by Derek “New York” Doyle
Brian “Champtown” Harmon most likely will not be part of your iPod’s repeat playlist, but there’s a good chance that he has been involved with, launched, or discovered a large percentage of the artists that are.
Harmon received a portion of his performance name from his father, and the other from a self-proclaimed status for his hometown of Detroit. Even at a youthful age Champ received mentorship from legends like Ice T, and Chuck D while traveling the globe. Champtown can also be deeply associated with such successors as Kid Rock and Eminem, just to name a few. Like most that have evolved out of an inner city that still holds the title-belt, “Murder Capitol,” Champtown knows and understands street culture, along with its reigning kings. If the streets of Detroit were ever in doubt, even the History Channel could not vouch.
In Champtown’s latest quest to expose the industry to new talent, he discovered the Institute of Production and Recording’s own soaring student Soren Gauche. Champ met Gauche at IPR while working there as Artists and Industry Relations Coordinator. Soren at the time was simply another hungry student seeking opportunity. Soon the two collaborated on a series of web videos which aired on the popular hip-hop news site allhiphop and quickly became sought after viewing for millions. Why Soren..?
“Soren’s passion for hip-hop is crazy,” Champ explains, “I saw him rap in a school project, and he projected his own style. When T.I. came in to visit the students he lost his mind. It was genuine.” (Editor’s Note: T.I. made an appearance at IPR in winter of ’08 before stopping by Boys and Girls Club later that day) Gauche had dabbled in video editing early in his career, taking it in as just another tool to help him reach his goals of setting up his own legitimate enterprise, but never put the skill at the top of his list. Champtown now regularly sends him videos once a week of interviews conducted by Champ himself and has launched “Footage Fa Dayz,” a series of one-on-one conversations with artists ranging from the likes of Big Pun, Ice Cube, Chuck D, Cypress Hill and even archive footage from The Dipset Crew and Cash Money (focusing mostly at the time at a young fifteen year old outspoken rapper named Lil’ Wayne…heard of him?).
The quality of Gauche’s work has been so well received that in the two months he’s been compiling footage for the site, he has received over one million hits (and counting), making it one of the most successful video blogs on the web. Need it be said, underground success does not go unnoticed by the mainstream for very long… major networks have approached the collaborators behind “Footage for Dayz” about bringing the format they’ve built to television, including top names at MTV.
Champtown is confident about the growth proclaiming, “Once we start the new season, I know a network will pick it up.”
Which begs the question: how did one of the powerhouses of Detroit and a student from the suburbs of Minnesota end up finding a common passion, one able to serve as a catalyst in creating a web sensation? Soren, 21, credits his introduction to hip-hop as many do: rebellion.
“I went through my a-typical rebellious phase, but through that got turned onto guys like Nas and A Tribe Called Quest. I slowly started to see that hip-hop has become an industry that’s available to everyone if you’re willing to work for it. Follow your dreams, that’s the one quote I try and live my life by,” Soren says. “Champ has managed to open doors for me that were locked before….and I credit him for giving me the opportunity.”
The task itself has become a full time job for Soren, who spends many hours locked away in the school’s editing labs overnight to perfect the clips only to finish up and go right to class the next morning, showing his commitment to perfection.
Gauche continues “I don’t want to sit behind a desk my whole life. I want to go straight to the top. I work well with a team because you can’t do these things alone, but at the same time I want to be in control of my own career.” It hasn’t been easy either, Soren proclaims that with every opportunity he gets to prove himself, Champ keeps him on task and if there’s the slightest lack of commitment is evident, Champtown is right there to drill him about professionalism.
Soren explains, “I had a long week once of school work and driving from the suburbs to Minneapolis every day so I was a little behind and Champ was right there to drill me.” He goes into further detail recalling a time when, “Champ got me on the phone and basically said that if I worked for Russell Simmons and pulled this I would have been so far gone that I probably would never work in music again…you’ve got to follow through. That was a wake-up call. I realized this was the real deal.”
So what’s next for the million-dollar man and his mentor? More exclusive footage for one thing. You can expect to see upcoming clips from Wyclef Jean, Flavor Flav, Redman, Method Man, and J Dilla with Slum Village. As for the popularity of the episodes, it continues to grow; with every new video, new viewers are attracted. Plus, the two don’t plan on stopping with the Internet. As well as the TV offers mentioned before, Champtown has recently tracked down even more future talent that is preparing to take the show’s format into satellite radio territory.
“The way we get our hip-hop news has changed. Outlets like allhiphop.com have single handedly destroyed all urban magazines,” Champ explains, “And soon shows like mine will destroy outlets like television as well.”