Updated: May 23
TheMSQShop launched in early 2021 to become a pillar for indie artists through entertainment, events, education, engagement, and editorial works.
It was launched by Richmond rapper and creative director OG Illa. Illa has worked with the likes of Roc Nation and other brands with his creative directing business TheOGDesign alongside his partner The Uth (pronounced "the youth"). After Illa planned weekly conversations on Clubhouse with other Indie artists and creatives, Illa heard everyone's complaints about the local music scene and utilized his connections to curate a solution for everyone's grievances in regard to the same music scene. For the full story, hit the 49:00 minute mark on the video from TheMSQShop podcast explaining the birth of the idea in great detail.
Illa reached out to writers like myself to become a part of this. When Illa reached out to me, I personally achieved all of my life goals. From the birth of TheMSQShop and still, to this day, I'm working two health careers and am a two-time poetry book author with a very extensive writing background. Prior to TheMSQShop, I have written for six different platforms covering hip-hop, art, mental health, and events in Virginia while graduating with a Bachelors's in Health and Exercise Science from Virginia Commonwealth University. During my various paths in the health professional world, I have taught myself a bit of Adobe software, recording, musical analysis, critical writing, SEO knowledge, and more as a self-taught writer and editor.
In the summer of 2021, an idea clicked into my mind to expand the influence of TheMSQShop: an internship program. I balanced diving into the media field and health fields equally during my college tenure and I know that there are plenty of students that are aiming to be a jack-of-all-trades with everything they do. The old way of thinking while pursuing a career is only being great at one thing and sticking to that niche. What if your niche is balancing more than one niche? Nowadays, careers want a more diverse skillset whether it's knowing more than one language, one software program, social media management, and presence. Especially where technology and social media are much more integrated into nearly every profession you can imagine, heightened by COVID with remote opportunities, I wanted to have a program that utilizes all of those things. I partnered with the Robertson Media School at VCU to curate a two-credit internship program for their students. I also made it open to the general public so alumni or anyone interested in it can participate.
The old way of thinking while pursuing a career is only being great at one thing and sticking to that niche. What if your niche is balancing more than one niche? Nowadays, careers want a more diverse skillset whether it's knowing more than one language, one software program, social media management, and presence. Especially where technology and social media are much more integrated into nearly every profession you can imagine heightened by COVID with remote opportunities, I wanted to have a program that utilizes all of those things.
It's an internship focused on giving freedom to create and collaborate through the five E's: entertainment, events, education, engagement, and editorial works. We have an office space on 318 West Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia that is a one-stop shop for any creative project. Whether it's podcast recording, hosting events, pop-up shops, using our thirty-foot infinity wall for videos, CGI work, photoshoots, open studio sessions, and more, TheMSQShop is here for you.
This article also spotlights the past and current interns that I am proud of. I'm thankful for every intern that wanted to try out the internship opportunity before it was official with VCU and after it was official with VCU. Thank you to Thomas, Mikayla, Arianna, Max, and Vy. Words cannot express my gratitude for you all being a part of something new. Below I have some of my interns sharing some of their experiences with TheMSQShop.
My name is Max Olarinde, I’m on social media as @mobeige1. I’ve been an intern for TheMSQShop since September, and it feels like it’s been much longer. I cannot stress enough how genuinely thankful I am for the opportunity to work here. Not even just for the experience, but it’s an invaluable networking hub, especially for multitalented people in the mass communications field. In just a month or so of working here, I’ve put out eleven articles and counting, edited an interview with Richmond-based Majorway Studios, managed social media and submissions, and I am volunteering for our upcoming event Kanye’s Monster Ball. That’s editorial writing, video editing, advertising, marketing, and customer service experience all in one month!
As for the networking, you meet like-minded people, and music lovers, have access to recording studios, meet many musicians, and prop up many small businesses in the process. The volunteer opportunities are very plentiful, and the energy is very much about uplifting everyone. You got friends who make music? Need to reach a wider audience? You can write an article on their music, and TheMSQShop can help you if you want to shoot a video for it too. I myself have already received several shoutouts and follows from rappers who enjoyed articles I’ve written, and the feeling of supporting other artists is very heartwarming.
The work environment is very friendly and flexible, I live one hundred miles away from the office and I check in every now and again, but it doesn’t impede the work I’ve done so far. All they really ask is transparency, if you can’t reach a deadline, be honest about it, and they will understand. It's the perfect energy for people with busy college schedules. All in all, I have seen this organization grow two hundred followers on Instagram just this month, and I can’t help but feel like I’m part of that growth. It is unpaid but the volunteer work for events is paid. In a world where entrance-level jobs require experience, TheMSQShop will set you, and everyone they connect with, up for success. If you join, let me know, let’s link sometime and make something.
I actually got involved with TheMSQshop in the craziest way ever. I met Illa at a random coffee shop, and we began to talk about music. I started coming over to The Collective every now and then to chill, listen to music, or get advice whenever I was stuck. One day, I was stuck about my major and what I wanted to do in life. I couldn't decide if I should stay with my STEM major or do something that my heart wanted to do. That's when I was offered the internship!
The internship has made me feel more fulfilled and secure with my work-life balance now. I am still in the same major, but now I have a creative outlet to fulfill my heart's desires as well. It's basically the best of both worlds! Everyone I've met and worked with at TheMSQshop is so kind, driven, and understanding. They all understand that school comes first, but they also push us to do more in the community. This internship has given me the chance to network as well as participate
in so many other cool opportunities!
Work-wise, it's so fun to be able to cover any indie artists that I want! I love to write articles about my friends and mutuals because that is what music is about: Sharing the wealth!
My time at the MSQ shop has been all over the place, but that’s because we do a little bit of everything here which is perfect for a student like me. I’m currently a sophomore at VCU, studying Mass Communications with a concentration in media production. I find that classrooms don’t always give you the best idea of the careers you want to get into. Here at MSQ, I don’t just learn by watching but by doing it in a live environment and that’s what I appreciate the most. When things go wrong on set, I learn how to change gears and do the next best thing. I’ve learned how to interact with clients, about business, and how valuable your own time should be considered as a professional. I’ve gotten and am still getting used to working on a deadline but feel happy overall when I get the job done. Thanks to that, I see how much I progress in skill and efficiency. I came here a blank slate with no prior experience whatsoever but am getting out of it what I’ve always wanted: experience and an opportunity. Here the team at MSQ encourages you to do more than what’s expected of you and supports you through that process, so you’ll have the chance to work outside your main “role”. I’m never going to forget my experience or the people I’ve met here and I’m forever grateful they gave me a chance to join The MSQ shop.
Written by: Jay Guevara @justinhisprime on all social media. Max Olarinde @mobeige1 on social media. Vy Truong @avocavy on Instagram. Arianna Rackham @ariannarackham on Instagram.