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WPGM Commentary: Kwoli Black Reveals His Anxieties And Sense Of Self On New EP ‘Can I Speak’

It’s me, Kwoli Black aka Blue aka Yung Black aka Axel Basquiat aka Converse Kwoli aka Fenty Black aka Him. I hail from the illustrious borough of Hackney and I make music. I’ve previously defined my music as alternative hip hop, which probably makes sense and is the easiest way to describe it (if it needs to be put in a section somewhere) but really I just make black music. That everyone can enjoy.

I just released my latest EP titled Can I Speak? and it is somewhat of an exposé into me, my mind and the things I battle with almost daily. My insecurities and anxieties, my identity and navigating who i am and who I am trying to be.

Each song could exist by themselves but together they weave this beautiful sonic tapestry as I address certain topics throughout the project. I wanted to create a project that sounded like a movie score. An A24 film type of soundtrack. So alongside JSTRNGS my best friend and producer, we experimented with the use of strings and orchestral elements in each song. We wanted to make every track somewhat of its own world but part of the same solar system.

The focus track, “Can I Speak?” Is a culmination of everything I have been thinking about and going through since adolescence. My anxiety wanting to kill me, my imposter syndrome, my lack of viral growth making me feel stagnant, my relationship with women…my lack of relationship with my dad. Everything is in that song and it’s this cathartic expungement of all the negativity that has been plaguing me for years.

I had always believed that music was my therapy but therapy is really what we should all do. The project’s overarching theme is as if I’m having a therapy session and tackling each issue as they come. I had the idea for the CIS video to be this somewhat off-key, black mirror-esque talk show that addressed the discomfort that comes with facing yourself.

It’s uncomfortable. intrusive and frankly annoying to have to navigate the depths of your psyche that you’d rather avoid. I worked alongside a young director called Connor Maclaren. He’s crazy talented. He has an amazing eye. He allows me to handle the creative direction as I enjoy being the creative director of all of my work and he facilitates a way to bring it to life. He’s a joy to work with.

The video took a lot of courage. As a black man it’s easy to avoid these topics and try to appear “strong”, but I have always said that vulnerability is a wonderful thing. It’s a superpower. The video begins with this Eric Andre style interview that is awkward and uneasy and then transitions to this empty space with a spotlight where I just…vent.

It’s supposed to represent the feeling of being in the spotlight in therapy but also my mind scape and me finally addressing what I am feeling, It then ends in this almost comedic, exuberant 70s disco scene where I am singing the hook alongside my band members JSTRNGS, EJ IMHO and a friend, Violet.

It’s this journey of realization and a signal of the end of that chapter in my life. I’m still anxious and I still have my doubts but I’m not held back by that anymore. I’m free and I will be heard.

This wouldn’t be possible without Connor and JSTRNGS but not just them. I also have to thank Lala Roswess who styled the entire project’s visuals, Karis Beaumont who was responsible for the “Imposter” and “Son Down” cover art, BINA who starred in the “Can I Speak?” Video, Kente Kwame who filmed “Son Down”, “Imposter” and “Pretty”. Karl Benjamin for starring in the “Pretty” video and all my friends who came together to make it all come to life.

It takes a village and community is so awe inspiring how selflessly they offer their time and resources to invest in and believe in me. It’s insane what we managed to create with little to no budget. I can’t wait to see what we come up with next.

Can I Speak? Is a project that I believe people will find when they need it and it’s hard food, not fast food. This one’s good for the soul so when you do find it, and you will, I hope you keep it close to you. Thank you for listening.

Listen to Can I Speak? below and stream it everywhere else here.

Words by Kwoli Black // Follow him on Instagram

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