ART X POLITICS I
BECAUSE DC’s creative community deserves a platform to showcase their art, style, and culture. BECAUSE we must take full advantage of the opportunity to interject a creative consciousness into the political fabric of DC. BECAUSE DC’s creative community is not one color, class, or culture. BECAUSE it’s about community not competition. BECAUSE creating at home gives your work a deeper, more meaningful purpose. BECAUSE contributing to our creative ecosystem today, means contributing to DC’s future generation of artists tomorrow BECAUSE leveraging our local, existing creative connections will empower us to kill it elsewhere in the future. BECAUSE we have a political responsibility to cultivate a diverse creative community, especially in the nation’s capital. BECAUSE art is relevant to every facet of our life and there’s no disregarding it. BECAUSE this is mandatory. BECAUSE this is home. DISTRIKT MANIFESTO BECAUSE DC is the shit. BECAUSE we are here and we can’t keep quiet any longer. BECAUSE it’s time to tell the truth.
22 Editor In Chief + Art/Creative Director An artist and life long student of Parliment Funkadelic experimenting in afrofuturism, womanism, radicalism, time travel, and all things philosophical. PG County is home. I don’t like to complain so I’m keeping busy trying to make the enviornments I exsist in ones I want to live in. @ayanazaire
22 Managing Editor + Art Director A feminist, a designer, a student, a woman, a passionate member of your audience. My aim is yours: empowerment, justice and a blossoming community. From Pittsburgh, rooted in the District. @aniberry
23 Head of Media A film/photographer who enjoys high end fashion and honey bunches of oats. lol @sambitionphotos
19 Editor + Production Assistant Aspiring filmmaker and writer with a focus in surrealism and critical race theory. Music and art appreciator at the core. I’m blue baby, blue. @out.getting.ribs
22 Illustrator + Film Production I’ve devoted my life to art so deeply that I often catch myself subconsciously arranging my groceries in some sort of collaged pattern on the conveyor belt. Life is my artistic medium. @ariciano
Andreas Maurice Brown 23 Fine artist, fashion designer, and graphic designer. Hailing from Cheverly, MD. Founded KITSCH, with co-owners Luke Crow and Justin Tyler. While some artists seek to carve out a specific niche for their abilities, I wish to explore all avenues of art, steadily creating a map of my world for the rest of you. @icetheendless
Adedayo Kosoko 32 A creative that loves to capture stills of life in motion. I’ve been shooting professionally for six years & gravitated to the GLOSSRAGS movement due to their constant questioning of the status quo. #GETHYPE @hypenextdoor
Roland Agli 21 I’m a visual storyteller. I don’t speak much, so it’s humbling to be able to communicate my thoughts and ideals through photography. @raat_fashion
Samera Paz 21 Photojournalism is my passion. I want to be a war photographer. I want to tell the stories that don’t make the news. I like to document everything. I want everyone around me to chase their dreams and succeed. @sameraaaaa
Reese H. Fuller II 23 I’m an analog photographer & writer studying Social & Consumer Psychology at NYU while interning as a consultant at SS+K. Readers should know that I will Milly Rock on any block. @reesehiawatha
Mark Custer 17 Born in NW Washington DC, senior in high school. Shoots digital and film photography and skateboards. @markcuster
Donnesha Blake 25 Black feminist fashion scholar, educator, and doctoral student in the Department of Women’s Studies and a Ronald E. McNair fellow at the University of Maryland, College Park. My research focuses on how African American/Black style, dress cultures, and style narratives are tools for examining self-making, gender identity/ expression, sexual cultures, and social relations in Black communities. @donneshabee
Chantia Johnson 21 I’m just a young carefree black woman who is still on the path to finding herself, but meanwhile I currently manage at a restaurant/ coffee shop! Still forever dancing my ass off every chance I get (hopefully professionally, SOON) & still destroying thrift stores in my spare time. @chantiaj
Randi Gloss 24 DC-born activist, entrepreneur & writer. Her brand GLOSSRAGS, is committed to conscious consumerism through critically crafted designs that are a catalyst for social activism & discourse. The signature “And Counting” collection of apparel does the necessary work of memorializing black men and women who’ve lost their lives at the hands of police and trigger-happy citizens. @randigloss
Lloyd Foster 25 People are interesting. I like taking photos of people. @floydloster
Desean Ragland 23 Photographer. @otm_media
Joe Obima 24 Studying multimedia journalism at Morgan State University and freelance photojournalist/photographer currently living in Baltimore, Maryland. @joe___implores___you
Ahad Subzwari 24 Been taking pictures for like 10 years and love working with film, light, and music. I eventually want to work in film. @aalisub
Kosi Dunn 20 A poet powered by good coffee and bad puns. He likes Pokemon, plot twists, black superheroes, and third-person. Find me on the internet. @notkosi
E D I T O R ’ S N O T E
I look at this photo and I smile but I kind of feel sorry for her. She was in college, she was bright eyed, and ready to bust out of undergrad to literally change the world. She wore 5.5 inch Atwoods to the Hirshhorn. She started Distrikt with a few friends, it was fun. Now it’s not about fun (well, it still kinda is), but it’s about something way bigger - as it should be. It’s about standing our ground. It’s about defending the culture. It’s about reminding people there were citizens here before The Huffington Post wrote the DC metro area was the “most popular city to live in for millennials”. The purpose of Distrikt is to tell the truth, reminding us in the journey toward sensationalism one will always be met with falsehood. Why Art and Politics? Because police have been killing a lot of fucking people and now we see what the message is. Because we are watching DC turn into one big ass expensive cafe no one can afford to patronize. Because we can’t wait on the Washingtonian or the Washington Post to decide to tell the whole story and not just Arlington’s story. Why Art and Politics? Because it IS about class. It IS about race. It IS about gender. It IS about abuse of power. It IS about lack of opportunities. It IS about our public transportation being ironically inconvenient, most of the time. It IS about “affordable housing” being a fundamentally racist, yet socially accepted concept. It IS about old white men colonizing new “hip” neighborhoods with their development dollars (where did them and all their money come from?). I look at this picture and wish I could warn her — the things you are most passionate about are the most daunting and exhausting “girl, it’s going to take a really long time to fix that” things one could be passionate about. But I smile because I’m so hopeful. Like, sometimes I’m OVERWHELMED with hope and excitement for the future of the city. Sometimes I’m so hopeful I exhaust those around me just talking about it. This issue took a year for a lot of reasons. We had to figure things out. We had to find some money. We had to build relationships. We had to treat DC like a case study and do our research to make sure WE were telling the truth. We had to be lazy and reflective and decompress often. BUT I am so proud of this issue. Not for it’s photos, size, or the amazingly talented people who agreed to sit down and spend their valuable time, art, and insight with us but I’m MOST proud of what people were courageous enough to share in the form of their words. We hear from 21 year old, environment enthusiast, Naeem Wynn (see Part I’s cover) who is using trap shooting to bond with the young men he mentors and change the face of a traditionally exclusive sport. He’s also using events to consistenly bring DC’s less “conservative” non-yuppie community together (Yes, there is a non-yuppie community here GQ). We hear from Donnesha Blake, a 25 year old professor and PhD student at University of Maryland. We hear from some of DC’s best hip hop artists with strong ties to the city and we explore the parallelism of our environmental and race issues with photographer Reese Fuller (see Part II’s cover). We decided to break this issue up into two parts. Part I is where you will find all the text heavy content, the juicy stuff, such as the interviews and think pieces. Part II is the photo book where you will mainly find the visual editorial work. In this two part issue the pages are purposefully not numbered because it is meant to be digested as one seamless body of work, in it’s respective order. Part I first, go get a glass of water, then indulge in Part II. In closing, I want you to know Distrikt is all about beautiful art and lovely music but ultimately, on a paramount level, it is a place where we can EXPLORE THE TRUTH BY TELLING THE TRUTH. It is our obligation as artists, it is our job as humans. Where there is abuse of power and resources there is rebellion. Where there are young people there are rebels. It starts and happens on the streets of DC and it will be “televised” here. Thank you for reading. Oscar Wilde once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” so I’m compelled to tell you the whole Distrikt team just farted. We literally all farted in unison. Bye. PHOTOGRAPH BY SAMSON BINUTU
DJ UNDERDOG PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAMSON BINUTU INTERVIEW BY AYANA ZAIRE
Ayana Zaire: Talk about your day job as a teacher. How has it inspired you and your work? DJ Underdog: Teaching is just another way to really infiltrate. You know what I mean? To transform. Especially with the youth because they’re the most impressionable and they want to be weird they’re just told they’re not supposed to be. It’s hard work, yeah. I do have to sit in certain parameters and educational standards...Common Core and all of that. But you know, we’re just breaking down complex ideas every single day so really I don’t know its great, its so great. AZ: Cool. Alright where did the name Underdog come from? UD: I played baseball. I played left field and that’s like the hardest position to play and people thought I was slow, but when I tried out I was getting it. They were like, “Oh he’s the Underdog!” He doesn’t look like he can really do this and that, then I found out the meaning of it. How it meant humble in America, but you go to Brazil and people are like how can you be under a dog? *both laughs* I wasn’t like super cultured when I first got the name but it was just like I wanted to be the underdog. I want to go into a gig or setting or in a place where I’m not thinking I’m all that. You know? With no ego...so that’s how that started. It started from baseball, on a baseball field. AZ: And how old were you? UD: It was my freshman year of college, so I was like 17, 18? AZ: Okay so the whole unseen brand image. What was that about, like purposely being “Unseen”? UD: I mean I had mixtapes before and it was just like I was doing the same thing but I didn’t have a movement behind it. I started seeing a lot of pictures, like, Tumblr was just poppin’ at the time so I was seeing pictures of people expressing themselves in a way that was just not about them. It was more about the art. So one of the things I always read was, “remove yourself from your art”. I mean your art speaks for who you are and that’s just the notion I’ve always worked with truthfully. I just always admired people who were like popping in Germany but from DC, and you wouldn’t even know that they’re like, out there. So I just started working with that, you know, just playing in the shadows. AZ: I think that’s so interesting because today it’s so easy for us to have this brand or persona and make money off of it and that can be good and bad. But you’re doing it differently...you’re going the opposite way. UD: Yeah but even in that, being “unseen”, it’s becoming more of a persona. Its just a different persona like my hat, is like, a thing! I left my hat in a cab the other day and I was like “Oh! Where’s my hat!?”, so it’s like okay now I know I’m getting too deep. *both laughs* So yeah, its good for DC more than anything else. It’s good for the city. It’s like, oh he’s taking chances and people are listening. You know? AZ: So talk about your creative journey. How did you get to become DJ Underdog? UD: *laughs* I mean it started in high school, like, listening to music. My mother had records, her father had records, we all had records and the music was the drive to dare to be different. You know what I mean? So it started with just collecting records and I got into a car
accident and the car was spinning and I was thinking, “This reminds me of a record player”... AZ: Whoaaa UD: *laughs* Yeah, it was like that so with that money (from the accident) I bought two turntables and then I started buying records and doing like DJ battles and turntablism. I’m on digital now but I can still get busy with a lot of DJs. AZ: I love that, that’s crazy. Not the car accident, of course, but how outer body experiences bring moments of clarity. Would you say DJ-ing is your primary passion? I know you’re into teaching, graphic design, and getting into coding. UD: Yeah, yeah because that’s the heartbeat. You know what I mean? When you go home you need that to put you at rest, you need that to wake you up, you need it to move you. Music in general. And then playing it out for people, it’s just another meditation. It’s the ultimate give and take. It’s like here I am naked, unashamed, bathing in all your emotion. You know? It’s definitely spiritual. AZ: Yeah, definitely. Moving into the general theme of the issue. We’re focusing on the intersection of art and politics. What do you think is the next step? Where do we go from here as a people because I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I keep going back to economic equality/liberation and education. UD: I think we need to stop spending money. It’s just that simple, like everybody stop spending money in the system...fast. Even a day without spending money hurts the economy. And it’s so ironic. What do they say? Change begins in commerce, you know? “Change”, “commerce”. But we got to stop spending money in this place. We gotta make our own food. Like the conversations are starting now and it’s going to be more deaths until people get it, you know what I mean? People got to die for us to wake up and it’s sad but it’s true. We got to stop spending money. Today is Martin Luther King Day but what are people thinking about? A day off work. You know? They’re not thinking about, “How can I strategize?”. On the subject, the #blacklivesmatter movement started by three black, queer women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi AZ: And that goes back to sensationalism. You know? I mean the hashtags they play their own role and they connect people in the struggle but... UD: Because it is televised you think you’re supposed to second guess yourself and not act on feeling. Not just move. Not just do. You know? Like, “Maybe I shouldn’t” or “Let me go home first”. You start questioning yourself more than anything else because you gotta wait for a second opinion, you gotta ask Google, you got to ask the hashtag instead of just doing. So the fashion of it, the sensationalism of it makes you question yourself. Like, “Should I?” and the next thing you know you’re still in the house, about to go to sleep. It’s like you’re wasting time, you know? I don’t think people act fast enough. Seize the time, seize the day. That’s what they meant. Go do it now even if you’re the only one. That’s my two cents. @underdogthedj
BUT WE GOT TO STOP SPENDING MONEY IN THIS PLACE. WE GOTTA MAKE OUR OWN FOOD. LIKE THE CONVERSA TIONS ARE STARTING NOW AND IT’S GOING TO BE MORE DEATHS UN T I L PEOPLE GET IT, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
ROSE JAFEE PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAMSON BINUTU INTERVIEW BY AYANA ZAIRE
Ayana Zaire: Cool Cool Cool, so how do you feel about DC’s creative scene? You talked a little bit about that earlier. Rose Jaffe: Yeah, I think DC’s creative scene is excellent. I think, you know, if you lined ten people up and asked them “What do you think about DC’s creative scene?” you’d get ten different answers. I think that I am incredibly lucky that I have a space that people can come to. And I also feel like the DC scene, now it’s very inclusive in the way that artists are willing to collaborate with each other, at least those of us that are trying to do new and exciting things. You know? You reach out to artists and I’ve gotten just a lot of “yeses” to: “Can we collaborate?”, “Can I visit your space?” I also feel like DC as a city is coming around a little bit to the arts. Whether it’s the amount of money that the Commission is giving out for grants or just, in general, a larger appreciation for the arts. It can be hard, but I think if you focus on what you are doing and keep asking and moving forward you can usually get what you need done. AZ: So what do you think the community needs? We kind of talked off camera about all the demolition that was happening and how things are shifting. While the appreciation for creativity is growing, artists are getting pushed out of their spaces, we talked about the Fringe and now here (Union Arts)...What do you think the community is missing and how do you think it can be improved? RJ: Yeah, well I think that DC, when you look at other places like Detroit or Baltimore... you know those are cities that have just a lot of space and artists really need space. So DC doesn’t have space for artists to inhabit, you know, affordably. Union Arts has been around for a long time and provided studio space for artists for a while. And a lot of the artists came from Gold Leaf Studios which shut down and I think that O Street Studios’ rent was raised last year forcing a lot of artists to move out. So there are some thirty artists in this building and the future of where they are going to be is absolutely not set. You know, I do think that there are movements towards Anacostia arts center... AZ: And then Hyattsville is trying to build .... RJ: Yep, Hyattsville, Mt. Rainer. There’s a lot of Art Lofts and again I think just a general push towards...with this mass gentrification and rebuilding, there is a need and a pressure to provide arts space because that’s one of the things that draws people anywhere. So it’s concerning to think about what will happen sometimes. You know? Artists are resilient but they need space to make art. AZ: A lot of people have parents who may not understand the concept of going to school for art. So what do you tell those people who may not really get it? RJ: I would say this, in the way that I feel we are moving as a society, I feel like skill based jobs are gonna eventually be expendable. I think it’s so important that we have engineers
and stuff like that but if you’re looking to go to art school, and be trained as a creative thinker, if you approach it like that, and not oh I’m just going to be a painter or designer, but I’m really expanding my brain to think creatively, then there’s a whole lot of value in that. AZ: Completely agree. Okay so Collecting the Dream Project? RJ: Oh yeah that was really old. That was a project that I did with this woman Lacey Walker. I did some collaboration with her on that. This was right after the MLK Memorial came here and she was there one day and she had seen a brief interaction between an older gentleman that was around when MLK was and then a very young person. And so she wanted to create a dialogue between the generations as they experienced the memorial. AZ: Wow, I love that. So talk about how both art and politics benefit from each other and how each can be used to lift the other up? RJ: Art and Politics...Fucking Politics, it’s so important. *both laughs* For me it’s about arming ourselves with the ability to create and then creatively and collectively resist. I think the idea of art as a visual language, it crosses all the different cultural language barriers and I think that has a lot to do with politics because it kind of shapes how people think about things. AZ: So is political art effective? Are we even accomplishing anything? RJ: Yeah. I think it’s a good question. What are you doing? Why do you protests? But I think that art is absolutely effective and sure it doesn’t pass any policies, but I think that the role it plays is by putting the energy and the art out into the world. Like in Ferguson, there was this street art campaign, there was ‘hands up’ and artists painted hands and took pictures and it went viral. So I think it’s just about trying to mix up the way that we resist and... AZ: Deliver the message... RJ: Because this is a movement and its a movement of resistance and there will always be things to fight and I think specifically right now there is a lot more that we need to fight. And I think as young people we have to keep on keeping on. And you have to go out to the protests finding different ways to... AZ: To engage in the conversation RJ: Engage in the conversation, exactly! And if you get disillusioned by it just read another article..*both laughs* and you’ll just feel like, “What the fuck!”. @rose_inks
SO DC DOESN’T HAVE SPACE FOR ARTISTS TO INHABIT, YOU KNOW, AFFORDABLY. UNION ARTS HAS BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG TIME AND PROVIDED STUDIO SPACE FOR ARTISTS FOR A WHILE. AND A LOT OF THE ARTISTS CAME FROM GOLD LEAF STUDIOS WHICH SHUT DOWN AND I THINK THAT O STREET STUDIOS THEIR RENT WAS RAISED LAST YEAR FORCING A LOT OF ARTISTS TO MOVE OUT. SO THERE ARE SOME THIRTY ARTISTS IN THIS BUILDING AND THE FUTURE OF WHERE THEY ARE GOING TO BE IS ABSOLUTELY NOT SET.
