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)

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 

 

The 90s, Art and Nostalgia: An Interview With Christian Dior

I think we can all agree that our childhoods were the best part of our lives. And, for many of us one of the largest parts of our childhood were the cartoons we watched. These characters were ones we grew up with and when we see them now the nostalgia comes flooding back. Enter artist Christian Dior who takes these characters we all know and love and puts his own spin on them that is equally as recognizable as the character themselves.

Christian’s beginnings in art holds a special place in his heart as it has a direct connection to his family. “I believe that it was my father who first got me into art. When he was locked up, he use to sketch different superheroes and villains in a composition notebook that he kept. I guess that sparked my interest into the art world and then from then my father taught my brother how to draw then my brother taught me.” In addition to this, he’s also been an entrepreneur since middle school. Along with his brother, they had a business called Fresh 2 Death Customs in which they customized shoes and clothing. He also expanded this to the digital front long before it was commonplace, designing people’s MySpace profiles and profile pictures. Later after this Christian had a pretty big break that only motivated him even more. “My very first art sale was from Bryson Tiller. He had bought 21 paintings from me and 2 shirt designs that I made. I think that experience made me want to take art a little more serious because I was always told with perusing art, you’ll never make money, it’s a waste of time, etc. which isn’t true.”

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Christian depicts iconic girls (and Angelica’s Mom) from our childhood in the style of THE most iconic picture of Cam’ron.

Christian’s unique style is what makes his work stand out. Often set against a black or color coordinating background the characters have a black outline with colors that pop off the canvas. You’re likely to see his version of one of your favorite childhood characters in his work ranging from the classics to more underrated characters. But, chances are you’ll find them stylized in a way that’s equally familiar as it is unfamiliar. “For the longest I would love to paint popular 90’s cartoon characters in scenes from my favorite 90’s hood films like Juice, Menace II Society and Paid in Full. I just remember when I first started out that is what first made me go viral in the first place so I just decided that I was going to keep doing paintings like this and people just stared to recognize my artwork from this art style.”

“I think one of the main reasons why I paint characters from my childhood is because the 90’s were lit. I believe that the 90’s has some of the best cartoons out ever. The cartoons that are displayed on television now don’t even compare. I simply have them displayed in my artwork because they are something that I am familiar with and brings me back to a time where I was happy and didn’t really a care in the world. I also display them in my artwork because I want my work to have that sense of nostalgia. I want people to see my artwork have it bring them back to the time where cartoons were amazing.” Christian’s words sum up his art perfectly. On any given post on his Instagram you’ll find Penny Proud, Suzie Carmichael, The PowerPuff Girls and many more. However, for some of these you may find them wearing something you recognize from a completely different show or movie entirely. This is because Christian has drawn them in a mashup style which is “basically the artist taking one character and designing them to look like another. The way that I decide on which characters that I want to use in these types of paintings all comes down to which characters have similarities.” One of my favorites in which he does this is combining Riley Freeman and Killmonger. “With the Riley Freeman as Killmonger paintings, it was easy for me to come up with that Idea because Riley Freeman displays all the characteristics of Killmonger with his attitude, hairstyle and even just the way that he thinks.” 

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Christian depicts Huey and Riley Freeman as Black Panther and Killmonger

If you’ve gotten this far in the article you more than likely recognize Christian’s work. His pieces have gone viral more than once and someone you know has probably sent you one of his pieces and said something along the lines of “I thought you’d like this” Christian recalls the first time he went viral as an “exciting experience”. “I remember posting my artwork on Twitter, then the next day waking up to so many notifications and followers to the point that I had to turn my phone off because it was overheating. I always tell myself that the experience of me going viral for the first time couldn’t have happened at a better time. I am grateful that it happened, and it really made my business take off.” Y’all know when people say “Twitter do your thing” right? Sometimes Twitter does it all on its own. “Going viral with my artwork is a regular occurrence on my Twitter page. That’s why I would probably say out of all the social platforms that I have; I believe Twitter is the best just because your artwork can get around easier just by a simple retweet.” Christian is a direct example of how we are truly in a digital age. Social Media makes everything spread faster and in this case it’s bringing happiness to people and business to his passion. 

