Sudan Archives “Nont For Sale” Style Direction for Vogue

Late last month, Leonardo Volcy mentioned that he was set to work with multi-instrumentalist Sudan Archives on a music video for her recent single, “Nont for sale” and asked me to come on board for Styling and Style Direction. After several conversations about style direction, we finally came together early May for what turned out to be one of the most magical experiences this year. The video is now out!

I also had the lucky opportunity to chat with Vogue on my inspiration and intent behind the styling approach.

The style direction for Sudan Archives video was an amalgamation of her origins, personality and inspirations. I wanted elements that showcased that she’s an Afrophile (my new favorite word btw) but also highlighted her midwest 90’s roots. Therefore the direction was an attempt to embed elements of 60’s Africa as you would see in a Malick Sidibe portrait but still keep it hood hence pieces like the Joyrich velour track suits and Vida Kush jewerly. The pieces that really tied those elements together were the detailed No Sesso x Come Tees garments brought by my styling partner Autumn Randolf paired with streetwise brands like Marna Ro and pieces from the Hannah Jewett eclectic jewerly collection. All in all, it was a beautiful marriage of creative minds.

   

Full Video.

Vogue.

Higher Brothers for XXL

During 88Rising’s Double Happiness concert in Los Angeles last month, I was able to catch Higher Brothers right before their second ever show in America for an exclusive interview with XXL Magazine. Now an international viral sensation, the Higher Brothers started out in China from humble beginnings, one of them even working as a zookeeper. Scroll down below to learn more about these Sichuanese Mandarin-speaking rappers.

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On a February evening in Los Angeles, Higher Brothers have big plans for its second-ever performance in the United States.

“I hope to stage dive for the first time!” KnowKnow, one-fourth of the Chinese rap group, tells XXL (he unfortunately didn’t surf the crowd that night). The group, which also consists of Psy.P, MaSiWei and Melo, is making history as one of China’s greatest hip-hop hopes. Drawing comparisons to Migos, Higher Brothers is its country’s first internationally acclaimed rap crew of its kind.

The artists are holding court in the backstage area of L.A.’s historic Shrine Auditorium as part of the Double Happiness tour, alongside fellow 88Rising artists Rich Brian, Joji and Keith Ape. And they’re taking in the moment. “[Rap] saved my life,” says MaSiWei. “Because of rap, we had the Asia tour. Because of rap, we out of Chengdu, a small city. We toured China, we toured Asia, and now we’re here.”

Higher Brothers have had a long journey to reach its current status, attempting to break language and geographic barriers and find massive success stateside. They’re making headway, though—the Sichuanese Mandarin-speaking rappers have already collaborated with Famous Dex, Ski Mask the Slump God, Richie Souf, Jay Park and Keith Ape. One of their biggest viral moment thus far has been a reaction video that shows the likes of Migos, Lil Yachty and Smokepurpp watching and commenting on the group’s Famous Dex-featured song, “Made In China.” The song’s video and its reaction clip have combined for more than 12 million views to date.

Chengdu, China natives MasiWei, Melo and Psy.P first met at the age of 18, building a home studio where they could create music full-time. The began moving as part of a larger rap collective called CDC Rap House before meeting KnowKnow via Sina Weibo (the Far Eastern equivalent of Twitter). “We shared each other’s songs,” says Masiwei. “Then we toured to Nanjing and met [KnowKnow]. He was so young, just graduated. Then he came to Chengdu and we did some [music] shit together.”

Higher Brothers have held a certain panache for tapping into the sweet spot of rap culture that bridges the Eastern and Western hemispheres. In 2016, the group began to make waves with the release of its eponymous first project, which yielded the breakout song and video “Black Cab.” The debut album Black Cab dropped in May 2017, and they have wasted no time in releasing new music in 2018, already unveiling two EPs—Journey to the West and Type-3—in January and February of this year, respectively.

