Jonathan Mannion and Beats By Dre Reflect on More Than Two Decades of Hip Hop
When Jonathan Mannion arrived in New York City in 1993, he came to start working on his photography career, but part of what he brought with him from Clevland Ohio was a deep passion for the world of hip hop. His musical tastes represented a pantheon of styles and genres, but what he found in Hip Hop was unparalleled. The genre in that form was relatively new to scene having been focused by the formation of N.W.A. just a few years earlier, and Jonathan’s early interest meant that he was able to secure access to figures in that scene that would help shape the furture of his career. “I was honing my craft working for major photographers like Steven Klein and Richard Avedon, but still chasing and pursuing what I had incredible access to in New York which was the music scene,” explains Jonathan. “I was able to craft and contribute because my formal training in photography and my love for the music. So it really became about storytelling and telling the richest story and making these people that I admired so much for their musical talent look incredible.” A little over twenty years later, as Hip Hop has become the dominant musical force in the world, we’re starting to take stock of that history and understand where it began. The release of ‘Straight Outta Compton’ is another step towards the popular understanding of this incredibly influential community, and Jonathan Mannion was the natural choice for Beats By Dre’s campaign promoting the film.
‘Straight Outta Compton’ is technically a biopic in that it is a movie that dramatizes the actual events that took place in the late 1980s with the formation of N.W.A. and the creation of the eponymous EP. But Hip Hop’s roots are of contention, struggle, and more than anything the need to be heard. These are issues that are as present today as they were back then, and it’s been the responsibility of the film and production to do justice to them. “I really think that they nailed the feeling, the style, the emotion in the movie. These are young kids that were doing something that was absolutely groundbreaking for the world, and then realized their voice in the process,” says Jonathan. “I just think that awareness, and certainly there’s a ways to go with everything we’re seeing, but it brings some of these issues right to the forefront that I would say this generation is so passionate about.” As Jonathan tells it, when they were putting together the campaign with Beats that would ultimately feature 100 different artists, athletes, and influencers, the point wasn’t about focusing on product, but instead paying homage to how N.W.A. reshaped the scene and made space for a company like Beats By Dre possible.
By taking the title ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ N.W.A. put forth a hypothesis stating how influential a hometown can be for an artist, a creator, a person. Jonathan completely agrees with this statement as he’s seen it in his own life. “I’m from Cleveland and that built me and formed me into a certain type of individual,” says Jonathan. “So what was really at the core of this idea were these major artists, influencers, athletes, and tastemakers claiming where they’re from as part of the growth of who they’ve become.”
At the end of a shoot that included one hundred different subjects, Jonathan was tired, hungry, but most of all thankful. “To be part of something like this one can only be grateful, you know you’re part of something special,” he says.
We've included a behind the scenes video from the shoot with Beats By Dre where you can see artists like Stalley, Warren G, Bow Wow, and Omarion talking about how awesome it was to work with Jonathan and extolling his virtues. Well deserved, of course.
We are thrilled to welcome Jonathan Mannion to the roster at B&A. Check out his portfolio here.