 Like most creative endeavours, art is something that takes time. Creating it takes time. Gaining a following with it takes time. Making money with it takes time.  But if it’s your passion you know all these things are part of the process. “I decided that I was going to just sell the artwork that I had already in my possession and hope for the best. I can admit that at first it was very stressful and there were times that I wanted to give up because it wasn’t as consistent as I wanted it to be, but every time I had got a new order it would always boost my confidence and just make me want to go harder.” 

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Christian combines different era Power Rangers with their color scheme counterparts from DragonBall Z and Super.

Christian has already put in years of work but he’s not stopping anytime soon. “I always told myself that I either wanted to create my own cartoon characters in hopes of one day having it get displayed on television or to create my own clothing line. I still want to do these two ideas, especially having my own cartoon characters because I would create more that are African American.” Representation of our people in a positive light, especially in animation is something we need more of. Spider-Verse was definitely a huge step forward but there is still progress to be made. When our children see these characters they should feel inspired and represented. “I guess my ultimate goal would be just to inspire up and coming artist to never give up and continue to keep putting artwork out in the world that you love without anyone criticism.”

Christian has words for the next generation too saying, “The advice I would give up and coming artist reading this would be to never give up on something that you are passionate about.” This takes on a different level for him personally as he not only changed his major in college from art to political science but quit art all together because of the opinion of his art professor – who failed him too. “…Never stop doing something that you love just because someone told you that they don’t like it. As long as you like your work, that’s all that really matters.” 

You can follow Christian on Twitter and Instagram and purchase his artwork here

 

Graffiti & Hip Hop: Hand in Hand Now & Forever

When people think of “hip hop”, they often think of boom bap production, lyric driven flows, and confidence. Outside of the music itself there is another facet to consider- graffiti. Growing up, I’d seen graffiti in a variety of places in my area. My Dad would agree with me that while some of it it did look cool, it was wrong to do it on someone else’s property. Upon getting older, I was able to see just how complex and beautiful these graffiti pieces could truly be – especially murals.

Origins

Hip-hop has its roots in being a community based expression of art. This art came from music of course, dancing and also visual art- specifically graffiti. Graffiti first originated in 1967 – not long before the birth of hip-hop. The two art forms meshed easily as they were both focused on the creativity of the individual, pride in one’s creations and a message to go along with the creation. In these days, the graffiti could only be seen in its rawest form – on walls, train cars, subway trains and any other canvas of the street. Graffiti artists also showed support for their favorite DJs and crews by putting their art on clothing items of the respective members of the crews. These graffiti artists could also be hired to create promotional artwork/flyers for rap shows in their respective cities. The focus was to use one another’s talents to help everyone achieve success.

Prominent Figures and their Pieces

Within the world of graffiti there are some artists who want everyone to know their face and their work while there are others who would rather have all the focus be on the latter. Such is the case of  artist Banksy whose work you’ve more than likely seen without even realizing it. UK based artist Banksy took his skills to the walls of NYC in October 2013 for an exhibition called “Better Out Than In”. Within this exhibition he shared a new piece in a new location each day of the month, culminating in a total of 31 new pieces. These pieces may not look like the graffiti we are used to seeing but they serve the same purpose: To send a message and show something people need to see. Such is the same purpose of hip-hop

Another prominent figure within the traditional graffiti world is Lady Pink. Lady Pink actually hails from NYC and as her name implies is doing it for the ladies as she has been called the “first lady of graffiti” and has been quoted saying “It’s not just a boys club. We have a sisterhood thing going.”. She was also the star of the  1982 movie Wild Style which showcased hip hop culture and all that  that implies including graffiti, breakdancing and more. Lady Pink’s work captured the spirit of hip hop as well with bold colorful pieces that showcased the struggles women were going through everyday throughout multiple aspects of life.

