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UnitedMasters puts control back into the artist’s hands with new app

Necessity is the mother of invention. There is so much that is needed in the music industry but it can feel like things are slow to change. But there are those that spearhead that change, and UnitedMasters is one of them.

Where SoundCloud attempted to keep its platform democratic for all levels of music producers especially those on the come up, UnitedMasters went further and made it easier for those same musicians to spread their craft and get that bag too.

Truthfully, UnitedMasters is putting artists in charge of the music industry.

What is UnitedMasters?

UnitedMasters is an app that makes it possible for artists to upload their music to all the major distributors while staying independent. The app also provides tools for marketing.

In the age of DIY, UnitedMasters uses the resources of tech to help artists breach the gap of success. The company saves artists’ big and small-time, money and most importantly creative freedom.

UnitedMasters is like a record company without all the rules and limitations, perfect for artists who are and want to stay independent.

How does it work?

You can upload your music to Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, YouTube, Amazon Music, and TIDAL, all from one place. You can even release tracks from iMessage. But the app doesn’t stop there.

After you upload your music you can check how it’s doing with streaming metrics all in one place, for every track. No more checking Spotify and Apple Music separately.

“The app puts all of that freedom and control in the palm of their hand. Our team has worked hard to create a product that is fast and easy to use so that a new generation of artists can grow and advance their careers straight from their phone,” said United Masters Founder Steve Stoute.

The app isn’t some experiment either, it’s seen success with artists that are trying to stay independent and beat the record label contract system. UnitedMasters has 50,000 artists signed up. NLE Choppa has seen half a billion streams, three million new followers and a platinum single.

The Memphis rapper is also the focus of UnitedMasters’ new documentary, exploring the rise to fame and navigating the music industry post-blow up.  Lil Tecca’s track “Ransom” is the No.1 song on SoundCloud and still rising on Billboard Charts.

What else is there to prove? Tobe Nwigwe has sold out shows across the U.S. K’Valentine who was the voice of Hulu’s Women’s Month Campaign and Kota The Friend has millions of streams, since using the platform.

What’s even doper? UnitedMasters also has partnerships with big brands like the NBA, NFL, Bose, and MLB.

Why switch from the traditional Record Label?

The startup was founded by Steve Stoute, the former president of Interscope Records. Stoute and likeminded individuals saw how record labels kept failing to change with the times, stuck on old marketing tactics and physical album sales.

Stoute brings a gaming mindset to music by targeting the most engaged fans with artists merch and concert tickets. UnitedMasters brings the most lucrative aspects of new tech together with the creativity, giving artists the fruits of their labor.

“Label started doing 360 deals because they margins were drying up [as CD sales declined], but they weren’t providing a 360 service” Stoute explains.

When they sign up, artists pay a competitive rate to UnitedMasters in order to distribute their music. Both the artist and UnitedMasters split the royalties but – and this is major –the artist gets to keep the rights to the master recordings.

“It’s very important that an artist’s jobs is to be a great artist” says Stoute. “The infrastructure around them should be helping them get more money at efficient rates, not owning their masters and taking from them.”

With UnitedMasters, Prince’s advice to ditch your exploitative record label is lucrative. Chance, The Rapper will no longer be the exception to the rule. And Nipsey Hussle’s vision to own the fruits of your labor continues.

Why you should be listening Lizzo: The funkadelic artist merging genres

The epitome of free-flow confidence and a “me, myself, and I kind of attitude,” Lizzo is well-grounded in all elements of music. 

Struck at the roots of her funkadelic style is defying bits of hip-hop, gospel soul, rock and even pop. Yet, her lyrics dig into the gist of things.

Like a true Taurus, Lizzo has the ability to see things from a realistic perspective. She’s hit rock bottom more than once. Still, Lizzo found out how to fuck with herself and pass along the message. 

In simple terms, she’s a body positive ally who doesn’t ascribe to one thing. One twirl at a time Lizzo speaks on love, self-worth, assurance, and Black girl magic. 

Recently at Coachella in sparkly leotards,  Lizzo was given a clear space to bust out some high range notes on her flute. Whilst allowing Sasha Flute to save the day, she played a bit of “Juice” and fans couldn’t help but sing along to the infectious tune.

At that moment, Lizzo was poised to show off her sass and sovereign female dominance.

