Hoping the music guides him to a new creative place, the photographer hits play on his iPod docking station.
There’s a nice, jazzy ring to the tune, titled “Kush Dreams,” as its velvety saxophone escapes from the speakers and grooves its way around the Wilmington studio. The photographer’s subject, a big-time rapper from Philadelphia, instantly falls in love with the track, while going through his Rolodex of poses for the camera, as he stands before a black backdrop. He’s looking dapper, too, sporting a black suit, red carnation, red suspenders, dark shades and black fedora hat.
Lip syncing to “Kush Dreams,” with outstretched arms as if he were channeling his inner Frank Sinatra, it’s apparent the photographer’s method of playing the song has further loosened up the emcee, allowing the photographer to inch closer to a creative residence where no GPS system could ever take him. And After nearly an hour of snapping photos, the photographer, Joe del Tufo, of Arden, finally accomplishes plan A: he successfully captured photos of Beanie Sigel for the cover of his new album “This Time,” slated to drop July 17.
The shoot was held on a chilly Monday afternoon on the second floor of The Grand, where the creative firm Mobius New Media is located. A founding partner of Mobius, del Tufo said his aim for the shoot was to “come up with a classy, black-on-black shot of Beanie supported by a high-energy, colorful slow-shutter shot of cars zipping through a city.
“Since Beanie lives in Philly it makes sense, but I don't want it to be an obvious shot of Philly. I want the focal point to be an iconic portrait of Beanie, and for the energy behind him to elevate that image.”
Sigel, who has been accustomed to doing cliché rap album covers — in which he’s posed in a jail or beside a brick wall — felt del Tufo’s concept coincided with the new and improved him.
“I just want my album to be so different than what’s out there now,” said Sigel, who recently released his latest mix tape “Broad Street Empire Vol 1: Lost Files” on Datpiff.com. “Other shoots that I did were in my neighborhood in Philly.”
del Tufo landed the photo assignment for Sigel through his longtime pal Dean Sciarra, a partner of the sub label called Label3Am, which distributes through EMI Music where Beanie landed a distribution deal.
Prior to doing the shoot, Sciarra let del Tufo hear an unmastered version of Sigel’s track “Kush Dreams,” which will appear on “This Time.” After hearing the tune, del Tufo said the concept for the album cover began to come alive.
Page 2 of 3 - “It made me think of some of the styling of some of the more recent Cadillac commercials, where they’ll have someone driving through the city at night and you see the reflection of the city as they’re moving,” del Tufo said. “That visual stuck in my head.”
For more information on Beanie Sigel’s new album “This Time,” visit emimusic.com
With the photo shoot for the album cover completed, del Tufo whisked Sigel — as well as his manager, Christian Auble, producer Alex “Don Cheegro” Chiger and Sciarra — downstairs to The Grand’s luminous dressing room, located on the basement level, for plan B: promo shots of Sigel.
While heading down on the elevator, Sigel felt the need to do an impromptu Al Pacino impression.
“Every time I try to get out… they pull me back in,” Sigel quipped.
Inside the spacious dressing room, del Tufo had Sigel pose while seated, with one foot planted and another resting on a chair. He even had him pose with a plastic rose in his mouth like a bullfighter; and the rapper ate it up. A half hour flew by and the shoot was a wrap.
Spilling the Beans
Once summoned back to the second floor, Sigel began to open up on “This Time,” an album that might strike the Sigel faithful as a complete departure from what they’re used to the rapper dishing up.
Featuring 11 cuts on the album — with features from Akon and State Property, as well as production by the likes of CertiFYD, Cheegro and others — a few of the tracks Sciarra previewed sounded like songs that would fall into the category of funk and jazz. In fact, the tune “The Reunion,” featuring State Property, is one of those funky tracks, and includes a nasty sample from Sly and The Family Stone’s “You Can Make It If You Try.”
And from the tracks that were played, it also sounded like Sigel toned down his language on the album.
“They say when you’re a child you think as a child, you understand as a child,” Sigel said. “But when you get older you put childish things aside. It’s just me growing, man, into a man and making music. Eventually I want to get to the point where if my children can’t listen to the music I make, then I shouldn’t make that kind of music. So this music is the beginning stage of transition, of me just making the kind of music that I’d like to make. I don’t listen to rap music on my off time.”
Page 3 of 3 - So what does he listen to?
“I listen to the oldies, man. I listen to Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass,” Sigel said.
But concerning “This Time,” Sciarra said listeners will hear a couple of traditional hip-hop tunes on the album. Furthermore, Auble maintains that Sigel’s bully persona has been injected throughout the entire project, so his fans should fear not.
“It’s still in there,” Auble said. “He’s not losing any of his street cred.”
Life after rap
Surprisingly, Sigel’s rapping days might be numbered. Moving forward, he said it’s possible he’ll drop “one or two more albums and then I’m done.”
Recognizing he can’t rap forever, he says he enjoys cooking and is considering developing his own cooking show titled “Cooking with Beans,” which he’d like to have aired on the Food Network or OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). He’s also been entertaining the idea of crafting a cartoon titled “The Playpen.”
“It’s about State Property, the group, as kids and they go to this daycare center everyday,” Sigel said of the cartoon. “But the daycare center is like us going to jail because we don’t want to be there, so we try to escape the daycare center everyday. It’s sort of like the “Rugrats” infused with the “Muppet Babies.”
Sigel would pen the script, while his good friend Carl Jones (illustrator for “The Boondocks”) would handle the illustrations.
The emcee didn’t disclose which TV network he’d like “The Playpen” to air on. And no timetable has been set for that show or “Cooking with Beans,” Sigel said.