Images: Scottish Black Lives Matter Mural Trail Confronts a Colonial History

Ryan Buchanan, Hub

 

 

Throughout history, monumental shifts in society have often led to revolutions in art. This moment is no different. The worldwide response to the murder of George Floyd, and countless other innocent Black people, taken alongside the growing global Black Lives Matter movement, has awakened the spirit of artists in the U.S. and abroad.

While the Black Lives Matter installations in New York City (with one mural brilliantly positioned directly across from Trump Tower) are among the most talked about, creators across the continents are producing powerful work to foster solidarity and spur conversation in their own countries.

Indeed, Scotland’s reckoning with its own deeply-rooted history of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism propelled Edinburgh-based creative producer Wezi Mhura, a specialist in large-scale events, to organize its artistic talent to realize the country’s first Black Lives Matter Mural Trail.

Mhura worked with a wide range of Scotland’s Black, Asian, and minority ethnic artists, and partnered with venues and arts organizations across the country to launch the exhibition within a week. Currently, displays are featured on more than a dozen spaces and sites across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness, with more planned to follow.

 

Dode Allen, Neon Requiem – The Teacher

 

The artworks, colorful, challenging, moving, powerful, and diverse, were inspired by the themes of “I Can’t Breathe” and BLM, and crossed mediums from painting to photography, video to digital art and beyond. The Scotland-based artists, all with unique frames of reference, represent a global perspective, and diverse origins such as Cape Verde, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, and even the U.S.

Through its creation, Mhura intends to create a dialogue and debate about Scotland’s history and how it should be represented in the future—something America is viscerally grappling with via its own controversial and still standing monuments of oppression.

“The Scottish government says it recognizes the strength in its aspirations to a more equal and more diverse society going forward,” she explains with a sense of guarded optimism, “and we hope this Mural Trail will help to start the conversations that need to be happening now. It’s been amazing to connect with so many talented artists, with roots in so many different places, who have been so enthusiastic about getting behind this project.”

The Scottish BLM Mural Trail demonstrates how art can still be at the forefront of change—stimulating dialogue while also adding a new dynamic to currently dormant venues across the nation.

 

Rudy Kanhye, All Lies Matter; Steven Khan, The Theater

Loupe Artist Petrus Bergstrand’s Cultural Guide to Stockholm

Thielska

 

 

As unrelenting travelers, a game we’ve found ourselves playing under quarantine is one the one where we plan out trips that may or may not actually happen, recognizing that anticipation can at least provide a part of the thrill that we’ve been asked to put away for now. Naturally, scanning the slate of postponed exhibitions is a crucial element of said planning, as we honestly can’t wait to get back to our established schedule of fervent gallery and museum hopping.

Surely, the much buzzed about app Loupe has played a crucial role in helping art lovers survive this three-month cultural disconnection, with its multiple and expertly curated channels of “on demand” streaming art. In fact, during the lockdown, they notably launched a new motion art feature.

Yet still, as we can’t expect international travel to be returning to normal levels any time very soon, we asked Loupe artist Petrus Bergstrand to take us on an artistic trip through his comely hometown of Stockholm, admittedly our fave Scandinavian capital. The successful Swedish painter is known for his canvases that explore the possibilities of abstraction and surrealism, while unburdened by the narrowness of specific narratives. His work has been exhibited in New York, LA, Miami, Dubai and, obviously, Stockholm. It can also be viewed, of course, on Loupe.

“Petrus’ abstract pieces are multifaceted,” enthuses Loupe curator Nicole Kutz. “Their layers, organic forms and colors are not only striking in person, but they translate beautifully to Loupe’s streaming experience. His work truly fills a space both onscreen and in the flesh.”

The latter, of course, we’ll just have to wait for.

 

Petrus Bergstrand, The soft reality

 

Petrus Bergstrand’s Cultural Guide to Stockholm

 

Theilska

Thielska (pictured top) is an art museum at Blockhusudden on southern Djurgården. The gallery contains the financier and art collector Ernest Thiel’s collection of works of mainly Swedish painting from the 1900s. Thiel sold the building, the art collection and all the equipment to the Swedish state in 1924. This is a gem for the visitor who wants to travel back in time. Djurgården is also a large royal green park open to the public 24 hours a day. Beautiful for a nice long walk in any season.

Karlavägen

This is where the top notch Swedish galleries decided to accumulate. The area is an allé, as they call it in French, with a walking space and well curated gardens in the middle of a wide avenue going in opposite directions. You can find galleries like Forsblom, Anna Bohman, and so on—I like to go here for openings.

 

Galerie Forsblom

 

Hälsingegatan

Similar to the area around Karlavägen, in Hälsingegatan you will find many interesting galleries showing a less bourgeoisie kind of artm and a wider variety of art forms. Here you can visit my favorite small galleries Flach and Fagerstedt. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations about the route around the gallery area. They are very co-operative here and love to do simultaneous openings that end up becoming a block party (especially during summer).

Ulfsunda slott

Ulfsunda slott is the historic Queen Kristina’s hunting castle, built in the 15th Century, located right opposite my studio. This is now a conference area, gallery, spa, hotel, café, and a great place for a business meeting. In the gallery and dining area they show some great upcoming artists. You can stroll the garden, shoot pool and hang out; but it’s not really for the social party person, though. More of a tête-à-tête vibe here. I go here occasionally for an opening or a meeting.

 

 

Skånegatan / Katarina bangata

When I want to visit the southern part of Stockholm, I take a 50 minute stroll from my studio in Bromma to Skånegatan. The area has a wide range of restaurants, record shops, thrift stores and cultural hotspots. Not far from there you can find my favorite Indian eatery Shanti, located on Katarina bangata. I go here for lunch at least once a week—delicious.

Lillsjön

This is my meditation garden, and I go here for my daily power walk, to clear my mind and to reload energy. The pond is located a stone’s throw from my studio, and it can solve any problem for you with its magic in summer. Lillsjön is great for inspiration, relaxation and bird watching.

 

 

Sosta

Sosta is a little cafe found in the middle of Sveavägen. On this nice, broad avenue, planned by Jean de la Vallées, you can find a lot of bars, cafes and shops—but Sosta is a must. A small but lovely Italian place where the staff is like family from the first conversation, and the audience is a broad blend of people with one thing in common: the love good coffee.