Dubbed as Melissa Jefferson on a day where April showers brought May flowers, Detroit born Lizzo took a bit of shine to funk-soul and rap then moved to Houston, TX. 

At the age of 10, she received a flute from her father as a gift but at 14, Lizzo formed her own group. Moreso they called themselves “Cornrow Clique” and they took pride in packing heat when they rhymed. 

From high school to college, Lizzo clutched onto her flute. Eventually, she went on to study music at the University of Houston with a scholarship but everything changed once her father passed away.

After fleeing to Missouri at 20-years-old, Lizzo‘s window of opportunity opened when she met Prince. Once they got familiar with each other, they worked on Prince’s album Plectrumelectrum.

From there, Lizzo collaborated with other artists such as Bastille but this was only the beginning. After tweeting “I want to work with Lazerbeak,” The producer responded quick in agreement and simply asked for in return is payment in the Mike’s Hard Lemonade form.

The duo then worked nonstop on her skin deep debut album Lizzobangers. Thanks to a suggestion made by the producer about the song “Worship,” Lizzo transitioned to singing and has stuck with it since.

The beats at most carry a high base to triumph her differences — as stated in “W.E.R.K Pt II“ she doesn’t need to conform to gender roles. After all, she’s “such a freakin lady, classy and beautiful/Thinking like a man, for those who don’t understand/Is having two grips to gain the upper hand.”

Lizzo has always expressed her uniqueness through song.

Fast forward to 2019 and we have Lizzo’s most recent release Cause I Love You, an album that’s meshed with unapologetic notations, self-love anthems and a juxtaposition of genres.

It’s enough to tempt the most jaded old head to listen. Whether you love or hate her, she doesn’t care. As quoted in her song “Juice,”

“It ain’t my fault that I’m out here makin’ news/I’m the pudding in the proof/Gotta blame it on my juice.”

This album also reflects on her individuality — the flute being the forefront of its sound. Still, this album leans towards her harmonious ways than rapping style. From the opening, her notes can be heard well and the emotion is felt.

A great example is heard in “Cause I Love You.” Here she attempts to express her devotion to a man who changed her life.

“Got me standing in the rain/Gotta get my hair pressed again/I would do it for you all, my friend/Ready baby? Will you be my man?/Wanna put you on a plane/Fly you out to wherever I am/Catch you on the low, I was ashamed/Now I’m crazy, about to ‘tatch your name.”

On some real ish, Lizzo holds the crown. Even when her thick thighs can’t save lives, Sasha Flute always gets the job done. The multi-artist doesn’t hide emotion and is comfortable in her own skin.

On the whole, she’s ready to tell all. Said best by Lizzo in “Heaven Help Me,”

“Y’all, who you think you sassing? (Sassing)/Say whoa, baby, I’m a classic.”

How Tash Sultana is bringing multi-instrumental artistry back to music

When you listen to Tash Sultana’s track “Notion,” you feel yourself immediately pulled by the opening guitar riff and the looping electric drum beats and synths that follow.

It builds with a soothing and sweeping guitar arpeggio and the multilayered sound runs sweetly alongside the singer’s vocal range and the soul-baring tonality of their bluesy voice.

Indeed, their voice has traveled extensively — reverberating from the streets of Melbourne, Australia, busking and performing open-mics at local pubs and bars — to now selling out shows in stadium-packed arenas and playing at the biggest music festivals across the globe.

Though the scale of their audience has changed dramatically, when you watch the early videos of musician’s busking days, the image of Sultana surrounded by speakers, a web of electric cords and loop pedals at their feet, reveal that their artistry hasn’t changed all that much. The sense of intimacy remains intact and their sound has a visceral effect on their audience.

In being able to play over 15 instruments, Sultana owns the title of a multi-instrumentalist. Though they have mastered instruments like the guitar, saxophone, trumpet, flute, bass and drums, Sultana’s goal is to learn as many instruments as possible.

Evidently, the 24-year-old artist is committed to their craft. Everything they know about music, they have learned in their own time.

After they received a GoPro from their mother one Christmas, Sultana started filming her jam sessions. Then, they posted a video of herself playing their now-hit, “Jungle.” Sultana’s YouTube channel gained 10,000 followers overnight and the video was shared, over and over again. Two years since it was posted, it has just under 37 million views.