DESIREE VENN FREDRIC X NOMAD YARD PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAMSON BINUTU INTERVIEW BY AYANA ZAIRE
On nomad yard... I got tired of sitting in front of a camera and talking to myself then responding to comments and emails as a result of what I shared. I wanted to create physical spaces where we could sit down and have those same conversations, in a dope space. You know my house looks like this so this is essentially like an extension of my home. You know? It’s so we can have conversations, it’s all about conversation for me. The store is here for a multitude of reasons and it’s not just to have products for you to buy. Right? It’s literally to create a space in time. For the folks that share as they come and go, come and go, its always love and that’s really what it’s about for me. So supporting like 10 other businesses, in this one singular space, majority of them being black owned. You know? And I’m moving to a space where they’re all black owned.
AZ: Talk about your creative journey and how you got here. DVF: Oh wow. The journey is ongoing, still in process - still just very much in process. You know? Every day, every week, every month, every year I learn something new from within. I’m still in it and until I am that 80 something year old, you know, woman with a huge fro and her caftan with beads and jewels for days selling vintage somewhere on some island. Somewhere tropical cause this is some bullshit, this weather, *both laughs* then it won’t be fulfilled. So until I get to that point I’m going to continue creating and recreating you know so... AZ: When did you first know you were creative? DVF: When I came out my mothers womb. * both laughs* I was painting in the uterus. Nah, no, my mother has always said that I was a difficult pregnancy. She knew, she said it. She was like, “I knew who I was birthing”. And *laughs* for a long time in my...I was born in Sierra Leone, in Freetown - the capital of Sierra Leone, and I come from a family of professionals. I’m the only girl in my generation, out of 12 grandchildren, I’m the only girl and everything surrounding me was you go to school, you graduate, you start a professional profession, and you earn income. You start a family, you sustain that family, and you kind of travel in between and then you die. You know? I saw that through my childhood but it was my grandmother who really nurtured the creative aspects of me. And when I say that it wasn’t like she gave me a paintbrush and paint and was like, “Go create!” Because that was a given. It was more so in the process of her expressing to me what it means to be a woman. Like, you are an artist in your femininity...in your very being you are an artist, you create every single day of this life. It’s not external to you, my grandmother taught me that. Everything about us is that expression and so in your being you create. Suffering is what really pushed it out. It was kind of that, once you feel the pain you either succumb to it or you scream out and I screamed and kept on screaming. I’m still screaming. AZ: So the next question is about your Instagram post.
TOO MUCH OF THIS CONVERSATION HAS BEEN THE ASKING OF OUR FREEDOM AND OUR RIGHT TO LIVE AND EXIST IN PEACE. FUCK THAT. AND I GOT TO THAT POSITION A LONG TIME AGO, IT DIDN’T TAKE FERGUSON FOR ME TO FEEL THAT WAY.
IT TOOK MY OWN IMPRISONMENT.
DVF: Uh oh. *both laughs* AZ: I saw you post a picture of a book, Negroes With Guns and under it were hashtags like #thingsareshifting and #wewillshootback and right when it all happened (Officer Darren Willson firing a total of 12 bullets at an unarmed 18 year old, black human being named Michael Brown) I had the exact same feelings but I want to know do you still feel the same way? Talk a little bit about that post and what inspired it. DVF: So Negroes with Guns is a book by Robert F. Williams and the book itself is kind of like a foundation of what we know of as the Black Panther Party. He’s somebody we should all know. They don’t dig him up enough with intention. You know? On purpose. But the man fought and he fought righteously. He stood to protect himself, his family, the women in his family, and his community. And there was fear, he speaks honestly about that fear but you still act through fear and that’s what I believe we need to learn. It was actually how I ended my year reading that book because that’s in essence the mind state that I want to remain in. Too much of this conversation has been the asking of our freedom and our right to live and exist in peace. Fuck that. And I got to that position a long time ago, it didn’t take Ferguson for me to feel that way. It took my own imprisonment. I’m 32, I’ve spent almost a year of my life detained. Right? Almost a year of my life detained. And in those times, it’s two separate incidents, but in those times I saw this world for what it is. You know? Because it was in those times that I saw that yo, despite your degrees, despite your family, your family name, despite your accomplishments, despite all these things the world tells you matters, at the end of the day you’re a melanated woman and you can and will get caught in this system very easily. Right? And everyone that was in my position, the position of supposedly “less power”, looks like me or some variation of me and everyone who was in this illusion of power looked like the other. You know? That stayed with me the entire time and it was in those journeys that I, I saw what it was. *Exhausted chuckle* It wasn’t about laws, it wasn’t about who did what, who was wrong, who was right...it was about color. It was blatant and I saw what it did to people who looked like us. I saw how it broke them down, I saw how it destroyed them, I saw how it ripped them apart. I saw how it killed them. And I refused to be that, in fact, I know I went through that journey because I had to see that so something in me could be awakened. So we’re not here to ask permission. You know? Everything I believe in and I stand for...Again it’s the sufferings, the bitterness, that has taught me that I’m not asking you for anything. My battles were with immigration, I’m supposed to beg you to let me live here? Fuck you and your law that says I can’t live here. *laughs* I’m going to live here until my spirit tells me to move. AZ: What do you think the next step is as a people? I keep going back to this idea of education being the root and economics... being liberated through economics. DVF: It’s not the education, or it’s not going to a school that I think will change us, change our psyche, or our thinking. Its education of self. Know thyself. We know of ourselves and our history through them, through European ideas of history, their history. They have created systems and castes that have relegated us to certain classes but we in our nature have not changed which is why to this very day they replicate and they jock us. Everything that we do, we speak, the way we look, everything they replicate it because we still create. We’re still gods. You know? So until we acknowledge that it’s still very present, its not a past, it’s a reality now which is why they’re hunting us down in the streets. Which is why they’re hunting us down with disease, which is why they’re wiping us out with genocide. And when I speak of all melanated peoples in the world I’m not just speaking of black people because in my understanding there is no “black person”. You know? I’m speaking of all melanated peoples of the world. They are hunting us down. You know what I’m saying? Boko Haram. Ebola. I come from a country that is currently ravaged because of this. Mind you this is a country that underwent an 11-year civil war not to long ago. So if it’s not war its disease, if it’s not disease, its economic disparity, its one or the other and it’s consistent, it’s fluid...There are multiple ways to kill a nigga, pick one. *Exasperated chuckle* Yo, you may take my life today but this DNA, this melanin, will continue. You know what I’m saying? I’m going to shut up now. AZ: What’s next for Nomad Yard? Where do you want to take it? DVF: I’m open to wherever it goes. As a business I want to recreate this space throughout the world because it’s less about the products I carry. But the products matter because they reflect histories, different stories, different realities, different experiences, people, places, and possibilities. Not just one story, you know? When we speak vintage it’s always Americana vintage. It’s what happened in America in the fifties, in the twenties, in the thirty’s. When we talk vintage folks are like yeah AMERICA!, AMERICA!, AMERICA!, and its like you know folks lived outside of America during that time too, right? There were people in South America, there were people in Africa, there were people in Asia. There were people existing and living and building lives. AZ: So is that also what inspired the name too? DVF: Absolutely. We carry goods that are reflective of our existence, you know? Indonesian textiles, African textiles, Japanese kimonos, down to Mexican capes and just a variety of goods that people created. Majority of these things are handmade, I want to say 98% of them, handmade with intention - with the intention of clothing, with the intention of protecting, with the intention of reflecting a status or presence, or creating an image. We do it everyday but we do it with a garment that was made by a machine, in a factory, in a sweatshop, with no positive energy that’s sold by a corporation that gives no fucks about you or your beliefs but will happily take your dollar, your debt paper..and will continue to place you in debt because that’s the way our world operates. The purpose of the store is to reflect our existence, the full story. I was made for this, you know, so here we are. @xodvf, @nomadyard
O S M
NAEEM WYNN ON THE ENVIRONMENT, SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP, TRAP MUSIC, TRAP SHOOTING, ART, COMMUNITY, AND METAPHYSICAL PHILOSOPHY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK CUSTER INTERVIEW BY AYANA ZAIRE
AZ: Let’s start with, what do you do? What would you say your position in the community is? Cause you do a few things. NW: Yeah. I would say my position right now is a rising leader. I say rising because I still have a lot to learn. I’m 21 years old and in the past 3 years I’ve been exposed to information that’s profoundly changed my life forever and I know for a fact based on that information I have a long way to go. But I would definitely consider myself a rising leader for the simple purpose that in my community, the community I grew up in, there’s a very strong lack of leadership. And there’s um, a conspiracy to put false leaders into the community. So I would say exposing the false leadership and creating a new form, a new positive way of leadership. Leadership people can look up to as alternatives to crime as opposed to using crime as the only source of income, source of pride, source of community. One of the main ways I’m doing that is through youth development. Encouraging those from the ages of 12 to 18 to become social entrepreneurs - finding ways to impact the community in a positive way but doing it legally. Utilizing the capitalist system that’s been used against us, in our favor. We live in a capitalist society so the only way to generate revenue in a legitimate way is to bring value into the marketplace, to bring value to the community. To be able to contribute something that benefits yourself as well as others. So I encourage on a regular basis through one on one mentoring, through group mentoring, through open seminars that, “Profits are better than wages”. Wages will make you a living which is fine but profits will make you a fortune which is super fine. And my mentor told me, “Naeem, the only way for you to make profits is for you to find your purpose”, live a purpose filled life, and for the last three years that’s what I’ve been doing...finding my purpose. And I honestly feel like my purpose is to become a connector, not to be like a Messiah. Like my man Pac said, I don’t expect to change the world but I do expect to inspire a generation who will. So like I said for the last year and a half I’ve been doing youth development work, encouraging young people to become entrepreneurs and giving insight on how to build skills like networking, goal setting, philosophy building, how to research and legitimately go after your goals and dreams, and also involve myself in the solar energy industry. Because if we don’t have a planet to live on we can not accomplish anything so the first thing we need to understand is our actions up to date have been killing the planet - they have been of detriment to the planet, causing pollution, causing energy production to be the number one cause of that pollution. Littering playing a huge part and just overall a lack of concern for the environment as a whole, the world, and on a smaller scale your immediate community. The community I grew up in, on every block you’re going to see trash...trash is everywhere. Graffiti is everywhere. And there’s nothing wrong with street art, but there’s a difference between street art and the destruction of property. There’s a difference between not knowing how to clean up your community and just not doing it. It doesn’t take a genius to pick up trash from the ground. It doesn’t take a genius to bring a trash bag to the block so anytime we have garbage we can throw it there instead of on the ground. But it takes someone of awareness, of concern, so raising that level of concern through solar energy specifically because the energy industry is going to be the biggest transfer of wealth in history. The transfer of people using dirty energy for their energy supply
SO AFTER GETTING IN TROUBLE FOR THE VERY LAST TIME AND BEING INCARCERATED FOR OVER 2 MONTHS I REALIZED THAT I HAD TO MAKE A CHANGE. I HAD TO START ASKING MYSELF QUESTIONS. WHAT DO I WANT? WHAT DO I REALLY WANT TO ACCOMPLISH? WHAT IS REALLY VALUABLE TO ME? WHAT AM I WILLING TO SACRIFICE? WHAT ARE MY MORALS?
