The DEPTH of Redikiraa

The power gained from pursuing something you were once scared to do is one of the most satisfying feelings we can experience. This is exactly what New York artist and producer Redikiraa has done. Once a person who posted the occasional singing video out of bravery she has now released her debut EP titled Depth. I hit her up to discuss the journey that led to the EP as well as the journey of of transforming into a full fledged artist.

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This interview has been edited for clarity. 

The name “Redikiraa” which is Japanese for “lady killer” is more than just something that sounds cool (it’s also her Instagram name) – it’s a direct connection to her life. “ I used it because I was indeed a woman killing it at everything I set my mind to & more importantly I was finally becoming sure of my sexuality , I’m bisexual so I wanted to celebrate me getting ze ladies hence “ladykiller” LMAO. Also because I’m heavily into anime so I wanted something Japanese.” This direct honesty comes through when it comes to her songwriting also: “When it’s my personal music I really just try to focus and think about whatever I’m feeling at the moment that I want to release,  any emotion that comes to mind , any conversation I wanted to have but didn’t that kinda thing, then find a beat then I’ll kinda like freestyle sing it out then patch words into the spaces that didn’t come to me automatically.” 

Like any great artist the title Depth is more than just something that looks cool on merch – it has multiple meanings for Redikiraa. “So the word Depth in general has multiple definitions. One is “the quality of being intense or extreme.”  I put raw emotions into these songs. Outside of music I’m more easygoing but I get to channel all the real feelings I have inside through this platform so I really did put my heart into it.  The second definition is “the distance from the top or surface to the bottom” my first single did pretty well. And that scared me a little like I was in competition with myself , ya know? I also did it all from home in my comfort spot then engineered with someone close to me so it was all really calm & comfortable. This time around I had to buy beats , I wanted to use better equipment so I went other places to record and it was definitely starting to feel like I wasn’t doing as well as I did when I was alone fucking around in my room just to express myself.  I felt like I was personally going from the high point back down and working my way back up. It’s one thing to have the talent it’s a completely different thing to be able to do everything so professionally and explain your vision correctly to others who are working with you and trying to assist you in creating that vision. It was a learning process for me.”

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The textless version of the Depth cover art.

In this current climate of genre bending, artists are more than comfortable with creating music based on things that influence them. This comes through most noticeably with the production which in some people’s eyes is the real draw when it comes to music these days. Redikiraa knows exactly what atmosphere she wants to have so at the beginning – she created it herself. “…my first single “Questions” was self produced. “Fun fact , I produced it and free-styled it in 20 mins. “ This track was released on September 6 2019 however, it is not on the EP. Being that Redikiraa is so community focused it’s only natural she had multiple collaborators on her debut. “None of the tracks on Depth are self produced. I wanted to branch out and work with others this time around. But I do have something coming up next that will be produced and performed entirely by me!”

Depth is a project that showcases how Redikiraa isn’t locked into a single lane of music. This is the first thing that separates her from other artists especially with her only being at it for literally a few months. “5 Birds” sounds like she’s singing with a live band while “Solution” is drenched in reverb and echoes. In regards to the former she says “I want to work with an actual live band so badly that sound is such a vibe man it’s really sonically pleasing to me. I’m definitely on a mission to make more.” The latter definitely has a unique creative flair to it in which she shares a story of how a space filler became a key part of the production: “…I heard the song on YouTube and the best way to explain it is I heard perfect openings for something in the pockets of the beat. So bullshitting around I was just saying yeah over and over until I could think of something to say. But the more I did that the more it just flowed with it so eventually I went to the mic I have in my house and said yeah probably like 30 times LMAO and was like OHH this shit is fire and kept that.” On “Bittersweet” her voice is at the forefront in the strongest way possible as it is only paired with a piano and a feature in the track’s second half. “I prefer it all to sound like live music or have my voice barely messed with. That’s another thing that made recording a rough transition for me. I like MY voice ya know? Lol I am used to singing acappella and in choirs with no beats no effects you just have to practice and hit them notes so bittersweet was the most comfortable song for me to sing alongside the intro 5 Birds. I could just flow naturally.”

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As an up and coming artist confidence is one of the most important qualities to develop. Some are naturally born with and take to an even higher level with their performances and creative decisions while for some it is more of an ever evolving process. For Redikiraa, gaining more of it is literally how she went from posting the occasional singing video on IG to dropping this EP. “I started singing covers on video with the alien  emoji covering my face back in 2011. I wanted to share my talent but the anxiety always got in the way so I did it with a little mask on sort of speak. The more I did it the more comfortable I got with myself , with a camera , & with my talent ; that’s how I gained the confidence to actually show my face. I had to completely redo that process to record because it sounded different on a track than it did acappella. Once I felt like I found my “ studio voice” it didn’t matter , I could just get into the zone so I guess it was mostly about inner confidence for me, I had to fully believe in myself before I could do anything.” She took this confidence to another level by performing live in February and again in March. The pressure is always higher for singers in live performances because people expect them to sound exactly like you do on the studio version of the song – or close enough. But with that pressure paired with nerves it can go one way or another. Redikiraa’s experience went both ways but it turned out for the better. “It was terrifying! Lmao I am just learning how to overcome my stage fright , and I tend to get anxious in social settings with large amounts of people. With that being said I went up there,  had on some really DARK sunglasses couldn’t see A THING ! I closed my eyes and tried my best. Half way through I got into it and started just having fun! The reactions I got after really overwhelmed me in the best way possible. I felt good about it I was confident. Then So many ppl supported me and complimented me it was surreal.” 

