At age 13, Roman Grandinetti was promoting nightclubs and brushing arms with New York's most prominent DJs and club owners. A few years later, the Brooklyn-native took up DJing while working day shifts at A Bathing Ape with Scott Mescudi, a fellow sneakerhead and aspiring rapper from Ohio. After a chance encounter with Steve Rifken at A Bathing Ape, Roman traded Rifken a discount on sneakers for a gig at Universal Records. And, for nearly 10 years, Grandinetti has been one of the city's hardest working DJs, and the recent founder of Downtown creative agency CNNCTD+.

On May 1, CNNCTD+ is launching a group show at the New Museum showcasing a cross-section of New York City culture. The agency reached out to 100 of the city's biggest influencers and provided blank MP3 Playbuttons to creatives like Pharrell Williams, Cindy Sherman, Spike Lee, Scott Campbell, Azealia Banks, Yoko Ono, Ricky Powell, Atrak, Narciso Rodriguez, and more. The participants each designed original artwork and contributed recordings that can be plugged into at the show.

Complex recently chopped it up with CNNCTD+ at 5 Burro Cafe in Forest Hills to discuss the upcoming exhibition over some frozen margaritas and a plate of the best nachos in the city. 

"The guys from Meatball Shop are teaching you how to craft the perfect meatball, others produced inspiring mixes... Pharrell has something cool going on with his ended up being a really personal story."

What was the inspiration behind the CNNCTD+ group show?
My dad used to be in the club game so he's always passing down stories from back in the day. He would tell me about being at the club and seeing Bianca Jagger to his left and Keith Haring to his right. Inside, there were always a bunch of kids sort of on the come up. These kids didn't come from a lot of money and couldn't afford the nicest outfits, but they always seemed to find a way to make it work. They would cut up their clothes, hit up thrift shops, do whatever it took. They might not have known it at the time, but these kids became a huge inspiration for the big designers and celebrities in the city. That's what we're doing with this group show, we're showcasing how collective NYC is and combining 100 individuals who make it all happen.

That's what's up. Who are some of the participants involved?
CNNCTD's goal was to showcase individuals who inspire NYC. We have Cindy Sherman, Dave White, Scott Campbell, Pharrell, Yoko Ono, Mitch Alfis, George Lois, Azealia Banks, Young Guru, Spike Lee. We have 100 so I think there's going to be a couple more (Laughs).

Sounds major. What was the goal in getting 100 creatives together for one show?
We really just wanted to provide the participants an opportunity to collaborate and spark up a conversation they may not have had before. CNNCTD has a great vision for our generation, and it starts with unexpected connections. It's about how far you can push it, and how creative we can be together.

So what's the deal with the Playbutton, how is the MP3 device incorporated into the exhibition?
We gave contributors an open canvas with the Playbutton. There's a huge listening attribute to the show which is cool. The guys from Meatball Shop are teaching you how to craft the perfect meatball, others produced inspiring mixes, and some shard great experiences about themselves and their businesses. Pharrell has something cool going on with his button. He has a new agency called I Am Other and gives a cool introduction to the company. We thought he was going to do some music or something, but it ended up being a really personal story.


"...reaching out to 100 of the city's most influential individuals and having them be so receptive to what we're trying to build has been incredible."

How have you guys prepped for the show?
We wanted to create a new way of using sounds in the street. We placed a couple of Playbuttons around the city. Places on Lafayette, Forysth, in front of the New Museum, and this dope interactive mural designed by Jason Woodside on Kenmare street.

Opening night is Tuesday, what kind of turn out are you expecting?
We're expecting around 500 people to come out opening night, but since space at the New Museum is limited, we'll have to see what's up at the door. The event is private, but the New Museum is selling 100 tickets to the public (Click here to purchase). The tickets are actually a blank Playbutton and we hook you up with stickers from each of the 100 participants and entrance to the show.

Since there's only a couple of nachos left and I plan on eating them before you do, let's wrap this up with one final question. What's been the coolest part about getting everyone together?
Most of the artists in the show have agents, an assistant, a label rep, project manager... it depends on the industry, but reaching out to 100 of the city's most influential individuals and having them be so receptive to what we're trying to build has been incredible.

CNNCTD+100 Playbutton group show opens at the New Museum on Tuesday, May 1 at 7pm.