Konstnärsbaren

The artist bar, or KB as it is most commonly called, opened in 1934, and is now somewhat of an hotspot in Stockholm’s pub life, for the artist wannabes as well the original artists. The unique murals have been painted by Sweden’s foremost talents and are matched with exhibitions by contemporary colleagues. A unique atmosphere and exciting history. Many stories have passed here. Come see for yourself.

 

 

Biljardpalatset

This is a Swedish undercover classic. Dark and gloomy, it has three floors of billiards with two bars. They usually play great music while the game is on.

Riche

This restaurant has been around since 1893, and many world-known personalities have come here. In the small bar you can enjoy DJs and live acts throughout the week. They also show contemporary art and some mostly younger, upcoming acts. At Riche you can blend in as a 23 year old or a 66 year old. A great place for a full night of fun and madness, or just a pit stop for a peek at the art, architecture, crowd and menu.

 

 

 

BlackBook Interview: Rose McGowan on Living on the Fringe, Finding Freedom & Traveling to ‘Planet 9’

 

 

 

When former Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison on March 11, it represented not only justice in the specific cases brought against him, but also some measure of closure for all of the women he’d ever victimized.

For Rose McGowan, it marked the beginning of the end of a nightmare in which Weinstein was said to have had her followed by spies, and was rumored to have conspired with journalists to viciously defame her—in the process shutting down her once skyrocketing acting career, and even convincing the public she was suffering from some form of “insanity”…for lack of a better word.

The actress had become an it-girl extraordinaire in the late ’90s via the hit series Charmed and several high-profile film roles. Her well-documented relationship with Marilyn Manson (and that 1998 “naked” dress) only served to fuel the tabloid frenzy around her.

 

 

But her career began to spiral after an alleged sexual assault incident with Weinstein at Sundance in 1997—with the actress eventually claiming he harassed her for more than two decades after. It all led to her sort of incidentally becoming “the face” of the #MeToo movement in late 2017, which then led to Weinstein’s arrest and recent conviction. Her 2018 book Brave was her necessary catharsis, allowing her to begin to emotionally put her life back together.

And to be sure, she is a changed person, responding to the verdict not with a public show of “I told you so,” but by releasing her striking debut album Planet 9, which paints a picture of a woman seeking to re-engage the world with a sense of optimism and hope.

It’s actually a surprisingly accomplished work for the musical novice, with its aesthetic flag planted firmly in the heart of the 1980s. Indeed, the ethereal, new-agey synth-pop alternately recalls the likes of Nina Hagen, Lene Lovich, Depeche Mode, and, with its lush soundscapes, even Brian Eno, if you can imagine.

We caught up with her while quarantined at a secret Central American location, to talk about where she’s going, and what she hopes to leave behind.

 

 

 

With all that you’ve been through, your message on this album seems to be about positivity and possibilities.

That’s what I’m about. Brave was a tough book at times, but the last lines in it are ‘I know you can, I know you have it in you.’ Now Planet 9 is my hope for humanity.

With what’s going on now, do you think we’re even capable of making this a better planet?

I think right now we have a unique opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to ourselves and the world. Like the 2.0 version of ourselves. If you want to live on a different planet, just act like that on this one.

There’s a very Enoesque quality to some of the music. On “Lonely House” and “Rise,” the sounds seem almost not of this Earth.

Oh, I love that. It’s what I was really going for. I was like, What can take me emotionally where I need to go?

What were you influenced by while writing and recording this album?

I listened to the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Legendary Pink Dots, and some hip-hop. I also made the album at the same time I wrote the book. It’s really [about] healing.

 

 

 

One of the lyrics goes, “Are you lonely on our planet / Are you lonely on the fringe?” Have you often felt that you were out there with no one to join you on the fringe?

Oh yeah, I’ve always been on the fringe. I was raised in this commune that my father was the leader of, and I would watch him wire people’s minds in this really unique way. The kids were raised with these utopian ideals; the parents, because they were from the system, could never really be free of it, they adhered to the same power structure. We were raised for the first ten years without mirrors, and there was no race or gender. I didn’t know how to become a woman…I had no idea.

Someone recently said to me, “I think Rose McGowan ruins her message by the way she presents it.”

What message?

Well, you’re associated with the #MeToo movement now…

They associated it with me. The media don’t like what I say, and it’s inherent to their survival that they continue to portray women, and anybody that’s angry, as crazy. Harvey paid off journalists for 22 years to slander me.
The media called it the #MeToo “movement,” they built that up so that it seemed like there were thousands of women coming after men with pitchforks.

Ronan Farrow continues to defend you, arguing that you were written off as crazy because you didn’t fit any sort of feminist “victim” ideal.

I have a gift for making people uncomfortable. Even when I was a kid, adults wanted to get away from me, because I just told the truth. I had to shave my head as a declaration of war, so to speak. The side-effect was that men and women could finally hear the words coming out of my mouth for the first time – and I had been saying the same things for years.

Did you feel a sense of vindication? People were very divided on the verdict.

I actually thought he was going to get off. They could have chosen cases that were a lot more cut and dried. [But the] women who have been victimized by him…we feel like we have a 350 pound foot off our backs.

 

Rose McGowan in The Sound, 2017

 

 

The stories were pretty insane.

I thought about hiring a hit man, I really thought about it. But it’s not good to involve other people. Plus, I’m a really good shot, I’d do it myself. But I was really stressed, and I thought, “What if I just take one for the team?”

It doesn’t bring justice though.

I’m just not a killer. It’s a very common thing with people who have been raped, they really want to kill their abuser. Because that would mean they get to live again.

Do you feel like any of what’s happened in the last couple of years has actually moved us in a positive direction?

Yes. It was hard, but it was a ‘take your medicine’ time. We have a really damaged society; but one of the greatest things for women was to be like, “Oh, this isn’t normal actually.” Because it was so normalized. This is Hollywood, this is how it is, these are the rules, play by them. That message gets filtered down to everyone else.
The humanity is really what they take from us so young. They take your creativity, they take your soul…here’s your straightjacket, enjoy.

There’s a song on the album titled “We Are Free”—what do you want to think of as freedom right now, and what can we hope that it will be?

I think freedom is internal, and then it gets manifested by our actions. Sticking up for others, being kinder to people, understanding that everybody has trauma. We’re born free, it just got stolen from us; so we just have to find our way back to that core self.

What would you like to say in the wake of everything you’ve gone through? Do you feel like it’s finally behind you?

