At the end of the day, we just want to touch each other
As we blindly tumble deeper into the digital age, intimacy and personal connection begins to fade along with the sense of local community. Black Cracker, man of many talents, explores this evolution from the natural to the virtual in his recent record release ‘Come As U R’. He invited us to sit down during his sound check at Joy Eslava for an in-depth chat about his music, romance in a digital era and his on-going battle as a sensitive artist in an insensitive space such as the internet.
During the early chapters of his creative journey, Black Cracker moved to New York to study Visual Arts at the New York Studio Residency Program. After a semester he dropped out and started work at the Dia Arts Foundation where he was exposed to a lot of 60s minimalist artwork from artists such as Donald Judd Joseph Beuys and Robert Irwin. “Art from the 60’s really spoke to me because it also included performance. When I approach music I’m not super musical, I don’t try to make good music, I want to make a good experience. So I think for me this is very influential”. A lot of his creative influences come from the art world but musically he expressed his love for the poetic and minimalistic style of the ballroom culture pointing particularly at DJ MikeQ and his work with Qween Beats. “If you’re not in the context it still works but it becomes magical when you are. I feel like some music you can put it anywhere and it doesn’t gain power or lose power, but some music, if you experience it at its core you see in its best light.”
Best known for his music, the Alabama born artist’s spectrum of work ranges from poetry to publishing. As a man of trans experience he spreads his vision through a long list of mediums that continues to grow, exploring his creative freedom from his home studio in Berlin. “I really appreciate doing a lot of different types of things because maybe they’re not all successful but eventually I’m growing to a pinnacle. I think this album and the images that go with it is one step closer to me finding the right medium to express my art”.
His live shows are an example of his natural ability to bring together the breadth of his creative output. Using visual aids he stems away from your typical rap gig, instead creating a powerful and sentimental performance installation. “I still try to entertain people but not in the same way. What I will do next is the same thing but in theatre”. His use of visuals appear to be an essential part of his art, as he continues this theme with ‘Come As U R’, with plans of releasing a video for almost every track. “I always take photos and videos everywhere I go, but they never have a place. They’re not premeditated videos, they’re just moments in my life thinking about different things and experiencing things for the first time. It’s very reflective. So for me it was never the intention but through the process of working on the album I wanted to explore all these ideas of working with natural and virtual. It made sense to use them”. While other artists fight to be noticed, he purposely uses simple and unexciting images, highlighting the competitive nature off the music industry.
Musically this album doesn’t scream for any attention, rather it’s a very relaxing meditation on growth, romance and evolution. It’s an easy listen and focuses on how we are deviating further and further from intimacy as a result of the internet, technology and the speed of life. “We have all these things like social media and it’s supposed to bring us together but it brings us together in such a non-human way and at the end of the day, we just want to touch each other”.
His hip hop influenced sound falls somewhere between RnB and Jersey Club. Classifying his music however is something he conceptually deals with, as he tackles the stereotypes that come with being an artist of colour. “I want to help expand or break apart the lineage of racism and what people think when they see a male artist of colour because generally they think it’s hip hop and they think it’s going to be about money of drugs or a whole other range of other ignorant subject matters that is just coming out of the legacy of racism. So me, I try to destroy people’s matrix, because I think they see me and they expect something and then every song I just try to dismantle what their expectations are. Hopefully by the end they are even questioning why they thought that”.
Taking advantage of his versatility he extends his limits with a range of collaborations such as performance art with T/HE/Y, publishing with book project Your +1 and Jazz with Grand Pianoramax. We asked him why escaping his comfort zone and combining ideas with other artists is so important to him. “I think fundamentally I’m a better collaborator than a solo artist because I don’t have the ego it requires to push through and that’s not a negative thing. I am just a very fragile person but I can see what support other people need”. His modesty was refreshing however collaborating can sometimes dilute focus from the direction you want to head in; he went on to explain. “Of course, and this has been an issue. For instance, for a long time I have done something with a jazz project [Grand Pianoramax] and it’s a really different crowd. But after a while it’s like, why am I here? Why am I doing this project that is making me a smaller version of myself. But I learnt so much. So it’s like a long as you keep the awareness that you’re making choices and don’t let those choices overcome who you are then you can navigate through it. It’s a challenge! On the other hand it also becomes financial. The more places you put your talent the more you have the opportunity to succeed.”
This idea of real life connection is channelled into his work, and has formed the warm and charismatic multi talented artist that we know today. Fishing for gems, I asked him what advice he would have for young creatives, and he responded in true Black Cracker fashion. “What I try and encourage most is: don’t be dependent on the system of hype because otherwise you’re it’s slave and no artist should be a slave to any industry”.