Spotlight: Raysean Jones, Jr. of Skwad Co.
The first Slumped Skwad event I attended was beautiful. It was a music and art show; artists, musicians, and vendors from all across the Bay Area were given the opportunity to come together, collaborate, and bask in the admiration of their fellow City natives. The mastermind behind it all? Raysean Jones, Jr., also known as @cailloufamous on Instagram. Jones is an entrepreneur, his projects based in the founding of his art/fashion/social collective Skwad Co as well as his passion for making clothes. Jones really seems to do it all, and his confidence exudes even through the phone, his wise words and the lessons he’s learned derived from years of experience and non-stop hustle.
SUEY had the opportunity to converse with him about his many endeavors, as well as his work’s goals and philosophies. Here is the outcome of our discussion.
First off, where are you located?
Bayview-Hunter’s Point in San Francisco.
How has being based there inspired you in your work and artistic career?
Being around people who are hustlers and who would do whatever is necessary to both express themselves and make money has really motivated me as far as entrepreneurship goes. In San Francisco, there’s a bunch of different types of people, but everybody does what they gotta do to get to where they wanna go.
Creating art is a lifestyle. How do you integrate art into your life?
A lot of my friends are artists, so I like to put them in a position where they can get their work out there. Exposure is so important. My artistry comes from putting events and projects together, as well as doing my own thing with fashion. I make clothes--I do all the screenprinting and dying myself--but as far as uplifting the work of the artists around me, I try to make sure people are on. My brand, Skwad Co, is a collective, and I do a lot of the networking within the collective. I have friends who are photographers, videographers, and musicians. If I know someone has a talent, I’ll try to get them to progress as far as possible by including them in what I’m doing. And helping others get on their shit helps me get on mine: organizing events, making clothes, and “promoting” talented individuals.
Can you explain what “Slumped Skwad” is?
Skwad Co and Slumped SF are two different collectives. Skwad Co is the collective I’m affiliated with, and Slumped SF is our partner. Skwad consists of 9 people and Slumped has 5. Our collaboration is where all the events come from. Everyone does their own unique thing within these collectives, and when we all come together, my duty, with the help of others, is to take control of both collectives and put together our art and music shows. My main medium as an individual artist is clothing; I get the clothes together for Skwad. And when it comes to event organization, I’m the bottom line. I organize the venues, get the merchandise together, help create logos, and facilitate most of the business operations, artist commissions, event promotions, etc.
You put together events and support both your and others’ work online. How has social media affected you, and what are the pros and cons of social media’s growing influence?
Social media is a powerful tool, but I feel like all powerful tools can be used the wrong way. A gun is a powerful tool. It can be used to protect or save lives, but can be responsible for taking lives as well. Social media can save a business or put people in jail. In my experience, the things that go on over social media can even get people killed. Instagram inherently provokes conflict in the way that it’s set up. Comments are anonymous. You don’t have to be held accountable for what you say or do. In that way, social media is a positive and a negative, so I try to put out more positive content than anything; social media gives those who might’ve never had a chance to own their own business or show off their artwork to do exactly that- own their own business. Put out their work. It makes a lot of impossible things a reality for people, because content shared over social media always has the potential to heavily impact others. If I had to name our generation, it would be “Generation Social Media.” My generation grew up without it; we were introduced to it later. But kids who are growing up now are growing up with it. All my nieces and nephews--three-year-olds, four-year-olds--know how to get on social media. They’re all plugged. Social media is getting more and more influential, and I honestly see it heading in a negative direction.
What motivates you to stick to your promotion / clothing work? Where did these passions come from?
I wouldn’t consider myself a promoter, but the “promotion” work I do is all about community. My friend is selling prints, so why would I not support that? My friend is making music, so why would I not connect them?
When it comes to my clothes, I used to make my own tie-dyes in high school. I wore a different tie-dye every single day. And I’ve always been into business: picking up a hustle and sticking with it. As far as being persistent and consistent goes, I’ve observed that if you like doing something, you’ll stick with it. I love making clothes. I love “promoting” the work of talented people I know. And I love the person I’m becoming because I’m immersing myself in this work; I only see progress in my and everyone else’s crafts. I elevate others, and they do well; and when you see someone else doing well, you do well yourself. The cycle continues. Everyone motivates each other. This mindset is so important with my collective, because I’ve always believed in the idea that you’re only as strong as your weakest link. And I can’t forget to mention the people I’ve met through these events and collaborations. All the people I’ve met--artists, musicians, business owners, etc--are genuinely into the things they’re doing, and I love that.