For now, though, Higher Brothers are focused on converting some new fans on this run of shows in the States, which includes showcases at SXSW later this month. “If they know us, they’ll keep listening to our new music,” MasiWei says of prospective concertgoers. “If they don’t know us, they will watch our show, follow us and search ‘Higher Brothers.’”

Get familiar with Higher Brothers in the latest installment of XXL’s The Break.

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Names: KnowKnow (a.k.a. DZ), MaSiWei, Melo, Psy.P
Age: Knowknow, 21; Psy.P, 23; Melo, 23; MaSiWei, 25.

Hometown: Knowknow, Nanjing, Jiangsu; MaSiWei, Chengdu, Sichuan; Melo, Chengdu, Sichuan; Psy.P, Chengdu, Sichuan;

I grew up listening to:

Knowknow: “My first and favorite would be Kendrick Lamar. He made me want to come to L.A.”
Psy.P: “The Chinese rapper MC HotDog.”

My style has been compared to:

Psy.P: “Comedy rappers. Because when you listen at first, our music doesn’t sound that serious, but when we make it we’re very serious. Sounds like comedy music because it’s very chill, very relaxed.”

Most people don’t know:

KnowKnow: “My own friends in my hometown, we all liked Kendrick Lamar. But they don’t know I’m in L.A. Now I don’t have any of my old friends—I’m famous.”

Psy. P: “When I sleep I snore.”

MaSiWei: “I don’t smoke, no cigarettes, no weed. I don’t like the way it smells. ”

Melo: “I used to be a soccer player. I was a forward because I ran very fast.”

My standout moment to date:

Psy. P: “My first day in America.”

Melo: “The day I decided to become a rapper. I quit my job, and became a full-time rapper. I think that’s a big deal—I was working for zoo before that! Feeding the animals. It was dangerous, but chill.”

My goal in hip-hop is:

Psy.P: “More money, new watch, nice car.”

Melo: “Better life.”

MaSiWei: “Money, fame, respect.”

KnowKnow: “Ballin’, beautiful women, food, big house. And VVS. I want people to never forget us.”

XXL.

Keith Ape, Rich Brian & Higher Brothers in Jakarta

Photographed the 88Rising crew– Keith Ape, Rich Brian, and the Higher Brothers backstage at the Djakarta Warehouse Project last December. Here are some of the photos below, taken on 35mm.

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Interview with All-Star 2018 NBA Athletes for OkayPlayer

The 67th annual NBA All-Star Game brought to Los Angeles the revelry of basketball fans from around the world. Some fans wishing for opportunities to interact with their favorite players, while others simply on a quest for celebrity sightings. It’s times like these that showcase the relevance of communal sports and their impact across the globe.

However with all the fanfare of All-Star Weekend, it can be quite convenient to forget the reason for the season; the players and their hard-earned title as some of the greatest athletes in the world. For that reason, we decided to ask the 2018 All-Star Game players to reveal facts about themselves that might be concealed from some of their fair-weathered fans.

Scroll down below to gain more insights into the lives of these talented players from my exclusive interviews last weekend, with answers ranging from music to relationships to activism.

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Lebron James

Fact: 33-year-old LeBron James is one of the world’s most famous basketball players. Starting his early career straight after high school in Akron, Ohio, King James was drafted no. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then, he’s brought home the Larry O’Brien trophy to both the Cavaliers and the Miami Heat to the tune of three total NBA titles.

Lesser Known Fact: James is the epitome of calm, cool and collected—on and off the court—but very few people know where his peaceful resolves developed. LeBron states that “being an African American kid growing up in a single parent household and developing as I did was defeating those odds.” For that reason and many others, LeBron says that “he can never shut up and dribble” because he recognizes the impact of society on his life and his achievements and tries to be a light whenever he can.

Another Little Known Fact: Although he has yet to see it, LeBron is a huge fan of Black Panther. He recalls, “As a kid, the only people he thought could be superheroes were musicians and athletes because the only superheroes he saw in movies were white.” During his interview, LeBron acknowledged the producers and actors for their incredible job in shedding a positive light in the cinematic world by showing the beauty and strength of African Americans via a powerfully original story.

