Cliffy Barz – interview with the New York film maker

Harlem Streets is a US Hip Hop website that its creator: New York producer/interviewer and documentary maker Cliffy Barz has taken from a local TV station to the internet pulling in over 10million hits worldwide as well as courting mainstream media, though the US Hip Hop internet scene is very competitive one Cliffy’s gone that extra step in raising the site’s profile by showing the social issues in his city as well as the local and major rap artists and their music, from interviews to short Doc’s and behind the scene shoots; Harlem Streets is the perfect example of how to take your website all the way.

LTW: First off got to say really love Harlem Streets, you actually took the show from local TV to the net didn’t you?

Thank you, I appreciate your interest in the videos about Harlem Streets, at first I started a Public Access TV Show that aired once a week, a few months into the show I noticed I started getting more and more viewers, I always made sure I had a brand new episode every week even if it meant staying up for hours editing until the sun came up.
It was a great show but the main downside was that only Manhattan residents were able to watch it on TV so what I then decided to do was to upload small clips of the TV show onto the Internet to enable more people to see it. After more and more time passed more and more people started finding out about this show called Harlem Streets which I tried my best to keep it as real as possible and showing the world what goes on in the streets of Harlem. Later on I decided to take it even further and started showing what was going on in other hoods as well, all on camera.

LTW: Over 10 million hits on the You Tube site in the 5years Harlem Streets has been on line, have you had to work hard to make the site and the whole Harlem Streets thing what it is now, you’ve built quite a following haven’t you…

In the beginning It was kinda hard getting the idea together and really figuring out what would be interesting and different at the same time, but once I figured out what I wanted to do everything was a breeze…the hardest part is probably just being patient. You need to be patient and simply wait for your fan base to grow and people to find out about you. Some people think that stars just happen to blow up out of the blue but that’s not true. If you get noticed for a talent, that could of took years of practise and trial and era without anyone knowing who you are, but that one time you do something for the public and they notice it in large numbers they assume you just happened to blow up, but a lot of times it really was years of practise and patience and not always necessarily hard work.

LTW: What makes Harlem Streets stand out from other US hip-hop sites is that you get the whole picture, not just rap artists and their hoods but you tackle the social issues as well, like the recent Thanks Giving Homeless video you did

I think what makes my show Harlem Streets stand out is that fact that I’m giving my audience and viewers 100% realness, I show the streets, I show the struggle, I show stuff that isn’t always on the bright side of things and I feel these are the things that shouldn’t be over looked.
As for the video I did feeding the homeless, it was Thanksgiving day and I just didn’t feel right knowing I had all this food at home and there are people out in Harlem starving and struggling so I called a friend named Ralph Willis and he teamed up with me along with a few others to hit the streets and hand out food. I decided to call it Project 24 because We had 24 sandwiches and 24 bottle waters, we drove through 24 blocks in Harlem with the goal of feeding 24 people within 24 hours. I decided to film it and get the reactions of the people who received the food, I told them to just say one positive thing to the youth so they don’t end up in the streets, and sure enough each of them did and we handed them a bag of food. I guess this got attention because people tend to think if you put out videos about the streets and violence that you cant put out videos about love, I put out videos about anything I feel like putting out and that’s what makes my videos so different.

Another video I did was about the Sean Bell situation in which an unarmed African American was gunned down under suspicious circumstances by the Police. Sure enough one day I was driving my car down Lenox avenue in Harlem and a cop pulled me over and my female friend said to the officer “what’s wrong” were on our way to film a project, the cop told me step out the vehicle and pulled me to the side and said “I know who you are..your that guy that made us look like fucking fools on your show” I must admit I was honored and petrified at the same time that he knew who I was but he let me go and claimed the reason he stopped me was because I ran a red light, which of course was bogus. Its videos like these that make my videos stand out from the rest because one video can be about the streets, one about helping each other and promoting love, and another about Politics And The Corruption that goes on in our system.

