[Exclusive] Kollaboration: Atlanta Style

Cloud cover by: Terri, Managing Editor :-}

Grand Prize Winner Adam WarRock ~ Photo by Johnny Cheng

Collaboration. It’s an inviting word.  One that implies cooperation, coordination, a coming together of like minds in an effort to create something great.  But when you spell it Kollaboration, the word becomes something more than great.  It becomes empowering.

Center Stage Theater, in Midtown Atlanta ~ Photo by Jim Thornton

On Saturday, March 26, 2011, the Cloud USA staff was lucky enough to be invited to Kollaboration Atlanta 4, a talent competition hosted by Kollaboration, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage the diverse talents of Asian Pacific Islander (API) youth and empower them by:

  1. providing at-risk youth with a creative outlet and leadership training that serves as an alternative to gang activity and delinquency;
  2. offering API families a platform for communication that bridges the gap between first generation parents and latter generation youth; and
  3. raising awareness in the API community-at-large for other critical community issues and non-governmental organizations.

Kollaboration, the movement, was founded in 2000, in Los Angeles, by Executive Director Paul “PK” Kim.  Under the watchful eye of Executive Producer Roy Choi, in 2006, Kollaboration finally became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  Since then, each year, 10 cities across the United States (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Tulsa, and Washington DC) host competitive Kollaboration showcases of their own to spotlight an array of local talent ranging from musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, and more.  The winners of each of the competitions receive cash and other prizes, to assist them with furthering their chosen careers.

PR Head Mary Gui ~ Photo courtesy of Kollaboration

All we can say is Kollaboration’s mantra, “Empowerment through Entertainment,” was in full force at this year’s Atlanta event, which was held at Center Stage, in Midtown.   In spite of our being 15 minutes late (due to the horrific weather), Kollaboration Atlanta’s PR Head, Mary Gui, graciously met us at the stage door and escorted us backstage to meet some of the performers [the us being Cloud USA staff Managing Editors Stephe and Terri (also Hellokpop.com’s Chief Editor), and Jim, Cloud USA’s photographer/videographer)].  After a few introductions, we headed upstairs and stationed ourselves in the press area of the lobby, where we hoped to chat with and take photos of as many of this year’s participants as we could before the show began.

While we were waiting for the first group to appear and the speed interviews to start, we were lucky enough to meet one of the judges, Antwain Hart.  Antwain is one of eight members of Jungle Boogie Crew, a dance crew from Stone Mountain, Georgia that nabbed 4th place in season 5 of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew.

Antwain Hart, Jungle Boogie Crew ~ Photo by J. Thornton

Although he was busy, Antwain was kind enough to say hello and to let us snap his photo.  Two other members, Raqi Carter and BeeJay Harris, were also there to help judge the contestants, but we didn’t get to talk to them.

A few days later I was able to catch up with the crew and they sent me the following message:

“It was great to see so much Atlanta talent in one place at one time, but it also made the judging even harder to do!”  ~Jungle Boogie Crew

Jungle Boogie Crew, a dance crew with its own star rising, is trained in over 10 dance styles, but is best known for “cranking,” a Southern dance technique.  In 2010, the crew appeared in the 2010 feature film Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming, and more recently the placed 3rd in the 2011 Urban Street Jam competition in Los Angeles, California.

Jungle Boogie Crew’s next major appearance here in Atlanta will be at Atlanta’s first Urban Street Jam, on June 25, 2011, at Georgia State University’s Rialto Center.

We also want to give a nod to Kellindo Parker, who also served as a judge for the event.  We didn’t get to speak to him at the event, but when we tweeted to him later, asking him for a quote about the experience, he kindly responded, saying:

Kellindo Parker is the lead guitarist, composer and arranger for three-time Grammy-nominated singer Janelle Monae.

The other esteemed judges for the event were: Andrew Alexander, from Creative LoafingJennifer Brett, from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Carlton Lynn, Mix Engineer from Milk Money, and Producer, Engineer and Drummer (again, for Janelle Monae), Mikey Phillips.

After we interviewed eight of the show’s contestants, we packed up our gear and headed into the theater to find a good seat.  We managed to finagle a spot pretty close to the stage and right next to our DJ team for the night, The Space Kids.

The Space Kids: Mark Guinto (Martian) & Will Reyes (Strongwill) ~Photo by Jim Thornton

The Space Kids consists of Mark Guinto (Martian) and Will Reyes (Strongwill) who began their DJ careers in the San Diego college circuit.  It wasn’t long before they found themselves moving on to clubs and events throughout Southern California and beyond. We can see why.

