Local hip-hop photographer Jeremy Pape shares a few stories behind some of his iconic snapshots
If a picture says 1,000 words, then Jeremy Pape’s hard-drive must be like a stack of dictionaries. There isn’t a photographer or videographer more involved in the local hip-hop scene. His cameras witness amazing moments in Denver’s bustling industry and have been pivotal to its meteoric rise over the past three years.
He and his Welcome to the D.O.P.E Game collective create amazing art all over Colorado, but his assistance doesn’t stop with just his close friends. Many artists have had the pleasure of meeting this hard-working, positive-energy-spreading workhorse. But alas, fans rarely see Pape’s beautiful mug in any photos or videos. Instead, he’s on the other side of the lens, making sure everyone else looks fresh and dapper.
We asked Pape to share a small selection of his favorite photos he’s shot, and to touch on the stories behind each of them.
“Man these guys have been the big bros since I came in the scene three years ago. They were the first concert I attended, and the first rappers I loved from Denver. This is at a video shoot for ‘True Blood’ (fun fact this video never came out because it was too violent). I was wasted and that is a loaded gun I'm holding. This is one part of a series of pictures Derek (For Love Of Still) snapped of Foe realizing what's going on and saving Yonnas' life. I will forever look up to these dudes. BLKHRTS!!”
Whygee (behind is Quiz aka Sunken State and TK Kayembe)
“TK's studio was always wild. So many good drugs done and dope songs made! But this is about Whygee. He is the man who started my career. He encouraged me to make videos and to get paid for them. He taught me how to be tough (because you can't survive the art world as a nice guy). I looked up to Whygee — still do. He made me the man I am today: A dude who isn't just going to complain about the issues we see, but make a plan of attack and change the shit. I owe a lot of what I have today to this man.”
“Everything I do is for this man. (He’s) the reason why the D.O.P.E. Game is what it is today. He was the backbone of our movement. He was the big brother to many, teacher to all, and epic MC! All he wanted was a desk, so we got him that. Now we are gonna take the world. LONG LIVE MARCUS ARRILIUS.”
“I am Catch's biggest fan. He is — to me — the best MC to come out of Denver, hands down! He took me in when I had nowhere to live in Atlanta; and since then he has been my brother, having wild adventures all across the country. This pic we snagged up at his family ranch when he, Hustle Man, Robbie, and I went up to shoot a video. Catch will always and forever be my brother from another mother.”
“Mannnnnnn these boys go hard. You can't talk Denver hip-hop without the glue that is Graham Nation, Spencer Forman and wild ass Mikey. I've raged across the states with these boys and love every second I spend with them. This was nabbed at Shitbird, a motorcycle shop and epic clubhouse for us dirtbags.”
Welcome to the D.O.P.E. Game
“My fucking family. Though not everyone is pictured in this image, they know it's love. It's been family business from the start, and I'm so thankful for each and everyone in my crew. I took this one during our mixtape push in the summer of 2014. From Tommy Brown (who I called after he dropped ‘In this Bitch’ to join cause he blew me away) to Hustle Man (who is now one of the closest friends I have ever had). I am so honored to have a band of brothers and sisters (Ru Johnson keeps me sane, I couldn't do anything without her). I love my D.O.P.E. family with all I have and am so proud of what we have become. We ran the streets that summer and set the bar high for all hip-hop movements to follow.”
DJ Ktone and “Momma Tone”
“You also can't talk Denver hip-hop without Ktone. Though he's not an MC, it's the DJs that get the music out. Ktone breaks the records in town and reps for his people harder than anyone I know. I have the honor to be his go-to documentarian for his birthday bashes. This was during his 7th annual joint with the amazing ‘Momma Tone.’”
Kalyn of Wheelchair Sports Camp
“The silent assassin of Denver hip-hop. This chick is freaking everywhere: From local news like Westword, to national acclaim like Vice — Kalyn runs shit. She's always reppin' "Don't Oppress Positive Energy (D.O.P.E.)" through the gear and her actions. I captured this moment when she came by the D.O.P.E game compound to help us plan the Clean Water Around the World trip to Haiti because she — being the woman she is — crests production for Haitian MCs to rhyme over. She inspires me both in life and creatively.”
“Lily is a vagrant traveler. Showing up in my life last year to blow me away, she has quickly crushed the Denver hip-hop scene with her amazing rhymes and thoughtful lifestyle. This was when we rocked six shows in three days — this one being a packed out Snowball stage. My girl for life.”
DJ Mu$a and Johnny Denver
“Hip-hop in Denver is alive because of these two. Say what you want, but these two keep the culture alive and I will argue that until the day they bury me. Mu$a is a culture creator and is always challenging the community to ask what can we do better. Johnny is a man who diligently works to book the best talent in town and I'm thankful they both step up to play the roles they do. This was at a Westword Music showcase. Not knowing Johnny well but understanding his huge imprint in the community I had to get this legendary photo.”
“As his name suggests, this man puts on for the town. The newest member of WOKE — a huge hip hop movement from Los Angeles — Jahni is a workhorse. I've had the honor of documenting his growth from his early days up until now, where his is about to embark on a national tour with Dizzy Wright. Taking a route that most MCs in Denver miss, Jahni doesn't partake in too much town politics. Instead, he gets out and gets his. He has grown to be an amazing friend of mine and I'm honored to hustle along side this equally motivated fellow Leo.”
FL and Oren of The Foodchain
“The Foodchain, ‘nuff said. If you know Denver music you know these two. I have always been a huge fan of the group, but these two — in particular — have a special spot in my heart. I had the joy to really get to know these two, make art with them, and share life. Not only are these the two most talented MCs both locally and nationally: They are the most kind, honest, and good hearted men I have ever met. I'd do anything for these two and love them dearly. These were taken during the 2014 4/20 rally as they commanded the stage, showing Denver why they really run this town.”
“Town favorite? Yes. Huge national success? Yes. Inspiration for many? Hell fucking yes. I was originally intimidated by Pries as he carries himself as the star he is. However, as I grew to know the man, he is a kind hearted renaissance man. Lyrics, artwork, stage presence — he's got it all. This was shot during the #3hree cypher (which I'd like to note that I love all those artists and if I could make the list longer I'd have them all. SP, Doe, and The Reminders are some of the towns best local talent that are moving on a huge national scale! Big ups to Francois and Mic Coates for really pushing the boundaries for Denver music. #3hree).”
“Well, this is my best friend in the whole wide world. I could write a novel about why this dude is great. We met in 2011 and had a dream of making the dopest rap team in Denver. We did that. He's always believed in me and I in him. We've grown together, hurt together, celebrated together and just shared life. This picture was taking during one of the best days of my life when TEEJ played Red Rocks during the Nas and Flying Lotus show. He’s rocking our custom Create Karma/“Don’t Oppress Positive Energy” jersey. This is my day one dude and I can't wait to see where life takes us next. I fucking love this dude with all my heart!”
Trev Rich and AP
“Man, SQUIZZY N****S RUN SHIT. These guys crush rap. Lyrics, style, fashion, and attitude, my guys have it all. If I were to bet on one artist from Denver it would be Trev with a quick follow up of AP. I just might be their biggest fan. I've had the honor of working closely with these dudes for the past year and have no intention of slowing down. Even when they blow I'll be right behind them with my camera documenting every step of the way. This was taken from an impromptu shoot we did when they stopped by my studio to talk business. When I'm around that kind of creative energy there's nothing that can stop me from getting my camera. Love these dudes and pray for them daily because they got next.