PAY ATTENTION: Uzi Gang

Nearly four years ago, in late December of 2012, I met with Adam DeGross at Minneapolis’ Triple Rock Social Club to talk about his art for Profane Existence, the staple Minneapolis punk collective, label, and zine.  DeGross’ work had recently been added into a special collection of Minnesota subcultures in the University of Minnesota’s Anderson Archives, in the same building which houses four-thousand-year-old Babylonian clay tablets.  Around that time, he was on the verge of hosting his first public gallery, and the release party for his first self-published photobook, Pay Attention: MN Subculture Photography, at a repurposed warehouse in Minneapolis. 

KONTRASEKT, 2014

Before the end of 2009, DeGross, a Burnsville, MN native, had already earned himself the honor of being “the guy with the camera at the punk show.”  DeGross spent his late teens bumming around Minneapolis’ famed punk record shop, Extreme Noise, and spent his evenings at concerts across the Twin Cities.  In his spare time, DeGross helped to book and host shows in basements and local venues, and fell into a crowd of local musicians and artistic entrepreneurs.  A former girlfriend talked him into buying a low-cost camera, and with no prior training, he just started shooting.  DeGross may have lucked out.  He had caught the tail-end of MySpace’s golden era, pushing up photos taken with low-cost cameras of local and touring bands, gaining a bit of name-recognition with each click.  And unlike Tom, when MySpace fell, DeGross made the transition to Facebook rather seamlessly.  Not long thereafter, in the Twin Cities market, he controlled an uncontested monopoly of “the guy with the camera at the punk show” business.

HO99O9, 2015

Four years later, and the world has changed a lot.  The Internet has beset upon us an unprecedented ability to find a niche, expand a culture, and share content.  Through it all, DeGross has been rapidly expanding his portfolio.  He was winner of the 2014 City Pages music photographer poll. His Instagram account has 13.5 thousand followers.  He’s hosted more public showings of his photography, featuring work that transcends the traditional perception of punk.  He’s been called on to shoot larger acts, more frequently; often shooting multiple shows of different genres in one evening.  Through all of this, he refined his unique visual style – drawn from countless evenings spent in dimly lit basements doused with low-end beer and the sweat of angry punx escaping the notorious Minnesota winters. 

Most recently, A$AP Ferg tapped DeGross as a creative consultant for a video.  In the end, DeGross with the help of Minneapolis videographer Nolan Morice, ended up directing the video of one of Ferg’s hardest hitting tracks off his acclaimed 2016 drop, Always Strive and Prosper, “Uzi Gang,” ft. Lil Uzi Vert & Marty Baller.  The video (below), which premiered via WorldStarHipHop, on December 19, 2016, and has since garnered over a quarter million views, pulls together some of the strongest facets of DeGross’ work: grit, a DIY attitude (New Noise Magazine published the story of just how DIY the shoot was), high contrast, monochromatic visuals, the chaotic unity of a rowdy punk show.  At the same time, DeGross managed to capture the aesthetic of contemporary hip-hop, stay true to the tropes of rap music videos, and portray Ferg as his music does: tough, in-your-face, atypical.

 by Morgan Luther
@morgzyoloha