 

Russell Westbrook

Fact: Californian native Russell Westbrook is a seven-time NBA All-Star, and a two-time NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player. Outside of his flair on the court, Westbrook is notably considered one of the most fashion-forward players of the league.

Lesser Known Fact: Westbrook’s wife is also a basketball player and he stated when asked about his tender relationship that his wife, “keeps him in line and because she knows how the game works, they communicate frequently about his on-court decisions.”

Another Little Known Fact: Westbrook is a huge hip-hop fan, and his current artist of choice is Nipsey Hussle, who just dropped a new album. When asked about the album, Russell mentioned that he has “already listened to it and think it’s amazing.”

 

Larry Nance Jr.

Fact: Cleveland Cavaliers player Larry Nance Jr. is originally from Ohio but has a strong relationship with Los Angeles as he was drafted 27th overall to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015 but then swiftly traded three years later to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Lesser Known Fact: To get pumped for the game, Nance listens to a combo of heavy hitters that guide his focus such as J. Cole, Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar. His favorite Kendrick song at the moment is “The Heart Part IV”.

Another Little Known Fact: Although Nance’s father was an NBA player himself and undoubtedly passed down many tips and tricks to his talented son, one thing Nance does not attribute to himself is showmanship. When asked about his experience in L.A., Nance shared, “It’s been fun getting out of my comfort zone. Showmanship is not my forte but this experience has taught me to get out of my shell.”

 

Dennis Smith Jr.

Fact: 20-year-old Dennis Smith Jr. might be one of the youngest athletes in the league but that doesn’t deflect from his position as a top player for the Dallas Mavericks. In 2016, he was ranked as one of the top point guards in his class by most basketball recruits.

Lesser Known Fact: Dennis might be one of the most charismatic players in the league and as we found out, old school R&B might be the impetus of his charisma. When asked what tunes in particular make him feel supreme, he handed his phone to us so we could see the exact songs he had in rotation. Top five, in no particular order were: “So Gone” by Monica; “If I Was Your Man” by Joe; “Slow Down” by Bobby V; “Suffocate” by J. Holiday and “Fall For Your Type” by Jamie Foxx.

 

James Harden

Fact: Houston Rockets point guard James Harden has the world’s seventh largest sports contract, predominantly because of his earned recognition as the best shooting guard in the NBA, as well as one of the top overall players in the league.

Lesser Known Fact: James Harden is a huge fan of the hip-hop lyricists. When questioned about his favorite MC’s he responded with his all-time top four, “‘Pac, Biggie, Jay-Z and Nipsey Hussle.”

Stephen Curry

Fact: 29-year-old Ohio native Wardell Stephen Curry II is a prime figure for the Golden State Warriors. His swift and calculated moves on court have earned him the recognition as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.

Lesser Known Fact: Last but certainly not least, Stephen Curry ended our query session by shedding nothing but light and good energy on the weekend. Most of the world is already familiar with Curry’s positive mindset so it came as no surprise when asked about his thoughts on the weekend’s rivalry between Team Curry and Team Lebron.

Curry held his clear-cut stance stating, “I’m just appreciative of the opportunity to lace up my shoes with 23 of the best players in the world. The true beauty of fame is how far reaching it is.” Although we might be cheating a bit on this one, we do realize that everyone could use as much positivity and light in one’s life, and it’s a fact, lesser known or not that Curry is full of this in abundance.

Okayplayer.

Ashanti for HYPEBAE

The early ’00s produced a slew of talented female vocalists that held their own in a world ruled by men. Though many might have their favorites from that era, there’s one artist that stands out among the rest. Long Island native Ashanti Douglas not only possesses a beautiful voice but has an infectious charisma that’ll draw you right in. Despite her chart-topping discography, she still remains humble and as engaging as ever.

These same attributes drove her to success, beginning with debut solo album, Ashanti. From there, her career continued to skyrocket landing her critically-acclaimed features such as ”What’s Luv” with Fat Joe and the love anthem  “Always on Time” with Ja Rule. Ashanti’s range is undeniable. She could partner with rap’s heavy hitters such as JAY-Z, and also churn out heart-bearing singles like “Baby” and “Happy.” 

