing even if no one is praising you for what you’re doing don’t let up and do what you love always.”
When asked where he see’s himself in five years, Antonio simply replies, “Rich.” We both break into laughter. On a more serious note he explains “even when I do get rich I will remain hungry and never become complacent. I will always aim to be better and sharpen my tools.”
In recent light of news about the shooting and murder of Bay Area rapper, The Jacka, Antonio would like to honorably mention his good friend and mentor.
His new single can be purchased on iTunes.
Some of Washington’s work can be found on his YouTube channel:
And below the latest music video with music produced by our young local artist Antonio Washington.
For anyone who wants to reach Washington e-mail is the best way: Kontrabandbeatz@gmail.com
Antonio’s social media channels