Kollaboration's Exec. Prod./Pres. Roy Choi ~ Photo by David Lu

Some pre-show freestyle by audience members warmed up the crowd and then the event began.  Roy Choi, Executive Producer and President of Kollaboration’s national network was a wonderful host and introduced each act with flair. Performer after performer enthralled the audience and moved with grace from nerdcore rapping and melodic mash-ups to Christian inspiration and hip hop swagger.

The show even included an intermission that began with a performance from Kollaboration Atlanta 2010’s Grand Champion, Lost in the Gym, and ended with a freestyle dance competition, where the winner won $250.00, thanks to the competition’s generous sponsor, Red Mango).

One of the impromptu dancers tickled audience members (and hellokpop.com/Cloud USA staffers) as he performed a flawless imitation of Rain’s Hip Song grind.  Alas, he wasn’t the winner.  :-}

Rain's Hip Song Grind ~ Photo by Johnny Cheng

After the show, we were invited to the after-party.  I tell you, there’s nothing more intimidating than being at an after-party crowded with professional dancers.  Nothing.  I don’t think Jim and Stephe were as overwhelmed as I was though, because while I was absorbed in conversation with one of Kollaboration’s sponsors, Eric Lu of StateFarm Insurance, Jim and Stephe vanished in the direction of the dance floor.

They said they were going to scout a good quote or two from one of the winners, but I suspect what they were really doing out there on that dance floor was krumpin’.  :-} Ah, well.  I guess I’ll never know, because before I could go check them out, they were back.  We had to leave the party far too early, so we could get back to work here at Cloud USA and hellokpop.com.  Still, do I need to even say that we had a terrific time?  No, I didn’t think so.  :-}

In the United States, where mainstream media and entertainment careers for Asians and Pacific Islanders are few and far between, Kollaboration’s work is admirable.  The organization’s history is even more impressive when you think about how far they’ve come in the past 11 years–from that one stage at the University of Southern California to 10 stages, each year, across the nation.

Also impressive is the talent that is quietly being discovered on their stages:

  • In 2001, Dave Elsewhere Bernal performed for Kollaboration audiences.  The video of him performing his unique dance moves became “one of the most viral videos in Internet history” and landed Dave “numerous job offers in film and, television and commercials.”

(Video Credit: )

  • In 2003, a little known group from Los Angeles, called Far East Movement, took to the stage and wowed the crowd with their hot, electro-pop act.


  • In 2006, a crew of dancers from Los Angeles captivated Kollaboration’s audience with their athleticism and innovation.  Their name was Quest Crew, and in 2009, they went on to conquer the national stage as America’s Best Dance Crew.

(Official QUEST CREW Channel)

Cloud USA salutes Kollaboration for its valiant efforts and hopes its successful stages will continue for many years to come.

In keeping with our own mission to promote Korean (and other Asian American) culture here in the metro Atlanta area, Cloud USA is in the process of creating a Kollaboration feature page.  That page should be up and running next week and will include not only the rest of the full-length interviews we conducted at Kollaboration Atlanta 4, but also some casual photos and videos we captured during the event.  We do plan on updating the page with any juicy Kollaborative tidbits we run across from time to time.  So, please revisit the page every now and then.

In the meantime, below are our full-length interviews with Adam WarRock, this year’s Grand Prize Winner, and Purple Elephant Society, this year’s 2nd Place Winner.  We hope you will enjoy reading about these extremely talented young people as much as we enjoyed meeting them.  They were a pleasure to work with and even more fun to watch on the stage.  Cloud USA wishes all of them every success on the road to super-stardom.

Kollaboration Atlanta 4’s Grand Prize Winner:  Adam WarRock

Grand Prize Winner Adam WarRock ~ Photo by Johnny Cheng

One of our first conversations of the night was with Kollaboration Atlanta 4’s Grand Prize Winner Adam WarRock.  Even as we swooped down on him with our voice recorder and video camera, Adam greeted us warmly and grinned effusively, eager to talk about his work as a Nerdcore Rapper.

Terri:  So, we read a little bit about you online, and I have to tell you, what I read was fascinating.  Fascinating.

Adam: Yeah. I imagine—that’s one word to call it.

Terri:  So.  Nerdcore Rapper?

Adam:  Yeah.

Stephe:  How long did it take you to come up with that description? I mean, that’s really something else.

Grand Prize Winner, Adam WarRock ~ Photo by Jim Thornton

Adam:  (Laughs) Well, it was the kind of music it was, mostly. I did a lot of stuff in college, and back then, there was a lot of Indie and Underground Rap? When you’re in college, you make it [your music] about all this stuff you think is meaningful. And then I took some time off, and I came back to start making music again.  And I didn’t have all that emotional angst.