With a healthy five albums under her belt and a sixth one on the way, Ashanti is one of the decade’s most accomplished artists. I sat down with the Princess of Hip-Hop & R&B to discuss fond memories, current lifestyle and her most recent work. Read on for more.

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Can you share a bit about your newly-released single, “Say Less“? How are you feeling now that it’s out in the world?

I haven’t released music in a while so I was super excited to share it. For the single, I teamed up with DJ Mustard and Ty Dolla $ign and the synergy was just amazing. It happened organically and my brother Slow helped A&R the project. We were in the studio and the energy was spot on and the melodies came out to be really dope. It’s a feel-good record, super catchy and the reception has been amazing. Also, the fact that we were able to put it in a commercial for the Ciroc French Vanilla campaign has been really dope.

Since the time you released your first solo album, what changes have you noticed in the music and arts scene?

The good thing is that people are a lot more forward, a lot more to the point, a lot more willing to take risks and do things that are a lot more outlandish and different. I guess that’s kind of a gift and a curse. However, sometimes it feels like there’s not a lot of passion and soul in music or art. Sometimes it feels like it’s just for the moment, just for entertainment.

What advice would you offer women who are struggling with body acceptance?

Personally, I feel like you should always try to look for your best asset. If it’s your eyes, or if it’s your waist – whatever it is that makes you feel good about yourself, accentuate that. Just never feel like you have to change because of what someone else says or wants. You have to be happy from within. So if you’re happy with a big butt or if you’re happy with a little butt, as long as you are happy, that’s what matters. You have to be confident and love yourself first and demand that respect regardless of what anyone else thinks or has to say about it. It starts from you being happy with yourself. Don’t try to please anyone else or become some kind of carbon cutout of what someone else wants.

What would you like to see women accomplishing in the next few months/years?

I have always been about women empowerment and inspiring women to be bosses. It’s a very male dominated world, especially in the music industry. I feel like women sometimes get looked down upon or looked past. I would hope that women just continue to be strong and confident and believe in our power. It’s one of the things, my big bro Puff is always talking about, just like black excellence. I think we all need to support younger females that are taking a hold of their career, and doing it on their own as empowered women.

It’s beautiful how close of a relationship you have with your mom and your sister. How have they impacted your music career?

Yes, my mom, my sister and I are extremely close! They’ve always encouraged me to just be honest and write about real life experiences. My sister and I are years apart, and when I was writing “Foolish,” “Baby” and “Happy,” she was young and she liked the record but now that she is an adult, she absolutely understands them and has gone through those emotions. It’s just a testament to having women around you that go through pain and joy — these are real life things that we all go through. So I think these experiences pour out in my music. My Mom-ager has definitely raised two amazing women. So we’re very grateful for that and she very supportive of my career and my sister’s clothing line, Dymes Only.

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How do you stay grounded and confident everyday when things are moving at the speed of light?

Everyone is different but I was raised by a family that was humble and filled with lots of love. Whether I wanted to be an artist or a farmer, my family would love and support me the same. It just starts with that. I’m super blessed to have a genuine family. I’ve seen a lot of sad things in this industry – relationships getting torn apart, trust issues and broken loyalty. I know that it’s really a blessing to have a family to help me stay grounded. It’s just never been my thing to become a completely different person because of all of this.

Have you always had that bond with Ja Rule? Or has it just developed over time making hits after hits together?

It’s definitely grown. It’s crazy because, as much as people would think we were so close in the beginning, we were on so many different paths. When I came out with my first album, I would be touring in one part of the country and he would be touring on the other part. We were close but it was never like this, until after he went away for a while. We kind of spoke back and forth, and we actually spent four hours on the phone before that situation [going on tour] happened and just spoke about so many things that really made us a lot closer.

How does it feel like to go back on tour with another legend and one of your closest collaborators?