as opposed to using clean energy is going to be the biggest transfer of wealth. Huge. Why? Because for the past years people have been using dirty energy and utility companies like Pepco and BGE have been running a monopoly on it, meaning there’s been no other competition and last year was the first year anyone in our immediate area could go 100% green for no cost at all. So this isn’t just an opportunity for us to save the planet, it’s also an opportunity for us to become entrepreneurs and very profitable. So that’s another thing I’m involved in right now. One, youth development, two, environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship, and I would say the third thing is community entertainment. Being able to create environments where people can come and enjoy themselves and network with people of like minds on a consistent basis. Letting them know there’s a community out there that supports your art, that supports your need for socializing, supports you need for extracurricular activities that are not always conservative. Being able to go to a house party, or a DJ competition, being able to laugh with your friends, or enjoy some marijuana if you want to. There is a lack of that, well there was a lack of that. And that’s why me and my brother Franklin, he goes by Apt 50, started doing the events because there was a lack of opportunity for us to go out and be around people like ourselves. The only option we had was hanging out on the block all day. And that resulted in a lot of detrimental situations for us. Being involved with the law, getting in trouble, getting involved with the wrong people. Having nothing to do and coming up with the worst possible thing to do cause there was just nothing else to do. *laughs* So we just really wanted to create something, first for us then it turned into a social activity. Something for the whole community. And of course outside of those three things there are other extracurriculars. I’m a big car fan, I love racing cars. I do trap shooting. I started the first trap shooting club at any HBCU in the country which I’m pretty proud of, ummmm and outside of that. I read a lot. I read a lot of books. AZ: *smiles* Okay wait, now we have to back up. I have so many questions! Where are you even from? And you made mention of being exposed to some information that changed your life. Talk a little...or A LOT about that. NW: Okay. So born and raised Washingtonian, I’ve been here my entire life. I grew up on Irving St which is not too far from Howard University. My mother worked at Howard for the last 20 years, she just recently started working for UDC. But we grew up in like a middle class home, my mom went to work everyday for as long as I can remember. From like 7 o’clock in the morning and not coming home until 7 at night, everyday. So watching that I realized working a job, you’re not going to be happy. I watched my mom complain all the time, but she’s happy and satisfied me and my little brother can, you know, live a pretty good life. We have shelter, we eat everyday, we have clothes on our backs, we go to pretty good schools and I watched that. One thing I always wanted to do was to be able to give her the lifestyle she always wanted, that’s been one of the big motivators for me. I know the reasons why people do things are important so I wanted to let you know that. The reason I wake up and do the things I do is so that I can help my mother become financially independent and be able to do some of the other things I spoke on earlier. But from high school to 18 years old I had no guidance, at all - no male guidance. Of course my father was around but he was half way in, half way out so I don’t really want to talk about that. But. So yeah, from like 14 to 18, no guidance. Just out here like, you live and you learn. You mess up, you learn from it, you keep going and most of the messing up I was learning from was all negative situations for me. Like getting in trouble on a consistent basis, being involved with the wrong people. A lot of older people, just letting people influence me and it was simply because I didn’t have the information. I wasn’t privileged to someone holding my hand and guiding me in the right direction on a consistent basis. So after getting in trouble for the very last time and being incarcerated for over 2 months I realized that I had to make a change. I had to start asking myself questions. What do I want? What do I really want to accomplish? What is really valuable to me? What am I willing to sacrifice? What are my morals? And from asking myself those questions I was privileged enough to meet an older gentlemen by the name of Pernell Pinkney when I went to UDC, my first year, he’s a metaphysics professor. Profound individual. Like one of those slow talking, Yoda guys. *laughs* You know? “Naeem you have to…” He has one of those deep voices and he speaks in segments. But his words are profound so I knew when I first started talking to him that any information he gave me was going to be vital. So I asked him, “How do I become successful?”. Just as simple as that...like how do I get to my goals and dreams? And the first thing he said was, “Naeem, it all starts with your mindset for things to change, we must change”. He said the first thing we must change is our mindset, our philosophy, our mentality. Your current philosophy is you have to steal, you have to sell drugs to make money. What I’m telling you is in order to live the life you want to live you have to change your philosophy. Naeem first you have to understand the world we live in, the society, the country we live in was not built for your benefit. You as an African American male. That’s the plain truth of it all and for you to know that puts you in a good position because you’re not naive to the game that’s going on. You’re not just subject to it, you’re not just a duck out here. You’re not just a sheep. So once you know the game is capitalism, once you know how the game works, once you know the rules of the game he said Naeem, “Profits are better than wages”. That’s the first rule, profits are always better than wages. And in a capitalist society it’s a tier program, it’s the people at the top, the 5% who are making profits. How are they making profits? They’re making profits off of other people’s work, off the wages that are being paid out to other people and all of this...the wages and the profits are created from value, value being put into the marketplace. You have to bring value to the marketplace for you to create wealth, money, gold it’s all based on value. Before there was money there was gold and that gold was based on the value of the person that had it. He accumulated that gold why? Because he had a bunch of sheep that he raised to have good wool and he cut that wool off and gave it to the people. *talking to Sam* You’re a great photographer, you produce quality work, that’s the value you bring to the marketplace. With the solar energy situation being able to go from dirty energy and spending so much money to clean energy and spending less money, that’s value-added. Then that value creates profit and that’s the base of this whole system, of the whole world to be completely honest. Once I understood that, once he explained to me profits are better than wages...wages just make you living, profits make you a fortune - I knew exactly what I had to do. I knew I had to start researching and looking at people that were putting value into the marketplace, figuring out what industries were going to allow me an opportunity to bring value and the first thing I realized was going to bring value was what you’re doing, Photography. Because when I was 10 years old to about 12 years old I went to this program called New Community for Children, across the street from the WeWork Wonder Bread building, it’s like a church. They had an after school program and they taught me how to do film photography, from then I was in love with it because it was something that was new. The mechanics of it, going into the darkroom, not having any light and having to know what’s going on...it was just like really amazing to me so I kind of got addicted to it and when I got out of high school I kind of recaptured that passion I had for it. I got me a film camera from the thrift store, got me a couple rolls of film, and started taking pictures of Frank. Frank was a pretty cool guy at time so I started taking pictures of him. He was painting, he knew a few people, we put them on social media and they started getting a little traction. Then I started doing events and honestly that catapulted me into the events industry because documenting my first event I realized being able to put this together, this event, this situation was powerful. It was not only something that made me happy but something that people geeked over. It was something that people prided their weekends on, it was something our culture was surrounded around. I grew up in the gogo, like I went to gogos every weekend and it was something that was stapled in our community. So like I would go to a gogo and spend $30 not care, spend $40 not care, go to Show Place Arena and spend $100 and not care and its thousands of other people who did the same thing so I was like if imma go to these events let me see if we can actually throw an event, right? So I put the camera down for a little bit and found a venue. It was my old boxing gym. I used to box back in the day, me and my little brother, we turned the boxing gym into a music venue. We threw an event and we got like a hundred people out off just getting like a few artists to perform, giving them tickets, and telling them to sell them. Ever since then I realized no matter what I ever wanted to do I could find out how to do it and I could execute it no matter what. Because before that I had no prior experience throwing events. I really had no guidance on how to do it. I asked a few questions online, YouTube’d it, but all self taught education just simply based on why? Me wanting to help my mom, me wanting to change my situation, and just asking a few basic questions to some key people, it kind of catapulted me into a situation and I
realized no matter what anybody wants to do we can do it based on just asking ourselves a few questions, being passionate about it, and having a long term vision outside of just today. So you know we just consistently kept throwing events, I met a shit ton of people, and it just became huge. Then after a while I got really good at sales, like sales became really easy and then I realized sales was value, sales was huge value, oh my goodness sales is everything. It IS capitalism and once I understood that I knew that no matter what industry I was in I would always have a job if I wanted a job, I will always have opportunity if I wanted to create an opportunity. Because just like SolarCity needs someone to sell their solar panels in this city, it’s the same thing with Canon...they need someone to sell those cameras. As long as there’s a product or service then sales needs to be there. AZ: Do you think capitalism is a good thing? NW: *long pause* It’s a good thing to make profit...it’s a good starting point, but it’s not a good ending point. I feel like there’s another system out there that either doesn’t exist now or can be created that can benefit our people, specifically, a lot better. One, capitalism is the stem of the core system that we are affected by and that core system does not benefit us as African Americans. It was not built to benefit us but capitalism is a good start. Why? Because once we get economic power, which is money, which is wealth, then we can start to manipulate the system. We can start to get politicians in the government that are for us. We can start... AZ: SO WE CAN CREATE OUR OWN POLITICAL PARTY NW: Exactly! But without value none of that happens. Without money none of that happens. So until we start to realize it all starts with us creating value, being great at whatever we’re doing, and making money off of it nothing will ever change. We’ll always be dependent on the government, we’ll always be blaming the government, we’ll always be trying to work for someone else for a job and it will never change because the 5% will hold all the wealth and make all of the decisions. They’ll control the police, they’ll control the government, they’ll control agriculture... AZ: They control the commodities. Why is there no black person who makes cars? Why is there no black person who owns an airline? Why are there no black owned major grocery stores, we don’t control the food we eat. NW: Exactly AZ: Just basic things. NW: We have to be independent on a large scale and you can say, “Yeah I’m well off...I’m making $10,000 a month, I’m driving a nice car, I wear nice suits, and my family is good”, but what about the section 8 community around the corner from your house where everybody is dependent on the government...it’s 2,000 people living in that community and nobody goes to school and nobody reads? Those are your brothers and sisters! It’s like we can either be stupid and dumb to the situation or we can think a little bit bigger and not think selfishly. That’s another thing that the plantation mentality has created, it’s created selfishness. We don’t care about our brothers and sisters, their futures, we focus on us our inner circle and I feel like that’s the biggest detriment to us. The neighborhood I grew up in, like, Kennedy Street, there’s businesses everywhere but none of them are black owned. There’s liquor stores on every block from First Street all the way to Georgia Avenue, which is 10 blocks consecutively, and on every block there’s a liquor store and every liquor store was owned by a Korean or Chinese person yet there’s no Koreans or Chinese people hanging out on those streets. So that one is an example, another is there are corner stores and convenience stores on every block and these corner stores and convenience stores are owned by Ethiopians and Arabic families who are of color but don’t give a shit about the people in the communities. And I know that first hand because I know some of them because of type of person I am, and I put solar panels on a few of their buildings because of the type of person I am, and I get an opportunity to pick their brain a little bit. Become a little bit more trustworthy so you know I understand now that it’s a lot of work to be done and the only way for it to happen is through value, wealth, and notoriety. People knowing you, respecting you, and you having credibility so that when you say something people will hear you and they act on it. Those are the only two ways and that’s why everything we do, we do it for notoriety and profit. Notoriety and profit. That’s the only way anything will change, people believing in you, trusting you, and you having enough money to back everything that they trust and believe. That’s the only way. AZ: Why do you think people of color aren’t as passionate as we should be about the environmental issues that are obviously all around us and it’s clear minorities are the ones who are most affected by the consequences. Why do you think that is? NW: I believe that there’s a major lack of concern for a lot of the things that are detrimental to our community for the sole purpose that there’s a lot of distractions. There are a lot of distractions that take us away from the important things like this Drake and Meek Mill situation. That’s a HUGE distraction no matter how entertaining it is, no matter how many times it makes us laugh. When we see Meek Mill face on whatever meme, its a distraction. It’s not benefiting us, it’s entertainment so when we have situations like that on a consistent basis, when the main focus every weekend is the turn up, when every conversation a group of black brothers have is about how much pussy they get, or how many drugs they take... just, just, it’s just a bunch of distractions. It’s just a lack of concern and it all stems from the mentality at the end of the day. What we’ve been feeding our minds, the music, the food that we eat, the TV that we watch, the false leaders that we follow, the drugs...the drugs is a huge part of it. I haven’t found a solution yet to reverse it but I understand what’s going on. AZ: Do you think education as a solution is powerful enough? Or do you think we’re literally going to have to use the culture, the things that are prominent in the culture, to reverse this mindset which is what they’re basically doing right now. I mean people are basically promoting certain things in the culture that distract us, you know? So do we use that same tactic? NW: Yeah it’s the only way, but for that to happen. For you to use the music industry to reverse what it’s doing to the community you would have to have control over the music industry which stems from the record labels...the Jimmy Iovine’s, the Atlantic Records, the Def Jams. AZ: Do we though? NW: All these record labels are controlling the situation. At the end of the day the reason why people get electricity is because of the utility companies, without the utility companies nobody gets electricity, right? Because they control the entire thing so for you to stop - for instance for you to kill the tree, you have to get to the root, you must crush the root. If the root is the music industry, the root is these com-
CAPITALISM IS THE STEM OF THE CORE SYSTEM THAT WE ARE AFFECTED BY AND THAT SYSTEM DOES NOT BENEFIT US AS AFRICAN AMERICANS. IT WAS NOT BUILT TO BENEFIT US BUT CAPITALISM IS A GOOD START. WHY? BECAUSE ONCE WE GET ECONOMIC POWER, WHICH IS MONEY, WHICH IS WEALTH, THEN WE CAN START TO MANIPULATE THE SYSTEM. WE CAN START TO GET POLITICIANS IN THE GOVERNMENT THAT ARE FOR US.
panies, you have to either get rid of those companies or overtake those companies. That’s the only way. And for you to do that you either have to infiltrate through being an intern, working your way up, and starting to, you know, plant little bugs to destroy it or you create your own and overthrow it. It’s like creating a new country and taking over another country. You can either infiltrate or you just outright destroy it, it’s the only way cause their motives are plain and simple. They know exactly what they’re trying to do and they don’t give a shit about none of us. They want to make money, they want to make ticket sales, they want to make album sales, they want to sell merchandise, and they want to sell drugs. *long pause* Straight up! They want to sell drugs, the drugs are making the most money and that’s 100% tax free. AZ: Kind of on the same lines on taking over something, talk about your trap shooting club. We talked a little bit about it on Friday but like, yo, we haven’t really talked about it enough..it’s a new thing you’re doing. NW: So yeah, trap shooting is something that kind of fell into my lap. I was introduced to trap shooting by my professor Pernell Pinkney, he’s been a trap shooter for the past 20 years...him and John Kirksey who is like the trap shooter for the entire state of Maryland. He’s the only African American in the like entire United States league/conglomerate that they got going on right now. He’s worked for Beretta, he’s the reason we have that sponsorship. He’s won multiple championships here and overseas, he’s basically our coach but he works at UDC and he’s a mortician. AZ: What!? NW: Exactly, it’s a weird combination...like he works at a funeral home, he does embalming and everything, but he also does trap shooting on the weekends. *both laughs* AZ: Let the readers know what trap shooting is. NW: So trap shooting is a sport. It’s taking 12 gauge shotguns and shooting moving plates. The object of the game is whoever hits the most plate disks out of 25, 50, 100, etc. wins. So its trap then there’s skeet. Skeet is when the disc is going in one direction only, trap is when it’s going in multiple directions and there are multiple players. There is one player in skeet. Trapshooting was introduced to me by my professor Pernell Pinkney and we were having a conversation on esoteric metaphysics, he just kind of threw it out there. He was just like, “Man, you want to be President of this trap shooting club?” AZ: *both laughs* NW: And I was like, “What’s trap shooting?” And he broke it down to me. He showed me some shells and I was like, this is pretty interesting. First thing I thought of was the comparison of the trap music industry, and trap life, and trapping. Like being in the bando, selling drugs, shooting guns, shooting up people with guns, and that compared with this sport...that’s a legitimate sport. A sport that’s been around probably 2, 3, 400 years and being able to blend the two cultures. Finding a way to take all these people, all these brothers that are shooting each other on the block, taking them and introducing them to a sport that is predominantly white, predominantly older and being able to educate them on how to actually use guns. Because that’s not the way shoot a handgun *uses his hand as a gun and turns it on it’s side* and most people think it is, especially in lower income communities. *Raises voice* Where are these guns coming from first of all!? That’s one of the biggest questions I have. Why are there AK 47’s and Mack 11’s and automatic weapons in low income neighborhoods in Washington DC? Where are these guns coming from, right!? AZ: Well, I mean we know where they’re coming from. NW: Exactly...but that’s a whole other story. But my overall goal with this is to one, get on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the youngest black trapshooter. That’s the goal. AZ: *start screaming* Yassssssssss NW: *laughs* That’s the goal. Notoriety, right? And then the second thing is to make a lot of money winning championships doing this because there is huge money to be made. You ever seen American Gangster? AZ: Of course NW: So there was a scene when Denzel Washington went to the plugs house and he was basically shooting trap in his backyard. It was a very slight scene but trapshooting is in that movie so there’s a lot of money to be made because the people that are investing, the people that have the teams are billionaires. This is not like basketball where there’s shit, 30 people on the team. This is five people on this team and each one of these five people are getting paid as if they are 10 basketball players. So huge opportunity. Why? Because there’s no black people in this sport. John Kurtz is one amongst hundreds. AZ: Same with golf. NW: Same thing. But then when it comes to young people like our age there is none at all, at all, at all. So huge lane, open lane. One notoriety, two profit and an opportunity to, I want to say “finesse”, our neighborhood and our community to think that this is related to trapping and then educate them on something that can benefit them because at the end of the day if all the guns are owned by the opposition and there comes a time for battle we will lose and that’s just the reality of it. AZ: I have this conversation with my father all the time and he’s like we don’t have missiles, we don’t have tanks, we don’t produce any of that. I 100% agree we need to arm ourselves, but we have the passion and that’s greater than any weapon. NW: Yeah. Malcolm X was passionate and he’s dead, right? MLK too. Like technology is the reason why civilizations have been able to conquer. Europeans went into Africa and were able to overthrow all of those rulers because they had guns. Africans didn’t have guns. Africans didn’t even know what bullets were. AZ: *sighs* Same with Native Americans. They didn’t have the technology. NW: Exactly, exactly, they just didn’t have the technology. You can have the bow and arrow, you can be strong, you can shoot as many arrows as you want, but when you have a gun and all you have to do is press one button and it’s a force that’s coming out of that gun that’s ten times as strong as that arrow and it’s coming at seconds and you ain’t doing nothing? There ain’t really too much you can do with that. Death. You lose’n. AZ: I know you said you had some type of mentor club. So how’s that connected and how’d you get involved with that? NW: Yes the mentor program fell into my lap as well. I was introduced to that by a guy named Michael Pearson. He runs an organization, Alternatives for Crime, and he has a contract with the DC Superior Court helping young people that are on probation right now find mentors and find alternatives for crime. One of my distributors in the solar energy firm that me and my business partner run, we went to go sit down with him to do a consultation to put solar on his home. I told him about the presentations we would do at Ballou and Coolidge and he was fascinated. He was like you young guys are doing this? I’ll put you on with what we’re doing and you can make some extra money. So I’ve been basically mentoring these kids 1 on 1 who are on probation, most of whom are from out SE and NW, just giving them basic insight, basic information that I’ve been blessed with man. And showing them some of the business that I do, helping them with some of the business they want to do, helping them set goals. I just helped one of the kids yesterday get enrolled in high school. He’s been locked up for 2 years now, 17 years old classified as a 9th grader. And his mom’s not there, his father’s not there, his little brother just got shot over the weekend. His little brother is 15 years old, got shot in the stomach, had to get his kidney taken out, and they’re rehabilitating his legs so he can re-learn how to walk again. His grandmother is not able to move around as she would want to. They are depending on the government for money, for funds, for food, for the place they live in and it’s just the situation that is being experienced by so many other young people. I go to these group homes, cause most of these kids are in group homes. I go into group homes and I say, “Yes I’m mentoring this kid” and then there are 10 other kids in there. I went into this one group home and they saw I was a young dude and was like, “Oh yeah! I want a young mentor...I’m tired of these old dudes coming in here!” and it’s just another industry that’s lacking. Like there needs to be more people our age giving back, just being able to give basic information. Or like just spending an hour or two with some kids that don’t have anybody. What does it take to meet up with a kid for an hour just go to a museum, ask him a few questions, just talk to him/her? And we can get paid for it because there’s programs in the government. The government quote, unquote wants to rehabilitate the community but...*long pause* AZ: To a certain extent NW: To a certain extent. And for you to get that out of the government you literally have to look for it, you have to dig, you have to try to make it happen. But that situation kind of fell into my lap and I’m trying to combine it with everything I’m doing with the events. Show some of the kids how to throw an event. With the trap shooting, showing them how to get involved with trap shooting. With the solar energy, showing them how to support the environment, showing them how to build a business out of it. So I’m trying to tie everything I’m doing into this youth development situation because we have a lot of situations we have to fix, community development, we have to work! It’s a lot, a lot, a lot, of work to be done and the older generation isn’t working! They’re not working. One, they’re a little bit older and they’ve been so exposed to this bullshit that surrounds us a lot longer than we have so they’re all tired out and they don’t always believe in themselves as much as they should. They’re not as passionate, they don’t want to reach out to the community, they don’t know how to reach the youth. So when it comes to entrepreneurs like us, knowing ourselves first and foremost, knowing we have these abilities, we have more energy and more capabilities to impact the communities
AT THE END OF THE DAY IF ALL THE GUNS ARE OWNED BY THE OPPOSITION AND THERE COMES A TIME FOR BATTLE WE WILL LOSE AND
THATâ€™S JUST THE REALITY OF IT.