I have a RICO case right now against [Weinstein] and three of his conspirators. So I have probably have three to five years ahead of me. But I feel safe right now. Even in the darkest hour, if you know you’re telling the truth, and you’re speaking for others, you will in some way prevail. You can be free of the system, even if you have to work within the system.

 

 

Do you want to clear up any misconceptions about Rose McGowan?

It’s not really my problem, to tell you the truth. People ask if I feel vindicated, I don’t really give a fuck. Because I knew the truth. It’s not really my business what people think of me.

Ah, I think Gandhi said the same thing.

But it is vindication for all the people who have never been believed. I was always okay either way. It’s not fun being hated, but I can handle it. I’ll just keep making art and being weird.

You seem to be saying just that on “Green Gold”: “Only here to paint colors on the sun / Only here to see the fire run.”

We’re all meant to live a big emotional life. On top of the pain is freedom. The book was like giving birth to this dead thing inside of me. Planet 9 was the respite, like trauma therapy for me.

 

BlackBook Interview: Zolee Griggs on Social Distancing, NYC + Season 2 of ‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga’

PHOTOGRAPHY: The Riker Brothers; HAIR: LaChanda Gatson; MAKE-UP: Harriet Hadfield; STYLING: K+D Styles

 

 

LA native Zolee Griggs definitively caught the public eye in the fall of 2019 via the first season of Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga, a stylized depiction of the formation of one of hip-hop’s most influential groups—and the interpersonal dramas which almost stopped it in its tracks. In it, Griggs plays Shurrie Diggs, the sister of Wu-Tang’s founder, RZA, and the de facto matriarch of the series.

Though An American Saga represents the start of a promising career on screen, the twenty-two-year-old is no stranger to the entertainment industry writ large. From a young age, she has been acting in commercials and doing photoshoots; and since the dawn of Instagram, she has been building a platform for the social causes she cares about. In addition to being an actor, Griggs is the founder of the mentorship program GRL:WMN, which allows women from ages fourteen to twenty to gather together, promote positivity, discuss mental health, and talk about what’s important to them.

In anticipation of the second season of the Wu-Tang Saga (no official release date yet), BlackBook caught up with Griggs to talk about social distancing, her six-month residency in New York, and the future of GRL:WMN.

 

 

How are you dealing with self-isolation?

Going insaneno, I’m doing fine. Just taking it day by day. But it is getting monotonous.

What are you doing to stay productive?

I’m trying to not be so lazy…just the simple things to give myself some kind of order. Getting up, making breakfast, taking care of my dog. Little things. Because that’s all I can do. I’ve watched so many movies and read so many books, I’m running out of things to do in the house.

What have you been watching?

A lot of ’80s and ’90s movies. Yesterday I watched Bowfinger and Woo. And that was pretty funny.

Are you a fan of old comedies?

No, that’s why I’m watching them. When I was younger, my parents didn’t let me watch a lot of movies. They’d keep to the age restrictions. Before I was thirteen, I couldn’t watch PG-13 movies. Now that I’m older, I’m venturing out and watching everything. I’m going back in time and catching up on things I should have seen years ago.

What drew you to acting when you were younger, and has that changed as you’ve gotten older?

I always performed at school and in church, I have been going to church since I was two. My grandmother was really heavy on singing in the church—she’s from the south, and the southern influences trickled down to me. So I was singing, being active with other kids, speaking—I had always done public speaking. I remember in preschool, we had performances with everybody, and that’s really what started it. I was just enjoying my presence on the stage and getting a reaction from the audience or people at church. Everybody just seemed pleasant and happy, and that inspired me to be pleasant and happy. I guess that’s what really triggered my acting.

How did the Wu-Tang role shape your acting?

I think becoming an adult is really what did it—I mean Wu-Tang added onto that—but when I turned eighteen, I had a conversation with my manager and agent, and they told me, “You’re eighteen now. The roles you’ll go out for are not just going to be teenage roles, they’re going to be serious, adult roles.” That’s when I started to take adult acting classes as well. And Wu-Tang, with it being such a serious show, opened my eyes to the fact that not everything is so easy. A lot of people believe think acting is easy; people watch movies all the time and are like, “I could do that.” And not that they can’t, but it’s a lot more than just crying on cue or being happy when someone tells you too. It’s more than just showing emotions for certain reasons.

 

 

What did you do to prepare for the roll of Shurrie Diggs?

I think the best thing, besides remembering everything I was taught in class, was moving to New York and working with Wu-Tang one-on-one. It was the best preparation, I’m not going to learn any better than from the people themselves, who actually lived this story—I mean I’m telling their story. And doing this all in New York for six months was even better. I’d been to New York before, but never been there for that long. So picking up everything I had and moving across the country to learn the culture was a beautiful experience. It helped me adapt, it was a fun learning process.

What advice did RZA give you to help portray the character, who’s really a composite of all his sisters?

We would do it based on the episode, we did them one at a time; I didn’t know what was going to happen during the next episode. Before we would start filming, I would get on a phone conference with Alex [Tse, Executive Producer] and RZA, and they would break down the script for me and answer any questions I had before we went over it on set. I was also lucky to have a meeting with Erika Alexander, who is my mom on the show, and one of RZA’s sisters. That was an amazing meeting, for us to sit down and have a personal chat about their lives.

Is it harder portraying a real character?

I take it more seriously, because I’m not making up a character, I’m literally portraying someone who already exists, who has had these experiences in real life. I needed to make sure that I was doing an accurate job while respecting and honoring these people’s lives… because that’s my job.

From an acting perspective, what were some valuable lessons that you left Season One with?

I think not letting your fears get in the way of things that you already know. Sometimes I don’t give myself credit, because I’m not, like, Robert De Niro. To tell yourself, “You know what you’re doing. You got it.” Sometimes those words of encouragement can be muffled by your own thoughts and humility. So I want to be more confident for Season Two, and not let fears hold me back. I feel really good about it.

 

 

What did you appreciate most about the experience?

Bonding with everybody outside of work, I really got to know everyone individually. The guys would show me around the city, and I became the little-big sister. Even though I’m the only girl and the youngest, I’m still the only girl. It’s funny, I’m kind of the matriarch in the show and in real life when we’re just hanging out. There’s a mutual bond and respect; I’m really fortunate to work with people who are fun, mature, and talented.

Tell us about your mentorship program, GRL:WMN. 

It’s on hold because of everything that’s going on right now. But I’m working on bringing it back so it can be even bigger and better. If I can’t do things a certain way, I’m not going to do them at all. So I’m really taking my time, especially now, since I might have a bigger audience. I want to accommodate all the new young ladies and women.