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Redikiraa at her debut performance.

Redikiraa says there will be music videos for some of the tracks which she is naturally very excited to release. We can’t wait to see them because with someone as creative as her there is no doubt that they’ll be anything less than fire. With her debut being this strong and only getting more and more love for it daily, we can’t wait to see what happens with her next!

Depth is out on SoundCloud now and will be on all streaming platforms soon. 

You can follow Redikiraa on Instagram (redikiraa.z) Twitter (RedikiraZ) and SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/kha0stv)

ABISHA: Authenticity is Key

This interview was originally conducted in November 2019. 

Here at Glosse we love artists from the UK just as much as the ones from the states. And because of that, it’s only right we put y’all on too. Enter UK artist: ABISHA.  I had the pleasure of talking to her about how she creates her music, how she defines herself and her plans for 2020.

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Image via Artist Representative

ABISHA’s music can in three words: Excellent, ethereal and genreless. With so many influences and blending happening it’s so much easier to just enjoy it instead of trying to put a label on it. She’s drawn to production with “Unusual and weird sounds, Distorted vocal sounds, [and] Pitched up or down [elements]” so you already know you’re getting into something as creative as it is fire. “All That” features some of these including a sound that I’d describe as something you’d hear during the opening logos of the Transformers movies – trust me you’ll know it when you hear it. “All That was one of the first songs I wrote and recorded. I was at the very beginning of starting to discover my sound so I didn’t really go into it with any idea how I wanted the production to sound. But my producer came up with this synth loop and we just started vibing with it and the lyrics I had just worked so well with it and it came together almost instantly. So it was sort of accidental I guess.” A happy accident for sure. 

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Image via Artist Representative

 In addition to being in it’s own lane the creation of her music is special in its own way too. While ABISHA’s music is atmospheric at times the lyrics still matter even if they have immersive effects added to them. Like all talented songwriters inspiration for lyrics can hit her at any time. “I have a note in my notes app on my phone of hundreds of lyrics which are just words and thoughts that I write down at random moments every day.” With ABISHA the song creation process goes back to a central theme in her life: an inner feeling.  “When I’m in the studio with a producer, I usually always have an idea of what I want to write about that day because it’s probably something that I’m feeling at that time or something that’s going on in my life. And then I think about the mood and the feel that I want that song to have and we lay down the chords and a beat and build it from there. Usually the melody comes to me quite quick and then I write the lyrics to fit with that. I love writing, it’s my favourite part.”

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Image via Artist Representative

Before you even press play on ABISHA’s music you might be drawn into her by her look. Her long braids extend down her back like the cables and cords used to make her music. This signature hair is complimented by her unique style which comprises jackets (oversized or regular sized) boots and various versions of cropped and halter tops. “My style is ever-evolving. It changes all the the time and I’m constantly pushing the boundaries of it” ABISHA has mastered something what we should all strive for in all aspects of our lives: Evolution. If we remain stagnant, the talent cannot grow and the power cannot increase.  Knowing what to wear may seem trivial for some but for ABISHA how you look and hope you feel go hand in hand. “Finding my style was a massive part of finding myself, it’s my main resource of expressing myself and I feel good when I like the clothes that I’m wearing and I feel ‘me’. The most important thing for me is that I’m comfortable, both physically and mentally in that I’m wearing.” This love for clothing has led ABISHA the chance to work with Puma as a partner/model which she hopes will lead to her being able to do a collection for them. But, it wouldn’t be a typical one in the slightest “I had this idea for a while ago to create a unisex range for a big brand because I dress quite androgynous and often by men’s clothes over women’s because I prefer the oversized fit, and I think that would be so cool to do something like that with Puma.” 

At this point you’ve likely noticed that each time I typed ABISHA’s name it was capitalized. This is a common trait amongst artists lately with album and song titles being in all caps – or sometimes all lowercase. It’s a minor stylistic choice that subtlety brings direct attention and makes sure it stands out from the other names/titles in your playlists. Originally her name was going to be “Shakti” which means power but her Mom decided to make this her middle name after concluding she “looked to gentle” for it. Despite this, she was still raised by her mother to be a strong woman.  ABISHA is her real first name and it actually is a Hebrew name meaning “God is my Father” – but her mother isn’t religious. “I think she just liked the name. I used to hate my name because it was so different but it definitely works as an artist name which is good, I don’t know what I would have come up with if I had to make one up!”