THE ONLY TIME WE BECOME SLAVES, BECOME UNHAPPY, BECOME DISSATISFIED IS WHEN WE GIVE AWAY OUR POWER TO OTHER PEOPLE OR WE DONâ€™T ACKNOWLEDGE OUR POWER BECAUSE IF WE KNEW THAT WE WERE GODS AND THAT THERE IS NO ONE ELSE TO LOOK UP TO BUT THE PERSON RIGHT IN THE MIRROR THEN EVERYTHING WOULD CHANGE.
than these older people do. But then when we’re distracted with drinking lean, popping xanax, poppin mollys, selling crack, shooting guns, listening to bullshit all day, everyday. Ain’t nothing wrong with listening to Future. Future cranks! But consuming Future? There is a difference between listening to Future and consuming Future. AZ: This is along the lines, or in the same vein as entrepreneurship. Frank was in our first issue. Talk about that relationship. You help manage or just help with marketing? NW: Yeah so I want to say it’s more so consulting. Like Frank is an independent entrepreneur. I don’t take credit for anything Frank has created, like at all. I see myself as a consultant, simply somebody that’s been helping and adding to the overall situation. Me and Frank have been working together since we were 12 years old. Like we were selling clothes like on the block, like selling baby clothes... AZ: Noooo...wait. Wait. *both laughs* NW: No, serious situation. That’s another situation that’s a little bit on the dark side of things. *both laughs* But me and Frank, believe it or not, we came from selling weed, selling baby clothes and doing a bunch of different stuff, but we started, you know, doing something more positive. Like I said I picked up a camera and started documenting all the artwork he was painting, he got more passionate about art, we started doing events, and it’s just really been a partnership for real. Because like Frank, he’s a genius and he probably would say the same thing about me. Like, I don’t think I’m no better than Frank and Frank ain’t no better than me, we just add to one another. We just build. He’s the creative and I guess I’m a little strategic and we just add to that, but its a situation where we both know exactly what needs to be done. We know exactly what we want, you know? Exactly what people want, what people want to see because we know what we want to see. We have an understanding on psychology and it benefits us in a way that is profound. So as far as managing goes I would say I manage the events that goes on because I kind of plan all the events. AZ: What do you think the young creative community needs? NW: We need ownership of the venues. Why? Because consistent events are key and being manipulated by other people because they own the space and being extorted, being played with, being denied, is counterproductive to the growth of the creative community. And I’ve experience that a little bit with some different venues that I have reached out to and attempted to work with. They either don’t want to work with you because you’re too young, or they want to overcharge you, they want to regulate what you can and cannot do. It’s hindering to the creative essence of creativity. As a creative you should have undeniable control over what you put out there and how you put it out there and when people who are not doing the creative side of it put in hindrances, whether it be financially or structurally, it stops you from reaching your full potential. So I feel like the number one thing we must do is have ownership over spaces and environments to do our creative work. Co-working spaces, venue spaces for both arts...visual arts as well as musical arts. Places to work like a Wework space owned by young people and run by young people and it’s affordable to everyone that is willing to work. AZ: You know I’m trying to do that exact thing with the space I’m working on building out. How do you think we can leverage our influence to have a hand in building the city that we want to live in, in the next 10 years, 20 years, 30 years from now? You have a certain amount of influence because you can get people in a room, I guess I have a certain level of influence because I can put something in a publication. So how do you think we can leverage that trust the community has in us to eventually build and own these spaces? How does that start? NW: It starts through the philosophy of the mastermind alliance. When two or more people come together on a common cause, nothing’s impossible. Then we branch off into publications, what you’re doing with Distrikt is key because if we don’t own any of the news channels, any of the newspapers, any of the magazines, we can not put out the message we want to put out. The message that goes out will always be in someone else’s favor. So publications. Then the real estate. Real estate development, owning a real estate development firm, someone building these buildings because it doesn’t take much. You don’t have to be a white old person to build a building. You don’t have to be a fortune 500 company to create a building, an infrastructure you don’t have to... AZ: But you do NW: Yeah, you just do! AZ: Nooo BUT YOU DO NW: Oh... AZ: But that’s the issue, right? There is no mandate, there is no standard, there’s nothing in the law of nature that says you have to be an old white male to build and own a building, but you have to be an old white male to build and own a building. You know what I mean? So how do we get from throwing events and putting out zines to being Douglas or Buzzuto and having a real say as to what happens to the city? NW: Education. It all boils down to education because, for example, Douglas Development started out building one property and then it turned into more than one, they started doing commercial properties. But it all starts with education at the end of the day because the reason why I’m dabbling in the real estate development industry is simply because my mentor told me that it was possible for me. He told me you can do it if that’s something you’re interested in. I got interested in it after reading Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal, I got that book from the thrift store for a $1. Gold. I saw Trump’s name on it, I was like okay this guy’s got some money...I said let me see what this guy’s talking about. The first thing he talked about was thinking big. He said the reason I am where I am is because I thought bigger than everyone else. So I went to my mentor to ask him a few questions, come to find out he used to do real estate development. He was a retired construction company owner. I didn’t know that, then he started telling me that it’s possible you can do whatever you want. Then he broke down the steps. Property acquisition, getting finances, building a team. Getting your architect, getting your engineers, getting your plumbers, getting your electrician, getting your civil engineers, putting all that together. Building a business plan, getting financing from a bank, private investors, nowadays you can get crowdfunding but the reason why I didn’t think it was possible for me before hand was because I didn’t know all steps. I didn’t know what had to be done. The reason why most of us don’t do the things we want to do is because we just don’t know how to do it. We get scared because we think it’s bigger than it actually is and real estate development isn’t any bigger than developing photos. It’s the same steps, you just take the picture. First off you put the film in, you take the picture, you develop the film, you print it out, right? Its the same thing with this...you get the property, you build the plan, you get the financing then you build it out. It may be more timing to it but it’s just this number of steps in a system. Once people know this system, know the game, know the rules then they start trying. They’ll fail the first couple of times because they have no experience but then they’ll realize that it’s easier than it’s been told to be then you start experimenting and you start doing. So education is key. Education is the number one thing we have to do. That’s what I’m trying to do with these events, attract these hundreds of people who come to these house parties and sit them all down, and be like “We have to do this NOW”. Turn them, these events, into educational opportunities. Educating people. Getting a handful of people to do real estate development, getting a handful of people to create farms in the communities so we can also own our agriculture, get a handful of people to develop publications so we can get our messages across to our people, getting a handful of people to develop technology and we all work together in an association. I found out not too long ago that every carry out in my neighborhood is a part of an association, they are all a part of associations where they buy their products from the same distributor, the same manufacturer, and they don’t sell their products to anyone outside of the association meaning that they are working with the mastermind alliance in mind but we’re not. AZ: I know it can be done which is why we’re going to do it (build out the space) but It’s complicated. I was talking to an owner of a creative space that was crowd funded the other week and he told me, “Everyone needs a sugar daddy” and I don’t want to believe him. I think the issue is lack of finances. NW: It’s complicated, because we don’t always believe we can do it on our own. And that’s a big flaw for anybody, wherever you are. I mean we always think we have to go to big brother to get some assistance. But that’s not always the case. For instance, me and Frank have been selling these “Rent Is Due” hats for a while now and every time we get inventory, we sell it all. These hats have no value but the value we put on them and that’s financing right there. What I’m saying is no matter what you have it’s not a matter of how you’re going to get the money it’s a matter of how much you want the money. How much do you want this to happen? And how passionate are you about making it happen? The infinite intelligence, the universe, will fill in the hole, will plug you in, will bring people into your life who weren’t there. Like one of my goals before I met you was to figure out how I was going to get this message out and now here I am working with a publication, right? So that’s an example of the infinite intelligence, the universe, playing a role in destiny, playing a role in us being gods and being in undeniable control of this planet, this universe and being able to manipulate it in any way we want. Of course we don’t have any control over the trees growing. Well, we do but that’s another conversation...that’s a higher level of consciousness but of course we don’t have immediate control over the natural essences like the dirt, and the sky, the clouds. All those have infinite living cycles, they live with or without us but everything else is in our undeniable control. Every piece of life. Government, economics, family, relationships, we have undeniable control 100% of the time and the only time we become slaves, become unhappy, become dissatisfied is when we give away our power to other people or we don’t acknowledge our power because if we knew that we were gods and that there is no one else to look up to but the person right in the mirror then everything would change but then we have distractions. Drugs, crack cocaine, etc. that hinder you from reaching your full potential and the reason for that is obvious. When we start reaching our full potential other people stop benefiting from our downfall. @wynngod
THE “HELL YOU TALMBOUT” RESPECTABLE DRESS?!: JANELLE MONÁE, JIDENNA AND THE POLITICS OF DAPPER DRESS BY: DONNESHA A. BLAKE Similar to Alice in Wonderland, if one happens to fall down the rabbit hole of Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland Arts Society, they will enter an alternate universe. Instead of finding anthropomorphic characters, they will find a cohort of artists, whose unique sense of style references the multitudes of Blackness and alternative expressions of beauty, gender, and sexuality. Fashion scholar Susan B. Kaiser writes that fashion is “about producing clothing and appearances working through ideas, negotiating subject positions (e.g. gender, ethnicity, class) and navigating through power relations” (1). Dress and style, especially that which doesn’t conform to the mainstream, allows us to pause and ask, what does this mean and why? When we work through our discomfort and curiosity about one’s nonconformity, we may see that they have a message. And for entertainers like Janelle Monáe and Jidenna, that message about their dress is political. Monáe’s style has been a site of curiosity in the entertainment industry. She was often read as a gender bender when she dressed in tuxedos, top hats, bow ties, and oxford dress shoes. She created pause for those who are used to seeing Black women entertainers perform in stereotypically feminine costumes, such as form fitting dresses, sparkling leotards, pumps, and long flowing hair. Historically in the U.S., gender bending or nonconformity was used to mark sexual nonconformity, which is in part why interviewers are obsessed with confirming whether Monáe is lesbian or bisexual (Kaiser 153-4, Jones, Hoard). When her dapper style wasn’t read as gender nonconforming, it was certainly read as respectable because her tuxedos covered her body (Bailey). While Monáe often sidestepped questions about her sexuality, she did debunk the idea that she tried to convey respectability through her style of dress. In a 2013 interview, Monáe talked at length about why her clothes were not simply about her being wholesome and respectable, saying: My goal has never been to cover my body because I want to be wholesome. My message has been to be in control of your body and make your decisions… When I got into the music industry majority of every female artist that I had seen were trying to regurgitate an idea of the female image…I call this my uniform. If that’s what I want to wear, then I should be able to wear that and redefine what it means to be sexy and give an alternative to the next group girls growing up (Bailey). Monáe continues to redefine what it means to be sexy in a cultural landscape where a “bad bitch” is what Buzzfeed writer Heben Nigatu defines as “basically different shades of Kim Kardashian”(Nigatu). Our culture privileges the combination of aesthetics of dress, hair, skin, and body shape that are inaccessible to the masses of Black women and girls. Her style of dress not only offers us an alternative way for Black women and girls to be sexy, but also to express their sexuality. This year we were introduced to Jidenna, one of the artists on Monáe’s Wondaland Records. Jidenna looks quite different from his contemporaries in the mainstream Hip Hop industry who appear in their music videos wearing athletic wear, jeans, t-shirts, fitted baseball caps, and sneakers. In the video for his hit song “Classic Man,” we see dapper gentlemen donned in various tailored suits, suspenders, waistcoats, ties and pocket squares with various African prints, gold pocket watches, and rings. Jidenna’s style references what cultural historian Monica L. Miller calls Black dandyism, which she historicizes in her book Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and The Styling of Black Diasporic Identity. The term dandy is defined as a person who studies above anything else to dress elegantly and fashionably (“dandy”). Miller argues that Black dandyism is a performance of Black identity and an articulation of masculinity. She also claims that they are queer subjects who blur the lines between categories of difference such as Black/white, male/female, and straight/gay (Miller 5,11). Black dandies resist convention by putting their own spin or flavor onto traditional suits and business attire. While on tour this summer to promote their Eephus EP, Wondaland worked with local organizers in each city to organize a protest on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement. They also recorded and performed a protest song called “Hell You Talmbout” which honors the lives of Black men and women who were killed by the hands of police. The song demonstrates that art continues to be a mobilizing tool in our communities. In all of their protest efforts, I wondered what Jidenna’s message might be and how his style of dress might shape both how the message was received, as well as the actual message. It appears as though Jidenna’s dress and the video for “Classic Man” promoted respectability politics. While being a political strategy in Black liberation movements to challenge racism and white supremacy, it excluded Black people who weren’t cisgender, straight, middle-class, or able-bodied. However, Jidenna’s message about his style of dress is political in that he recognizes the current state of police brutality and the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people. He asserts that his dress is not about appearing respectable, but as a reference to the struggles of the past that still haunt the lives of Black people today. In a prelude to one of his songs he directly addresses the critique that respectability politics are embedded in his style of dress by saying: “The reason we dress like this is not because we think we’ll be respected more than other people, it’s not because we think this is armor, that we’re invincible, we dress like this because we live in The New Jim Crow era. This is the fashion of these times, we want you to remember the old times.” While he admits that wearing a suit and tie might have occasionally prevented him from being racially profiled, he also remembers the moments when dressing well could not save him (105.1 Breakfast Club). His comments suggest that while clothes can cover us, they can’t always protect us. Monáe and Jidenna’s dress tells us a great deal about their politics, making it possible for us to think differently about our lives. Their unique style causes us to pause and pay attention to their message. One of the goals of the current Black Lives Matter movement is to focus on all Black lives including Black women, LGBTQ, poor, disabled and young people. And in many ways we can see how they are using dress to align themselves with that movement. Their unique style encourages us to explore all the ways to be Black, to be woman, to be queer, to be poor, to be disabled, to be sexy, and ultimately to be free.
