Armed with a camera and a shitload of confidence, Londoner Imran Ciesay spent the summer of 2013 blagging his way into hip hop shows in New York, saying he was from a company in London. Unsure what to do with the photos, he called a friend back home, imploring him to take pictures in London so they could make a Tumblr. And Places+Faces – the UK’s coolest lifestyle brand – was born.
Fast forward to 2017, Ciesay and co-founder Solomon Boyede (aka. Soulz) have captured insider portraits of the freshest artists going – Playboi Carti, Lil Yachty and even elusive Frank Ocean among them. They’ve created streetwear, a ‘zine, thrown parties around the world, and have just released a mixtape.
We caught up with Ciesay to find out more about the brand, the mixtape, and future plans.
If people like it that's cool but you don't do it for other people.
After you got started, how did you grow the brand?
Ciesay: It all happened naturally: the first year it was just us going around with our cameras taking photos and in 2014 we made these two hoodies for us to wear – like business cards. We put up pictures of the hoodies and people really wanted to buy them, so we ended up making them as merch. It grew from there – we just make it for ourselves and if people fuck with it then they fuck with it. That's the whole mentality.
What about the mixtape? Why did you choose the artists that are on it?
A lot of the artists on the tape are friends of mine and they're sick. It's me using my platform to push out my friends who make dope music, getting people around the world listen too. It's based on friendships and embodying what Places+Faces is. We're not just photographers, we build relationships with people: it’s a way of showing our relationships with people in another medium.
On a world platform, UK hip-hop still doesn't necessarily get much airtime – is that something you're addressing?
The UK sound isn't appreciated as much as American hip-hop, but now with the internet you don't necessarily need the radio or TV to showcase our sound. With this tape it's about our artists and wanting to push them over there. It's not grime, it's not drill, it's not like Skepta or Section Boyz. It's easy-to-listen-to rap – like what A$AP Rocky does. There's not really a spotlight for that in the UK because most people across the pond are focussing on grime and UK trap. They aren't noticing there's actually something a bit different but equally as dope. I want to use this tape to showcase that.
You might come to a Places+Faces party and bump into someone from the A$AP Mob
You throw parties all over the world. How do you form these connections?
Oh you know, people just want our presence in their cities. They've heard about the brand and they know our relations with people. They know that a Places+Faces party in their city is a) gonna be crazy epic and b) you never know who could pop up. You might come to a Places+Faces party and bump into someone from the A$AP Mob. In Tokyo we had Giggs there. We had this Japanese rapper called Kohh, he doesn't really do club or party appearances but, because of our relationships and because we've known him for a little while, he just came through and performed at that event.
I read that you'd love for Places+Faces to be like how people look at photos of Biggie in the 90s. There's reluctance from some hip hop fans to embrace artists like, say, Lil Yachty - will there be the same reverence for the 2010s as the 90s?
There are 15 year olds who listen to Lil Yachty who might not know who Joe Budden is – if him and Joe Budden did a song together then that teenager might start listening to Joe Budden. But why should they when they’ve grown up listening to Lil Yachty? When I was young my parents would listen to Run DMC, but I was never a fan, I liked Biggie. In the next 10 years, today’s [artists] might be regarded as the legends of this generation. The people from the older generations have to get with the times – some guys just hate anything new and cool.
What are Places+Faces’ future plans?
Just more content. Releasing more music on the Soundcloud. We've launched a sound imprint which isn't necessarily a label but it's a way for me to release the music of my friends, having artists and producers that I like, and creating epic things. We're just continuing doing what we're doing: more pop-up stores, more exhibitions, working on the second issue of the magazine. I'm just going to keep doing stuff that I like and see what happens really.
What should newcomers know about Places + Faces?
If people like it that's cool but you don't do it for other people. We do it so we can look back in a couple of years and be like 'Oh shit! Look what we did! This is what we achieved. Fuck yeah!’
Visit Places+Faces at placesplusfaces.com
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