We’ve been on tour for a while and it’s been awesome, we always have a blast. Our chemistry is so thick and organic. We could actually not see each other or not speak to each other for weeks, and then when we get onstage, it looks like we’ve been hanging out the whole day. It’s just something that’s really sincere and to be able to perform these classic records together has been so real. A lot of people have situations where they are forced to perform together and they don’t really like each other. So onstage it’s one thing and offstage it’s another. With Ja and I, it’s genuine.

What other projects should we be on the lookout for?

I have a film called Stuck that‘ll hopefully be out mid-2018. It’s been shown at a bunch of film festivals around the country already, and won some awards. It’s been such a blessing executive producing it. The story is about seven people from different ethnicities stuck on a subway in the middle of summer and it touches on things like racial tensions. We filmed this probably two years ago, maybe more but it’s just so relevant because of what’s going on today.

I used to say, “we’ve come a long way but we still have so far to go,” and I see that now more than ever. I’m just excited for people to see it. It features Giancarlo Esposito from Breaking Bad, and Golden Globe winner Amy Madigan.

What’s next this year?

I’m really, really excited about the album. I’ve been working with amazing people and producers. I’m working with Metro Boomin, Tory Lanez, Swae Lee, Jeremih, Quavo, Travis Scott and a few others.

If you had to choose between the two, would you rather be remembered as iconic or legendary?

If I had a choice, it would be both!

HYPEBAE.

Aurora James for PopSugar

Africa is a continent brimming with a rich amalgamation of raw materials and endless inspiration spanning thousands of cultures. That influence is visible from head to toe in its inhabitants, from the immaculately decorative geles worn by Yoruba women in Nigeria to the intricately weaved kanga of the Masai in Kenya. Still, it sometimes takes a foreigner with ancestral roots to see how those styles might strike a chord outside a country’s own borders. That sort of person is Aurora James.

Over the course of several visits to the continent, the New York-based Ghanaian-Canadian became particularly mesmerized by traditional South African shoemakers. Fortunately, she allowed that inspiration to guide her to launch her critically acclaimed label Brother Vellies in the Spring of 2014. The thought behind the brand was simple yet profound: to preserve the shoemaking craft in Africa and create new jobs for the artisans, specifically South-African shoemakers. Her effort paid off quickly — and bountifully.

In 2015, James was selected as a Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund Award winner, becoming the first black woman to ever receive the coveted honor. She has gone on to show her collection in New York for six seasons and supported many artisans and South African children by working with a local school and using a portion of Brother Vellies sales to support their education. Even with all her accolades and the weight of maintaining the momentum of a flourishing brand, James remains unfazed. Today, she’s steadily focused on impacting change outside of the confines of shoes and growing her brand to include other kinds of apparel. To better understand her past inspirations, current goals, and future prospects, we sat down with James, who seemed at ease calling between meetings on a Tuesday afternoon in New York. From our brief chat, we found ourselves even more enthused about what’s next for James and Brother Vellies.

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Grace Bukunmi: Since becoming one of the first black women to win a CFDA award, do you still find a dearth in diversity among fashion designers? If so, whose responsibility is it to rectify the imbalance?

Aurora James: There are some [designers of color] and I wish there were more. I think it kind of comes down to the way that the system’s built. Not everyone still has an equal opportunity to be able to come intern in New York City for an entire Summer. That’s really expensive. I think that when you take a lot of factors like that, that’s where you end up seeing some of the disparity. Fashion is still a pretty old-school industry. It’s not really as progressive as everyone thinks when it comes to corporate infrastructure. But is it anyone’s responsibility? I don’t know. I would hope that people just keep an open mind when they’re hiring and not always just try to go through friends of friends of friends. And I think, hopefully, Instagram is opening peoples’ eyes to all the different types of creative people out there as well.

GB: I think having sustainability as a foundation for Brother Vellies since its inception has contributed wildly to its success. Since you’ve expanded your collection, how have your original goals transformed?