105.1BreakfastClub. Wondaland Records Interview at The Breakfast Club Power 105.1 (08/14/2015). New York: N.p., 2015. Video. Bailey, Peter. Janelle Monae Talks The Electric Lady, Sex Appeal, Prince, & Bo Diddley. Miami, FL: N.p. Video. NiteCap with Peter Bailey. Blake, Donnesha. Untitled. Howard Theater: Washington, D.C., 2015. iPhone Video. Eephus Tour. “dandy, n.1, adj., and adv.” OED Online. June 2012. Oxford University Press. 8 May 2014 http://www.oed.com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/ Hoard, Christian. “Artist of the Week: Janelle Monáe.” Rollingstone.com. Rolling Stone Magazine, 2010. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. JidennaVEVO. Jidenna - Classic Man Ft. Roman GianArthur. N.p., 2015. Video. Jones, Arnold Wayne. “Janelle Monae: The Gay Interview.” Dallas Voice. N.p., 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015. Miller, Monica L. Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009. Print. Nigatu, Heben, and Tracy Clayton. Episode 1: Unlearning. New York. Audio Recording. Another Round. Kaiser, Susan B. Fashion and Cultural Studies. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2011. Print.
THE POLITICS OF RAP
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AHAD SUBZWARI & SAMSON BINUTU CREATIVE DIRECTION & INTERVIEWS BY AYANA ZAIRE
Ayana Zaire: Start by explaining the MILF name and the interest in deviant art Milf Mitch: So, yeah, I mean I went to Howard. I was an art major and I’ve always kind of been into art. At that time in culture everything was very like straight up and down to me, there wasn’t lot of variation. Nobody was really taking any chances and the people that were taking chances... they always kind of looked at it like, nah, but it’s actually very real that somebody wants to portray things that you may not want to see because it... AZ: Makes you uncomfortable... MM: Yeah it makes you uncomfortable but it still evokes emotions. So, we started MILF as a platform for those types of artists to have some kind of recognition. And, you know, we’re just kind of like no good characters at the end of the day. No good characters. So the fact that we started in deviant art is still very evident in who we’ve become as artists. And MILF is an acronym for “Men In Line Formation”. Why? Well, because we always felt like we were the ones that were able to stop...look...and say, no. AZ: So talk a little bit about....you know what I’m going to say next. Every time I hear you talk about this, it baffles me that you’re so into deviant art, you’re so into the “other”, you’re so into kind of like this radical take on existence but you’re not into protesting... MM: But it’s not just radical for the sake of being radical, you know, it’s a genuine thing. I really find myself walking through my day all the time just like…what the fuck is wrong with people? AZ: So it’s radicalism with a purpose right? Similar to protesting? MM: From a different standpoint and that is my whole thing on like not protesting. That’s just not my fight, it’s not how I’m going to fight my fight. The fight is still there, you know? I wake up everyday, I’m a black man and I go to sleep every night, I’m a black man. There’s nothing that a day of protesting can really do to exemplify that. I do this shit every day so while I am glad that America has taken note of what’s going on in our community in terms of race relations between the police and young black people, I’m like but that shit was going on five years ago. AZ: And ten years ago, and twenty years ago. MM: Exactly, so when CNN is on the news like...Police brutality! They beat up a black man! I’m like no...they beat him up, really? It’s kind of a joke to me. AZ: You brought up an interesting point the last time we talked about this. You basically brought up the fact that if you’ve never had an encounter with the police, you can’t really speak on this and it made me think of my privilege because of the way I grew up...I’ve never had any run ins. MM: So that’s what I’m talking about, I mean it’s the tip of the iceberg. Its like if you want to get into why I get like no, no, no to the fucking police, it’s like, have you ever been in jail? If you haven’t, man please....life can go south so fast. Man like shit happens quick and until you’re in a position where shit happens like that, I don’t think it really clicks. Protesting by nature is angry, it comes from an angry place. It’s like a broken dam, you know what I mean? That’s floodwater dude people are overflowing with emotion, passion... AZ: For all good reasons. MM: Yeah and there’s other ways. YOU can make the difference man, YOU invest in the youth. YOU really invest in the mind state of the people. AZ: True. So, kind of rewinding. This goes back to some of our previous conversations...What is your personal take on being a creative in DC? How’s it been so far and what do you see for the future? You’ve been here about seven years? MM: I’ve been here coming up on eight years. AZ: How has year 1, year 5, and year 8 been different? MM: So as an art student, obviously my closest friends are artists. A lot of talented people have come through DC and it’s just that, you know, they came through. I’m still very close with a lot of these people, but I saw people come here and be creatively suppressed almost compared to their time spent in other places. Will there ever be a thriving, flourishing, “lit”, so to speak, artistic scene here? I don’t know, you know. I find myself like just going to things and not having fun. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just jaded and I’ve seen too much, I’ve done too much, and I’ve just experienced everything that I think I’m going to experience here that’s going to bring real excitement in my life. But I mean, I’m learning things. I’m learning things about myself still through my experience here, so it’s definitely shaped me, you know, from my style as a rapper to my style as a person. How I carry myself all around. It’ll always have a special place in my heart but I don’t know... AZ: I think there’s an invisible ceiling because no one’s staying here and really smashing through that shit. People are hitting the ceiling and leaving. MM: When you talk about stuff like that, you know, it’s all metaphorical. It’s like if I could physically fucking get up there and smash the fucking ceiling, that shit would be gone. If it was that simple, if it was that easy, it would be done. You know? Everyday I’m trying but how do you put on for a place where I don’t want to say that doesn’t want to...*sighs* there’s just so much different shit going on here. AZ: Like what? MM: So we have gentrification, number one. AZ: No doubt. MM: But that’s the main thing, because the city is really split between natives whose families have owned these houses for years, and years, and years, and years, a lot of them get caught up in fucked shit. They got on drugs, lost their mothers house, shit was sold for $20,000 and someone swooped in and flipped it for $600k. There is a lot, a lot, a lot, of that going on here. That’s a completely separate race war that’s going on outside of the war with police so its like you have an extremely white culture, right? And I’m talking like as white as they get, like top 40. AZ: Like dress your dog up in clothes, white? MM: Whiter. Let’s be real, all the cool yuppies move to New York and the other ones move to LA and the ones who move to DC are like fucking… lame. They came to work for the fucking government. They’re stiffs, they’re stiff as fuck. You know that Landmark Music Festival? That really, really, really pissed me off because I’m like so, you have a music festival in DC, targeted to the yuppiest fucking crowd you can target and it was a success. I mean dude, there were oceans and oceans and oceans of what - I hate to say - white people. As a black dude who is there, the only other black people I was amongst were either working, cops..which is also working, or with me. It was really that straight up. I mean I’m at a music festival with thousands of people, why are you tripping about me lighting up some weed in the crowd? It’s a fucking music festival. What kind of shit is this? AZ: You’re so in-tune with all these political things, you still don’t think as a deviant artist you are a political artist? MM: I think that it’s a form of rebellion to our society. AZ: Society...culture...politics. Like, censorship is political. You are completely against censorship. I’ve delightfully seen titties on your SoundCloud more than once. MM: That all alludes to me not being political, it’s like I don’t care I’m going to live my life. AZ: What’s next for MILF? MM: So what’s next for MILF…we got a shitload of motherfucking music that’s about to drop. Like, something like five or six projects that we plan on releasing in the next 3 months. AZ: What!? MM: Yeah we’ve been working hard all summer...so like just cause I was the only motherfucker dropping shit don’t think that everybody stopped recording! Now, we got 250 songs on the computer ready to go. @milfmitch
Ayana Zaire: Sherika! How are you!? Sherieka Ashanti: Good! How are you? AZ: Good, good, good! Pumped and excited...I’m so happy you agreed to speak with us. SA: Happy to do it! AZ: Yes! Alright, so lets go right into it. I saw on your Instagram that there was a video in your bio and it was DC Life right? SA: Yeah AZ: So talk about how that came about. Talk about the lyrics. Talk about the brain space you were in when you were writing that. SA: So DC Life, I wrote it a couple years back because I was going through that phase of just...I had just had my child, and I saw how life was totally different for a male. You know? I saw it in a different aspect, a different light. And just coming from the south-side moving uptown, I’m like it’s a different dynamic and I felt like I needed to bring the south-side message uptown, but then also bring it to the world. Because DC in general it takes a lot to even be raised here, from making your own money, and doing everything you need to do. Just the struggles, but our generation, we’re coming up and it needs to be recognized. AZ: So talk about that dynamic between the south-side and uptown. SA: Okay, me personally I feel like on the south-side it’s very edgy. You usually will walk outside and take an extra look. You gotta look behind. You look to the side, because I feel like everybody’s on edge. Everybody’s looking for something more. Whereas on the uptown side it seems like even though everybody may be going through their struggle or whatever, it’s more of an outlet to go somewhere and spit your art. Show that other side of you. Whereas on the south-side you don’t really get that much of an opportunity. The last bus is at 12:50AM to get across the bridge, so everybody’s at the house at a certain point in time, you know? AZ: That’s an interesting point, how like the presence of artistic outlets shape the perceived vibes of a neighborhood and the mentality of it’s people. What do you wish DC provided that you think would help with your success? SA: I can see a lot of doors opening up now in DC, so I won’t knock it. I’m just thinking that its growing, it’s in this growing stage. So I think it’s more of myself being able to verge off and try the new things that are coming, but DC in general just needs to have more of an open mind and be more supportive of the people that’s trying to do it. AZ: Do you think musicians are obligated to use their influence to promote political and social change? Like these super huge rappers out here and all this stuff happening with police brutality and racism. Do you think in any way that they are obligated to speak up and say something? SA: I wouldn’t say its an obligation. Being an African I feel like you should be able to speak on things because we were given that gift to basically help each other. We’re supposed to be sending messages and striking that within us, but also as an artist from a different standpoint we’re all human. We go through different things and we choose to speak about what we’re going through, through our music. A lot of those bigger artists, they probably aren’t feeling half of the struggle we are. So it’s disappointing that they don’t speak up but we shouldn’t look to somebody else to give us the word to move forward in life. We need to be able to create our own avenues and help people we feel like can do it better. AZ: Do you think rappers shouldn’t have a public opinion about certain political issues? Like Young Thug, he was asked what do you think about what’s going with Mike Brown and he said something like, “Leave that with the critics and the laws and all that other shit. We havin’ fun, we iced out, we havin’ money, that’s how we doin’ it...blah, blah, blah.” So do you think they should be quiet about it to maintain their brand and not be controversial? SA: Well it’s clear he wants the money. It’s something tough to look at because he wants to feed his family. He wants to make sure they’re okay. Meanwhile, I feel like something should be addressed. That’s kind of like a modern slave at the end of the day because it’s known that money can control. And it’s all in the power but it’s in how you use it. Anyone can gain power but it’s adversity that takes you a long way. So if he’s willing to just be directly on the money thing then you know big ups to him. But in the long run he needs to know that his words are definitely creating paths for certain people who don’t even know themselves. It’s a give or take because a lot of people should just take the time to learn what they will and will not tolerate. And he wants his money for his people so if that’s what his route is, then you know...it’s sad to think about. AZ: It’s interesting what you said about the modern day slave thing. Talk a little bit about that, where music is right now, and how it’s affecting the youth. You also made an interesting point stating people who don’t even know themselves yet are listening to Young Thug and absorbing his words. There are various rappers who are doing a good job at elevating the culture but then there’s others that maybe aren’t. SA: The state of our music is majority bullshit. *laughs* Like, honestly. And because we come from a culture that is so big on the bass and so big on the snare, on the drum and the chanting of it all, it automatically brings us in. With that formula already being known I feel like it’s being used in the wrong way but Young Thug probably doesn’t even know his own culture. He probably doesn’t know and that’s probably why he has traction. AZ: What you mean by that? SA: You know, you gotta think about who is funding him. Who is giving him the money? Who are all of these different sponsorships that he’s trying to keep his mouth closed for? They aren’t gonna give him money if he’s going against what they believe in, you know? So at the end of the day, they’re like, ‘Oh he’s easy. He’s never gonna try to rebel. He’s never gonna try to speak against what we want him to’...You know? It’s like at the end of the day he probably doesn’t even know, and it’s a lot of different artist out there that do know. They have a whole life that’s like together and they put on a whole mask. I see some artists coming up though, trying to shed some light even though it’s not perfect...everybody can’t be picture perfect. But you know I see some... and it’s the youngins that’s doing it too! So you know, it was already written. AZ: So my last question I wanted to ask you was kind of about, why you think there’s no huge DC hip hop scene? Whereas there’s cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and LA where people are coming out of there all the time and doing well. What do you think is the reason for that? Does our culture not support it? SA: On my end, I feel like our generation is just starting to support each other with it. I think because everything is getting so tense and we’re just realizing that people actually want to live in DC that don’t what us to be here. So I feel like the gentrification has definitely made us be like ‘Wait ya’ll we gotta actually try to save this spot where we do our music’. And it’s starting to be like yo we gotta actually use this because we’re talented and we gotta move forward. Wale went somewhere else to get noticed, you know? A lot of artists have to go away and come back for people to fuck with them. So I feel like now it’s still kind of like that but it’s more of a clan now. Everybody’s grouping together and saying we gotta show our art for the world and we’re gonna work together. It’s definitely a wake up call with our whole dynamic changing up on us for real. So yeah, it’s waking everybody up. AZ: Yeah! And what do you think about the fact that when DC artists do make it, they kind of leave and do their thing and don’t put the rest of the city on? Do you think they should? Do you think they have that obligation? SA: I feel like they should..its definitely something that should happen. At least shine light on somebody. It’s not necessarily saying to someone ‘I’m about to take you with me’, unless they really believe in them like that. But its necessary because it’s kind of like just looking out. I feel like a lot of artists don’t do that because they remember when they were coming up and nobody was messing with them. Nobody was trying to support them, but sometimes you just gotta humble yourself and know all of that happened because it was supposed to make you stronger. It was supposed to get you to the point where you are. @chocolatelioness
