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Blog Posts (283)

  • Koffee Album & Launch Party Review: Gifted

    Koffee’s debut album, Gifted, is an album which foregrounds gratitude and positivity whilst reflecting on the societal issues of Koffee’s country, Jamaica. The ten track project which has no features showcases Koffee's ability to create hooks that stay with you - even from the first listen and seamlessly move between genres-specifically Reggae and Dancehall, creating feel good music with a message. Held in the deceptively big Boiler House in Brick Lane, The Gifted release party combined elements which made the evening authentic to Koffee, not only were there videos and pictures of Koffee around the venue, but also quotes from her on the walls, faux palm trees, afro hair products being handed out. From saltfish fritters, festival, and plantain (the DJ playfully made it clear that tonight it was to only be called ‘plan-TIN.’) given out to guests through to the bathroom mirror having affirmations in patois on it. The Gifted cover art, and the sounds from Koffee’s charismatic DJ set the tone for the party and her performance to come. Reggae and Dancehall hits were played throughout the night encouraging everyone to dance and have a good time - free-flowing Wray & Nephew, and Magnum might have had something to do with that too. Koffee sounds as good live as she does on her records. As it was only right to do so, the performance started with the fan-favourite, Toast, which had everyone that wasn’t already in the crowd rush to the stage as soon as they heard the bassline. Throughout her set she was accompanied by two dancers, an amazing band (particularly the horn section), and blue, red, and purple lights which added to the already lively atmosphere. In between performing songs from Gifted, her dancers appeared on stage again in their matching white outfits which meant it was time for us to dance again – and of course, with Rapture being played, the audience was already on the same page. “The message I would like to pass on is that one, we’re all gifted - because life is a gift.” Gifted begins with X10. Sampling Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, it is a gentle, uplifting opener showcasing Koffee’s soft vocals, acoustic guitars, and drums. With its message of gratitude, “thank you father for blessing me times ten,” X10 sets the tone for the rest of the album. In the fifty-seven-second-long song ‘Defend,’ Koffee discusses political corruption, crime, and poverty. As a big rap fan, Defend, is a favourite on the album because of Koffee’s flow, diction, and the melodic way she effortlessly blends singing and rapping. It was no surprise to find out that Kendrick Lamar was present in the studio during the creation of this track. Throughout Gifted, Koffee explores an array of genres: some signature to her, and some new. ‘Shine’ is produced by Jae5, and despite being lyrically heavy, it is a hopeful track that straddles Reggae and Pop. Track nine of the album Pull Up, is also a Jae5 production but is starkly different from ‘Shine-’ instead it is a fun and carefree Afrobeats track which is distinctive to Jae5’s sound, but new to Koffee. The romantic track Lonely is also refreshing to hear as it pays homage to e Lovers rock. “Coming from the West Indies, and you know say we giving them the best indeed.” Despite having been released in October, ‘West Indies’ is still a standout track on Gifted. It’s an anthem about enjoyment with incredible replay value that the crowd was happy to hear when it was performed. Koffee describes it as a song “about having fun, whatever mood you’re in,” and she definitely achieved this. Not only is it a tribute to her home and Jamaican heritage, but it is also a celebration of her achievements. “Where will we go when di quarantine ting done and everybody touch road?” Lockdown seems to be the perfect ending to the project – in a way that feels almost cathartic. It was released in 2020, and sums up what many would have experienced over the past two years. Somehow it feels like a privilege to be able to enjoy a song on this topic when being in lockdown was bleak for so many, and perhaps that’s why, when it was performed live it was met with such excitement from the crowd.

  • In Conversation With: Estare Areola for Instagram 'Black Perspectives' Initiative

