The Hands of an Angel: Ahya Simone

 Many may say classical music is a lost art form, but in Ayha’s world, it is not only relevant but amazing. Ayha Simone is a renowned harpist who has performed her angelic melodies from Detroit to Scotland. Her phenomenal skills as a harpist and her successful bout with modeling have allowed this beautiful trans woman to dabble in many forms of self-expression.

She’s not just an artist. As the co-founder of Trans Sistas of Color Project, a Detroit-based organization that works to impact the lives of trans women of color. She uses her voice for social justice and opportunities for trans people. As well as being against the discrimination and murders of trans people.

Seldom do you find someone with a beautiful face, spirit and talent, so it is obvious that Ayha is one in a million.

 What inspired you to play the harp?How long have you been playing?

January 2017 marks about 10 years.

 I accidentally stumbled upon the harp. I was 15 at the time and a voice student in choir at Cass Tech High School. At the time I didn’t even know harps existed; let alone had the idea of playing one.  Part of my required classes was Health. However, all the health classes were full that semester so my counselor assigned me to Harp class- I needed an elective anyway.

So on the first day, I walked into a room with 9 harps going all at once. I honestly wasn’t impressed. For at least the first week of harp class, I had every intention of dropping it next semester, but the more I played, the less I wanted to leave. The harp started to intrigue me and slowly I was advancing passed my classmates, playing more intense pieces.  Harp became my outlet in a very confusing and difficult time.  To put it succinctly, harp saved my life.

 You majored in Harp Performance at Wayne State University, how do you think that helped you as an artist?

College taught me how to perform. It taught me music theory and history and what it takes to be a professional classical musician. I’ve honestly learned so much in college. Much more than I ever wanted to learn.

You have performed at many amazing places, what has your favorite performance been?

My fave? Hands down would be Glasgow, Scotland with an amazing performance artist and DJ Juliana Huxtable.

Who is someone you’d love to play the harp for?

There’s SOOOOO MANY I can’t name just one!!!

My top 5 would be Solange, Flying Lotus, Dwele, Kaytranada, Kelela. Continue Reading

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words: Bree Gant

Bree Gant is a renowned photographer who has been featured in Fader Magazine, Metro Times, Essence Magazine and more. She is known for her projects like Lost and Crowned, work with Rock City Lookbook, and helping many artists ideas come to life.

With an eye for fashion, a creative will, and a drive to bring beautiful diasporas to life, Gant has not only been making a mark in the photography world but every art world in between. She has a plethora of amazing ideas and is not afraid to do whatever she has to, including riding with Aunt Ddot to do so. Gant continues to show the world the beauty she sees within her camera lens, and personally, I cannot get enough.

What inspired you to become a photographer?

My dad got me a pink Fujifilm point and shoot digital camera when I graduated from Cass. I got to Howard and never put it down. A friend at the University paper suggested me for the photo department and within the semester I was Photo Editor. I started blogging portraits of students on campus, and the opportunities just kept coming. I found not just an audience, but a mutual support system in women of color across the diaspora, and the world. We were in need of a new reflection of ourselves. My photos allowed me to communicate across time and space. I felt so powerful and when other Black women told me they felt the same just experiencing my work, I knew I could never give this up.

You are also a stylist; does that make your job as a photographer easier or harder?

I’m not a stylist. I’m glad you mentioned this because a lot of people think I am. I love aesthetics and adornment and fashion. I’m actively exploring my style, and even doing a little sewing these days. Having an eye for fashion definitely helps when shooting, though–especially with portraiture. It also really helps to work with dope professionals like Stephanie Blair and Lord Tini 🙂

You are a black female who is also openly queer, how do you think those elements of yourself influence your work?

It makes everything about politics, for one–whether I want it to or not. I remember going to an artist talk while I was in undergrad and hearing a white hipster chick who did embroidery in southeast DC say the phrase ‘art for art’s sake’ and mention how she keeps politics out of her work. I was heated. At the time, I thought it was because she didn’t use her work to make a statement and because gentrification was suffocating Chocolate City, and this white girl who landed a funded residency in the hood thought politics had nothing to do with her art. Later I realized I resented her ability to choose, or maybe her agency in choosing. ‘Art for art’s sake’ sounded like a fantasy to me. I never politicized my work. If I’m being honest I never even identified as a lesbian, even though half of campus thought I was. All I ever did was what I wanted to do, and let the pieces fall where they may. But one day I started carrying other people’s pieces…I guess the influence has been how to manage that weight, what it looks like to manage the weight of the world. Continue Reading

What was all the Hype about?: What is Rap without Hype Williams

Harold Hype Williams, who was born in Queens, is one of hip-hops most favored directors, like you can’t deny it. I feel as though we don’t celebrate him enough for everything he has done for the culture. C’mon, let’s think back to videos that demanded our attention almost immediately.  Hype gave us some of thee flyest visuals since the early 90’s. He taught us technique and used his skills from tagging to inspire his vibrant and bold ways of expression in his work.

I feel Hype Williams found his niche when he began working with fish-eyed lens and pairing it with a sort of cashy and cosmic aesthetic. The man made a trashbag look like gold in Missy Elliot’s Supa Dupa Fly video. Everything about this feature had various artist look like superheroes from the year 2046 who occasionally drenched themselves in a ton money. Being young I was able to enjoy his creations because of how animated they all were without caring to understand what was being said or depicted. Which, naturally, as time passed helped bury classics into my memory.