After their videos went viral, they went on to record their 6-track EP, Notion, that they later toured with.

Through their trance-like guitar solos, you get the sense that there is something cathartic to the whole experience for Sultana. Their sweeping scales and playful use of different instruments in their tracks suggest that the artist revels in exploring all the sonic possibilities music has to offer.

Sultana, however, has also been candid about their past, citing how at the age of 17, they developed a drug-induced psychosis that took months of therapy to enable them to get back to a good place and mindset. Music was a form of therapy for the Australian artist.

In an interview with The Feed SBS VICELAND, Sultana describes that difficult time in her life explaining,

“It’s like I opened a can of worms and I couldn’t put them back away. It took ages to put it back together. I remember once, I could not understand if I was actually alive or my whole life was a lie/ a dream or if I was dead and in an unconscious state. I couldn’t actually differentiate between the two,”

Sultana admits that the difficult period of their life, in all likelihood, shapes the way in which they create their music. Yet, the musician isn’t looking to dwell on the past. They insist that they are in a very different place now and their music reflects that.


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handful of tickets left for my Sydney show- link in bio Photo @daramunnis 🌝

A post shared by TASH SULTANA (@tashsultanaofficial) on Nov 6, 2018 at 9:45pm PST

Sultana’s music defies any neat category of genre, aligning with their no-bullshit attitude and their aversion to ascribing to the expectations and conventions set out by the industry. It’s a sublime sonic conflation of jazz, rock, pop, reggae, and soul. Every riff, beat, and melody builds and oozes into each other. Music simply exudes out of the artist, just like a flow state to which their debut album describes.

Their debut 62-minute album, Flow State, is composed of a repertoire of tracks Sultana had written years ago. The multi-instrumentalist admits that they struggle with the recording process. In an interview with Billboard, they explained,

“I would say that I am a live artist — the studio is something that I have to do because that is how you market yourself. It is a different art. When I do that crossover to live I change it up because I don’t want play it like I played it in the studio. I want it to have life. It has to have life. It needs to be born somewhere and that’s the stage.”

With fame and success, especially in the digital age, however, comes the pressure to have your whole self accessible to the public. Sultana noted in an interview with NME,

“The music is not enough for people now, I find. They want everything else as well.”

Yet, Sultana isn’t interested in capitulating to the numbers game or exhibiting themselves in any titillating music video performances, that characterize the body of work of the most popular artists today. Their fierce commitment to privacy is central to preserving both their genius and a state of respite for their mind.

The music video for the Flow State track, “Cigarettes” is composed of various VCR home videos that showcase how Tash’s musical journey began at an early age; in which they are shown strumming the guitar at the age of three. Sultana remains enthralled by the fact that their music connects to so many people, expressing to The Feed SBS VICELAND,

“I love the fact that there are so many people who have come to appreciate what I’m doing, that is just the best feeling in the world.”

At the same time, the artist is committed to seeing how far they can take their solo-act live shows, as they declared to ABC News,

“I haven’t put myself in a box and I don’t have a limitation.”

Plus, since their live shows have already taken the multi-instrumentalist all around the world in just a short span of time, why not?

Acknowledging that other people’s artistry and ideas will be another site where they can continue to learn and develop their music, Sultana is looking forward to linking up and collaborating with different artists.

Their genre-blending musical style, speaks to the Sultana’s free spirit and infectious energy; indicative of a true artist.


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Photo by @daramunnis

A post shared by TASH SULTANA (@tashsultanaofficial) on Oct 2, 2018 at 4:03pm PDT

LA artist Meg Zany is the renegade inspiring with creative courage

The courage to chase your dreams isn’t manifested in a specific type of human being. “Courage has no gender,” and if allowed, its able to blossom in everyone. Its survival only depends on whether your soul accepts it.

Sometimes it can be a certain event or boredom of cowardice that sparks the feeling. Regardless of whatever happened, we are all able to tap into that emotional resource at some point in our lives.

For street artist Meg Zany, it took time to accept the courage she needed to pursue a creative career and, for her, changing the world by empowering other people was worth giving up her cozy 9 to 5.

Like most of us, the LA-based visionary thought the only way to make “hard cash” was by slaving away at a desk in corporate America although her roots stem from a creative foundation.