Ayana Zaire: Nappa! Solbiato Sports talk about the project. Nappy Nappa: I wanted to make a project that was rap, you know? I was working on this project called Old City and like I knew I wasn’t going to have that done in time to put out for the summer so I put out Solbiato Sports in the meantime. AZ: So it was kinda like a teaser...So where are you from? NN: I’m from here. Washington DC, SE. I lived on P st. P and 19th in SE then I moved when I was like 10 to 30th st and yeah. AZ: What inspired the name Nappy Nappa? NN: So I went through a lot of names in my whole rap career from like Scotty Rah, after that it was just my name, Devonte. And then *busts out laughing* and one of my homies was like yeah that’s a tight name just, Devonte, and then my other homie was like that sound lazy as shit. *both laughs* And I was like you right son that do sound like I did not try. Also I was named after a Devonte in Jodeci so I was like I didn’t want to do that either. AZ: Ohhh shit!? That’s funny. What’s wrong with Jodeci? *laughs* NN: Nothing, nothing’s wrong with Jodeci but I’m not Jodeci, you know? *laughs* So I was just sending my homie endless names and I was like “Nappy Nappa”. I used the name for the sake of alliteration and also its like Nappa is a character on Dragon Ball Z and then nappy is the texture of your hair and what not. So it’s just like two polar opposite things and that’s how I kind of see myself. AZ: Oh okay it was just about clashing two worlds? NN: Right AZ: That’s interesting. Okay so when did you start rapping / writing like you talk about your rap career, when did that start for you? NN: I was always rapping because me, my father, and my brother would always just sit down and freestyle and then after that I started writing. Then my freshman year of high school I was at Duke for dancing and I was never with the dancers. I had love for them but... AZ: YOU WENT TO DUKE FOR DANCE? What kind of dance? NN: Ballet, that’s the only dance they have. AZ: No fucking way. NN: Yeahhhhh. *laughs* It was jah interesting. It taught me a lot of shit. I fucked with dancing, but it wasn’t like what I wanted to do with my life so I was just always with literary media which was the writing kids. Kids in other departments and shit, so I would go to the studio in Duke and record with these other artists and I was just rapping with them and that’s when I was Scotty Rah. Then I made my first actual song with Marty Heem and that’s when I was like yeah I’m about to just do this forever. AZ: So in the “Whassup” chorus it’s kind of political, like you talk about a black boy getting shot down and asks if anyone hears it. Then in “DC Daily News” you kind of talk about gentrification and the whitewashing of the once — chocolate city so do you think living in DC influences your writing from a political perspective? NN: Yeah and it directly affects me and my homies, you know? Like the week before I made “DC Daily News” my homie was living on U St and they ain’t kick his family out but they just like gave them money to move somewhere else while they changed their crib. So its just like damn I used to be over his house everyday and now we walk pass and everything’s boarded up so its just...it’s real life. AZ: I want to talk more about how you’ve seen the city change as you’ve grown up here. NN: Yeah. The Legend is closed. They don’t have DC Star or the CFE, none of that anymore like...it’s just changed. Even if you went to Adams Morgan Day this year, it was horrible. Like last year they had Chuck Brown’s daughter rap, they had endless gogo bands out there...its very sad to say, “whitewashed” now. But it’s kind of good cause DC was jah fucked at a certain point, like if you weren’t from a certain area you should not be in that area - you should not be walking there. So I don’t know, it’s not even something I sit there and think about. It’s just what I see and... it’s, it’s depressing, you know? It makes you want to get the hell out of DC but as much as I want to get out of DC, I want to change it even more. AZ: So how do you think that can be addressed? How can it be addressed in a way that still benefits the city and benefits the people in it, you know what I mean? The people that have been here... NN: That’s like the weird part. Do you simply stop gentrification? Cause if you do then the city will once again be fucked up but then if you keep doing this shit it’ll still be fucked up. Like they’re kicking people out of their houses. People have nowhere to go. It’s very shitty, especially during the winter when they chose to kick people out of their houses. But how do you address it? I mean, I guess you have to acknowledge it first. Like the people who are doing it, they don’t acknowledge the fucked up aspect about it, you know. AZ: Yeah, cause they don’t live it. They don’t see it. NN: Yeah they don’t but honestly you don’t have to live it to see that. AZ: That’s true. NN: Like if you see the houses you’re putting here cost more than what the people who are living there were paying at first then you know they’re ass’d out. So I don’t know, they just got to cool it. Like at this point they got to cool it cause you don’t gotta do too much now, you know? It’s not much more they need to change to make the city better. It’s like, I don’t know, they should probably just cool it and leave people’s houses alone right now. They can pick it back up every two years or something. AZ: Right like space it out, you don’t gotta be so aggressive with the shits. NN: *both laughs* Yeah like give people time to adapt... AZ: What resources do you wish were in place in DC that you think would help fuel your success as an artist? NN: Genuine love and an actual platform for rap artists. Like you have Rock and Roll Hotel, there’s no rap hotel. There’s not even a jazz hotel. So it’s more like rappers are pushed to the side when it comes to the arts in DC. It’s definitely promoted amongst the kids and it’s definitely flourished but its like if niggas don’t support this local nigga as much as they support a nigga from another state then none of us are about to get anywhere, you know? But 9:30 club don’t really be letting DC rap artists perform there, Black Cat don’t be letting niggas come through there. We just need more venues to perform. AZ: So what about Young Thug being asked about Mike Brown and saying he’s iced out with money and he’s basically not worried about that? NN: That’s that nigga not being directly affected by it. He’s not directly affected by it at all so he probably don’t give a shit. But I think people take a lot of shit out of context, maybe he didn’t mean that as literally as it was taken so I don’t know. AZ: I think about this a lot, rap artists have this crazy amount of power to shift the culture and the fact that most of our mainstream rappers do not acknowledge how fucked up this country is...I just always have trouble with that. NN: I mean when Kendrick tried to they called this man a domestic terrorist, you know? They said he was trying to kill police. You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. AZ: Well that’s why it’s so important, right? NN: It is, it is but it’s more effective ways to go about it then rapping and talking. If you got money you can probably do a lot more. I mean, fucking Birdman and Lil Wayne took a lot of Ward 8 people out of the projects and put them in nice houses and let them live in there for free so its many effective ways to help your people. @nappynappa
Ayana Zaire: Alright so where did the Prince part come from? Now that I know Beau Young is your real name, how’d the Prince part come in? Beau Young Prince: Ok so, I am 1 of 4 siblings so I have 3 sisters and I grew up in a all female household. Single mother, know what I’m saying, running shit so like shoutout to her. And all single mothers. For real. That’s tight. But um, so she always called me her little Prince and so as I grew up I was used to being referred to as Prince. AZ: How would you say you found yourself while away in college? Was it the time away? Like, the independence? BYP: Yeah, man. Well cause DC, I mean everything about DC is really fruitful. I love this city to death. But, when you stay in what I call the “DC Bubble” you get sucked in. So my method was I’mma go to college and establish myself. I was like if I can go there and take over campus, I can start a real campaign abroad in the real world. So I went to college and you know when they’d be like introduce yourself, I was like “I’m Young Prince and I’m a rapper”. That’s what I said in all of my classes. I just started taking it seriously and establishing myself. I got to build the identity musically that I wanted to and take all the influences from home. AZ: I love that. I studied marketing in school and I think it’s cool that you introduced yourself in that way because that was your BRAND, like...everyone should do that. But they don’t. I should be introducing myself like that, but I don’t think about it. BYP: Well, it was because I was just tired of just being another person. Like everyone raps, everyone’s a photographer, everyone’s this and that and its like yo - my name is Beau Young Prince and I’m a rapper. AZ: Yeah and being proud of that. BYP: Right, like in college classes and not being ashamed about it. I’m here to learn but I’m also here to take over the campus. Before I knew it, Greensboro NC is like my second state - I can go there and do like a 400 person show. Still, I have mad love in the city. So it’s kinda cool to have that duality because that’s what I worked to build. Then you come back to DC. I been here since I graduated, completely different story to be honest. DC is a tough scene. We got all the talent as LA, NY and Atlanta, but we don’t have the discipline. AZ: Right. BYP: What we should do now is more stuff like this; different creators, cross-genres reaching out to build something organic because it all starts with the underground and it’s gonna end with the underground at the end of the day. AZ: I wonder what that’s about because it seems like people are suddenly getting like, very serious about defending the city and bringing it to the forefront. BYP: Because we see other cities actually jacking the culture. It’ll start with Nelly on that Mad Weed sample from Chuck Brown back in the day. It could even be gogo and Jill Scott, she did the Chuck Brown version. Or it can be today where I see like people in A$AP mob start to beat their feet on stage and shit because they been hangin around Yung Gleesh. It’s that real, you know what I’m sayin? We have a culture here, we have something undeniable, a genre: go-go. People know about us, but don’t give us the credit. Enough said. AZ: *both laughs* BYP: I’m defensive right now *laughs* AZ: We all should be! I love it. Yeah. Aight so talk about the Groovy God EP. BYP: Now. *laughs* My favorite to date. I say that because it was one that I got to like actually mature. I talked about growing outta being Young Prince to Beau Young Prince. I matured on that tape, whether it was talking about romance or whether it was being a little more vulnerable about the things I was saying, or just like really being creative in a sense of the beats. That’s what I’m trying to do. I call it groove wave, future R&B, whatever you wanna call it. It’s involving like electronic atmospheric sounds with 808 and hip hop bass with a creepy rock in it and stuff like that. AZ: I’m in to it. What do you wish DC provided that you think would help with your success? What infrastructure do you think is missing? BYP: We need one hip hop club that is like 300-400 cap and is dedicated to hip hop. The venues in DC are scared of rap shows and, don’t get it twisted, I’ve performed at all of them. I got love from the people that worked there and stuff like that but let’s be real at the same time. Washington is changing. The landscape is changing, the demographic is changing, the politics of the city is changing. They don’t want a bunch of kids showing up in these nice strips after hours lookin like how we look. We’re not doing anything but we’re showing up like 500 deep for a rapper we like, like Father or something like that on U street and all these people are freaking out because, you know, we might have a little drinks in our system and be having a good time. But, there’s no club that is willing to host that. AZ: That’s so true and what’s even crazier is that the cultural/creative black renaissance started on U Street and now it’s gentrified so bad it feels corny. But perfect segue, the theme of the issue is Art & Politics. Do you think that musicians are obligated to use their influence to promote social and political change? BYP: Man...it’s such a deep question because if you ask Beau how he feels man, I’m a political science major, you know what I’m saying? Like, my whole role as a rapper is how Bob Marley saw his role with music. His life goal was to affect the world with the tools he had, which was his music. With that he became one of the most infamous and political people of all time in the sense that he represents something that no other musician has transcended. So if you ask me, ok, these people have fed you, these people have gotten you out of your circumstance, why not help them get out of theirs? That’s all I’m saying. I’m not here to be a judge, I don’t have a gavel. Man, I’ve done weird things. I grew up in the city, I was a teenager, I did bad things and I did good things so I’m not going to be one to say how people are living. It’s DC, NY, Detroit, all across where hip hop is really prevalent, it was born from the struggle. Straight up. So, I’m not going to say that these guys feel entitled...because they’ve grown up in a world that doesn’t understand them. A world they end up hating. So they not about to sit here and tell the next man how to act, but I think we change that as the new generation - hell yeah, man. You’ve got a responsibility like Spiderman. With great power comes great responsibility. But I’ll be the first to say that that’s why I wanna make a certain type of music cause I’m going to play it to the system that I know is at hand. They want us to end up in jail, you know what I’m saying? They wanna perpetuate guns, drugs and violence because the school to prison pipeline is real. How do they get in the heads of the youth? Music is the biggest universal language of all, so they’re trying to control that and trying to make us trappers and this and that. And that’s cool, like that’s some peoples’ reality. But, you have a responsibility to tell the truth as an artist. You have a responsibility. AZ: Right. Did you hear what Young Thug said when he was asked about Mike Brown and police brutality? BYP: Now, see, that borders on a different plateau because it would be one thing if he simply said “Ok, no comment” or “I don’t want to get political,” you have the right to be apolitical. That’s fine. But when he said you know, “We out here iced up and getting money” that made me go what? So you don’t have a comment on what’s happening but you said the reason why you’re not speaking is because you’re iced up and getting money? So that means that’s enough to shut you up? That’s enough to silence a problem that really affects you? But, people can redeem themselves. I’m a nice guy. *laughs* But I feel you. It’s frustrating! AZ: Yeah, that made me so angry. BYP: That makes us go in circles, and forever we’ll be in circles. As long as honestly...Those are the people who get the big deals, you know. I don’t have no megamillion deal. I’m not saying this is about me, but this is about me right now. *both laughs* AZ: So ok, last question, talk about the state of hip hop culture in general right now. I battle with this all the time, loving trap music, loving something with a bass but needing something with a message. BYP: It’s a guilty pleasure. Music in itself is ok, you gotta remember before they put the words on it, a good beat will still make you move. You’re not guilty for just being swayed by good music. Music prevails all. Take the beat away and you will be like holy hell, what am I listening to? I mean adlibs and all, that garbage, wild. AZ: *both laughs* Like...what the fuck..Yes! But it’s all so weird, random and conflicting that it’s necessary. There will always be a place for new sounds. BYP: And honestly, we’re moving in a great direction. Have you seen the artists coming up? Like...I’m really proud of the people really putting in this work from the people mainstream like Travis or the people underground like Joey, you know what I’m saying? Revival! 90s revival at it’s finest. Then you’ve got, Chaz, *Rory, real people pushing this whole indie thing. So that’s what I’m really stuck on is the youth and the power we have. Hip hop is exciting man, music is dope. AZ: Yeah it’s exciting! BYP: I fucking love it, let’s get it. @beauyoungprince
RANDI GLOSS ON CONSCIOUS CONSUMERISM PHOTOGRAPH BY ADEDAYO KOSOKO FOR GLOSSRAGS WORDS BY RANDI GLOSS
Mike Brown’s bleeding body lay in the street for four hours before any police or ambulances arrived on the scene. Renisha McBride was shot in the face at point blank range. Eric Garner had the life choked out of him in broad daylight. At marches, opportunistic vendors rush to print their likenesses—be it Trayvon’s hooded face or Mike Brown in his cap & gown—onto t-shirts to sell to the masses. They are bought and consumed by those eager to honor their memory or sometimes just to leave with something showing that they were there. I’ve heard conscious consumerism best described by Julie Gilhart as, “…a reminder that consuming affects humanity and the world at large. We need to remember our purchases have power to express our beliefs.” It sometimes feels as though we’re living in a world where the process of thinking through decisions isn’t, well, given enough thought. I’m almost certain that the men who took the lives of Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Akai Gurley and Tamir Rice now wish they thought just a little bit more about the decisions they made to end lives because it has, in more ways than one, affected their own lives. “Emmett & Amadou & Sean & Oscar & Trayvon. More than just black faces in tragic places.” Did you just stop for a moment? Did you think? Did it hit you yet? Imagine these names followed by that phrase on a sign. Imagine carrying that sign through thousands of people at a march. Imagine that march is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Justice. Now stop. Stop again. And again. And again. Explain the names. Tell their stories. Start walking again. Stop. Stand still. Explain. Repeat. This was my experience in August 2013 at the commemoration of the historic march. Thought—thinking, requires a pause, a stop in action, and at the march, many people physically stopped me to take a picture of the sign. It made them think. And it made them feel. I came home from the march and sketched out the most rudimentary looking t-shirt on an orange Post-It note then stashed it away. I thought maybe, just maybe it could become something more. Yet, even after that it took nearly six months to turn that sign into a shirt.