    Throughout the ‘Black Perspectives’ initiative, Lifestyle content creator, Estare Areola, and three other Black creatives will be working with Instagram to champion the next generation of Black creators across fashion, entertainment, activism, music, and media. Estare’s Creator Quest will see her working with four up-and-coming content creators, across a number of challenges, to help them take their content “to the next level.” Estare is looking for candidates “who are dedicated, and passionate about creating content no matter what it’s about. There needs to be a sense of love and appreciation for the craft, what they’re about, and wanting to share their story. I believe every piece of content has a story behind it. Whether through music, the captions used, even the pace the video is edited at.” Other than a sincere love for creating content, community is an instrumental part of why Estare wanted to be a part of ‘Black Perspectives,’ and a “genuine interest in connecting with the community” is a value she would like her mentees to have too. Through the Creator Quest, Estare is hoping to become a better teacher, but also to learn from her mentees. “I want to learn how to connect with my audience and community a bit better, and a bit more. It would be good to learn more about how to be a more personable content creator for them.” Estare praises Instagram for, refreshingly, giving her creative freedom to create her challenges, and supporting her whilst doing so. “It’s different from working with a brand where they send you the brief and you create the content. It's much bigger than that, and much more exciting. Instagram has shown that they’re dedicated to supporting emerging creatives, but also creators like myself: giving great advice, and what also feels like mentorship. It’s important that Instagram has four creatives from very different sectors, with different niches, and different projects.” Instagram is giving inspiring figures within the Black community the platform to share their knowledge and pass it on to other Black creatives. This step in the right direction is important to Estare who “often felt overseen, underappreciated, overshadowed” at the beginning of her career. Even now, “I’m used to going to events or being part of campaigns where I'm the only Black girl in the campaign or invited to events where it felt like I was just there to fill a quota, but, with this initiative, Instagram didn't look at our followers or engagement, just us and what we had to offer. It makes me feel powerful, like what I have to say matters. I spend a lot of time creating on Instagram so it’s nice to feel recognised.” “Being one of the biggest social platforms in the world, having people from all walks of life using it, I think it’s amazing that Black creators are being championed through this initiative. Ultimately we create the trends, the hype, we’re great at creating a buzz, and I think it’s about time that we feel appreciated for doing that. This is for us, by us, for our people.” Estare doesn’t want Creator Quest to be the end of her work with the community, but rather the “blueprint for the future.” She is already thinking of ways to give back, share the knowledge from the challenges more widely, and make the information accessible, and “impactful” for everyone. Especially with the past two years we’ve all had, taking the initiative offline and “creating a space, in person, where people can connect better” is of interest to Estare too. “It would be wonderful for creators to meet each other because the experience is different. You’d get to see people different from how you see them online. Perception can be a barrier between someone and their next opportunity.” Estare takes pride in her craft and does what she can to make sure it’s the best. For her, “influence comes with the job,” but she is a content creator first. “I want to be taken seriously. This work takes time and sacrifices. Hopefully people can see it’s not just a fleeting thing, and it will teach people to have a bit more respect for our crafts.” Be yourself. For creators hoping to stand out, Estare is looking for people that “try that little bit more to make their work different from everybody else's, go above and beyond, make things more personal.” This is something she has always done throughout her career, and it has paid off. Follow #BlackPerspectives and find out how to get involved with The Creator Quest with Estare @estaregrams

  • In Conversation With: Ibrahim Kamara For Instagram 'Black Perspectives' Initiative