What do you see for the program’s future?

The long-term goal is to take it on tour and travel around the nation. Public school reform is something that I’m really big on as well. I feel that the relationship that students and teachers have is not the best; same goes for the relationships that students have with each other, especially women. A great part of life is spent in schools, so I would love to be able to take the program to different schools and change the way young ladies interact with each other, change the way they speak with one another, and hopefully change how we interact with adults and teachers. It should be a cohesive unit, but it feels like a dictatorship at some schools—not all, but definitely at some.

And what does the future hold for you?

I have a couple guest-star roles on episodes of Boomerang, for BET. I did an indie film in January called Arch Enemy. I’m not sure when it comes out yet, but it should be really fun. It’s a sci-fi superhero movie—it’s really great. And it’s funny, since Wu-Tang came out I’ve had people tell me, “You would be great as Erykah Badu, if she did a biopic.” So I would love to do that if the opportunity ever arose, that’s a dream. But you know, dreams come true sometimes, so we’ll see.

 

Corona Stories – Gone Viral: Beyoncé/Jay-Z Violinist Natie on Deep, Meaningful Transformation

 

 

Now living in Brooklyn, burgeoning young violinist Natie grew up on Reunion Island (a French state located in the Indian Ocean) to a jazz musician father and Spanish mother, listening to Mozart. Entering the Conservatory of Music of Reunion at age just 6, she left for the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at 18.

She eventually found herself in the spotlight via a stint with Beyoncé and Jay-Z throughout their On The Run II Tour. But her own brand of sensual avant-R&B more readily recalls the likes of FKA twigs, and even Sade—best evidenced by recent single “HKHT.” Her April Sofar Sounds tour has been postponed for obvious reasons, but her new EP In The Key of Fall is still due out this Friday, April 17.

For our Corona Stories – Gone Viral series, she reflects on using this period of quarantine to consider not taking things for granted as we often do, and learning how to be better at listening and observing.

 

 

A Time For Deep, Meaningful Transformation

Weird times we’re in… I’ve always had a pretty positive and grateful outlook on life, and while this is definitely a truly challenging time for a lot of us on many levels, I like to imagine that we could very much be at a crossroads for drastic, and much needed changes in our society. Whether or not we like it, we’re all forced to stop, think and reconsider things on a logistical level at least. And I like to think that that also impacts us on an emotional and spiritual level. It’s wild to see NYC so calm and to see most activities being suspended. Yet for many of us, there’s a lot to be grateful for (such as hot water, food, a bed at night and a roof to protect us.) If anything, maybe this can be a time to stop and notice the things we take for granted over time, and reduce our levels of stress and anxiety. Maybe I just sound naive, but I think that’s something to feel excited about.
All the people I’ve been exchanging with these past weeks have had to reconsider some things. Whether it’s reconnecting with things they never had time for, checking on loved ones, rethinking sources of income, or how to deliver their service in a new, yet still impactful way. For me, this is a time of letting go of schedules and external expectations. Instead I’m finding myself in this new flow where I’m learning how to observe, listen and follow what feels right at that moment. It takes a good bit of trust, especially when I’ve spent the majority of my life thinking, planning, reasoning things. But the potential for a deep and meaningful transformation is getting me excited.
As weird and scary this current situation can feel, it can also help refocus on what’s truly essential, and therefore to learn how to more easily let go of the external sources of frustration we encounter when we’re headed down in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

 

Image by Matthieu Hoareau

The Last Thing We Did Before NYC Lockdown Was Check Out the New Dream Downtown + Saatchi Art Collab

 

 

We’ve spent untold hours over the last eight+ years at some or other zeitgeisty happening at the Dream Downtown hotel—so it was perhaps appropriate that the last thing we did before the NYC coronavirus lockdown was to pop over to check out the hotel’s exciting new collab with Saatchi Art.

Looking back, when the Dream Downtown opened to much fanfare in summer of 2011, it quickly established itself as a hotel that could step in and pick up the slack for the fading Chelsea nightclub scene all around it. It had a rooftop bar, poolside lounge, the Electric Room by Nur Khan, and a lobby that seemed to be perpetually humming with the comings and goings of the international mediarati.

 

 

It also made a commitment to cultivating a relationship with the contemporary art world, well before pretty much everyone else came along and attempted the same thing. And nearly nine years after its debut, the new partnership with Saatchi Art merely cements that commitment—which was actually launched with sister hotel Dream Midtown—and the result now adorns the gallery area between the lobby and elevator banks.

Perhaps sensing the upcoming scaling back of non-essential travel, we actually decided to also actually check in to the Dream Downtown for the first time. And we hope in reading this, you will be inspired to take the hopeful step of planning future stays at the hotel, while we wait out the eventual ebbing of the coronavirus.

(Note, for the new Dream Downtown cancellation policy, just click here.)

 

Dream Downtown Art Collection

Prior to the partnership with Saatchi Art, the Dream Downtown already owned several notable works, most especially Shadow Secrets by Anish Kapoor, a fascinating detour from the massive sculptures that made him famous. But Serge Becker and Patrick Marando’s Beer Can Wall was hung epically within the lobby an proved particularly poignant, an assemblage of Mexican beer cans making up an American flag…what could be more relevant? But now appearing startlingly prophetic, AV One’s 2015 canvas comprised images of NYC landmarks spelling the words It Was All a Dream—and it’s hard to imagine any phrase striking a more visceral chord in the midst of this utterly surreal pandemic.

Dream Downtown + Saatchi

The partnership with Saatchi Art proves the Dream Hotels are able attract the a-list collabs, and the resultant Dream Midtown collection includes works by Jessy Cho, Camile O’Briant, Xan Padron, and Thomas Hammer. At Dream Downtown, having a dedicated gallery, rather than just scattering the art randomly about (we’ve even seen some hotels sticking it in the bathroom—oh dear), distinctly marks the hotel out as taking its program impressively seriously.
The inaugural Downtown exhibit is a bit more concise than Midtown, but no less destination-worthy. Madrid born and now New York Based, photographer Alejandro Áboli, with his “The RedLine” series, constructs fantastical realities, in which juxtapositions are intended to contort our imaginations, and provoke new perspectives. Both Los Angeles and Gotham are surreally represented.
And perhaps equally perception-altering, Brooklyn artist Neil Powell uses discarded/recycled book covers to create almost Spirographic/kaleidoscopic works that cross from collage to character study and stopping almost everywhere in between. They’re so shot full of fortuitous detail, you could ponder them for hours and not completely grasp everything going on.
“The pieces selected are by international artists who all now live in New York,” explains Rebecca Wilson, Chief Curator and Vice President, Art Advisory Saatchi Art. “The artwork offers varying perspectives of this vibrant city, and in different formats including photography, paintings, and collages.”