With The And Counting Collection, I wanted not only the people purchasing and wearing the pieces to think but the people seeing them to think too. We consume goods, yes, but we also consume messages and information. To be a conscious consumer means you are thinking not only about what you’re buying but why you’re buying and spending. In December of 1955, hundreds of black bus riders in Montgomery, Alabama stopped riding the bus and began walking to work to protest the segregated bus system. By keeping their dollars in their pockets, they drove the city into economic distress. Black taxi drivers dropped their fares to ten cents to match the bus fare for everyday riders who engaged in the boycott. Our dollars make a difference. They literally and metaphorically have value and more importantly have power. Being a conscious consumer is important because it highlights the fact that you and I as individuals have the power to create the change we want to see in our communities. We have the power to disrupt. GLOSSRAGS occupies a rather unique space where our “art” in the form of these memorial t-shirts is almost by default perceived as “political” or at the very least “unsettling”. The And Counting Collection confronts the politics of state-sanctioned terror against black men and women that’s persisted for decades and further confronts the politics of selective amnesia. America selectively forgets the millions of black lives forced into slavery, thousands lynched and hundreds shot and killed each year by those who are allegedly supposed to serve and protect. Being black in and of itself is political because it took a change in the law of this country to legalize and pencil in our citizenship, our rights and our humanity. What’s more “unsettling” than the shirt itself are the stories I’ve heard of people being asked to take the shirts off in their workplace because it was allegedly making others uncomfortable. What’s unsettling is that in August, 27 black people were killed by police. That’s one every 28 hours. What’s unsettling is that if you’re black, you’re three times as likely to be killed by police than if you’re white and that the officer that killed you will most likely not be charged for killing you. We pay these officers salaries with our taxes. In generations past, black businesses used to be safe havens and focal points within our communities. The hair salon. Barbershop. Bookstore. Restaurant. The rise in e-commerce presents a challenge—how can we, as Black business owners, support the communities that support us if we aren’t physically in them? GLOSSRAGS successfully crowd-funded $5,000 to go on a six-city tour across the country to facilitate community activism, engagement and outreach but we found it extremely challenging to find physical, brick and mortar Black-owned businesses to host our pop-up shops. Achieving economic equality with our white counterparts when we are not given the same opportunities and resources as them is a dilemma. But a greater dilemma that the Department of Justice’s recent report on its investigation of the Ferguson Police Department exposes is that we ourselves are the resources that white society uses to fund their economy, an economy that accepts that the Black unemployment and poverty rates are double that of whites and that Black Americans are, “…more than twice as likely as whites to be employed in lower-paying, less prestigious service jobs. ”. An excerpt from the reports reads, “…many officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue… ” If you are Black in Ferguson, you are twice as likely to be searched, receive a citation and be arrested during a stop despite being 26% less likely to be found possessing contraband. Basically, Black equals Benjamins and brazen racial bias. Yet this is not a new phenomenon—black bodies, through slavery, generated the wealth that built “these United States of America.” We are money-makers yet we are not truly allowed the freedom to make our own money and if we do, it is not nearly enough to live comfortably, let alone meet our financial obligations. Let’s stop and think for a moment. We are dollars and we have dollars. We have the freedom to decide where we spend our money and how we spend our money. We have the power to petition the Department of Justice to launch more investigations into police departments that egregiously, consistently and unapologetically violate our human and civil rights. We have the ability to create our own businesses that will in turn create job opportunities for our people. We are consumers but we must not be consumed. 1 James W. Button, Barbara Ann Rienzo, Sheila L. Croucher, Blacks and The Quest for Economic Equality (University Park, PA: The Pennysylvania State University Press, 2009) 1. 2 Friedersdorf, C. (2015, March 5). Ferguson’s Conspiracy Against Black Citizens. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
WHO WILL SURVIVE IN AMERICA? ART BY ANDREAS MAURICE BROWN ARTIST STATEMENT BY ANDREAS MAURICE BROWN
ANDREAS MAURICE BROWN’S SERIES WHO WILL SURVIVE IN AMERICA SEEKS TO EXPOSE AMERICAN FALLACIES IN THE LIGHT: BE IT THE DEATH OF LIBERTY, BE IT THE DEATH OF JUSTICE, OR AN IMPENDING DEATH OF SOCIETY, BROWN COMMUNICATES THAT AMERICA’S INNER CONFLICT WILL EFFECT US, ONE AND ALL. THE SERIES IS A PLAY ON GIL SCOTT-HERON’S ODE TO A REVOLUTION, COMMENT NO. 1 (1970), WHERE HE CALLS FOR ENLIGHTENMENT OF THE YOUNG “FREEDOM FIGHTERS” OF THE 60’S AND 70’S, THE LAST LINES OF THE POEM BECKONING AN ANSWER TO THE ALL ENCOMPASSING QUESTION “WHO WILL SURVIVE IN AMERICA?” INSPIRED BY THE TECHNIQUE, COMPOSITION, AND SYMBOLOGY USED BY THE OLD MASTERS FROM THE RENAISSANCE IN THE NETHERLANDS, BROWN SYNTHESIZES HIS COMMENTARY ON THE CURRENT SOCIAL LANDSCAPE.
COMMENT NO. 2 (SECOND IN THE SERIES FOLLOWING COMMENT NO. 1, SEEN PICTURED TO THE LEFT) COMMENTS ON A SICKNESS THAT PLAGUES MUCH OF AMERICA: POLICE BRUTALITY. EACH OF THE SKELETONS REPRESENTS A VICTIM OF DEATH BY COP, WITH THE FOREMOST FIGURE BEING REPRESENTATIVE OF SANDRA BLAND. THIS PIECE TAKES INSPIRATION FROM BILLIE HOLIDAY’S RECORDING STRANGE FRUIT (1939). WHERE HOLIDAY’S PERFORMANCE SPEAKS SPECIFICALLY TO THE LYNCHINGS OF YOUNG BLACK AMERICANS DURING HER TIME, BROWN COMMENTS ON THE WRONGFUL DEATHS OF INNOCENT CITIZENS IN HIS OWN TIME AT THE HANDS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT. THE POPLAR TREES THAT BILLIE HOLIDAY SANG OF CONTINUE TO GROW IN THE BACKGROUND OF TODAY’S AMERICA, WHILE THE FLAG SWAYS IN THE WIND LIKE THOSE HANGING FROM THE GALLOWS. ANDREAS’ ARTWORK UTILIZES ELEMENTS OF THE RENAISSANCE WITH MORE MODERN SENSIBILITIES. INVOKING THE STYLES OF ALBRECHT DURER AND LEONARDO DA VINCI ALONGSIDE THE TEACHINGS OF GIL SCOTT-HERON AND NINA SIMONE, BROWN CREATES WHO WILL SURVIVE IN AMERICA TO TELL HIS VERSION OF THE AMERICAN STORY. HIS GOAL, HE SAYS, IS TO INSPIRE A “RETROSPECTIVE APPRECIATION AND STUDY” OF HIS CRAFT’S FOREFATHERS AND MOTHERS, CITING THAT “WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT HAS BEEN DONE, WE CANNOT KNOW HOW TO DO WHAT IS LEFT TO BE DONE.”
â€œCome celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failedâ€? - Lucille Clifton
THE MYTH OF BLACK JOY WRITTEN BY KOSI DUNN
I grew up in Lake Arbor, Maryland, a quaint little enclave near Bowie complete with bike paths, a pool, and a golf course. The golf course recently went bankrupt but my neighbors are proud, Southern-raised, and hardworking. The father is a seasoned electrical engineer. Him and his wife are but two years away from putting five kids through college the hard way; good, old-fashioned black excellence. I write this not to brag about how lit my neighborhood is but to be transparent about my bias. I have been raised amidst what is commonly referred to as a “black gentry”, a regrettably unique confluence of black intellect and affluence sequestered in the outskirts of a once-chocolate city. All of my community leaders were black. Most, if not all, of my friends were black. Each of us, with our two parent households and private schools and professional degrees, like walking rebuttals to BET caricatures of “black experience”. Though the largest concentration of black wealth in America, PG County is nonetheless the poorest county in the wealthiest state of the Union. Life for me ain’t been no proverbial crystal stair. But it has been good. Christmas vacations and poetry slams, comic books and broken skateboards. Racism is there. I saw it in the looks my mom and I get when we go to the “quiet” movie theaters uptown, the inherent pity or condescension in my, perhaps well-meaning, but definitely white school teachers. I read about it in my family library, replete with texts from Baldwin, Morrison, Plath, Mugabe, and Nkrume. What I’m getting at is this: the majority of my “blackness”, I thought, I lived in theory. Which is to say, often, I feel estranged from the black communities I satellite for reasons completely self-fabricated. Even now, I speak of issues explored vicariously. I have never been in a fight in my life. Or harassed by the cops. Or spat on by a belligerent racist during a protest. I’ve had my fair share of microaggressions. Sorority girls touch my hair when they think I can’t feel it. Very often, especially in navigating a predominately white public university, I am reminded of being six feet of dreadlocked black boy. But there’s this weird negotiation of my socioeconomic identity in relationship to the construct of race that often leaves me feeling, to a degree, removed from what I perceived to be the “front lines”. Being in spaces which have affirmed my black identity, I have the capacity to more freely dismiss the psychological roadblocks generated by race through recalling the people and spaces which have raised me. When the initial surge of #BlackLivesMatter coverage began to pervade the public discourse (and, by “began to pervade the public discourse”, I mean when white people were forced to talk about it), I was a sophomore. I went to the rallies, the protests, townhalls, teach-ins, sit-ins, die-ins, etc... I felt surges of anger, fear, and despair of an unfamiliar magnitude. Normal, considering the time we are in. What I find particularly jarring in hindsight is how “black” I felt in the midst of this despair. I had subconsciously subscribed to the completely false assumption that black identity was predicated on disenfranchisement. Such feelings continue to take a toll on my relationships, my ability to learn, on the way I perceived myself in relation to government, my classmates, and non-blacks. I found myself bonding with black students through shared anger. I began connecting to a myriad of audiences, blacks and allies alike, through the art I made to process this rage. The work, driven by anger, was passionate and fresh. There was and is a need for it. Though I foolishly believed my only duty as writer was to such rage. My work lately seems only to come from a place of fear and survival. I find myself forgetting how to distill and appreciate the love I’ve been fortunate to experience in my short time here. But, when I manage to recall these very real emotions, I turn in on myself and have a certain pang guilt for not being “oppressed enough”. As if my happiness is a traitor to my blackness. Ain’t that fucked up...the distraction of race? What world have we perverted to make a little boy ashamed for breathing? As if comfort or peace of mind were “white things”. Black rage is valid, real, and necessary. But what I had to learn is that it’s not the sole unifying factor which binds the diaspora. At least, it can’t be. I won’t let us go like that. I believe there exists something more powerful than our relationship with such a grotesque, oppressive fixative like the prevailing idea of whiteness. I believe Black Joy can be a home for us, as well, because it is not so reactive. Joy is constant and on purpose and generates outwardly; it can exist irrespective of prejudice. Black artists need to use their mediums to amplify the voices of our marginalized; to speak truth to power and hold popular paradigms accountable for the lives they take. However, let us commit ourselves, while continuing to rage against the machine, to make room for the proliferation and documentation of our joy. Let us be belligerent in our potential to love, to dance and sing and play, just as we are about the wars we’ve fought, are fighting, and have survived. I had to consciously decide to be honest with my heart and gentle with my self. Even now, as I write this, I’m halfway renegotiating the content as not to come off “too happy”. As if I’d offend someone more explicitly disenfranchised by the system of racism. But what about the black kid who didn’t die today? Ain’t that a reason to rally, too?
Ayana Zaire: Okay the first question is how old are you? Grande Marshall: I’ll be 22 by the time this comes out AZ: So yeah you’re turning 22 tomorrow Thursday, September 24th right? GM: Yup AZ: Where are you from? GM: I’m from Philadelphia by way of the DC, Maryland area. I’m transplant of sorts to that area. *laughs* AZ: When did you get serious about rapping cause I can remember you were really into photography, you had a blog, and you were into design. I can remember you being the first person to hip me to WordPress back when I was still using Blogspot. But you were writing and making beats, on the fence about whether or not you wanted to pursue rap professionally so what changed? GM: Yeah. I try to keep it all about the music so I’ll take flicks on my phone and shit but as far as lugging a camera around? Nah. But I guess it was when I graduated high school and I was just like ummm I didn’t think I was ready to just be going off to school. I felt like I was going to waste any money my mizz was going to put up for me to go to school. But I gave it a try and after the first semester I was like, “What am I doing this for?”. “Where am I going with this?”. So I don’t know. I just started making music and kept at it, then once I moved back to Philly it was just like that was just it. *laughs* It was like I wasn’t going back to school and I wasn’t trying to work like a nine to five or anything so it was just like rapping and trapping. Know what I mean? Not to “big up” it but that was just the reality of situation and fucking...yeah I just stuck with it and just have never turned my back on it. Just kept going and perfecting my craft jah like. Now I’m here. AZ: So what was it about college? Was it just like overall fuck this I’m not interested or was it something specific? GM: I was just like, no. I’m good. This is a waste. Every time I’m leaving class I’m going home just to do music so I was like I could just work on my music all day but my mizz wasn’t having that shit and like I said I wasn’t trying to get a job. So I couldn’t just be sitting in the house all day and be in the same place I was when she left. *laughs* So its either get a job, join the military, or get the steppin. I definitely wasn’t... she tried to take me to a couple of those sign up jawns. There’s one in like Laurel she tried to take me to on some surprise shit once and I gave a fake SSN so they couldn’t find me. AZ: Wait, she tried to sign you up for what? GM: The military AZ: Whaaaat!? GM: Yeahhh cause it was just like those were the only options and shit so I was like, nah. So I gave them a fake social security and they told me to go online and of course I never did. But yeah once that didn’t happen she finessed me again and she swung me down to Georgia and I was down with my grandparents in Atlanta. That shit lasted like 2 weeks and I love them but I couldn’t live with my grandparents...that was too much. *both laughs* After that I was like fuck it, took the bread I had and just got a Greyhound and moved back to Philly. I was living with the homie and that ended up going on for like 2 years. So yeah we dropped 800, I got signed to Fools Gold, and recorded MuggaMan all in that same spot. AZ: Okay so wait omg. Rewind. *both laughs* Talk about your time here in the DMV...and what year was this? 2010? GM: Like 2010, 2009 when I first started doing shows and just performing live used to be at the ELC on Georgia, up the street from Howard. AZ: You said ELC?
GM: Yeah, ELC. I think it was Electric Live Cafe or something like that. Yeah, the Kool Klux Klan bulls used to have shows up there, Sir E.U., my nigga Chris Scott, God bless him. They were like the first real venue where I was seeing DIY shows and shit and yeah that was cool. I got my love from that jawn and I’m still with a lot of people that I met through doing shows there. Then I remember when Durkl, I guess that was on 4th street or whatever...it was on back when it was in the cut in that garage, when I first met Malcolm and shit. That was back in like 2010 or maybe 2011...but yeah, when I first met him they were doing events there and I performed at a couple jawns. Durkl was the first brand to give you clothes, for like free. It was like yeah, you’re a sponsored artist. So that was cool. That was something that I gained from just being around and doing shows. Then yeah, through all of that shit...once I was really putting out beats and songs consistently I moved back to Philly, got my buzz at home and shit. Modi, who’s like always just been a long time older homie since I was like in 10th grade because I know his cousin, he put me on for the first Trillectro. Well, he put me on for the Red Bull Emsee jawn when I was 17 and that was at the Fillmore. I came third in that jawn but yeah. That was like the first big event. But I can’t remember how it was, I think Modi had tweeted and was like, “Who do you want to see on the bill that’s not on it?” They were like we’ll get whoever. AZ: And this is Trillectro? GM: Yeah, this is the first one when it was at Half Street Fair Grounds. And I don’t even be asking for folks to like gather up and be tweeting me for shit so I doubt that I did that, but I just know a lot of people just came out of the woodworks and was like, “Yeah Grande Marshall”. So I performed, Modi put me on that shit, and I think I performed like 2nd or 3rd and got a really good reception. That’s how I linked with Smoking Section and a lot of the websites that ended up posting 800 when it dropped, just by doing that performance. So a lot of the stuff that I’ve done in DC, just being able to be down there, have my folks out there, and the homies out there that I know. Like a lot of that on the road to where I am now and where I am going I definitely attribute to my time here so yeah, I love DC. Definitely enjoyed it. AZ: And that’s a perfect segue the next question as far as “networking” is concerned. How did you get connected with Fools Gold? Were you actively out here networking and looking for that or did someone kinda just peep what you were doing and that opportunity presented itself? Talk about how getting signed to them happened. GM: Well it didn’t take me too long to decide that I wasn’t about to be rapping and managing myself. And by choice I choose not to involve any family with business just because of the repercussions of those type of things. But it was just like well, I got to do something so I can have somebody in place and so my homie, my brother for life Frank Canty. We had met in New York when I was a young bull and we had linked. I knew him from forums and shit, just places where I was posting tracks and random shit. That’s just been my dog ever since and still, you know what I mean, always around. Back when we was doing shows at South Paw and going to sleep at Penn Station after, even though niggas had a spot to sleep in uptown and wasn’t thinking. *both laughs* But we slept in Penn Station, you know what I mean? Niggas just always been around and anything he’s ever needed or asked of me I was down, I would jump to it if I have it. But as far as making money for shows and getting cut backs for shows and shit? Frank’s never ask for, insisted, or even made note of anything like that so that’s just really been my dog. AZ: So would you say Frank is your manger? Or was your manager? GM: Yeah he still is. But Fools Gold? I really do not know how my music got into the hands of Fools Gold or who over there had heard it first...