ABISHA’s name has a special meaning to it and the rest of her identity does too in which she says she is a “double minority”. Not only is she a woman of color but she is a gay woman of color too.This combination is not as common as you might think in the music industry and ABISHA understands this and thinks about it often. “Both being a woman of colour and being a gay woman have their own difficulties, there’s already pressure being a woman of colour in the music industry to prove yourself a bit more and prove that you deserve to be doing what you’re doing. Even just being a woman, but a woman of colour even more so. Being a gay woman in the music industry feels almost quite vulnerable. I feel like I have to ‘come out’ every time I meet someone new or that they might be surprised when they find out I’m gay, and having to experience their reaction to it.” Despite this ABISHA is still confident and proud of her sexuality. It’s not the only aspect of her life that defines her but it is a part of her image and a part that plays a large and direct role in her music. Music is a form of expression and she will continue to express herself through her music. ”I’ve been told in the past to not mention my sexuality and to hide it in fear that it might alienate listeners or potential fans or even put them off, but I’m extremely proud of being gay and I reflect that in my music now. My songs are all very open and honest, I want to encourage everyone including other LGBQT+ people to be themselves and that they’re perfect the way they are.”

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Image via Artist Representative (Photo taken by Sam Leviton)

ABISHA’s latest single “Real Life” differs greatly from her other music and is the last single to drop before her debut EP drops this year. It’s special to ABISHA for several reasons but also is special to listeners and supporters of her music too. “I think you can almost hear the breakthrough in my music style and it’s definitely evolved from my last release. Most of my new music is predominantly R&B but Real Life definitely has a bit of a pop element to it, which makes it catchy and quite fun. I think Real Life is the bridge between my older stuff that I’ve released and what’s to come, it represents my transformation as a writer, artist, and as a person.” 

ABISHA has built quite the following in the UK and plans to continue to build her fanbase in the US in 2020. “We’ve been focusing on building a foundation in the UK but I’ve had some amazing support from the US too and I’m definitely planning on making a few more trips out there towards 2020. It’s a really exciting time! I can’t wait to travel with my music and meet fans and perform around the world, that’s going to be the most amazing feeling! “ We’re excited too ABISHA.  

ABISHA’s debut EP SCORPIO is out on all streaming services now!

Lauren’s VIRTUE

When you’re a creative it’s always good to have multiple creative skills. This is exactly what the multi talented Lauren Thomas has done with her life. She’s an artist of multiple mediums, a model, and a photographer. Her most recent endeavour has been the creation of her own magazine – a concept that began as a project for one of her classes initially but blossomed into a whole thing. I hit her up to discuss the magazine, her other creative pursuits and how she balances it all.

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As I previously stated, Lauren is a renaissance woman in her own right. She’s got pieces in the worlds of photography, illustration, and painting but says “I’d honestly have to choose photography as my favorite. Photography for me has such a strong impact for me (personally), and it’s the way that I can fully express myself as an artist. It’s also my favorite way to express what I want through my work. The process is also EXTREMELY rewarding. After all the setting up, picking compositions and angles, editing, etc, I always feel so proud of what comes out and what I’ve done. I’m the happiest doing it.” This love for photography is perhaps the most important aspect of the magazine as it is a very visual based experience for the reader. Lauren stated that the photoshoot for the magazine has actually been her favorite so far as it was “huge”. “Being able to photograph so many Black people at a time in so many different fits they put together themselves was a really fun experience.” It’s always worth celebrating when someone can excel behind the camera as well as in front of it and then is exactly what Lauren does. 

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Denver Dukes – photographed by Lauren.

In the Cinematic Universe of Black Creatives you’re bound to come across a few magazines. These magazines no matter how they’re executed often carry at least one shared theme: Black Excellence. Lauren’s magazine VIRTUE is no different and the name has a purpose much larger than it sounding cool. First, “virtue is defined as “behavior showing high moral standards”. She chose to title the magazine this “because VIRTUE’s focus is on the black (American) community, I thought it would be fitting. We as Black people are always considered to be making the wrong decisions whether that be through what we do, or the things we decide to wear, just because it’s different. My goal is to show that our culture is not the bottom of the barrel, and that it is in fact extremely beautiful.” It’s always a win for us when we are able to grace the cover of these multi million magazine corporations. And it’s even better when the cover story is done by a black journalist too. But when we literally create the magazine ourselves and showcase ourselves there’s nor room for an L. The magazine itself originally was actually a project Lauren had to do for her Photography Final (Exam). She described the process as “Very very stressful. but the best kind of stressful.” The process involved the “designing and editing that has to go into it, along with making sure the copies come out correctly as well as selecting the “names and photo ideas to actually designing the cover, layouts, and getting it officially made.” Since it was so involved she has decided to continue creating future issues on a regular basis. Out of all her projects this has been her most involved so far and in her eyes her most rewarding too. 

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Our Blackness is the focus of VIRTUE.