LWT: Born and raised in Harlem; its allowed you to film shoots like Juelz Santana (Dip Set) on new yrs eve in some underground hood party, not anyone can get footage like that can they

Well you do need some kind of connection or clientele, not all artists or celebrities will just let you turn your camera on and film them in the building they grew up at. Juelz Santana grew up in my neighbourhood. I’m from 141 and he’s from 151, just ten blocks, so getting footage like that was a little easier for me since we were both from the same neighbourhood.

LWT: A recent shoot was you going to Compton, as a Harlem boy that’s quite dangerous isn’t it,..does the West coast/East coast situation still cast a shadow over the US hip-hop Industry, as a whole

Travelling to Compton California was a very interesting trip for me, everyone was telling me “don’t go, its not safe out there, there’s are too many gangs, its too dangerous” etc but in my mind I had a different idea. I’ve been shooting films for quite some years now and I always knew that sometimes the media can hype things up or over exaggerate certain things so with this trip my goal was to show the world that Compton is not impossible to walk through. Don’t get me wrong It still has hood parts but Its no different than Harlem or Brooklyn, or even some small town in Kansas. Everywhere you go there is a hood and every hood has certain rules you need to follow. The main general rule is don’t go places looking for trouble, mind your business and just be cool. Before going out there I knew that there had been tension between Cali and New York in the past because of the rap beef with Tupac And Biggie. Although the tension has died down between East Coast-West Coast a little I still believe that dark shadow between both states will never be forgotten because of that beef.

LWT: The internet is a major part of the US hip hop industry isn’t it , why is it do you think that US hip hop artists and the industry itself seems to use the net more effectively than other music scenes today.

In the US these days, if you want to be a artist, star, celebrity, or anyone famous the first place people are going to research you is on the Internet. All these rappers that used to get fame from doing talent shows, concerts, mixtapes, are no longer very effective ways to get notice, not everyone is going to travel to a concert or to a talent show or buy a mixtape but a whole lot of people will sign on to the Internet and discover you from the comfort of their home, workplace, etc. When you are on BET or some other TV station that airs in US its great publicity for you but only for those areas that get that station, but when you are on the Internet you are all over the world, there is no limit to who can see you, college students in Abu Dhabi have seen my videos- and I don’t even know where that’s at.

LTW: Controversy is always round the corner in the US hip hop industry isn’t it, you actually got an interview with the some-time ex lover of major US star Remy Ma,..half a million hits on that video alone which opened Harlem Streets up to the mainstream media

Yes this was a very popular video and up to today people are still shocked and talking about it, in the video a female that was on my show “Harlem Streets” claimed she used to date Remy Ma and had a relationship together. I come to find out the girl who came on my show is allegedly said to be “Nicki Minaj” after the video was uploaded it got so many views it quickly went viral making headlines on all the major media sites like TMZ,, Worldstar, Hot 97 Radio, and many many more.
Upon all this media attention, one day I was at a club and believe it or not Remy Ma showed up to the club upset about the video and approached me about it. I explained to her I was not the one that said those things, I’m simply just the producer of the show and I let everyone speak there mind on my show. Other People copied my video and re-posted it with all types of different titles but because I directed the video, all the questions kept coming back to me like..”was that really Nicki”? “why did Remy step to you”? “etc –it was crazy

LWT: Whats the future for the site Cliffy, with the net constantly progressing and moving forward, especially within US hip hop, whats your plans for Harlem Streets for 2012

My plans for Harlem Streets and 2012 is to do what I’ve been doing, keep progressing, continuing to come out with brand new ideas, documentaries, etc. Even when productions may seem to slow down you simply never stop, when you are on a long journey there is nothing wrong with slowing down but there is something wrong with stopping and giving up. If you decide to give up a journey then start a brand new journey but don’t give up all together, It takes time and patience to be great and that’s what Cliffy Barz strives for everyday… greatness

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