    “Community” and “Legacy” are two steering forces behind the life of 27-year-old digital entrepreneur and GUAP Magazine co-founder, Ibrahim Kamara. The platform which in 2015 started off as a cross between digital and print through augmented reality has evolved over the years into a multi-faceted company with an online magazine, events, creative studios, and an award-nominated in-house creative agency. Like most of us, Ibrahim was inspired by his mother and Father. Growing up in South London, he was exposed to the importance of amalgamation through his parents. Both of whom arrived in England in the late eighties and early nineties. To make ends meet, both worked in a factory and lived in a one-bedroom house. “Together they started a money transfer business together which enabled people from Sierra Leone to send money back home” he says. Through the business, they were able to cater to the South London Sierra Leone community which would continue to grow as years passed by. The importance of building something for the sake of your community and responding to an obvious need were there to be seen for Ibrahim. The seed had been sown. GUAP, which has been a hub for emerging creatives since its inception in 2015 has placed Ibrahim in a position to continue giving back to his community through the Black Perspectives initiative. Black Perspectives is part of Instagram's ongoing commitment to championing and supporting the careers of young Black creators on the platform and beyond. Ibrahim along with the three other creators will also work with the teams at Meta to help inform product and policy developments that support creator well-being and equity on Instagram. The aim is to empower and champion emerging creators from the worlds of fashion, activism, entertainment, and media. Ibrahim’s role in the programme will see him take on a mentoring role with five aspiring creators across 6-weeks where they will be required to deliver an editorial, video and images in response to the themes of “legacy” and “community”. Both of which were chosen by Ibrahim in honour of his late father. Ibrahim was clearly moved by the actions of his parents during his childhood, and especially his father, who as well as owning the money transfer business had an internet café which became a central hub for the community in Peckham. An area in South London that in the past has been known for having a strong Afro-Caribbean presence. “My Dad was a leader in his community and his shop was a central hub for the community” he reflects. “Young people that didn’t have stuff to do, he would let them use his internet café so that they’re off the streets.” Despite flourishing as an academic in school, Ibrahim was also inspired by the art of clashing and storytelling as a grime MC known as Icon. His adoration for music and grime in particular was strengthened by the role models around him, who helped to steer towards a path of making music and gave him a positive avenue to focus his creative skill set on. “When I was making music, it was just something that I liked doing. When I find something, I like doing, I go hard at it. Like, I become a nerd. I had my cousin who was really good. There were people that used to spit that I liked how they spat, and I thought ‘I can be like them one day.” The same mindset Ibrahim had as a young teenager, in seeking to replicate his role models, is a dynamic he is looking to recreate through his role in the Black Perspective. During the recent launch of the initiative on Instagram, Ibrahim spoke of his pride in being Black and why being able to give back is of such importance to him. “I’ve never seen being Black as a problem. For me, that’s a superpower. There’s been a very huge shift in people understanding the power of our work and our cultural influence. Knowing how to pitch or knowing how to present their ideas and knowing how to utilise the money. All that kind of stuff. It isn’t knowledge that readily available, so I kind of wanted to create an initiative that gives some creative chance to do what we do on a day-to-day basis and share up the knowledge.” As mentioned earlier, GUAP, which in 2015 started off as the world’s first video magazine, has evolved over the years into a multi-faceted entity. The success of GUAP doesn’t come as a shock to Ibrahim. It was in the plan. Both him and his business partner Jide Adetunji saw it coming. What has caught him off guard is the speed at which GUAP has reached such lofty heights. “The timing has surprised me, but I don’t’ think the success has surprised me because I feel we had this in our plans. It is just about when it would happen.” The wide range of characters, skill sets and talent that comes from the Black community has forever been a thing. It has always existed. This is nothing new. Yet, it has taken years of suffering, hard work, resolve from trailblazers before us, to get to a point where the work produced is afforded its just dues. It would also be folly to ignore the importance of social media, which has given people a voice and platform of their own. The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the world and led to people living within stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces. Whilst this period unearthed a range of creatives that were able to utilise their spare time and talents in a way that wasn’t previously possible, it also birthed a social awakening across the world through the tragic death of the late George Floyd. Since his passing, Ibrahim has noticed a shift in the way platforms seek to be seen as progressive and offer diversity in representation. “I feel like COVID was the first time everyone had to stop, so you couldn’t ignore what was happening. With COVID everything was on pause, so we were all watching the same videos and watching the same content, so it was hard to just brush things off. I think there was a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) where no one wants to be left out in like supporting a cause, and it created a spiral. A good spiral, though.”Whilst Ibrahim is excited by the prospect of sharing the vast knowledge that he has acquired with the budding creatives he is primed to work with, he is also someone that sees the programme as an opportunity to learn from the successful candidates. “I thrive off young, creative, new energy” he says excitedly. Almost as if he’s already envisaging the vibe created when work begins with cohort. Yet, Ibrahim is clear that despite enjoying his journey as an entrepreneur seeking to provide a platform for creatives, it isn’t an easy, seamless voyage. With it will come bumps and bruises along the way. All a learning curve towards the path of success. “I hope they get the reality of the business side to this creative world. That they get a model to follow when they go out and get a brief sent to them. And the confidence that they can actually turn a brief into a campaign and get paid for it.” The other key theme of the programme alongside community will be legacy. An ode to those that have left an imprint on the world which will live on forever. Whilst still being very young himself, Ibrahim is someone that has accomplished so much yet finds himself contemplating what his impact on the world will look like. “I think over the last couple of months, people I’ve known have passed away. Even though they’re gone their legacy will remain” he says. The recent passing of Jamal Edwards left the community in shock and devastation. However, it was also a reminder of how important it is to continue to support and uplift those around you. To show love and guidance to people because the overall impact on the community supersedes any personal accolades one could achieve. The impact of their work and the person they were means that they’re not gone at all. They live on through those they touched and inspired. Ibrahim’s selflessness and determination to positively impact his community means that he has already cemented himself as an inspiration to those seeking to follow his footsteps and leave behind a legacy that will forever be remembered.

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