Murals

Murals and hip-hop or just black history in general go hand in hand. There are murals for Biggie, Tupac, Malcolm X, MLK and multiple other prominent figures in our history. However, with hip hop they carry a particularly special meaning. Hip-hop artists who showed love for their cities are immortalized when an artist creates a mural for them. They essentially become a part of the city in a literal sense after being a part of it in a sentimental sense their whole lives. Such is the case with the “King of NY” Biggie mural in Bed Stuy or the multiple Tupac murals scattered across Oakland. Sometimes the mural does not even have to be in the home state of the figure depicted but the importance matters just the same – such is the case with the Nipsey Hussle mural in Conneticut. Paying homage is a staple in hip hop and a mural is probably one of the most dedicated and genuine ways to do so. A mural is something everyone can see and appreciate long after both the hip hop figure as well as the artist of the mural have passed away. While it may become a popular tourist attraction with people taking pictures with it because it “looks cool” those who know the sentimental value behind it can appreciate it on a completely different level.

Graffiti and hip hop are timeless artforms and have evolved into an entirely different level than that of the past. More people than ever before are now able to view and participate in this artform and those who are truly passionate keep the same values that the originators of the artform had and will take them into the future.

Visual Artist Penda Lets Her Art Speak for Itself in Her “Made In America” Exhibition

Image via @thebeautifulartist on Instagram

Penda is a visual artist with Malian roots and she’s proud of them. With her art coming in the form of artwork pieces, film and clothing she’s a talented black woman and the world can never have too many of those. Ahead of her “Made In America” exhibition, I emailed her to talk about her roots, her creative process and her message to the next generation.

Paul: Does your name have a significant meaning?

Penda: Penda means ‘love’ in Swahili.

Paul: What made you decide to choose visual arts as your form of communication/commentary on political issues?

Penda: Because art is my life’s work. I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a natural thing for me. One of my earliest memories is helping my father and brother paint traditional bogolan (mud-cloth) as a child in Mali: learning how to create the designs and read their meanings. I also spent a lot of time in my parents’ art studio, creating drawings and clay sculptures alongside them as they worked. For me, it was always a given that I would be an artist.

Paul: When do you find yourself most productive in your artwork? Do you only create a piece when you have something to say or do you enjoy crating pieces “for fun” as well?

Penda: I’m very passionate about my work. As an artist I’m automatically an entrepreneur as well so I don’t have time to pick and choose when to create- I’m ALWAYS creating. I have an endless amount to say through my work; as a bicultural woman I know I have a unique perspective and a voice that is not heard enough in this country and this world, and I am constantly working to bring volume to that voice.

I think it’s a big misconception when people assume artists are creating ‘for fun.’ This is our work and our livelihood just like any other job. It’s just a bonus that we are blessed to be able to work in a field that we love.

Paul: When you hear the phrase “Black Woman” what images and words come to mind?

Penda: All of the beautiful strong women in my family back home in Mali.

Paul: What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created?

Penda: I find a beauty in each piece because with each piece I’m imprinting a part of myself. It’s a healing and self love process as I create and share.

Paul: Do you want to collaborate with any other artists or activists in the black community to do something similar to your Made In America exhibition?

Penda: I’d definitely be open to working with other artists if the time place and vision is right.

Paul: Would you say that you see yourself as an inspiration to younger black female artists? If so, what advice do you have for them?

Penda: I hope so. My advice is always to work hard and be self dependent. I do know I have lots of young girls that look up to me back home in Mali- not just for being an artist, but for being an independent woman that sees so much potential and value in our youth. My family and I run an educational center in Bamako, Mali called KoFalen tutoring center (kofalen.org) to ensure that our youth gets the education they deserve and can be on that path of being self dependent.