Like most black creatives Lauren takes her creative expression into everything she does including her clothes. If you follow her on Instagram you’re going to see her Outfit of the Day on her Story pretty much everyday. And these outfits are never just house clothes. She says her style has gone from “sporty, to super colorful, to wearing whatever I want to, but now I feel like it’s a very specific style that I can’t really name. Simple, but also not? I’m super into New York fashion…” She also cites her main fashion inspirations as “@koleendz and @wuzg00d on Instagram, Virgil Abloh, and my boyfriend who’s grown up in New York and is also extremely into fashion.” However, she has other inspirations when it comes to her work specifically and while it may seem unconventional to some, in the world of art it is practically commonplace. “My inspiration can come from absolutely ANYTHING. I can look at a box of cereal long enough and come up with a huge project idea that may OR may not have anything to do with the cereal. The idea can just come from the color scheme of the box.” 

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Pages from VIRTUE.

Having multiple creative lanes means having multiple obligations.This also comes with having multiple clients and some understand the concept that they are not the only client much better than others. Plus – as an artist she has projects she just wants to do for her own personal enjoyment too and as a student she has assignments that have a due date too. But – she manages to handle it all! “A lot of the time, I manage to fit my ideas within the project assignments (make things happen no matter what) just so I still have fun and do what I want while also having time for commissions. Now that I have the magazine to manage though, my regular commissions are closed until I get a really good grasp on things” Despite all this she is still open to collaborations though! 

Lauren has a diverse music palette naturally and says “I never have just one set person or two, but the people I listen to at the moment are Ari Lennox, Lucky Daye, Frank Ocean, Tyler the Creator, Summer Walker, Megan Thee Stallion, and DaBaby.” She also hopes to create a piece for Frank Ocean one day. With the type of talent she has it’s only a matter of time. 

Lauren says her number one goal as an artist is “…to be known for what I do. Not necessarily a celebrity, but just to be well known. I want to be a black female artist whose work shows up on huge banners and becomes an inspiration to the black community. I want to have the ability to create opportunities for other Black artists that don’t get the spotlight they deserve. I just want people to see that black girls got the juice too.”

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VIRTUEous Skies.

You can see all of Lauren’s art on her Instagram @yell.l0 and order your own copy of VIRTUE here right NOW! You can also follow the Instagram for the magazine: @virtuemagazinenow 

 

Coming HOME with Jamaal

 Jamaal is one of those people who when you follow them on social media you know where they’re from. Often using location stickers on his IG Stories you can find him in various restaurants and other spots throughout the 757 and the 804 – Virginia for those who don’t know. Not only have I been following and supporting Jamaal for quite some time now but some of you may have heard from him already on here and not realized it. He was part of one of the first pieces I ever did on this platform and you can read that here. However this time I wanted to talk to him about his brand: HOMETEAM. 

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Jamaal poses in front of Creme – Pusha T’s streetwear boutique in Norfolk, VA.

HOMETEAM was one of the first brands I discovered that was actually created by someone from my state of Virginia. Of course, I already knew about Play Cloths and Billionaire Boys Club but HOMETEAM was the first I’ve had the pleasure of watching from the origin days. And I was proud to see it. This is what Jamaal says is his reason for creating the brand, “The name HOMETEAM is inspired by the brand’s purpose which is to represent wherever you consider HOME to the fullest.” Some of you (hopefully all of you) are familiar with Pharrell’s Something In The Water Festival which premiered in 2019 Virginia Beach and will be returning there in 2020. Jamaal posted some t shirt mockups he created to celebrate the festival last year but they were not never converted into actual product, “…Well last year, I felt I had some really cool concepts but I didn’t want to rush it and put out something I wasn’t fully happy with.” However, he also wants to have some pieces out before the festival happens again in April and believes 2020 “will be a big year” for the brand. He’s already thinking about it ways to make that happen and planning always leads to success. 

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Jamaal has been accepted into The Asterisk Collective whose mission is to “to empower and enable individuals within specific communities to make a positive impact and leave a legacy through the lens of creativity.”

HOMETEAM is a young brand but it’s already gotten a signature look to it – logo flips. Logo flips have been used for decades for multiple reasons, whether it be for satire, fun or because the original logo fits the aesthetic of the brand. However one thing remains that when you understand what has been flipped you have that “aha” moment that usually pulls you in even more or pushes you away like the hundreds (if not thousands) of logo flips we’ve seen people use with Supreme’s box logo. (or “BoGo” as the cool kids say) Jamaal sees logo flips as more of an opportunity to test his own creative skills. “I’ve always been fascinated with what can be flipped but for future projects, I will focus or more original designs.” So far, all the logo flips have been flipped to say “Virginia” the birthplace of the brand – the HOME of HOMETEAM. The most iconic logo flip of the brand has been of the NASCAR logo flip which has essentially become the “face” of the brand. This is directly connected to the Richmond Raceway and continues the theme of Virginia being HOME. Even though it was a part of the first drop Jamaal regularly posts supporters still rocking it and has been able to re-release it since then too. “I love the fact that I was able to sell the same design for 3 seasons but the supporters tell me it’s their favorite design.”  

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The iconic NASCAR logo flip hoodie.

