AFROPUNK’s annual festival has come and gone for NYC, but that doesn’t mean it’s left our minds. As the acclaimed music festival gears up for its London stop on September 24, we’re looking back on the artists who held our attention during this year’s festivities in the Borough of Churches.
Sir The Baptist
“I felt like I had maybe been stripped of a sound that I had worked on for so long,” Sir the Baptist recalls of the moment the fusion of rap and gospel became “cool.”
Born William James Stokes in the jazz-infused Bronzeville area of South Side Chicago, the preacher’s kid had to quickly check himself.
“I had to put myself back in place and say, ‘Hey, listen. Are you here for features, are you here to be the popular guy doing this, or are you here with a mission and you want something bigger?’”
Since his father’s passing in 1998, Sir’s embarked on a journey to influence culture through music while merging religion with the secular, sociopolitical world. His music is charged with as much salvation as it is provoking aggression, and he’s not at all apologetic about it.
“I wanna affect our culture in a way that puts spirituality in it but will also challenge the one thing we rarely challenge,” he explains. “We rarely challenge religion where we are in the African American community.”
On “Raise Hell,” he blurs the line between the pew and the pulpit.
“I wanted to blur that line to say, ‘Whether you’re a good girl, bad girl, vagrant, vagabond, whether you’re a thot — whatever you are — you’re good!” he continues. “There shouldn’t be any segregation.”
And his fearlessness is nabbing him attention.
BET recently nominated “Raise Hell” for the BET Hip-Hop Awards “Impact Track of the Year,” while Jay Z gave Sir his stamp of approval following his performance at this year’s Made in America Festival.
“As long as you never stop, you’re gonna arrive somewhere,” Sir affirms.
His debut album, PK: Preacher’s Kid, is forthcoming.
Watch “Raise Hell” above.
It wouldn’t be until The Suffers played CMJ in 2014 that they’d finally find the courage to leave their 9 to 5s.
“It was really terrifying,” lead vocalist Kam Franklin remembers. “I don’t think anything could have actually prepared us for what we were getting ourselves into.”
But they knew it was time.
The 10-piece self-proclaimed Gulf Coast soul band from Houston — whose sound Franklin likens to a pot of gumbo (“soul music being the rue for the gumbo, every genre we throw on top of that being the additional ingredients,” she says) — packed their belongings into a van and never looked back.
Since then, they’ve released their debut self-titled album, performed with H-Town’s most legendary rappers, and even landed a chance to perform on Late Night with David Letterman last year.
“Patrick Cassidy, who manages Wild Child and a few other bands out of Austin, knew the producers and told them that they should come check us out,” Franklin shares. “We were just lucky enough that he just listened to Patrick’s advice and came and saw us.”
Now, Franklin says they’re looking at their place in the industry in a whole new light.
“It’s not, ‘Are we supposed to be here?’ It’s more like, ‘I’m supposed to be here, and if you don’t think so? Well, you’ll find out real quick.’”
Watch their latest video for “Midtown” above, and catch them on tour this fall.
R&B singer Xavier Omär never wanted to be a solo artist, but when he was cut after an American Idol audition in 2011, suddenly he had something to prove.
“I went out and I bought some equipment — some friends helped me, went half with me — and, man, in the first two years I put out five projects,” he says.
That fire would eventually garner the attention of renowned Soulection music producer Sango, with whom he refined his sound and released the acclaimed Hours Spent Loving You EP last year.
“Everything I’ve ever done since 2013 has some type of imprint by him, whether it’s a remix or a beat he did,” he shares.
He also cites Joe Kay and Beats 1 as major jump-starters to his career. “Working with those guys afforded me all the other opportunities that I have now — working with people like Noname and Mick Jenkins, all of these people who are where I wanna be.”
With his sights set on his official debut EP, Xavier, formerly known as SPZRKT, is ready to make his mark.
“I’m trying to do music on this EP that will solidify my place in the industry and not just trap-soul and dark, moody R&B,” he expresses.
But he’s also not separating himself from what he’s known for.
“I did those things that I feel like will work across the board, but in the future, especially when I work with Sango again? Oh, we gettin’ all the feels, we gettin’ all the moods.”
Watch a recent performance in London above.
Listen to Hours Spent Loving You here.
SOURCE: YouTube | PHOTO CREDIT: Johnny Fan
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