AZ: Really!? GM: I know Nick (Catchdubs) had told me when he got it (800) he put it on a CD and drove around with it but I don’t know if he was the first. I guess my shit got sent over there and I heard back. We got an email about them wanting to do a meeting so we went to New York. We met with them and it was good, they were talking that good shit that you usually hear in label meetings and so Nick came down to Philly and I had dinner with him and a good friend of mine Emil Nassar, a producer. Emynd, but his name is Emil and that’s the big homie. He was the one of the first people to hook me up with my OG Bear-One. I moved to Philly and that’s who I was recording with at first and then Bear-One had linked me to Ben Pramuk. That’s how I got linked up with him, through Bear-One and that was back in 2011/2012 so 2013, well no its still 2012, because Muggaman had just come out so its like around September and we was just getting hit up about it. We were doing shows, we were on set to do A3C and everything so it really just picked up, like 800 had got a really good reception from the general public as far as I know and what I’ve experienced. So yeah we kept going forward and it wasn’t until we were going to Fool’s Gold Day Off and I fucked with that. It was the last one at The Winery and there was a stampede and the cops shut it down and I was like, word. That’s what’s up, this is a party I can get down with. *both laughs* Then it was at the 5 year anniversary which I think was that same weekend that day off was and, I signed. I signed the paperwork, they brought me out at the 5 year anniversary, and made the announcement...then we did the press and everything. We talk to Marshall about the time he’s taken off to develop his work AZ: That’s interesting I guess the politics of like separating the artist from the work and realizing they’re still a person. Realizing they need time just like everyone else. Also the expectations people put on artists...thinking that they are entitled to the work. I’ve talked to my friend about this with regards to Frank Ocean and people being legit pissed that he’s not sharing his gift with the world. But it’s interesting, after you come out with something people obviously love how do you manage those expectations? Is it selfish of the consumer to expect from the artist or is it selfish of the artist to deprive the consumer? I don’t know it’s an interesting dynamic and I guess only the artist can speak to it, but art is such a two way street that it’s hard not to acknowledge the consumer as well. Art ultimately needs patrons and patrons need art. I don’t know. I think about this a lot. GM: Well from a management and administrative standpoint...as far like booking goes, every time I go with the complaint about how people are always asking me am I still rapping? Is it coming out? Etc, etc. Bulls will say you know you should be happy that folks are checking and people want to know. And it’s just like from that standpoint they don’t know because it’s not their name on it. Its not them that’s being promoted and its not people who are asking them and hounding them for it. Then I think as far as the artist goes I don’t think there is a way to be a selfish artist, I mean it’s your gift. You know? Whatever you wish to share or offer to the world is completely up to you and is essentially all you at the end of the day, but like I said from the administrative standpoint it’s your name and you are the product. But it’s about how you do it and how you want to go about things. If you choose to take time off to tend to family matters or, you know, homies being incarcerated and things like that then, yeah...you know what I mean? You go do that because it’s healthy...for one, that’s unselfish to tend to family and people that are always going to be around and be there for you. You’re never out until you count yourself out. GM: *pulls out a cookie and starts crushing* I’m sorry AZ: *laughs* Its all good! GM: This cookie good as shit, its caramel and white chocolate, hold on I’m sorry. *finishes cookie* *both laughs* AZ: It’s completely fine...So what made you do Loudest in the City? That’s the last time you’ve performed here. GM: Oh shit, I mean they hit me up. They were professional and was strictly business about it so I was like yeah...I’ll do it. Those are the homies. AZ: Would you ever move back to the area? GM: I was thinking about that and I was just like.. AZ: Yeesssssss? GM: Nah I’d probably move to LA or something, or if anything...ideally, out the fucking country. AZ: *laughs* Whyyy? GM: You know, just for the experience and just because like I’m really over it. AZ: You don’t like America!? It’s like the best country ever. No? *sarcastically laughs* GM: Yeah the things that are going on here and where I see things going, I’m just over it. I can’t do it.
AZ: Wait so that’s another perfect segue. Kind of talk about that. What are you over? GM: The fucking prison industrial complex. You know? The way they let people get trapped inside from just getting their first charge. Like all the non violent drug offenders that are locked away for shit like smoking in public and petty crimes and shit. I’m over drug offenses carrying a longer sentence than things like touching children and shit like that. I feel like where the mindset of the legal system in the United States is...that shit is just nowhere near where it needs to be and most likely never will be. So I’m like I don’t know and just the relationship with the general public and police, whether it be minorities or the white majority, our relationship with them is no good. The relationship they have going down is no good for anybody. It’s not conducive to a healthy environment for the whole nation, you know? It’s just the truth. I travel all the time like I said I’ve never met a stranger so I interact with no regrets, no holds barred. I’m a big supporter of human interaction. I talk to people on the train, talk to people on the plane, I interact with folks but just like seeing the way people look at you and seeing the way people treat you. You know? Based on how you look, how you dress, the color of your skin, what you say you do for a living, or for no reason at all...just going off of preconceived notions. Its just crazy these days, just like the divide between folks as far as the working class and where you are financially in your life or even where you are education wise. The shit is crazy and every day waking up and hearing the same old shit, one way or another it just grows tiresome. It’s not like those things don’t happen in other places but it doesn’t happen at the same rate and it’s just like I don’t know, I’m getting older, you know what I mean? I’m trying to live comfortably wherever I am. AZ: So do you think that musicians are obligated to use their influence to promote political and social change? GM: HELL YEAH! Of course. AZ: We see artists like Kendrick. One of my favorite albums is Black Star with Mos and Talib and it’s just like I often wonder almost every single time I’m listening to hip hop why there isn’t a more aggressive push towards not taking the bullshit anymore. Especially since hip hop basically runs the ship when it comes to our culture. We know anything that’s radical that’s going to happen in this country is going to start with the youth. It moves us and I just wonder why there’s not more of an evident push in that direction. Maybe it’s because being black in America is so overwhelming sometimes that we want to dance. We want to be happy and sometimes we need to forget...we don’t always want to be listening to the political stuff Kendrick and JCole are putting out? GM: I think it’s necessary because like you said the youth culture is based on it. Like throughout history, each decade, whatever the youth has been the most in tune with has really shaped the overall reflection and stigma of that time. It’s just like we have to take advantage of the platform we have, being able to reach so many people all at once with just a song...you know, being in people’s ears literally. Having the platform to say, I’m not going to say something RIGHT because everyone has their opinion but just something logical. If you’re not there to say something that’s logical or something that you know is conducive to forward thinking... not to say that you don’t have a place, but you not really saying anything. But just like you said people are people and they want to dance and they want to groove and they want something to bounce to. Let me rephrase that, I won’t say everyone is obligated but it’s a very necessary medium or a method to go about making music and getting your music out there. But it isn’t for everybody and for some people I think its just, you know, that shit just ain’t what everybody tryna hear. And the people that they’re making music for i.e. who they’re assigned to may not agree with that sentiment and may not agree that they should be making music like that. So it’s necessary to have The Good Kid Maad City’s and the To Pimp a Butterfly’s just as much as it’s necessary to have Astronaut Status and Streets Calling, you know? Everything has a place and everything serves a purpose but as far as speaking on it though, just as being a black artist or like I said, you’re human being before you are a artist. You know? Just being a black person you should speak out, and speak about, and speak for people who can’t. AZ: When I was in school I minored in philosophy. I wrote a lot of papers on identity and how the decisions we make aren’t our decisions, so do you think that we really do like the “mainstream music” or the music that’s not political better because that’s what we’ve been trained to like? Or do you think that if there were more people out here putting out good “thoughtful” songs...more alternative songs that got you reflecting and bouncing, that would kind of become the norm and the culture’s demand would change as far as what we wanted to consume? For example, Alright by Kendrick, that is a good song you could play at a party but it was also thoughtful. GM: Well in relation to the example you used with Alright, I think that’s just a great record and that just goes to show you how great of a musician Kendrick is. I mean of course to be able to think, exert, or display your talents in that way is incredible...but I really think being able to make a song that is conscious in thought and is
also just a great record to play and has a great replay value just goes to show you how great of a musician somebody is. I mean even songs like “What’s Going On?”. You know, those type of songs, “Nightshift” by the Commodores, and all that shit; songs that were just like good throughout black history. Even as far back as having slaves singing songs in the fields, we’ve always gravitated to that. I think that’s why the rappers like Future and what not are necessary because though they don’t speak towards any political or social injustices or causes, the music that guys like him or guys like Jeezy put out speaks to a lot of the lifestyles and situations that a lot of us live. So that’s why their shit is necessary and that’s why it served its purpose, thats why its not distracting because it’s going affect somebody. Whether it’s someone who’s living the same lifestyle or going through the same problems and the same circumstances...so I think to be able to do either or and it still be a great record that has a lot of good replay value and is well perceived, I think that just goes to show you how good of an artist is making the music. AZ: I do think you’re right, the trap music and Young Jeezy’s and all that are completely necessary and it’s political in itself because of the story it’s telling. Our story, every story, is inherently political because we’re existing in a system that was built for our demise. But... GM: But do you think its right to get into that type of activity? AZ: No, No, No. I was going to say it’s just like you have songs like Alright... and I love how you brought up how music has always been something that has “taken us over”, all the way back to like Negro spirituals and all that shit. But my point is I would argue even Alright is a modern-day Negro spiritual. GM: No, no for real though. It is, for sure. AZ: But its just like, do we need another one? GM: We always will. AZ: Or do we need more Public Enemy stuff? You know? How many times are we going to lull the community? Like what Negro spirituals really did was kind of like ease the pain and pass the time. I would say “Alright” is doing the same thing, “We’re going to be alright”, “Everything’s cool”, “Keep calm”... When it should be no, let’s organize. There’s a war going on. We’re NOT alright. GM: You can’t say that on record though because you start saying shit like that, about revolutionizing and shit on songs, you’re gonna have folks in suits knocking at your door. Like, they really pay attention to shit like that. AZ: But isn’t that what needs to happen? GM: You really can’t because that’s what’s going to happen. They’re going to be on that before anybody is able to make any progress that you’re trying to see, you know what I mean? AZ: But how long do we stay in that posture of watching what we say? GM: I feel you. AZ: You know? How long can you stay there before you have to start calling the people that would be knocking on our door, daddy? Like you have to call them daddy if you’re literally watching what you say around them. GM: I mean I was saying that for your safety and your personal freedom, you know what I mean? I wouldn’t call myself a freedom fighter or anything like that. I stand up for what’s right and I definitely stand for my peoples but I feel like folks...you always see bulls like Deray getting harassed by the police and shit like that. But I guess the cause is greater than your personal freedom and I guess the freedom of all is greater than the freedom of one, but I don’t know. I guess I’m thinking for the person that’s an artist. If you’re an artist and you’re able to reach that many people you don’t have a tendency to be someone like that. You know what I mean? Looking at artists like Janelle Monae or the bull K-os back in the 2000s. Like, a lot of shit they’re doing, even though they have a lot of records like that, a lot of the shit they’re known for isn’t their “conscious music”...with the exception of Kweli, cause of the Get By jawn. For example, most folks know Common for the love jawns and so I still think that’s not something a lot of people are really going for. I guess. You know, maybe people aren’t digesting it the way that they should and then the people that do are looked at as like a subdivision of a minority. And they’re just like this different group of black people, its just, you know we all the same just everyone is being spoken to differently. AZ: Yeah, I asked the other music artists I interviewed about the Young Thug situation and how when he was asked about speaking out about Mike Brown he was just like “We havin’ money, we iced out”. GM: That’s why I answered you the way I did because that’s what I thought about when they asked him the same question you asked me. AZ: Yeah, he was just like fuck that and it’s just very interesting how... GM: “We getting rich, we getting diamonds”...All that shit is cool but its just like what you doing that for? Who you doing that for? But bull probably got real circumstances and shit and that’s just how, you know. And with that situation, man I think a lot of people think bull is older than he is. Like bull is only a year older than me...he just turned 23 or 24. So yeah.
AZ: I didn’t even know that... GM: You know what I mean? So its just like you can’t expect everybody to have the maturity to say the right things. Not to validate what he’s saying but it’s just some people really don’t know. AZ: Switching gears a bit...Next question is really about hip hop and feminism...and I’ve kind of spoken to you about this before. Do you think hip-hop artists should be feminist? And why is there this incessant culture in hip hop to treat/talk about women as dispensable objects? GM: Ummm, okay. Well let’s just be honest...like let’s just have a real conversation about that shit. Like what is...I understand what objectifying a woman means but is like “You remind me of my Jeep” a bad way of objectifying a woman? AZ: *busts out laughing* GM: *laughs* Nah I’m serious, cause I really want to know. I would like to know for myself. I know some stuff can be endearing but if people have a problem with it then they have a problem with it so I don’t want to say that... AZ: For me a lot of it is the visual and verbal objectification, like when you see a video and there’s women in it and she’s serving the same purpose as the car, the house, or the watch. GM: Right...like a prop. AZ: Right. A status signifier. But to me, “You remind me of my Jeep”....like literally my dude if thats the best way you can express yourself then I respect that. Imma take that, and I love that, like if it’s sincere and genuine. If that’s your love poem then thank you. I’m into it. But there’s also verbal objectification, like “I hit that bitch and passed her to my homies”. I’m talking about that kind of culture in hip hop where that kind of rhetoric is just widely acceptable and almost the formula. You remind of my Jeep is a love song compared to some of the shit we bounce to. GM: Yeah, I think that comes from a familial type of thing. Not in defense of anything but just as an observation...because there’s been times where I felt the same way. I think it’s just because, and even though I have a relationship with my Pops now, there is a large part of my childhood like when I was a teenager when I didn’t. You know? He just wasn’t there for reasons I don’t want to disclose, good or bad, but a lot of folks...I’ve even had my uncles and shit, I had my grandfather and things like that but I think a lot of folks who even still did, they saw how a lot of things go. I think during our time a lot of peoples folks split or something, at least from what I’ve seen more so than I ever. But its just like the strength or the definition of a relationship and what that means, I think its just like its whatever...people are disposable. But I’m not going to be on the track talking about...like I’ve lessen the frequency I say bitch on tracks *laughs* and people have told me that and they like that. Like my aunts or even my homies’ aunts. When the homie Bentley graduated from Drexel and I was at his graduation party, someone that I didn’t even know listened to a lot of my shit...she was saying how I could maybe lessen the usage or whatever and I’m like yeah...I hear you. Its different when you hear it coming from a woman’s perspective. AZ: Word GM: But why is that the stigma or the norm? Like back in the day it was always on some, you know, soul and blues. It was always, aww baby come back...songs of that nature. But that was back in the time when there wasn’t an issue to be vulnerable on a song and everybody wasn’t trying to be all hard rock and shit with their music. Now everybody’s getting tough and they about this or about that and shit, like, I guess that’s what you got to be. AZ: I guess it’s all story telling, an archive of the life and times. We just need more diversity in the stories. But okay! Talk about the project you have coming up, My Brother’s Keeper. GM: Yeah. My Brother’s Keeper. That shit is like two ideas in the making and it’s all in house, all produced by Ben Pramuk, Sam Greenberg (Sam GreenS), Noah Beresin (Noah Breakfast). Yeah that’s pretty much the main three guys then it’s Ben and I who executive produced the jawn. But it’s just, I guess, a reintroduction to who I am because I’ve taken so much time off so it’s like a new beginning...a reinvention of myself as an artist because I’m mature now and I’ve grown older. Its just a more polished effort from me. AZ: I can’t wait. What are your upcoming plans with the project? GM: Once we drop it we’re getting videos out then pushing it through the end of the year. Definitely dropping videos off of it in 2016. But yeah, I’m definitely going to be dropping shit on a more consistent basis. I have plans to do EP’s in first quarter next year and off that, just more music videos, tours and shit like that. And yeah...just getting to it, forreal. AZ: Yaaay! Well I hope you’re still doing that listening party we talked about somewhere in DC because I cannot wait to hear. GM: No, for sure...something’s definitely happening. @1pullup
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The Art x Politics issue is a two part issue. Part I holds all the written and text based content.