Right now, Jamaal ships the pieces right from the post office himself but hopes to expand to selling in local clothing stores and down the line other states – and countries. The packaging for the item is also hand addressed, a small detail that sticks out to me because it adds a personal touch in my eyes. Printing a label may be easier but it doesn’t have the same affect. People always like to talk about how they’re self made but things like this let you see that they are. 

My personal HOMETEAM shirt – a flip of the Patagonia logo.

 Starting something on your own is never easy but it doesn’t have to be hard either. Trusting your process and following through will bring you the desired results. With something like clothing, buying the items goes a long way and brings in more opportunities and chances to take the success to higher and higher levels. The goal is to always make it to the top – and beyond but like the saying goes, we can’t forget where we come from. We’re all destined to go somewhere but no matter where we go we will always be able to come HOME.

Follow Jamaal on Twitter: @gawdbawdy and Instagram: @mad3byj and check out his uniquely fire Music Mash Up Series titled Headphones Only here!

When I Get Home: A Discussion About Black Art

This article was a collaborative piece by Paul Barnes and Amani Allen-Beale

When I Get Home does not follow the traditional structure of an album. There are six interludes with most of them being under 30 seconds. The longest song on the album is 3:56 which is an average length for most conventional songs – but this project is not not built on the average or the normal in the slightest. Many people feel that the album flows like a series of demos and I can agree with this but I also have no issue with it. Short songs come in, do what they were designed to do, and leave. The repeat button is there for a reason. The longer songs have beat switches/transitions that flow seamlessly and give the song life as it creates a new experience for the listener in real time whether they are ready or not.

As Solange said herself in the conversation she had at the premier of the album’s short film:

“Obviously with A Seat at the Table I had so much to say,” she said. “With this album I had so much to feel. Words would have been reductive to what I needed to feel and express. It’s in the sonics for me.”

If I was forced to put a genre label on When I Get Home, I’d call it Intergalactic Soul Hop. There are songs you can dance to, songs you can rap with, songs you can fall asleep to – and transitions that are so perfect you have to run them back at least twice to hear how smooth they are. Let’s discuss the latter first. On the closing moments of “Jerrod” as Solange’s vocals dance around the bassline that transitions into the horn/synth melody that fuels “Binz”. It’s a moment where the instrumentation and subject matter are linked so perfectly it’s as if they are actually one song. “Exit Scott” which features a sample of Steve Lacy’s beautiful track “4ever” drops out right as it’s peaking to lead into Pharrell’s trademark four count to begin “Sound of Rain”. It’s a wonderful moment near the end of the album when we see how the top of a crescendo always yields exceptional results.

My personal favorite track on the album is the aforementioned “Sound of Rain” as it captures all the best elements of the album into one single track: an otherworldly melody, the perfect amount of bounce, layered and blended vocals and it just sounds good. And of course the beat switch! Another favorite is “Beltway” and while it is short and repetitive it’s the perfect song to fall asleep to. It’s like setting a ship on cruise control in space and just floating along as the stars dance around you. Then as the synths expand as the track closes there’s a subtle cash register noise that pops in just to give the track a sprinkle of extra uniqueness. Now I’d be remissed if I didn’t discuss standout tracks like “Almeda ” and “Binz ” the latter of which we touched on earlier. We all knew Carti was gonna be on the album prior to it releasing but I don’t think any of us expected him to come in how he did on “Almeda”. Solange already gave us an anthem with her list of all things black and then Carti (preceded by The Dream) floats in with his unmistakable baby voice flow and coasts all over the beat as his ad libs bounce all over the stuttering drums. It’s a moment that worked perfectly and gave us “Binz” is probably the most fun (and easiest) track on the project to sing along with and that’s how you know you’ve got a hit. Basically every line in the song is quotable and the hook by The Dream (not Kali Uchis as many people thought on the initial listen) is the perfect moment in between Solange’s verses.

Imagine dropping the bar “I didn’t want to sock her she had Gucci on her cleats’ ‘ as Gucci Mane himself ad libs for you and then proceeds to drop a verse. Then to have Tyler, The Creator come in with a refrain to close out the same song? A blending of worlds we never imagined we’d get but Soalnge gave it to us and it worked – again. “My Skin My Logo” is yet another fantastic track with surprise moments and the ever present beat switch that fits right into the black excellence and auditory bliss this album oozes.

Interludes on albums can serve several purposes: they can be instrumental portions or voicemails that signal a shift of the direction of the album. Or, they can be comedic skits with voices we know and love – or hate. In the case of When I Get Home they serve as a segue between tracks that provide beautiful transitions or signal a shift in tone. And they’re unique in their own way as expected. “Can I Hold The Mic” uses the same technique as the opening track on the album as Solange’s voice is in perfect synchronization with the keys while “Nothing Without Intention” gives us a small glimpse of the atmosphere we’ll be getting on “Almeda” while also giving us a mantra we can all live by. It’s as if these interludes are brief glimpses in Solange’s mind as we pass through the full experience that this album is.