AJ: When I first started, obviously, it was very different because I was in Africa making small batches at a time and bringing them back. So we’ve really been keeping our eyes on some of the bigger-picture goals. For me, that’s about creating as many job opportunities in Africa as possible. We still need to make sure that we’re building in a very thoughtful, cautious way. We need to make sure that we have artisan partners who are aligned with our goals and are going to make sure that everyone they’re working with is taken care of. I have to think on a much larger scale now, because I can’t really do some of the levels of sourcing that I did before, which was on a really micro level. Now, when I’m creating specialty products, I need to make sure that the specific product that I’m training people on is going to have some level of longevity so that they’re not just not working for one season and then don’t have a job afterward.

GB: I’ve always admired how imaginative and intricate Brother Vellies designs are. Can you describe the first piece you ever designed, either as a professional or even as a kid, and what you wanted to express with it?

AJ: To be honest, a lot of my early designs weren’t related to shoes. They were related to furniture and food, if that makes any sense. I was really, really creative when it came to food and plating food as a child. And I was always super into architecture. My mom sewed a lot when I was younger. I think that design was sort of just — no pun intended — woven into the DNA of who I am and how I was raised.

GB: Your designs showcase the rich, multicultural influence of African diaspora. Can you explain why you felt it so imperative to integrate, and economically cultivate, countries like Kenya, Namibia, Ethiopia, and Nigeria?

AJ: The fashion industry has taken so much inspiration from different cultures over the years. For me, when you take something from someone, especially someone who is less fortunate than you, and you don’t give them anything in return, that’s a form of theft. If I was inspired by a group of people whom I could actually involve in the process, and also maintain the authenticity of the original inspiration, then why not? Just trying to replicate that process at a factory in China to me isn’t the same. It’s like the difference between a fake butterfly and a real butterfly. One is super magical and the other is made out of weird paper.

GB: Speaking of your work with African artisans, what has the response been from African communities whose traditional elements have inspired Brother Vellies shoes?

AJ: I think that it’s a little bit mixed. I think the bulk of people are very excited and are celebrating it and are extremely happy to see their culture represented in that way. Also, because a lot of people in America are really displaced from their own cultures and roots, I think a lot of people are interested in fashion because it’s an interesting way to explore your own background. With Vellies, our very first shape was this tragically uncool thing to wear in South Africa at the time when we started making it. Then we started selling it at Opening Ceremony, and JAY-Z had some, and suddenly it was like, “Oh, wow! Actually, this thing holds value and we don’t have to only value things that aren’t ours.” Part of the goal is to change the value systems that exist there, as well. It was very jarring for me to go to Kenya and see that everyone was trying to dress like Cristiano Ronaldo. It was really disheartening to me, but I understood it; with the economy of used clothing donations there, people aren’t embracing their traditional cultural apparel anymore. I hoped that by us celebrating it over here, they could also start understanding the value of their own culture that’s been stolen from them.

GB: What advice would you give other women business owners who are trying to tap into their ancestral identity? Especially women of color who have been historically marginalized?

AJ: I would love to see women of color try to support each other more within the fashion space. Researching, talking to each other, sharing information, community building, etcetera. Just taking time out and being like, “I want to support you because there’s a part of you that’s intrinsically linked to who I am, and I want to learn more from you.” Also, just remember that every time you spend money, you’re voting for something and you are validating the existence of that thing. So if we don’t want McDonald’s to exist anymore, or we don’t want to support the National Enquirer magazine, don’t buy that. If you don’t want to read about whatever celebrity, don’t click on that. We have the power to sort of dictate those things. I think our culture will be raised up if we raise it up by engaging with it as much as possible.

GB: I would love to hear your experiences as a Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based woman who spends a good amount of time in various countries across Africa. How has that shaped your political consciousness?

AJ: I always say that America is like a cultural melting pot and Canada is more of a mosaic. In Toronto, specifically, people tend to maintain their own culture a little bit more and sort of just integrate it with other people and other ways of life. I think we kind of all celebrate our cultural differences. So that was a really great foundation to build from. Then, I was in Jamaica for three years when I was younger, so that also gave me a totally different viewpoint of the world. I also had a lot of pen pals from Africa because my grandmother sponsored children in Africa and I was always writing with them and understanding the differences of their lives vs. my life. I think that gave me an awareness of how big the world is.