Terri:  That youthful rage?

Adam:  Yeah. That feeling that there was so much depth in every word I wrote. And so I just decided to write about stuff I liked. And that stuff turned out to be about movies and comic books and my friends’ web comics and my friends’ websites. It just all started out as a joke.  From there, we just kind of started making more music, and it kind of caught on in a couple of ways.

Terri:  Right. You know, I actually listened to your album: War for Infinity, the the other day. I was researching you and I just ended up listening to all of the songs—the whole thing. It was that interesting.

Adam:  Thank you very much.

Terri: I was fascinated by the concept. I’m not a comic book fan, but I know Stephe is.

Stephe:  Yes, I am.  Thank you.

Adam:  Nice!

Terri  So, I’m sure she was fascinated.  But let’s talk a little bit about your history.  You were an attorney at one point?

Grand Prize Winner Adam WarRock Photo by Jim Thornton

Adam:   I was. I practiced law. I went to law school, which is why I stopped making music. I actually had the chance to actually go and make albums, and so I said, you know?  That’s for younger people, and I’m going to go and do this serious thing, and I went to law school. That’s why I stopped for a while. I was working and I was really miserable all the time, and suddenly I realized that it was because I hadn’t been creating anything.

So, I started making it [music] up for fun, on the side. Like I said, I just needed a place to kind of put songs to show people, and so I started a website. I never intended it to be more than just a thing that  my friends would listen to, but then a couple of songs kind of caught on and blew up and gave me the chance to quit my job on one very impulsive day of bad boss interaction and work—things like that.

Stephe: Really?

Adam:  Yes.  I practiced law for about 3 years.

Terri:  But this—your music—it’s a full-time job for you now?

Adam:  It is. It is.

Stephe: Yay!

Adam:  [Laughs]  I’ve been traveling. I don’t think I’ve had a consecutive weekend at home, because I go and do shows everywhere, and I record music. So.

Terri:  Very good.  So, what are you going to be doing for us tonight, here at Kollaboration Atlanta?

Adam:  It was hard! Because I didn’t really know what to do, since it’s like a cross-genre show?  A lot of people that listen to the stuff I make are not rap fans.  So, I’m very hesitant to do an aggressive rap song for a crowd that’s not all into it. So, I’m doing a song that I actually made for my friend, Phil and his site, called angryasianman.com.

Terri:  Yeah, we know that one.  [Stephe affirms, with a grin and a nod.]

Adam:  Yeah! So, I’m friends with Phil, and I made a song for his 10th anniversary called, Angry Asian Man. The song is about my experiences growing up as an Asian American here in the South.  I grew up in the South.  There is a lot of racism you have to deal with here.

Terri: Absolutely.

Adam:  You know, you’re angry at first, and then you kind of grow older?  The song’s about kind of letting go of that anger, but being thankful that other people still focus on it, like Phil’s site.  Because, you know, not all of us can keep that energy up through all of the other things that we do. So, it’s kind of like a personal song and it’s appropriate for the theme of the Asian American performers here.  Hopefully people will like it.

Adam WarRock in the Spotlight ~ Photo by Jim Thornton

Terri:  I’m sure they will. So, what are you doing next?

Adam:  Next, I’m going to California for 2 and a half weeks or so. I will be on a panel with Racebending.com, actually at WonderCon 2011, in San Francisco. Then, I have a couple of shows in Los Angeles.  I’m doing a show on April 11, at Meltdown Comics, through Nerdist.com, which Chris Hardwick runs.  After that, it will be on to the next thing—whatever that is—whatever my calendar says. I don’t really remember what. I just know it’s the next thing. You know? That’s pretty much about all I can keep tabs on.

Terri:  Great! Is there anything you want the world of K-Pop to know?  Anything that you might want to tell our readers?  Or is there anything you might want to tell young musicians out there—any advice you might want to give them?

Adam:  I would say two things. First, if you don’t think you like rap or hip-hop, there’s probably someone out there that makes rap or hip-hop that you might like. ‘Cause you can say a lot in it. There are a lot of people who don’t do rap that is about really vulgar, offensive stuff. There is always a place to find that. Second, if you want to make art about something completely stupid? That you think is stupid? Well, there may be a lot of people who will want to hear it. That’s what I’ve discovered. I make songs about Ira Glass and comic books and people actually like it, and I’ve been thankful for that.

Backstage with Adam WarRock & Oscar Mendez ~ Photo courtesy of Kollaboration

Stephe:  Right.  One thing we found fascinating was your reason for getting into rap in the first place–the fact that you thought you could say a lot more with rap than you could in a regular song.