When I Get Home takes us on an auditory journey through space, the south, Solange’s journal and her mind. It’s so many layers and sounds throughout the album that you’ll probably hear a new sound each time you listen to it. It’s an album with quotables and songs you can dance to or lay down and look a the stars while you listen. It’s an album that once you’ve finished listening it wasn’t just something you heard – it’s something you experienced.

After letting the album marinate with us for a few months, Solo has recently wrapped up her tour for When I Get Home. Not only did the tour remind us of the amazing sounds and rhythms, but it wasn’t an ordinary tour. Sure, Solange went to multiple venues and performed her sophomore album in front of thousands, but what made this tour stand out immensely was the visuals, the choreography, and the location of her venues.

Staying true to her aesthetic, Solange’s stage design was very artistic and minimal with a splash of elegance. With a live band behind her and her remarkable backup singers, the performance is also topped off with a staircase full of young Black dancers.

Now when When I Get Home dropped, it paid a lot of homage to Solange’s hometown of Houston, Texas — from the videos to the slowed and reverbed mixes on songs like “My Skin My Logo” and “I’m A Witness”; which Texas is known for. So I’m short, the tone of this album was very Black and Solo made sure to keep the flow going into her performances. Teaming up with different art venues and museums, Solange began to bring Black art in white spaces in a very unique way. While some may argue this isn’t notable, seeing Black art in this setting directly in the face of wealthy white people is exactly where the art industry is currently going. As you can see from Twitter user @NicoKartel, Solange is doing just that. What makes Solo’s movement so intriguing to watch? Well, she’s very unapologetic about her Blackness and where she grew up. Giving us Black southern realness in the face of white critics is something everyone wants to watch.

#NewMusicFriday: What You Need To Hear

Jesus is King – Kanye West

It’s out. It’s really finally out!

Rules – Doja Cat

Doja continues to drop new tracks paired with unique and fire visuals. With an album dropping November 7th the promo run continues with this one which features a smooth bounce and guitar riffs as Doja flows through different inflections and tones with her voice.

Trina – Smino

Smino links up with the hottest producer (Woah Kenny!!) out right now for easy going yet technically crafted single.

No Patience – Swizz Beatz x Pusha T

Push continues to bring his drug dealer tales full circle by taking them to TV show soundtracks. This one is a part of Godfather of Harlem which stars Forest Whitaker in the lead role.  This one features Swizz on hook duty (and ad-libs naturally) as well as production. Menacing and gritty for sure.

OCD – Logic feat. DWN2EVRTH

Logic shows he still knows how to make a good song after letting fans like me down consistently. Over an atmospheric and somber beat he discusses the pressures in his life including his celebrity status and all that comes with it. The chorus blends well with the theme and production and if he continues in this direction things are definitely looking better for him.

Cry – Cigarettes After Sex

Had to put this one here in honor of my boss/our EIC. VERY chill and somber project that you can fall asleep or relax to.

Other Drops

Ride or Die – Megan Thee Stallion x VickeeLo

Real Life – ABISHA

Godfather 4 – Dave East feat. Nas

DAYS B4 3 – Lucki

Blood Bath – Shy Glizzy & Pressa

Trigger – Khalid ft. Major Lazer

I Was Depressed Until I Made This – KembeX

The Many Facets of Cipherella

In today’s world of rappers there are artists who seem like they are just copies of each other as well as those who are in their own creative lane. Cipherella is easily the latter. I hit her up to discuss her new EP S3V3N,  the sources behind her creativity and what separates her from the rest of the rappers out right now.

If there’s anything I learned from Cipherella it’s that everything she does has a purpose and meaning behind it. “Do nothing without intention” to the highest degree. This meaningfulness begins with her name which is a direct connection to one of the cores of hip – hop – the cypher. However, it also extends to the literal circle cyphers usually are in as well the connection of male and female – the two “L”s in her name. The title of her EP, S3V3N, is stylized the way it is to not only reflect the Holy Trinity but there are two threes – there are three consonants. And, the day it releases – the month and date will equal seven.

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Image via Artist Representative

With Cipherella the beat is just as important as the lyrics however it plays a role that is more important than you might realize. Like many up and coming or even chart topping rappers she finds some of her beats in a place all of us spend quite a bit of our time – YouTube. However, if she doesn’t feel something when she hears a beat it gets passed on. Like Joey (Bada$$) said “If it don’t hit my spirit then I don’t get near it”. Unfortunately, sometimes during these searches when she contacts the producer she gets no response – so she turns to her own producer who makes a beat that gives her the same feeling. His beats are made with a story behind them which is not unheard of but still very special. To have your producer on the same wavelength as you in terms of providing a true auditory experience for the listener is beneficial for both the listener and the creator.

