Creating your own content is more important now than ever, especially if it helps fill a void and diversifies that space even more. It is equally as important to highlight independent companies that have taken on this task like Black Sands Entertainment.
Black Sands Entertainment is a black-owned production and publishing company that launched in 2016 to fill a void in the comic book community that lacks diversity in it’s production, characters, and storytelling.
But it all started kind of by accident.
Black Sands Entertainment’s President and CEO Manuel Godoy originally set out to make a video game. But after spending $20,000, he realized how expensive it was and decided not to see it through. Although he might have “failed miserably in terms of making a video game, he pivoted to a creating comic book based on the same series, which blew expectations out of the water.
“We are getting a lot of traction through Kickstarters and eventually have come to being a pretty successful company,” Godoy explained.
The Black Sands comic book series, which the company is named after, follows the young prince Ausar on his path to become the next Pharaoh of Kemet when he and his kin are dragged into a war that threatens the realms of men.
However, Godoy has always envisioned the story expanding beyond the comic book medium.
“When I was designing the game for Black Sands, I had an entire franchise laid out,” he explained. “I had timelines of when certain titles would come out and what the scope was of that title and it would ever be increasing over time. I already had a long, long plan of what we were going to do with this story.”
That plan has already seen the release animated pilot based on the story as well as an official hip-hop soundtrack for the pilot. When asked whether or not creating a hip-hop soundtrack was always part of his vision, he said it was a decision that just made a lot of sense and ultimately gave them more credibility.
“I’m looking at cross markets for my audience, but the main thing is the people who like martial arts films, the people who like anime stuff, are hardcore into hip hop culture in general,” Godoy explained. “It’s a huge crossover to the point where a lot of rappers use those specific elements in their stuff just to go and be relatable to their audience. So we figure since we’re making Black Sands basically an anime, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t just tie to the hip hop community as well.”
Enter Ramond, a hip-hop artist out of Denver who was hand-selected by Godoy to executive produce the soundtrack.
Ramond has always loved music ever since he was a young kid, but it wasn’t until he was in high school that he started taking it more seriously.
“Music just became my addiction after school,” Ramond said. “I would just go home and be writing and working on music and tweaking songs almost every day.”
A few years ago, Ramond was working on a song for a festival in Denver called “Kings and Queens” when he came upon a sponsored Instagram post for this comic that he had never heard of called Black Sands, which is ironic because Ramond wasn’t even a huge fan of the medium. He scrolled through some of the images while his song was playing in the background and it seemed like a perfect match. So Ramond decided to shoot his shot and email the address in the bio saying he’d love for them to check out his song.
“[Godoy] told me that he didn’t usually respond to emails like that, because he gets so many of them,” Ramond recounted. “But he heard the song and he loved it. So from then on, we kind of stayed in contact about him potentially using that song for something in the future.”
Years later, in May 2019, Godoy and Ramond linked back up and started working on plans for the soundtrack.
Godoy said that when it came to the creation of the soundtrack, he gave Ramond six core concepts and six stories that he songs to be built around. Otherwise, he left everything up to Ramond.
“We just wanted to create something that sounded not just like a hip hop album, but really cinematic, like a soundtrack,” Ramond said. “We sat down and we built most of the songs from scratch. I kind of just took those concepts that he had and that I had, and just created small little stories out of both and connected them both to my own experiences in the process. It was definitely an interesting thing; I’ve never done anything like it.”
One of the coolest parts of the soundtrack is that with the exception of Tai Marie, the entire soundtrack is comprised of Denver-based rappers, singers, producers and engineers and reads as a who’s who of Denver hip-hop. When asked whether that was intentional or just pure coincidence, Ramond said it was something he set out to do.
“To be honest, though, I did reach out to a few other artists that weren’t from Denver, but it just didn’t work out,” he explained. “I have a really good relationship being that I’m from Denver. And then at some point, I was just like, ‘I could really dive into the underground music scene in Denver and kind of shed some light on some of this hidden talent.'”
The Black Sands official soundtrack is just the beginning of a new chapter for both the company and Ramond as an independent artist. Black Sands Entertainment plans to have a full Netflix-level quality version of the pilot out sometime in the next year while Ramond is working on a couple of new songs with his group ARTARI in addition to some new stuff of his own.