Adam:  Yeah! That’s nice.  I  came from a writing background.  I’ve played instruments and done other stuff, but I’ve always been drawn to writing poetry or performing the spoken word. And somehow I just graduated into doing rap music.

Stephe:  And you do it well.  Have a great show tonight.

Terri:  Please do.  We’re excited.

Adam:  I’m excited too.  Thank you very much.

Adam WarRock Works the Kollaboration Crowd ~ Photo courtesy of Kollaboration

[Author’s Note:  After the performance, we found Adam at his merch table and congratulated him on his win.  We asked him how he felt and he said, “Shocked.”  He said that when the winner was being announced, he was actually behind the group of performers, backstage, checking out text messages on his cell phone, not really believing he had a chance.  So, he was truly shocked when they called his name.  We, however, were not shocked in the least. :-}]

Kollaboration Atlanta 4’s 2nd Place Winner:  Purple Elephant Society

2nd Place Winner, Purple Elephant Society ~ Photo by Jim Thornton

Terri: Tell me a little bit about yourselves–who you are and how you got started and we’ll go from there.

2nd Place Winner, Purple Elephant Society Photo by Jim Thornton

Ajaye: Well, we are the Purple Elephant Society. My name is Allan “Ajaye” Skeen, Jr. [former Swagger Crew member, ABDC 5]  This is Daishandra Loving, Vony Woods and Jason “Caba” Cabacungan [also former Swagger Crew member, ABDC 5], our artistic director.

And we’re the group. We started out actually about a month and a half, two months ago. We had our first auditions for the company. So, we’re a brand new company.

We do all styles of hip hop—popping, locking, breaking, krumping—and we’re going to start branching into more contemporary styles—jazz, funk—and just try to get the well-roundedness together . I said that in the other interview too. So.

Terri: Sounds good. What are you going to do for us tonight?

Ajaye: Tonight we have a special little treat. It is a piece that is based on the Men in Black series. It’s nice and intricate. I don’t know how to explain it. [To Vony] How would we explain it?

Vony: It’s a fun show. We’re going to be doing our best to be entertaining. We just want to put on a good show for you guys.

Terri:  I’m sure we will enjoy it.  So, what’s the plan for Purple Elephant Society as a crew?  As a group?  In the future?

Ajaye: Our plan is to branch out into the Atlanta dance community, in whatever way possible, to go out there and do a lot of community service, get the community involved in dance and the actual industry of dance and learning the technique of not just hip hop, but of all styles of dance.

Then, to incorporate all of that into every show that we do. We also want to give other dancers an opportunity to perform that might not necessarily be able to get the professional training that they could get in another city.

Purple Elephant Society ~ Photo by Johnny Cheng

T: Where are you guys all from? Are you all Atlanta-based?

Ajaye:  Actually, the majority of us are from other places, but we are all based here now. I’m from Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as Vony.  She’s also from Springfield. Daishandra is from Pascal, Washington.

Daishandra: Washington State.

Ajaye:  Yeah. And Jason is—actually you’re from here!

Jason: Yeah, I’m homegrown. I’m from here.

Ajaye: He comes back and forth from Florida. Florida/Atlanta? I don’t know.

Terri: Thank you for taking a little time with us. I know you’re busy—and we’ve run out of time.  They’re about to start the show.

 Stephe: I just wanted to say this. You all were talking in Kollaboration’s promo video about how through dance, you could show your personalities without talking? Without singing? Well, I think you have really good shot. You’re gonna to do fine, because the four of you were great in that [Kollaboration] video. Your personalities came straight out. It was great. So have a great show. We’re going to enjoy watching you.

PES Crew: Thank you.

2nd Place Winner, Purple Elephant Society ~ Photo courtesy of Kollaboration

To see more photos, watch more videos, and read the rest of our interviews with the other performers, please visit Cloud USA’s Kollaboration Page (under construction).


Sources: Cloud USA & Kollaboration Atlanta

~ by Cloud USA on April 25, 2011.

6 Responses to “[Exclusive] Kollaboration: Atlanta Style”

  1. sounds like a great organization


  2. Stuff like this is what I miss most about my home Minneapolis, at least I’m not far away. And good for you ladies.


  3. Yay love Far East Movement and Quest crew. Thank you for sharing this article with us. I enjoyed reading it. There’s so many talented people out there and it’s great to see that Kollaboration is giving them an outlet to show their talent.

    On a side note, I had no clue that Kollaboration was in Houston as well. I went to their website and it was interesting to read.


  4. This organization is doing amazing work for young people and is great that you gave them the opportunity to have a site and be known. That’s very nice of you!! 😀 thanks for posting!!


  5. All of the groups have crazy dance style. And I like it.


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