This is a phrase we’ve all heard before it must be said once again – we live in the age of social media. And, in this social media age the mighty keyboard warriors have reached an entirely new power level. While some thrive on the reactions of those they troll others some are intentionally disrespectful to artists because they feel they have the right to be as a critic.  JPEGMAFIA had his own response to these people and Cipherella has one as equally as direct. In the first single for the EP titled “Petty” she talks of an exchange within the comments of one of her social media posts. Initially, because they were so negative she decided she would just delete them. But, then she decided that she would just be petty and respond to them directly. This shift in attitude is directly connected to the song itself also as it began as a blues track. As a blues track the atmosphere of the song was how the comments were getting to her but with the rework the confidence came back and she decided that she would give the person power by letting them get to her. 

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Image via Artist Representative

The concept of  S3V3N is just as creative and layered as the production that went into it. Spanning 7 tracks each one one is centered around one of the seven deadly sins with the lead single “Petty” representing the sin of envy. With someone like Cipherella a concept project like this is very on brand and means it can be enjoyed not only on the surface level but below that as well.

Like “Petty” the entire EP S3V3N is rooted in feeling something. Cipherella doesn’t want to dictate or specify what exactly these feelings should be though as she doesn’t feel she has the right to. She can only hope the songs resonate with people and cause them to truly get enveloped in the themes and lyrics. She does however want people to feel good as they listen to it and I have no doubt this will happen due to how the production and lyrics are treated with the same level of detail and importance. Cipherella has hinted at one track that’s produced by someone we know and love and when we hear it we’ll connect it to the hit they’re known for. In addition, there are only two producers on the whole EP. 

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Image via Artist Representative

This interview was done the day after World Mental Health Awareness Day so it was only right I asked Cipherella how she was doing mentally. But, even without this context we should do mental health checks with everyone we care about in our lives. She told me she genuinely feels her mind is clouded as she is a perfectionist and wants the project to be perfect. But, at the same time she is happy with the project as she knows it is something that is different and different in a good way. She feels she gets closer and closer to who she really is with each release and this one is a step in the right direction. She feels the term “release” has a layered meaning for her and all other artists. Because they work so hard on a project when it comes out it feels like a release of all the stress and work that went into the creation of the project. A weight feels lifted as the results of all the nights and days in the studio are finally shared within the world in a condensed format. 

Cipherella is a unique artist in all senses of the word. From the themes that go into this EP to creating the truly unique artwork for the cover all by herself this project is an expression of her – 100% of the way through. This is just another step in her evolution and the more she evolves the more powerful she becomes as an artist, as a woman and as a person.

“Petty” is available now on all streaming services. 

#NewMusicFriday: What You Need To Hear

Whole Lotta Red – Playboi Carti

[REDACTED]

Woptober 2 – Gucci Mane

Yesterday was 10/17 but Gucci’s legend status lets him miss an easy marketing move like that. Maybe it would just be too expected or he’s set on a Friday release. The first Woptober dropped in 2016 and was his second post jail drop. This sequel comes after a slew of other releases and like all sequels we’re to see if it’s worth it. Given Gucci’s recent comments about being able to do an album in “one day” and not wanting to “hold the music” are we surprised at his quick output rate? Where are our expectations for this project?

Bad Name – Gang Starr

Family and Loyalty with Cole was a sleeper hit and gave us one of Cole’s best verses this year. This new single also engages the classic duo with the new generation of rappers however this time it’s definently more of a critique. The most interesting part is we will never know when Guru’s verses were recorded but they can still apply today.

Other Drops

First Class – Blueface ft. Gunna

Stacked – Kash Doll

World on Fire – 24HRS

Statue of Limitations – Smoke DZA x Benny The Butcher x Pete Rock

#NewMusicFriday: What You Need To Hear

Puppets (Succession Remix) – Pusha T x Nicholas Brittell

Push has dropped two singles this year with an album on the way. This one is more of a “bonus” as it features him rapping over the theme to the HBO show Succession. A verse from Push is always appreciated and this level of promo means the album is even closer.

Plan of Attack – Curren$y x Trademark x Young Roddy

Jet Life is in full effect for this collab project. And, being that these are THEE founders of the label you can expect their signature sound all over this album. Smooth. Jazz. Cruisin (and of course smoking) music. 

Wow…That’s Crazy – Wale

Wale has been quite active on Twitter lately and this album title ties into his thoughts perfectly. People have wanted music from him and now it’s here.

9 – Lil Kim

With all the debates of who the best female rapper going around Lil Kim is here to show why she’s in the conversation and let anyone who doesn’t know why she is know they’re missing out.

Twisted – French Montana ft Juicy J and Logic

Based on the fact Montana and Juicy J are on this track you can take a good guess at what it sounds like. However, the Logic feature…is something you’ll probably hate if you’ve been a longtime listener or even if you haven’t. Definitely one for the clubs and the only place for it.