Even though I can be in Canada, and someone else can be in the DRC, as a 15-year-old girl, we’re kind of sharing a similar source of angst, even though the depths of their despair, at times, are definitely going to greater than mine because I have a much larger privilege than they do. We also have to acknowledge that we have access to a lot more potential than the people do in the rest of the world. We need to harness that opportunity and when we have that opportunity, we need to use it to lift other people up.

POPSUGAR.

DJ Tigerlily for MISSBISH

During my memorable time at the IT’S THE SHIP festival in Singapore, I had the pleasure of photographing DJ Tigerlily for her Missbish interview. Read it here, as she shares tips on how she balances her life as a DJ with a healthy lifestyle. Included some of the images I took below!

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MISSBISH.

Reggae on the Rock

Upon arriving on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, you are immediately engulfed in vibrancy. From the vivid hues of each building, lively local music echoing through the streets, and the ceaseless roll of the ocean waves in the distance, every inch of the tropical paradise teems with an infectiously dynamic spirit. To experience the unique culture of the local population is to truly experience this eternal atmosphere.

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I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the Jamaican lifestyle for a few short days as a guest of Red Stripe Beer, the leading local brewery on the island. Founded in 1928 with the slogan “born from a little island with a big spirit,” Red Stripe has become an integral part of Jamaican heritage. Our itinerary was packed with thrilling adventures from coast to coast in order to highlight the passion and beauty of the island, including an private tour of the brewery’s facilities.

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The weekend was a whirlwind of daring escapades and indescribable natural phenomenons. Our first full day began with a tubing excursion through the Ocho Rios rapids to the hidden waterfalls of the Irie Blue Hole before taking flight over Montego Bay for a private avian tour. Known for its stunning white sand and crystal clear turquoise water, the popular tourist destination appears as a breathtaking aquamarine gem from above.

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Another day was spent primarily at Rick’s Cafe in Negril, a local restaurant and bar famous for it’s breathtaking sunset views, delicious local cuisine, and live local music. After happy hour, diners can watch their fellow travelers cliff dive 35 feet from nearby rocks into the inky teal abyss. For those lacking the (liquid) motivation to take the daring leap, there are two shorter cliffs that still allow for thrilling challenge.

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Nevertheless, the climax of the trip was the three-night reggae festival Sum Fest, As this year was the 25th anniversary of the incredible event, the crowds were bursting with vigorous intensity. Attendees embraced the Jamaican spirit by wearing radiant tones and unprecedented festival styles, often inspired by the rasta colors red, green, gold, and black. The epitome of my experience was my exclusive interview with Grammy-winning artist Sean Paul, which will be published shortly.

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While my time on the island may have ended, Jamaica has forever impressed into me the unparalleled vitality and culture of its locals, and I am already looking forward to the next adventure there.

 

xx

Bukunmi

Flog Gnaw x Highsnobiety

Photographed Camp Flog Gnaw Festival for  Highsnobiety.

Read below for more info on the best of the fest:

Published 11/18/ 2016

Last week, over 40,000 packed into Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for Tyler, The Creator’s two-day music festival and carnival, Camp Flog Gnaw. The robust line-up included expected names such as Odd Future affiliate, The Internet, whose funk-inflected set took flight on the wings of Syd the Kid’s diaphanous vocals. Between sets guests grabbed brews and cocktails from beer gardens, and sobered up on food from Randy’s Donuts, Action Bronson’s “Fuck! That’s Delicious” food truck and more. Braver attendees also split their time between the over a dozen carnival rides capable of unsettling even the strongest of stomachs.