After a streak of very successful videos and a number of awards such as The Best Director Awards from Billboard (1996), The NAACP Image Award (1997), The Music Video Production Association Award for Black Music Achievement (1997) and more, Williams birthed Belly in 1998 and added some rawness with help of a few angles. Despite the acting, that people for whatever reason make the biggest deal of, the cinematics are strong. Williams made sure a statement was being made with every transition. Belly is like, duh, a staple in his career.

Druglord life looked crazy cool after an hour and 30 minutes. I was so close to being that same 12-year-old shortie with the empty life pushing what may end my existence. Yeah, Hype did that. Point me to the nearest bench and puffy coat.

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The 13th: A Whlgn Cabaret

2017 for many reasons started off pretty damn smoothly for myself and many others. For The Whlgns, however, decided to bring in the year with a sort-of traditional Detroit Cabaret. I mean of course if you have a collective such as, there’s going to be a bunch of creativity in the mix. Tony Whlgn was doing a live mural, BreAnn Whlgn took photos while Allante Whlgn sold WHLGN shirts (That Sean Whlgn screen printed) and one-of-one WHLGN pins. For quite some time The Whlgns deemed themselves early on into being the epitome of a unit that moves together fluidly. Which reminds of The Powers Rangers just with some Eastside flair, some style and a pair of buffs. You can find them on the move with a new project from Cali to Miami and in between!

Below are a few words from the perspective of Tony Whlgn about their first cabaret.

In our attempt to uplift the community in a pursuit of leisure & pleasure, we invited the Metro Detroit community to come and experience our first event & Cabaret, Whlgn style. Cabarets in Detroit, for those unfamiliar with the term, is just another name for a party at a rental hall, or in our case a former Firehouse. Instead of the usual night clubs and bars, as kids we called them “Grown Folks” parties, we decided to introduce a new venue. Our event reintroduced the idea of self-severed alcohol and welcoming B.Y.O.B. (Bring your own Bottle). The occasional food catering included chicken wings, mac n cheese, pasta, & desserts on the menu. Along with music and live entertainment, we decided to include a live Painting of a mural to put our OWN creative spin to it. It’s understandable that some people are not the club going type, however, events such as Cabarets are staples in our hood and a powerful local tradition. Kudos to the generation that uplifted the community before us and praise to the continuing new experiences, A Whlgn Cabaret For Our Generation. Some Strictly Ghetto shit, but Good vibes and a Good time.

 

Revisiting an Icon: Minnie Riperton

2016 has been full of amazing music from artists like Kanye West, Rihanna, Beyonce, Chance The Rapper, Drake, and more. Yes this year has blessed our ears, but we’re not talking about 2016 right now, we are taking it back to someone your momma and your granny used to sing in the kitchen together. The high-pitched legend Minnie Riperton! Minnie Riperton’s high falsetto has inspired many of your favorites like Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande so let’s get in that Soul Train themed time machine and see what she blessed the world with.

Most famous for her song “Loving You” where we all have tried to hit that note “la la la la la la la la do do do AHHHHHHH”. Born in 1947 in Chicago, IL no one knew she would change the sound of soul music by meeting the deeper gospel-esque voices like Aretha Franklin, with her angelic tone. Her most renowned works Perfect Angel and Adventures in Paradise claimed top spots on the R&B charts and solidified her spot as an icon in music.
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THE WEEKEND PT 2: Wednesday is when it all began

I honestly had a long ass weekend. The festivities for me started in the middle of last week. It was like Wednesday was Friday, Thursday was Friday Plus and Friday was Super Friday. Or whatever. I’m sure you understand the idea.

Okay so I was in limbo for literally two weeks about going out. I live my life as a hermit so getting out of the house can sometimes be rare. I’m that friend that says I’m busy when I’m clipping my toenails in front of my computer screen. I’ll think about it literally translates into but I need a nap. We’ll see is another of way of saying I’ll probably forget and accidentally plan something less eventful in its place. Yeah, terrible but I’m becoming more sociable.


My first stop of the week was an event named Art Babes. Art and Babes, yes. Beautiful art and the creative women behind each piece. All flaunting and supporting each other. It was such a joyous event. Everyone came out for it even the lil babies. Everything (the art, refreshments, music) was provided by women and the ability to work together as a unit was represented quite well. Once all the adults left, aside from the beautifully aged couple ball rooming their hearts away, a party started. One I wasn’t expecting but appreciated soon after! Continue Reading

Warsan Shire: The Poetess Featured on Beyonce’s Lemonade

If you haven’t heard Beyoncé’s new album” Lemonade” you must be roommates with Patrick Star because you live under a rock. Lately Beyoncé has had intense messages of police brutality, feminism, and moving on from your no good boyfriend in her music whilst challenging the current state of music; But she hasn’t been doing it on her own. On this project she called on the 27-year-old poet Warsan Shire.

Warsan Shire is a mosaic of beauty and culture. Born in Kenya to Somali parents and now residing in London she is known for her poetry on life as a woman and immigrant. Her poem “The Unbearable Weight of Staying fits right into the theme of a powerful woman’s self discovery.

Shire’s published works like Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, “Her Blue Body” and audio works like Warsan versus Melancholy: The Seven Stages of Being Lonely show you why an icon like Beyoncé would choose to have such a majestic soul on her project to help paint her masterpiece. She has been awarded by Brunel University receiving their African Poetry Prize. She is also Young Poet Laurete of London and Queensland Australia’s Poet in Residence.

Since the release of “Lemonade” Warsan Shire has laid low, not posting on social media, or doing any interviews adding to the beauty of her words by remaining mysterious. Beyoncé was excellent by adding the art of spoken word to her already incredible project.