How do you differentiate your work from the rest? What makes your work uniquely and truly your own?
I’m not worried about what other people are doing. If I think too much about separating myself, it’ll throw me off. I try to focus on my own ideas. It’s the same concept as that quote from Floyd Mayweather. It’s pretty smart for a dumb motherfucker. See, most boxers watch videos of their opponents to prepare for their fights, but Mayweather would say, “I don’t watch videos of my opponents because I’ll always be thinking about what to do to counteract their game plan. That means I won’t be following my own game plan.” If I focus on my game plan and stick to what I’m doing--the ideas that I’m passionate about, the ideas that come to me naturally--separation will come. No two minds are exactly the same. People who try to set themselves apart too heavily end up being a part of the crowd.
What or who most inspires you in your work?
My li’l brother. He’s only a year younger than me but he acts like he’s years older. He’s so far ahead of the curb. He has a physical ability that hindered him from walking for a long time, and we’ve watched each other grow. I’ve seen him go from not walking, to walking, to walking on his own, to running, to jumping. He’s always been a hustler and we feed off of each other’s progressive energy. That’s a mindset that translates to all parts of life.
Art is very subjective in nature, and all artists receive some kind of negative and positive feedback from their audiences. What I’d like to know is how have you dealt with negativity, especially when it cuts deep?
With events, sometimes my patience is really tried. There are a lot of people who feel entitled to offer suggestions and criticism I’m not asking for. I’m specifically talking about people who have criticized me for not putting specific musicians in our shows, or putting certain people’s art up, because I really do try to make things all-inclusive. I’ve added vendors and artists to events last minute. I don’t fuck with “real artistry”, I fuck with real artists. I don’t care if your art is “better” than another’s; if I can’t stand behind you, I can’t support your work. I can’t stand behind someone who’s not real. Like if someone steals another person’s content, or if someone doesn’t practice integrity… I’m not going to support that. Being genuine matters more to me than producing “real” art (no one can define what “real” art is anyway). Do you believe in the work you’re producing? Are you doing right by people? If the answer is yes, I’ll fuck with you. If the answer is no, I won't.
And then when it comes to real criticism, like someone thinking my work isn’t good enough… as you said, any expression of myself is subjective, so I don’t care. If you’re not feelin’ it, it’s not for you. I don’t say anyone’s music is trash because that just means it’s not for me. If someone comes out with a track, something that they made and something that they fuck with, who am I to place a value on their work?
What projects/artistic endeavors are you most proud of?
I’ve been doing this for almost 2 years. August 2, 2016 is when my homies and I took off with Skwad Co. Hella Hyphy was one of our biggest events, and one of my greatest accomplishments. It brought the Bay Area together--all the people who are down to be creative and real--and that was beautiful. People were thanking me for letting them come out, or for letting them perform and sell their creations. Through these events, I’m allowed to open other people up to opportunities they deserve. And I’ve met some real motherfuckers in the process. I’m so thankful for that.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
I can’t control people’s perceptions of me, so I can’t tell them what to take away from my work. But I do hope they remember that dedication and sticking to your word is key. If you say you’re gonna do something, don’t quit. Push it all the way until the shit doesn’t work any more. Learn the value of hard work, and how important it is to be genuine. I’m called an asshole a lot because I value being real above all else.
What is a tip you have for other young artists who have similar visions as yours?
People say friends and business don’t mix, but if you and all the people you’re working with are serious about something, it’ll work at the end of the day. If you don’t have those kinds of people around you, be ready to do shit on your own and not take credit, especially if you’re trying to lead a collective like mine. Respect comes after hard work. When people realize how hard you’re working, you’ll get a lot of respect. So if you have an idea, and you have motivation, then the respect and “attention” will come. Don’t be afraid to separate yourself from individuals who aren’t as motivated or enthusiastic as you are. It’s okay to say “no” to people, especially if that’s what you need to do in order to get things done.
You can find Jones’ work on his Instagram page, @cailloufamous, as well as the page for his collective’s events, @slumpedskwadevents.