Other Drops

AI Youngboy 2 – NBA Youngboy

Head In The Clouds 2 – 88 Rising

Big Stepper – Roddy Rich

Ego Check – Wyne feat. J.I.D

Golden Child – YK Osiris

We Mattered in ‘Joker’

Like most of the world I went to see Joker the day it was released. It lived up to all the praise it got in my eyes and I’m eager to see it again. Prior to its release there were individuals who felt we were under represented in the trailer and equally under represented in the movie itself too. This is true in terms of literal screen time BUT, our roles are quite pivotal to Arthur’s journey and transformation and I’m here to show you how. This goes without saying but SPOILERS AHEAD

Social Worker – The film opens with Arthur talking to this woman. He has several conversations with her however, their last one is perhaps the most impactful. She informs Arthur that they can no longer meet as the program she works for has been cut. Upon hearing this Arthur inquires how is he supposed to get his medication to which she has no answer. The situation is out of her hands as she tells him “They don’t give a shit about people like you, Arthur. And they don’t give a shit about people like me either.”

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Image via CelebrityNewsy

Yet, Arthur also accuses her of not listening to him when he tells her of his troubles and this could represent how the mental health system is flawed. In 2019 we have multiple organizations that advocate and push the conversation in the right direction but in the 1981 when this film takes place that is not the case. The social worker perhaps does not even fully understand Arthur’s situation as she has no direct response to him writing “I just hope my death makes more sense than my life” in his journal. Instead, she goes into the generic “How does it feel to have to come here?” narrative after reading it aloud. 

Woman on Bus (and her son) – Following the social worker scene, we see Arthur in the midst of society. He is making funny faces at a woman’s young son which she does not approve of. Upon getting briefly chastised by her Arthur bursts into laughter because of his condition called the pseudobulbar affect or simply PBA. Naturally she is very surprised at this and he hands her a card explaining his condition to which she responds “I’m sorry”. One can only imagine how many times this situation has occurred in his life. Being that the very next time we see this occur it ends in tragedy and is the “first step” in Arthur’s transformation it is a direct contrast to show the difference in people this movie showcases. The woman feels sympathy for him as well as apologetic for how she treated him prior to. The men he meets on the subway mock his condition and antagonize him for it. 

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Image via Twitter

Carl (Arkham State Hospital Clerk) – Carl, played by Brian Tyree Henry only has one scene in this movie. But this one scene leads to Arthur discovering he is adopted which completed his transformation. This scene takes place in Arkham State Hospital (Arkham Asylum for all my comic book/video game readers) Carl senses something is off about Arthur when Arthur alludes to his murders and recommends Arthur see someone. This small moment of care shows that Carl represents an individual who sees Arthur from the outside and wants him to get better knowing that he cannot help carl at all as he is “just a clerk”. After releasing Arthur is the son of a former patient, he gets defensive of the file which results in Arthur stealing his mother’s records directly from Carl’s hands.  Had this exchange not occurred Arthur may have never learned the truth about his mother and his own origins – and thus would have never killed her. To theorize for a moment, the environment Carl is in at the hospital looks very dirty and the walls are yellow and the lighting is dim. However, at the end of the film and in flashbacks when Arthur is in this exact same location again the walls are white and the lighting is bright. Why would a change like this happen during the middle of the flow of time from the beginning to the end of the film? 

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Image via Pajiba

Sophie – Sophie, played by Zazie Beetz is the epicenter of the biggest twist in the film. At first we see her and Arthur meet in the elevator which is semi awkward but cordial. He then begins stalking her which she confronts him about, but she does not seem to mind. Then, after Arthur murders the men in the subway, essentially feeling liberated he goes to her room and kisses her to which she happily accepts. We also see them on a date after she has attended his show which she enjoys. He confesses his murders to her to which again she approves of and supports. We later learn all these exchanges were actually hallucinations by Arthur.

Arthur’s love for Sophie shows that despite everything happening he wants human interaction and wants it at a romantic level. He seeks validation from others and wants them to understand that he has a purpose. He also wants them to support him through trials as he also hallucinates her being at the hospital with him the day his Mom gets there. She is the only person he’s close with outside of his mother in the movie however the irony is that his closeness is as far away as it could possibly be. 

Arkham Psychiatrist – This woman is the final person Arthur talks to at the end of the film and as far as the timeframe of the movie his final victim. The conversation between them begins with Arhtur laughing, much like his opening conversation with the social worker at the beginning of the film. At the beginning, Arhtur’s laughter is not questioned and one can assume it is due to his condition that is revealed shortly after this scene. At the end of the film, the psychiatrist asks him “What’s so funny?” as if she is either completely unaware of his condition or if this is genuine laughter from Arthur. This conversation also ties into the theory of whether the final (and other) moments of the film are real or not as Arthur’s response to her is “I was just thinking of a joke” which she further inquiries about to which he responds “No…you wouldn’t get it”. This woman shows a much greater interest in Arthur than the woman at the beginning of the film but this could be because she sees him as a case study – something she can learn about and not sympathize for. 

We have a few roles in Joker and this is fine. Truthfully, there are no major black characters within the Batman Universe overall except for the man who supplies him with most of his technology, Lucius Fox. So perhaps we are actually the most important figure in his life when it comes down to it. This film showcased us in multiple ways with each one playing a role that mattered in the grand scheme of things. And, it made BANK so like Denzel Curry said “I may be overlooked, but I’m never underpaid.”