By Steven Froias
NEW BEDFORD, MA – A few years ago I was walking out of a convenience store in my west end, New Bedford neighborhood when I caught sight of a guy in a parked car who had just done the same.
There in the passenger seat was the distinctive facial hair, signature round glasses and stylish dress of none other than Hendrick Hernandez-Resto, the Instagram title by which I recognized him.
I leaned over and asked through the window, “Hey – are you Hendrick Hernandez from Instagram?”
He was. So effective is Hernandez at image-building that even though we had never met In Real Life (IRL), I felt I knew a lot about the rapper, musician, producer and all-around artist. Such as, he had recently released a collection of tunes called “The Accumulation of Hendrick Hernandez” and was plugging it with a series of brand-building images on all his platforms. (For a peak into his social media world, start here with Spotify and Instagram.)
I walked away from the chance encounter feeling as if I had met a celebrity in my somewhat boring neighborhood, such is the power of effective and professional social media. This was reinforced during the last year as Hernandez was part of the Creative Ambassador team, and also part of #NBcreative’s ARTnet ARPA artist training and networking program
Now, Hendrick Hernandez and some partners are coming out from behind the cyber curtain for a monthly series of IRL events called “AHA! Cyphers” on AHA! New Bedford nights, the second Thursday of each month beginning Thursday, April 13, at the Co-Creative Center, 137 Union Street downtown New Bedford.
Which presents a good opportunity to catch up with the man behind the tortoise glasses for, naturally, an online Q & A presented below…
What can New Bedford expect at AHA! Cyphers?
I am happy to say that New Bedford can witness and participate in the tradition of improvisational rhyming over instrumentation made in Hip Hop style. Hip Hop cyphers are one of the purest forms of expression in the culture of Hip Hop. We will be playing instrumentation created by music producers from New Bedford and having Emcees from New Bedford improvise rhymes over them. We will play word games and involve the crowd. At each cypher we will highlight and feature an Emcee as well as a music producer. Both will have a segment during the cypher to showcase their work in cypher form.
How did you and your partners come up with the idea?
My partners and I came up with the idea to start cyphering on the corners of William St and Purchase St back in 2008. I was very nervous and timid during the first cypher as we had no equipment, just our voices. Then, my friend Ivan Rodriguez delivered a loud and intense performance that motivated us to want to keep doing it. After some time, we were invited into UGLY Gallery on Union St to avoid the weather and do it year-round. After UGLY Gallery closed, we did not continue the Cyphers, feeling it was the end of an era for us. I stumbled upon a grant to do a public art display from New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) and was encouraged to submit the Cyphers for consideration. I was approved and here we are again. Bringing something back that I never thought I would pursue again.
The AHA gigs are very much in IRL – are you ready to leave cyber-life?
This is such a fantastic question. I never thought I would display so much of myself online. I was always in a love/hate relationship with my social media. I love that I’m comfortable with myself online and yes, I have been desperate for a way to be accessible to the public in a forum outside of the internet. I am anxious to display myself and my peers’ ability, talent and skill in real time and IRL.
You’re very active on social media – how important is it for an artist to maintain that exposure, and what impact has it had on how you create?
I sold cars for a short time and an OG of a salesman told me on the first day “Kid, people don’t buy the car. They buy you.” It always stuck with me. People can buy a car from anywhere, essentially. People can get music anywhere. They can get content anywhere. When they come to me it’s because of me and they seek me out because they respect the brand. I always fought and said “I’M A RAPPER AND A PRODUCER. I DON’T WANT TO BE A COMEDIAN OR AN ONLINE PERSONALITY FOR YOU TO LISTEN TO MY MUSIC.” Until I realized I was asking my art to be in service of me more than I was willing to be in service of it. My art needed me to break out of that mentality. Everything I do is in service of my art, my music. I knew I would have a better time and more pleasurable experiences as well as outcomes if I became in service of my art. That entailed me giving people a reason to choose me over the millions of people they could be listening to at any given time. There is only so much time to consume the infinite amount of offerings there are to stimulate our minds. My presence online has delivered my reason to add me to that list of stimulants. Plus, it’s where the money’s at.