You may, or may not, have noticed that Loot Love, Ayanda Thabethe, Da L.E.S, Anatii, and Heavy K were out in L.A last week on mysterious business. The reason for their trip was to attend Common's exclusive African Getdown Party which was hosted at the Absolut Elyx House in Los Angeles to celebrate the global impact of African culture as well as its creative impact on the U.S. Knowing Common, this is something that came from his heart as he has a deep affinity for identity and embracing one's roots. Apart from the good life envy that we picked up from our celebs during their time in L.A, here are some take home messages that stuck out at us and we couldn't keep the thoughts to ourselves:
1. It's our time now:
Being African is probably the coolest thing at this present moment in time with the whole world seeming to "suddenly" wake up to our greatness by channelling a lot of our ethnic elements whether be it through music, fashion, film, and even through beauty inspo (hair). The past 5 years in the global entertainment industry has aggressively seen a lot of African culture expropriation and amplification through borrowed music elements as well as fashion influences on a global scale. Remember when Louis Vuitton ripped the "Vatsonga bag" for their "sac bag" range 3 years ago selling them for $300 which completely angered Africans? An interesting complement to our way of life, yet an insult in the way of owning what we've come to know as a part of our identity without mention, credit or "conversation" (a story for another day).
That's not what we're here for though. We simply want to reiterate something we should already be privy to, that being the fact that now more than ever, the wild dreams of an African child are beyond attainable on a global scale. Through artists like Tumi and the Volume, HHP, Black Coffee, Spoek Mathambo and now AKA, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C, Kwesta, and so much more, we see that our creative dreams should not only be confined to our home village or kasi. It's our time to show off what we've been knowing all along: Africa issa full running vibe.
2. The world is always watching:
This is a message to the upcoming artists who often feel invisible. The world is always watching, no matter how small scale you think you are, there is always an eye you never knew existed watching you. Think about the concept of "haters," a lot of us wonder if they really do exist but apparently rappers can see them, that's why they always rap about them. On a serious note though, upcoming artists like Robin Thirdfloor who got to perform at the coveted SXSW festival last year, and most recently Yugen Blakrok who murdered the Black Panther album are proof that you don't have to be a big name to be picked up by the rest of the world. What about PatrickxxLee who currently has a creative residency in Hong Kong? It is testament of the world's keen interest and hunger to get to know more about African creatives 'cause as we mentioned, we are a whole - never ending - vibe. Whatever you do as a person, and importantly as a brand, always make sure you put your heart in it 'cause there is a hand on the other side receiving your work and you want to be proud of what people come to know you for.
3. Build your own doors:
Common shared a quote on his timeline by Ava Duvernay, a coveted American film director, and she said, "It's not about knocking on closed doors. It's about building our own house and having our own door." For a long time, Africa has been perceived as a needy continent, always in "need" of rescue, healing, feeding and so much more, without people considering the other beautiful qualities we possess outside of our disparities. As a result, a lot of our creatives to an extent have often thought that they needed to have a door opened for them in order to get into the world (rappers, I'm talking to you too). Fortunately for us, more and more creatives of our generation have not only knocked down many doors worldwide, we have gone on to build our own doors to open for the world to come into our space by invite. People like Da L.E.S and Anatii, to highlight them, have been doing this for years crossing between the U.S and South Africa connecting with influential people on either side of the world forming a stealthy network. Da L.E.S was just telling us how he managed to get DJ Envy to host Hall Of Fame 2 and from his story, you immediately tell that he didn't wait for a door to open, nor did he knock, he simply created his own. Where there is a will, there's a way, so never doubt your ability to swim against a tide or to jump into a deep ocean. If you trust yourself enough to take big risks, you probably are the exact person to be doing what you are doing. As an African creative in 2018, don't take no for an answer, don't let people think they have anything over you, and never let someone else's door determine where you ought to be in your craft.
4. There's a global awakening happening:
There is an increasing awakening all over the world where people are becoming more in-tune with the holistic identity of oneself. Whether be it tracing one's roots, finding their spiritual compass, seeking to vibrate on a new level, or connecting with more people, humans are shedding a lot of the world's facade and pretence for a realer connection beyond what we are accustomed to. Someone like Common exemplifies this very well. He is a heralded activist in all his work, from his very lyrics that are pro Black and socially conscious, to his personal voice which never ceases to speak on socio-political issues that plague America. Added to this, the history of the black Americans in connection with Africa is something that has always been on his, and many other artists', agenda which perfectly explains him reaching out to multiple creatives for the African Getdown. While the rest of the world seeks to connect with Africa on their own individual levels, Africans too are also reconnecting with their royalty and creative wealth. Although we are "not yet uhuru," our generation is doing well in fighting for our identity in many spaces. Whoever you are in the world, you are chosen to be that. A word to our local artists, now is the time to be telling our stories firstly for ourselves, and generations to come; and secondly for the world to grasp the narrative correctly. There's nothing like a painting of yourself done in the wrong skin shade. If our story is to be told, we need to tell it ourselves the best way possible.
5. There is power in unity:
As cliché as it may sound, the age old adage that more heads are better than one has never ceased to be proven right. If we look at the multiple "cliques" that we find in the game; the North boys, the Durban gang, the Cap City crew, the Beastrand brother-and-sisterhood for example, there's something hype about being part of a bigger collective. Yes, hip hop is everyone's home which makes it all the better, but we can't deny that there are often some unnecessary dealings in the game owed to our oversized egoes. A lot of custodians of the culture like DJs and "gate keepers" often converse about moving the culture forward but I wonder if they do consider the fact that a lot of us not getting along impacts the holistic advancement of our industry in the long run. Look at how far movements like Wu-Tang Clan, Run DMC, The Roots, Skwatta Kamp, Rage Records, Le Club and so forth have managed to move the culture forward. Not everyone in their times had to be friends, but they all had the same vision of where they wanted to put this hip hop thing. We don't have to have Ciroc and Cruz tea parties together, but there is more we can achieve when multiple magicians are in a room together conjuring potions to take the game higher.
These are my nibbles for thought. Bayede!