 

The Rooms

We have come to expect something of the current generation of design hotels: extravagantly adorned public spaces, trendy bars and restaurants…but with sort of dull rooms. The Dream Downtown, however, has some of the most originally designed chambers in New York, with large porthole windows…in our case, affording a view across the Chelsea rooftops all the way to the Empire State Building. Our Silver King room was actually smartly postmodern, with a sexy, fuzzy ottoman, Turkish style rug, shining silver headboard (the pattern of which reminded us of champagne effervescence), a brown leather, low-slung version of a director’s chair, stylish, clear globe hanging lamps, and a prodigious glass bathroom, with distinctly luxurious tiling. The low rise platform beds are actually kind of sexy, as one can make a particularly wild flop down onto them.

 

 

Winter Rose Garden

We all know the devastating current situation with bars and restaurants. Yet we don’t see the point in ceasing to talk about them, especially as they will need our support more than ever once they reopen. The Dream’s Winter Rose Garden will actually be changed over on April 30, seeing as how it will be spring—but its sheer extravagance is proof of their commitment to making this conspicuous corner of the lobby a destination unto itself. We sipped martinis and margaritas amidst 15,000 crimson red roses, going out with a glorious bit extravagance before then being confined to our apartments.

 

 

Bodega Negra

First brought over from London in 2014 by a team including nightlife honcho Serge Becker (he has since departed), the darkly lit, sensually opulent Bodega Negra, situated just off the lobby, remains one of the hippest Mexican hotspots in NYC (now run by Tao Group). While overnighting at the Dream Downtown, we hit up happy hour, with excellent $6 sangria, $8 El Diablo specialty cocktails, plus specially priced queso fundido and quesadilla rustica. It’s precisely the sort of experience we’re looking to return to once this is all over: sexy, decadent, but also easy on the wallet.

 

BlackBook Rooms w/ a View: The New Thompson Washington DC Hotel

 

 

It was slightly ironic that a recent trip we took to DC coincided with the Oscars, as it reminded us of the obviously insulting line ascribed to a number of political pundits, including Joe Scarborough: “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.” Seeing Charlize, Brad, et al, on the small screen, did again prove that still nothing can compete with Tinseltown in the (manufactured) glamour department—yet HWood be dammed, we were on your way to what was surely the capital’s most glamorous new hotel.

Opened in early January, the brand-new Thompson Washington DC, the Beltway outpost of the brand whose roots go back 20 years to Manhattan’s actual Thompson Street, where 60 Thompson (now SIXTY Soho) was one of the first destination hotels for the post 9/11 prosperity generation. Twenty years on and the vibe at this Thompson was just as cool, with a huge, light-filled lobby and bar dominating the ground floor space. The reception desk was tucked away in a corner.

 

 

Our room was pure class—no flimsy or overly cheeky design elements—with elegant, dark wood and brass furniture and fixtures, a very well stocked mini bar (we’re fine with in-room yoga mats and wellness options, but not at the expense of vodka and prosecco), and a spacious terrace overlooking DC’s hot new hood, The Yards, in the old Navy Yard.

On our first evening, we were thrilled to check out the outpost of one of our NYC faves, Danny Meyer’s Maialino Mare, an offshoot of Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Park celeb magnet, which focuses on Roman trattoria fare; we indulged in their specialty fried baby artichokes, cremini mushrooms with white wine and anchovy, fettuccine with ruby red shrimp, with each dish building to an encore of lemon custard with toasted pine nuts and an almond crust.

 

Maialino Mare

 

Up and out the next day, we were determined to take advantage of as much as we could in a town with increasingly interesting diversions—even some that aren’t affiliated with the Smithsonian. The Navy Yard itself is on the southeast side of downtown, on the banks of the Anacostia River; Nationals Park is two blocks west, and amidst the numerous older nautical buildings are rising shiny apartments and stores to accommodate the latest wave of policy wonks/wonkettes. We started with a bracing stroll along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, stretching 20 miles on both sides of the river; we only made it about a quarter mile before getting distracted, realizing we should have probably grabbed a bike from Capital Bikeshare, as the Thompson provides them gratis.

After a day of cultural pursuits, including stopping to awe at a few monuments (while we still have a democracy), and a tour of the inspiring Freer Gallery of Art (The Peacock Room is James Whistler’s opulent masterpiece of mural art, and a must see) we headed back to the Yards for dinner at District Winery, an awesome space that includes said winemaking operation, a wine related boutique, and the restaurant Ana, where we were impressed to discover some of the tastiest vegetarian options on any menu we’ve yet come across.

 

The Peacock Room at Freer Gallery of Art

 

Not that there wasn’t plenty for carnivores, from roasted scallops to a NY strip, but we ordered the excellent market vegetable “Shawarma” with roasted vegetables, beet falafel, pink lentil hummus, creamy tahini sauce, and lavash cracker, and Meadow Creek Grayson cappelletti with pickled pear, cultured butter, onion petals, and basil oil; the sourdough spelt bread was a particularly special treat.

We retired to catch the last half of the Oscars (still too long), congratulating ourselves on how much we saved not bothering to deck out like Scarlett and Leo, while still enjoying a lavish dinner. And flopping down in our thrift store loungewear, we were contented with the luxury of catching the awards show on a state of the art, 55″ flat screen.

 

Somewhere

 

The next day, before heading back north, we took a walk around some of the Yard’s shops, stopping in Steadfast Supply, a creative retail shop and curated events hub featuring goods from local small businesses and independent brands…and Somewhere, a sleek space dedicated to bringing the global fashion conversation to the capital. Both boutiques gleamed with newness of a new kind of DC.

Sadly, the one thing we didn’t get a chance to try was Trapeze School NY, located just a couple of blocks from the hotel. Merely a good excuse for us to already be planning a springtime return to the Thompson.