Other highlights included an impromptu EarlWolf reunion from Tyler and Earl Sweatshirt and a timely performance of “FDT” (Fuck Donald Trump) led by surprise guest YG. Lil Wayne and DJ/producer Kaytranada closed out the first night while the second night saw experimental hip-hop group Death Grips, and ScHoolboy Q end the festival on a high note on the Camp and Flog stages respectively. It’s nearly impossible to pick favorites in a situation where offerings run the gamut from Ms. Badu to Death Grips, but nevertheless, here are a few of the sets that seemed to really electrify the audience.

Tyler, The Creator

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When you’re performing at your own festival you kind of have to kill it, especially when an automated audio reel of your voice is the first thing that greets guests upon entrance. Outfitted in Golf Wang FW16, Tyler, in his typical self-depreciating manner, proceeded to entertain the shit out of the crowd while reaching back to his early repertoire and also performing more current offerings.

Though the rapper claimed to have no desire to get political, he undeniably hyper-aware of the current climate, inviting guests to put their phones away and truly connect with a rare, carefree moment. Tyler also ended the set by expressing excitement at the number of black youth he saw in the audience before inviting YG to perform “Fuck Donald Trump.” It seemed to be just what people wanted to hear as thousands screamed the hook with the kind of abandon only alcohol, free Ferris Wheel rides and churros can produce.

Rae Sremmurd

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The perpetually lit sibling duo that is Rae Sremmurd did not disappoint. The two commandeered the stage with the help of the Sremm Life Crew, whipping the crowd into an energetic frenzy with songs like “Black Beatles,” the single that spawned the #MannequinChallenge that has swept through social media faster than the bubonic plague wiped out 60% of Europe’s population. And in these times, the irony of lines like, “up like Trump,” were not lost on the audience, but in the spirit of the turn up, the party didn’t stop.

Chance The Rapper

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Not only did Lil Chano from 79th spend most of his set running full throttle from one side of the stage to the other, he also made it a point to dive from his perch directly into the arms of the waiting crowd. Outside of that, Chance also brought a few friends to the stage – namely D.R.A.M. to help out with “Broccoli” and ” Francis and the Lights to for “Summer Friends”. The rapper came into 2016 still on the cusp, but co-signs from heavyweights like Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kanye West, alongside the positive reception to projects like Coloring Book, have certainly secured him as a voice to be reckoned with in 2017.

Kaytranada

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The turnout for Kaytranada’s set seemed to be comprised primarily of ultra-dedicated fans; that was likely because his time slot overlapped with Lil Wayne. That didn’t stop the Haitian-Canadian DJ from instructing those who came through to, “move mufuckas.” And let’s be honest, if you can’t dance to a Kaytranada set you might not have a soul. Highlights included old favorites like Kay’s version of Janet Jackson’s “If” and Azealia Banks’ Pharrell-featured “ATM Jam,” as well as selects from 99.9% like “Glowed Up,” which features another stellar performer, Anderson. Paak.

Erykah Badu

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Erykah Badu delivered her set in the way only Erykah Badu could. She channeled the feelings of disappointment and fear so many of the young audience expressed into a rather eloquent speech about the drawbacks of media and politics in general. She also looked fly AF with a feather-detailed nose ring and a necklace that was nothing short of epic. Her actually performance was a heartfelt retrospective on years worth of creativity in the music industry. It’s certainly refreshing to see a legendary artist still be so enthusiastic about interfacing with her audience.

Anderson .Paak

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“That shit gave me goosebumps” – this is how a friend described Anderson .Paak’s set. Considering this particular friend can be a bit of a snob (no shade) that’s high praise. The California-born r&b crooner opened his Sunday night performance with “Come Down” before calling in the calvary (not that he needed one) in the form of Mac Miller and Domo Genesis, who was also part of Camp Flog Gnaw’s lineup.

.Paak’s music has an emotive quality that bleeds through even when you’re just taking a casual Soundcloud listen, that quality is infinitely more powerful and moving live. Like Tyler and Earl, .Paak seemed to relish the sheer amount of brown faces he saw in the crowd, taking time out of his set to comment on how satisfying it was to know so many POC turned out to support the festival.

Photographer: Bukunmi Grace

Writer: Stephanie Smith- Strickland