Profiles: Ambi 67

Ambika Lewis“Lovin’ me is complicated.” It’s a Kendrick Lamar line from “Alright,” a song from his sophomore album To Pimp a Butterfly that dropped a few weeks back. The cut’s been on loop here for more than an hour at Ambika “Ambi 67” Lewis’ Brooklyn home studio where the craftsman makes her art, tactful images of broken hearts. They’re shattered pieces of the love muscle that are agonizingly just close enough to be pieced together. So why aren’t they?

Well, as the song goes, Lewis too is complicated. The New York native is the child of a paranoid schizophrenic mother, which made for a bit of a twisted upbringing—one that still challenges her self-worth, how she receives love, but also has spun her into a search for greater meaning in spirituality thanks to extensive reading of books from Carl Sagan and the like.

Lately Ambi’s been working with razor blades, adding an even deeper meaning to her jigsaw-like “Hearts in Pieces” series. Like most, she’s still figuring it all out—herself and the art that lines her studio walls. But it’s all serving as inspiration for her thoughtful pieces. Sometimes the cure for a busy mind is a creative outlet. Ambika’s found her’s, which is good sign that she’ll be alright.

Watch the video above, then visit her Hearts in Pieces website.

Profiles: Ro James

All images shot by Joao Gonzalez.

The son of a military man probably knows a thing or two about routines. Proving the idea so, here is Ro James deep in Brooklyn, New York getting his set in order at Brooklyn 1834, a creative clubhouse of sorts where a fully functional rehearsal space—jumbo speakers, drums, keyboards, guitars, the whole shebang—crank in a room just steps away from the kitchen table.

Ro’s cooking, wailing lines from “Indiana Jones,” one of several fan-favorites from his 2013 trilogy EPs Coke, Jack, and Cadillacs. On the eve of his concert with buddy and fellow R&B singer Luke James (no relation) at Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom, Ro spends as much time still and quiet as he does singing, listening to his band work themselves into their groove and figuring out where his rugged voice fits in.

After ironing out a few kinks, the crew takes a break. Ro nestles next to a window with sunlight beaming through. This February afternoon is frigid, just hours removed from the city’s latest snow storm. Ro’s gotten warm from singing. Now his mission is to remain so. Though he calls New York home, he clearly could go for a trip to balmy Hawaii or California—both places he’s spent considerable time in the past.

“You see me over here dying with all these layers?” he jokes. “I got, like, three more under this [sweater]. Fuck that.”  Once settled, Ro gets to talking about his unpolished style, how a cocktail of love, sex and women inspire his music and what to expect from his debut album with RCA Records.

Watch the video below for that and performance footage from rehearsal:

Follow Ro James on Twitter and Instagram.

All pictures shot by Joao Gonzalez at Brooklyn 1834 on Feb. 24, 2015

Profiles: Hollywood Hino

Hollywood Hino at Church Street Boxing Gym on Feb. 21, 2015. Shot by Joao Gonzalez.

A wintry mix falls onto the quiet streets of the New York City’s Financial District. With the weather being the type that encourages most to bury themselves under blankets, it’s a wonder that Church Street Boxing gym is as busy as it is. The ring has two sparring boxers, both hoping not to be knocked to the mat before noon. An assumed heavyweight seemingly bench pressing two mini fridges is not too far off. Feet from there a beefy woman jumps rope as Meek Mill’s “House Party” pumps from the speakers. Saturday mornings clearly mean “Work” here.

And down a tunnel, way beyond the noise of the power lifters and punch-throwers, one man is raising his own raucous: Hino Ehikhamenor. The former cruiserweight boxer turned celebrity personal trainer is leading his training camp class. Umpteen sweaty, paying customers are either trying to make good on their New Year’s resolutions or simply just want to have their shit in order by the time Manhattan gets warm. For the latter, “Hollywood Hino”—who lists  athletes like Carmelo Anthony and pop stars like Kelly Rowland as clients—has a simple message that doubles as an urgent warning.

“27 days until spring!” he barks. Playtime’s over. Watch his video profile—shot by me—below:

For info on when and where you can find Hino for class, go to his site here or Twitter there.