 

BlackBook Interview: La Roux’s Elly Jackson on Being Human, Needing Space & Taking Baths to be Creative

Image by Ed Miles

 

When Elly Jackson’s second album, Trouble in Paradise, came out in 2014, it was as if her life’s story had written its title. The artist otherwise known as La Roux—and perhaps equally for the ginger wave that famously flops around atop her head—had already managed to take literally the entire world by storm. Her debut album, 2009’s La Roux, produced singles “Quicksand,” “Bulletproof,” and “In the Kill,” nabbed her and her former bandmate Ben Langmaid a Grammy award, almost endless attention, and with it a world of complications that come with being catapulted to fame at a young age. She was all of 21 then. Looking back at her early videos, it’s hard not to notice the traces of baby fat still on her face.

If you have been to any public space that at least attempts to play trendy music in the past 20 years, you have absolutely heard “Bulletproof.” Anyone over 40 will respond to its arcade game nostalgia. Anyone under 40 will register it as vintage electronica cool. Everyone will bop along to it. It’s impossible not to.

Whether it’s her tough-girl persona, her unusually elegant voice (a former falsetto), her fabulous power suits, her uncanny ability to infectiously reimagine the sounds of her youth, her androgyny, or that aforementioned swirl of red hair, her sonic superpowers enable her to use her vocal and musical talents in unique way, that’s frankly a bit odd yet still creates a pop feeding frenzy. And while everyone knows who she is, or at least has unknowingly heard her tunes, what people don’t really know is where the hell Jackson’s been for the past few years (or five).

While Trouble in Paradise garnered critical acclaim, everything leading up to and through the album ultimately blew up her life. It broke up her partnership with Langmaid, got her kicked off Polydor, the major label to which she had been signed, broke up a 10-year personal relationship, inspired her to can an entire third album, La Roux 3, and sent her down plenty of anxiety-induced rabbit holes. The perfect storm had started brewing as early as 2010, when Jackson lost her voice entirely due to anxiety. She had to train herself how to sing again. The pressures of fame weighed heavy on the otherwise spry, and hilariously blunt Jackson, and the cascading effect it had on her unraveled her completely by 2017.

 

 

And to make matters even worse, her shower broke down. Yet it was that same nuisance that changed her life’s rhythm enough to allow her to course correct. Unable to shower, she was forced to take baths.

“That mental space slowed me down enough to change how I thought about my life,” she says. “And today I’m just in such a better place.”

And so the carrot-topped phoenix felt she literally had nothing to lose, stopped all the noise, locked herself up in her kitchen and got to creating Supervision. As Jackson wiggled herself out from her past, she jettisoned plenty of baggage with it. Ranging from her hyper-referenced approach to building her songs to nearly every collaborator and the interference of another record label, Jackson decided to fly completely solo on the new record.

The result is a delightfully short spin through the world of La Roux, just as Elly Jackson. No less of an adorable fuck you, certainly no less of an earworm much less fun, the album itself is a play on words referencing that she can both see clearly now, but also that she doesn’t need the supervision of anyone to get along.

We sat down with Jackson to hear her thoughts on her comeback, her music, and what a young superstar does to get her life back in balance and back on her own terms.

 

 

You have definitely come back from a period of silence. When reading about your story, it’s uncanny how life put you on pause– twice–before you could make your next breakthrough. You first lost your voice, and second had a broken shower that forced you to take baths.

Yeah, a lot has changed. I just feel so much better. There’s just a lot more space and peace in my life, generally, and it’s a very nice place to be. I’ve slowed myself down and realized what my priorities are. I pretty much have to work out every day or I’ll pretty much go insane. I wasn’t doing that nearly enough before. It’s easy when you’re in the studio to drop really good habits in the name of working your ass off pointlessly.
You just turn nocturnal in that mindset and say it must be helpful to work 17 hours a day. But it really just isn’t helpful. It’s really been about finding the balance again. I have found it and it’s a much nicer space to be in, for sure.

La Roux had started off as a collaboration and you have done several since. I read that you don’t like to share. As we age, we definitely become clearer about our healthy boundaries. Was your solo approach to this album a function of that?

I don’t want to make this all about what I’m about to say, because I think it can get annoying; but I really think that most women can possibly relate to finding it harder to [manage boundaries] than men. It’s firstly hard to even know yourself that way. So many people don’t even know what their boundaries are. It’s hard to then set them if you don’t know what they are.
You’ll say, “Yeah, I have boundaries!” Then you’ll say, “Wait. Do I?”

It’s a tricky balance…

If you want to be a nice person, especially with women, one has to sort of learn that being perceived as nice is not necessarily what’s best for you. I’m not saying that I’m not a nice person, or don’t value niceness, but I have come to understand that I don’t want people to cross certain lines because it will make me uncomfortable.
And then I’ll start to feel vulnerable, and I may not like it, and then I could start acting quite stressed and angry. I can start to feel like I’m not protecting myself or that someone’s coming into my cage and it’s too much space invasion.
It just takes time to understand that as a human being. You can’t fucking understand it overnight, and you certainly can’t grasp it when you’re 21. Anyone who knows that when they’re 21, I want to meet them because they will certainly become a fucking guru! But I feel that I at least hopefully have learned how at the right time.

 

Image by Ed Miles

 

Speaking of your age, it’s funny looking at your head spinning in the “International Woman of Leisure” track—you can see you have very defined cheekbones. It made me realize just how young you really were when “Bulletproof” came out.

Yeah it was a shock to me. I never knew that I would get this face. Some people thought that I had gotten plastic surgery. I was like, “Come on! I just lost a little weight and I’m not a child anymore!” All of that happened when I was in my early 20s.

Now that you’ve gone through what you have, what would you tell young Elly that could have maybe helped her navigate that level of fame and what was to come.

I don’t know, it’s so difficult. You know how you are at that age and you just think you know everything. You think you have it all down, and it’s just hilarious because you don’t. It’s kind of impossible, because I know who she was—since I’m her. And [laughing] she would have just said, “Yeah shut up, I’m fine.” Even though I really wasn’t fine.
Nobody can tell you what’s right for you, even if it’s ultimately what is right for you. It’s like the old adage about the addict, you just can’t tell them when to stop. They have to be fed up with their own behavior.

Right, it has to come from within.

I think it would have been really hard to have a talk with that girl. But I was lucky that I had a lot of people say the right things to me. They tried to make me see things in a more positive light and to help me feel less stressed and worried. But it’s just hard when you are constantly stressed and worried and you can’t see a way out most of the time.
But I would have told her to try to not think so much about needing someone else—whether in her work life or personal life. Even that word, “need…” in needing something else you’re just taking away—an experience, a lesson– from yourself. I had to remember at a point that this all started with me in my bedroom with my guitar.
But that is what I would tell her, “If that is where she started, with her guitar, why had she gone so, so far away from that place?” Think about that.

