The story of CNNCTD+ is a tale only NYC can create. It’s a narrative filled with equal parts hustle, dreams, creativity and an unflinching “never-give-up” attitude. CNNCTD+ founder Roman Grandinetti grew up a scrappy Italian kid in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, but he always had an appetite for more. Over the years, he was able to convert his love for fashion, art, music and culture into different gigs that enabled relations with NYC’s biggest movers and shakers. All this unbridled creativity and drive led to the formation of the creative agency, CNNCTD+, a downtown NYC outfit that minds the gap between the various facets of popular and street culture. To date, they have done impressive sound graffiti installations (featuring names like Pharrell, Spike Lee, Mario Sorrenti), geo-tagged art murals for Bob Dylan, installations atSCOPE art show, along with partnerships with global fashion brands like Kitsuné and WeSC. Oh and lest we forget, Roman is also a highly coveted DJ (under the alias DJ Manero) who spins at some of the most exclusive clubs and high-profile events in NYC.
Your entire life is a seamless mix of music, art and culture. Was it a conscious decision to have your life follow this creative path?
I always had a vision of this other ”world” growing up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Even though it’s so close, it was also quite far. My father worked in the city my whole life and had an amazing eye and vision. My parents were huge influences in who I am and the person I strive to be. Growing up, it was very clear to me at a very young age that no one was going to give me anything, so I created opportunities for myself, which is the way CNNCTD+ now functions. The company reaches for what we want and we create it. As far as the seamless mix, they are all just different parts of my identity.
What would you say is the core operating philosophy of CNNCTD+?
Authenticity. I’m from NY. LA is cool, Paris is beautiful, Japan is certainly in my future, and Italy is the motherland, but to operate in NYC requires authenticity. That’s the thread that connects our projects, our content and the partners within our downtown NYC community.
You have done some really high-profile projects with different art fairs, publications (Vogue), brands (WeSC, Sony) and personalities (Bob Dylan). What stands out to you as your most fulfilling projects to date?
Being able to travel as a team was amazing. I fight for a family, a group. I’ve always looked up to crews, cliques, etc. I think that collective unit stands for something. So traveling to Miami and being a featured project in the main walkway of a massive show was amazing!
I loved working in Ibiza and London but to date, Scope Art Fair Miami really stands out in my mind. Alexis Hubshman has been a huge inspiration to me for years, and he’s allowed me to travel and see things I would have never seen. Overall, all our projects are fulfilling. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to work with artists, tech innovators, cultural influencers, and professionals I respect – none more than Jeff Rosen, a gentleman who’s seen and knows as much as anyone possibly can in the music business. I’m incredibly grateful for their belief in me and continued support of CNNCTD+.You are also a well-known DJ. Has music always been a major facet of your life?
Yes, I would say so. Music has been an education for me. I’ve learned a massive amount from working within the music and fashion industries. These experiences shape the creative lens that I use to engage this city every day – for when I’m curating a project, communicating a feeling, or controlling the pace of an experience, etc.
What is it about music that inspires you the most? What are some of the most memorable spinning gigs you’ve done?
Music is so many things. It’s timeless, ever-changing, fast moving and can bring about real emotion. That’s some powerful shit. Some of my most memorable DJ experiences were spinning an exclusively reggae set for Rihanna (bet you didn’t think that I had it in me!), performing with Robin Thicke, and once being asked to play a New Order song by Tony Hawk. There are also moments when the people who taught me how to DJ gave me respect for my spinning skills. Those are great moments too, and the most fulfilling as a DJ.
Growing up in Brooklyn, is it ever difficult to reconcile the world you grew up in with the glam and bright lights of the art/music/fashion industry?
It’s a switch, and I’m still learning how to turn off some of those old switches when the time calls for it. But I love my Brooklyn side. It’s made me who I am and questions like this keep the fire burning. Some people want to stand under it and some run. I embrace it, and hope to have to answer this question forever.
Apart from everything mentioned so far, where do you find inspiration and ideas for all your different CNNCTD+ projects?
Each project is handled differently. I look for partnership opportunities that allow us to push art and music into public spaces in unique ways that engage people at a street level. To me, a key to effectively reaching people is producing content that exists as art. I strive to create a tangible experience that brings people together, takes them from behind their computers and into the streets. I live for the unlikely collaboration, the unexpected connection, uniting creatives and influencers from varied communities, because it tells a different side of the story.
Lastly, any major projects coming up in the future that you can tell us about?
I’ve recently been adopted by the Gallo Family. My friend (and big brother) Steven Gallo recently opened Galli, a home away from home Southern Italian Restaurant that’s making Soho comfortable again – they’ve welcomed me as a creative and cultural consultant of sorts. After weeks of shadowing Steven and his wife Karen, two of the hardest working people and restaurateurs in this city, we’re planning partnership events that unite our worlds and create the community CNNCTD+ is all about. Food has always been a wild card in my pocket – it’s something I’m excited to finally let out of the box. I will also be putting out a small book dedicated to Chinatown’s best/worst food locations built off a fun photographic project I’ve committed to capturing called #foodcloseup.