Interview with Richard Gladys -By Liam Sweeny

Written by on June 10, 2022

Some people are amazing at one thing. And other people are not bad at a few things. And still others have a talent and a passion for everything they do, and in the spirit of life-long exploration, they do a whole lot of things.

Richard Gladys (a.k.a. City Rich) had graced the cover of every fashion magazine that was worth its paper. He’s been on both sides of the camera, and currently rocks the turntables for a rapper whose name is carved in New York concrete. Perhaps his greatest talent is to be all of these things and also very, very humble.

RRX: I saw a video of you scratching on Instagram, and I was impressed by your flow. It’s like you’re controlling time. I feel like the turntable-as-instrument is lost on people who listen to instrument-based music. It’s seen more as equipment, but you play it just like I would play a guitar, or someone would play drums. Is a turntable your Fender Strat?

CR: I often compare it to playing guitar or even drumming, I never had the patience to learn guitar. But I loved vinyl and was addicted at first scratch.  90s mixtapes by DJ’s like Chill Will, Double R, Doo Wop, Clark Kent, where what really inspired me to become a DJ.

RRX: You had a job as a DJ for GZA of Wu-Tang Clan for ten years. I say job in absolute jest, it’s got to be a calling. Wu-Tang isn’t even a group as far as anyone who grew up a listener – it’s more a religion that we vibe to. Of course, your view is different. But you weren’t born in this role. How did you get connected with GZA?

CR: Ok, early 2000-2001 a buddy of mine had bought a bar/event space upstate NY called Mt. Muggs. He had booked a few Wu-Tang members for a show. Well, being in the middle of nowhere he could not find two Technic turntables and a Vestax mixer per request of Wu-Tang’s super DJ Allah Mathematics. Luckily, I had everything he needed, and then was asked to play as the doors opened until they performed.  He didn’t have to twist my arm. I couldn’t really believe I was finally going to meet some of my favorite artists. Doors opened, I started playing, the place was packed. The pressure was on me, Wu-Tang’s bus was late, and the crowd was getting restless. I too was running out of vinyl to play. Then at that moment Allah Mathematics taps me on the shoulder and tells me I’m doing a great job. Hands me a record and says wait for my cue to drop this. Got my cue. Math jumps in tells me to stay. And the show went on and damn was it mind blowing. 

Make a long story short. I was invited to the green room. Was given some props for my set. Gza, Math Prodigal and Dreddy all grabbed my number. One day about a year later, Gza called me out of the blue and asked if I could DJ his 2003 European tour. I gladly accepted. 

RRX: With DJing, especially who you were jamming out with, you really have to be deep in a lot of scenes that most people could only dream of. You’re onstage in front of people who will go and be onstage in front of others. Having come up yourself at one point, is where you are now what you thought it would be when you were coming up yourself?

CR: Diana Ross? I’m coming up? Haha. One person’s come up is another person’s grind.  All hard work pays off and I definitely worked hard to get where I am. I’m happy with what I’m doing so I guess I am where I would like to be?

RRX: You have an interesting story. You were a model earlier in your life, and that’s a big understatement. You were the face of Versace in the 2000s, and the very concept people have of ‘male model’. You were even the basis for Owen Wilson’s character in Zoolander. What would someone learn about being at the big shoot and living that life?

CR: You can learn from every job.  There are life lessons in everything we do. From a shoot I acquired the knowledge and recipes master photographers like Steven Meisel would use on a real publication. I try to adapt that to my photography in my own way. 

I was very fortunate to see how many professionals worked firsthand. 

You can also learn a lot about how fake people can get just because of an image of you.  As an example people didn’t care about me until Steven shot me. Then all a sudden everyone’s your best friend.

RRX: I’ve both seen and heard your work, and we’ve talked about the ‘heard’ part, but you’re also a photographer. You started on one side of the flash bulb and are now on the other. You shoot other models, and so I would think you can do the best for your models and avoid the worst. How do you do that? 

CR: Simple. Give them professional advice. And there is no worse; my shoots are fun, and I feel that makes many girls feel great about themselves. My main goal is to make sure the model is genuinely happy with the photos. Or else I’m not.

RRX: When someone goes from one path in life to another, and to another still. They say the average person will have six different jobs in their life. So, you’ve been a famous model, a great photographer, and the DJ to one of the best rappers in the art. A genie is granting wishes; what are your next three jobs, your dream jobs? 

CR: I’ll manifest this now. One: take over Steven Meisel’s studio when he retires.

Two: redo a Europe tour for A-F-R-O’s “All Flows Reach Out” album. Three: be a street art dealer.

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