It’s funny you say that, because my predominant image of you with any instrument is you standing behind a keyboard.

Weirdly I am always behind the keyboard; but even more weirdly, all my songs start on guitar even if you don’t hear guitar in them. Pretty much every song on the first album was written on guitar, apart from “Bulletproof.” It may not really sound like it, but that is the case.

Speaking of your style, your first two albums had definitive vibes to them. La Roux was a more synthpop dancey thing and Trouble in Paradise, a bit of a Chicago / Grace Joneseque sort of thing. Supervision really isn’t bundled stylistically in any way. There’s an authenticity to it, because you can more clearly hear who you are.

That’s really important to me. There is just a pain trying to re-creating something that you love so much. Like loving Depeche Mode and Grace Jones. It’s like, great! Love them! But you also have to be you. Don’t sit there and reference them so much that you drive yourself crazy. It’s difficult to get away from the music that is intrinsically inside you that you’ve listened to your whole life—it will show up in your work. For instance, I never once listened to George Michael on this album but you can hear a lot of him in it.

 

 

How did the process of even making this album come to be? You wrote it in just a few weeks at home? It just seems like there’s an ease and flow here that wasn’t available to yourself before.

It’s definitely been a very different experience and feeling. Even though I was the one who always brought the subject matters, the sound, the melodies, it is a different feeling to be [on my terms]. But when you’re in a studio and there’s someone at the computer, or you’re in someone else’s space…or even if you’ve let someone else into your space and you’ve let them commandeer…it always felt like I allowed even the tiniest details, like the order things are done in, to be in someone else’s hands. It had always kind of been dictated by somebody else. I found myself over the years just being so uncomfortable with it.
It came to the point where I just knew I could do something better or quicker, but I didn’t know how to say that without hurting someone’s ego or without sounding delusional. Obviously, I’ve dropped all of that and I don’t live in that space anymore in any way, shape, or form.

You actually shelved your third album?

Once I ditched that record and started making this one, the whole process was just one of pure elation. It was like, Oh! I have these riffs, some voice notes and these bass notes—this chorus.
I had the riffs for “21st Century,” I had the chorus. I had chords to “Do You Feel?” It was honestly kind of like I had no other choice. I had exhausted all my other options and they just didn’t work. It was like, you’ve only got one way left—just you on your own. And it was funny, within hours it was just obvious to me as I sat at my computer that I should have been doing it this way all along.

Epiphany is a wonderful thing.

It’s just so much more fun and so much more me. I definitely had these moments where I worried that if I wasn’t referencing as much or wasn’t as painstakingly sitting there with a fucking engineer, doing stuff that I think is a waste of time, that people may not like the way it sounded. Or that they may not want to listen to me. But then I realized that I didn’t fucking care. There is nobody but me on any of my albums playing the instruments…save the saxophone, which I don’t play. Everything has been written by me, actually. So why did it feel like such a change? But it really did.
All I knew was that I liked the record I was making. I just got to the point where I stood in my kitchen where I was like, “Okay, either you’re insane or you’re right.” But when I realized that I didn’t care, and that I was happy, it has never been the case that I make music in order to tick other people’s boxes.

As women, we’re always told how to feel and be and what should make us happy.

It’s true. But there just comes a point where you’re liberated enough to be yourself.

 

 

BlackBook Interview: Theophilus London on Rihanna, New Album ‘Bebey’, and Keeping it Caribe

 

 

It’s befitting that Theophilus London decided to jump right back into the light just in time for Valentine’s Day. Dropping his first full-length album in five years, Bebey, the Trinidadian-Brooklynite pillar of suavity has emerged from a self-cocooned hiatus as smooth and fabulous a butterfly as he ever was.

The vibe, as he calls it, is New Wave Caribbean. The result is an easy island tilt on many of the collaborative friendships dear to his heart. It’s also a pretty hilarious (but respectful) call out to all the sexy ladies from here to Soweto and back again.

The international man of love and leisure surely has a knack for procuring the best of his jet-setting friends to assist him with his musical projects, and his latest is certainly no exception. Released on his own Bebey Records, the album brims with everything from steel drum flourishes to collabs the likes of Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, as he walks the fine line of keeping it real as an NYC-Caribe kid and a heavy hitter in the scene in the way that only this man called Theophilus London possibly could.

 

 

 

 

London doesn’t only drop hype albums. His personal style has famously gained him admiration everywhere from downtown NYC art parties to getting Karl Lagerfeld to collaborate on his 2014 album Vibes. Indeed, the late fashion icon directed the album’s design, did all the photography, and hand-drew the lettering on the cover.

Flash forward a couple years later, and the then-unreleased “Revenge” (which has finally seen the light of day on Bebey) rocked Virgil Abloh’s Off-White 2017 Spring/ Summer Paris Fashion Week show, leaving Frank Ocean, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and the style cognoscenti grooving and bobbing their heads in the front row. A collaboration with Ariel Pink, it’s actually a cover of English new wave band New Musik’s 1981 track “They All Run After the Carving Knife.”

Abloh and London have long been friends and collaborators. The former was named Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director in 2018, and serves as CEO of his own Milan-based streetwear label Off-White, which he founded in 2013. The two have kept tight throughout the years, and came back together for Bebey, collaborating on the cover art and designing a pair of fancy streetwear cowboy boots, along with a soon-to-be released fashion collection.

We caught up with London to discuss Bebey’s release—her name standing for self-love, which is the “essence, love and beauty” of the album, as he says—along with where he’s been for the past few years, and how he’s created this beautiful universe of which he’s firmly proud.

 

 

 

This album has been long gestating during what has been perceived as a hiatus you took from both fashion and music. What made you feel it was ready to be birthed?

It was done. It was ready for the world to get it. What better than a new decade? I thought about dropping it in November of 2019…but if I dropped it in 2030 it would still leave an impact. The music is timeless, in a sense. I’m just going to foreshadow that. Vibes became an instant classic. It’s not self-proclaimed or anything, but when you see everyone’s comments on it. Vibes was five years ago—some people have gone through high school and middle school since I dropped a new album.

What had been going on in the past few years if an album really hadn’t been?

I’ve been going around the world and A&Ring this record, going through my phone book and the relationships that I have. Each moment I spent on this album was priceless. Being in Australia with Tame Impala, being in London with Giggs, being in LA with Ariel Pink…and also being in LA with Tame Impala when he was on a hiatus himself, after a great album that he had just written.
His label couldn’t get him to clear any other tracks for other rappers. It was like, “How the hell does Theo get to work with Kevin Parker, and we can’t even get in touch with him?” Anybody who I had brushed paths with, they wanted to get on Bebey. There was a hype about it.
After the Louis Vuitton show in summer 2018, I made a pilgrimage to Los Angeles and I haven’t left since. I made a new home base here and started a new record label. After all the travel and changes, the time was just right. And here we are.

 

 

 

There has been plenty of talk that Bebey is a getting back to your roots as a Trinidadian-born kid from Brooklyn. How valid is that view?

It’s more a roots in terms of my energy. I am not going back to my old style in this album at all. To be clear, this is something completely new. I had DM’d the album to Rihanna and told her that this is “New Wave Caribbean.” We both laughed. I wanted to set new expectations for myself, and I am still learning about myself and the album when I listen to it today—I still listen to the lyrics, and I’m like, “Oh, shit! That’s what I meant?”
[I’m] the only person that really survived that era who was a real New York niche, Trinidadian or Guyanese kid from NYC. You grow up in the city, but you stick to your roots and eat the Caribbean food. I actually played in a steel drum band for four years and became the bass leader for the band. So, sure that is in my roots.
But there’s nobody in [rap], except maybe Busta Rhymes, who can comfortably spit patois but also keep it cool. Perhaps Safaree or Casanova, whose parents are Caribbean; but those guys are straight rappers. So, I am really holding the crown when it comes to being so normal cool. I may bust a line in the street, but it’s like, “oh he’s still cool.” It’s like a very fine line between being, “I’m an island boy, and I’m a city boy,” but I bridge the gap.

Are the steel drums you hear in “Bebey” synthesized or real?

No, those are definitely real!

 

 

So where exactly do Tame Impala and Ariel Pink fit into this patois, if you will? They are definitely not Caribbean.

Yeah, thanks for asking that. Tame Impala and Ariel Pink…it’s funny. They are a very important part of this project. Three of my favorite songs on the album, “Only You,” “Revenge” and “Whiplash,” were from working with them. Why would any artist not put those tracks on their album? I don’t care if I was doing a dubstep album, those three tracks would still make it on there!
When “Pretty” and “Bebey” came along, it’s when I started to get more excited about the Caribbean [tip]. But these songs were written long before, 2015ish-16ish.

Around the time you connected with Virgil Abloh…

Revenge” was premiered during his Off-White Business Woman fashion show, in Paris, in 2016.  People are just ready for it to be on an album. Now that it’s out, people are ready to pay for it too—the streams are going nuts.
But overall, it’s never been like, “oh yeah I’m gonna get Tame Impala!” or that the album needed to be Caribbean or anything else. I just follow the heart of love. It was never like a case of me wanting Kevin Parker and hitting up his label to get on my album. It was more like, “oh you’re in town? I’m in town too. Let’s get together tonight and work!”

 

 

 

Spontaneous is always best.

Yeah, and it turned into seventy nights of work. But it was never me really asking a label person or a manager one single thing. It was the same with Ariel Pink. It would be like, “Yo, come over to my crib, I’ve got six cute black girls at my house.” He wants a black girlfriend, I am sure.
So, he runs over in a nice blazer and his leprechaun accent. And we’re doing skits, and whatever the hell. I’m always bridging cultures. And with me bringing Ariel Pink and Kevin Parker onto the album, it’s me just bringing in different cultures into my world. And everyone can just hang out at the party.

You have put out a pair of haute streetwear boots with Off-White for Bebey. Beyond promoting your personal style, what is the strategy behind the fashion collaboration?

With each album, I try to communicate through different media. For an average kid, my songs may not get to him as quickly as say, a Justin Bieber song. So that Off-White collaboration—or any other type of fashion format like that—is so that kid may be able to see a piece and think, “hey, that’s cool!”…and then learn about my music. I always make sure there is space to make fashion. I always try and bring friends on board to do that, and this time it’s Off-White—they’re one of the top three brands in the world at the moment.
Virgil, as a designer, everything he does…I get him up at 4am. He has two brands to sort out for Fashion Week. I don’t even understand what’s going on with him, but somehow I can get him on text for three hours to discuss the line. I have the upmost respect for Virgil. He’s been a good friend to me for a long time.

How did the cowboy boot design come to be?

Yeah the LIFE’S WORK boots, it’s a cool tagline—like graffiti. It’s a 10-year introspection for me. I’m 31 now, and I can finally make sense of things, and that’s just a reflection of my life’s work. Those boots honestly were designed as leather high-end boots that are one of a kind. I’m sure they’ll be copied by every designer next season. I used to wear these boots for the last six years around New York City and I just wanted to recreate them.
It’s cool, Rihanna has flaunted a pair and they’re up for sale on pre-order now. We are doing a collection for the album, designed by Virgil and myself. You see my Caribbean flag heavily throughout the collection. The graphics are Bebey and they include the beautiful face that represents the beautiful Bebey Universe. A small, tight knit crew of my friends hand-drew our own logos and whatnot, and created this new little universe. It’s just fun to step into our own little world, and they can understand me and that world really easily. It validates me as an artist when other artists can step into my world and say, “I see!” They can see where the bathroom is, they can see where the living room is, and they can say, “this is a great house!”

If there is one thing that has been consistent about our conversation, it’s that you aren’t so much trying working hard to make something happen. It comes from the heart, and so it comes to be.

That’s true. But I mean, that was Vibes too. I didn’t ask for Kanye, and I didn’t ask for Lagerfeld. It just happened. It was the same message then. It’s just that I put out the most perfect version of Bebey that I could.
It could have been that I didn’t get much of a satisfactory job out of it, but that’s not true. I’m just super proud of it. I could have been scared when I put it out, being like, “holy shit!” But that’s now how I feel. It’s just incredible. In this project, I immersed myself in the culture, I disassociated myself from whatever celebrity hype. I blended together whatever circles I go in, from Rhode Island to LA and Australia and everywhere else, and I just made this album. No Rolex on, no chains, no dumb cars, no stupid shit…just back in the basement, you know, working on the album. And it’s gold. It’s diamond. It’s making that universal language translate.