Photo Credit: Jean-Paul Builes

After eight years of corporate recruiting, she finally said, “fuck it, life is too short,” swam upstream, and decided that it was time to be who she was truly destined to become — a beacon of artistic inspiration for everyone around the world.

With a spray can in hand, a couple of mobile stencils, and some money in her savings,  Zany’s creative career truly began after she took her craft to the streets. It didn’t come easy and Zany has “worked her ass off,” to get to where she is today. Thus far, her work has made it onto the walls of buildings across America and into European galleries across the pond. She told us,

“I dissolved my company and went into it wholeheartedly. The biggest part of this was that I was doing it for me… I wanted to empower people to do what they want. I feel like I’m going to change the world through empowering other people, putting people on blast that are already changing the world, and people that are creating new social norms.”

Zany celebrates a special kind of hero and through her aesthetic, she hopes to encourage everyone to grab America’s major social issues by the balls. Proving it, the renegade creative recently spraypainted the slogan “Courage has no Gender” around the head of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The Associate Justice of the US Supreme court is a badass and if you are unaware of Ginsberg’s work she is well-known for the trail she’s blazed for females and the LGBTQ community in America. 

Ginsberg isn’t the only powerful woman Zany has used in her beautification campaign. The “Courage has no Gender” slogan was first inspired by another powerful human, Amelia Earhart.

Photo Credit: Jean-Paul Builes

These icons that have shifted the social norms are important incorporations into Zany’s artistic works not only because they have been an inspiration to her but also because they represent the universal message of courage. Zany explained,

“We need to celebrate these people that are doing these things. It’s not to be taken lightheartedly. People that are out there just killing it should be embraced.”

Beyond paying homage to America’s modern heroes, the LA-based street artist has mantras dedicated to empowerment like “Females with Male Privilege” juxtaposed next to a woman ready for an artistic war. Her character, ready to take on the world, wears combat boots, a gas mask, and a dress.

For most onlookers, it’s easy to figure out why Zany might’ve painted the character. The piece does represent the struggles women face on the daily like the gender wage gap, the disgusting male gaze, and constant objectification.

Photo Credit: Jean-Paul Builes

Additionally, it represents a final embrace of equality and all humans having the same starting point. Zany reflected on the times she was a corporate American, discussed the issue of women not being taken seriously, and ranted about the unfairness of white privilege. She said,

“The percentage of CEOs, female to male, is gross. As women are dipping into the corporate world I hope those numbers start to change soon. It needs to be embraced and women need to be taken seriously. I think that instead of having white privilege people should have the same jumping off point. Hey, we’re all humans doing this human thing.”

As we look to embrace 2019 and all of the issues that have carried over from the previous year the renegade creative looks to tackle an additional problem at hand. Using her art she has paired up with TOMS to end gun violence together with the people of America.

Although Zany is aware of the concrete history behind the Second Amendment, she believes in the need for universal and mental background checks before anyone is able to carry a firearm legally.

Photo Credit: Jean-Paul Builes

For sure she is helping “shake the boundaries” around the Second Amendment along with TOMS and the artists involved.

Thus far, she’s spread the #EndGunViolenceTogether message and has hit up walls in San Antonio, LA, Brussels, and Paris. There’s a long way to go as TOMS plans to have 500+ pieces tagged all around the globe.

It’s obvious that the main goal for Zany is to spread a message of positivity and diversity. For the youth who are looking to take the same path and inspire the world with their creativity, the radical visionary said,

“Do what you love and do it for you. Have no fear when you’re seeking to succeed.”

Susy Oludele connects Black women to their natural selves at The Lady Exhibit

For centuries, we as Black women have used our hair not just for simple aesthetics, but as a canvas. Our tresses are arms of creativity and voices for our culture we can use each and every single day.

While the 80’s and 90’s were definitelyyyyyy heavy creamy crack years, there has been more appreciation for and education on natural hairstyles these days not to mention, more creatives emerging in the space.

One of the most inspiring creatives in natural hair is Susy Oludele or as she goes by on IG, AfricanCreature. Susy’s signature, enigmatic styles have graced the tresses of Beyonce (yes, the Lemonade braids), Solange, Justine Skye, and more. Despite the famous clientele, anyone can make an appointment at HairyBySusy.

Photo Credit: @justindjohnson_

Students, nurses, and artists all alike go to the shop in East New York to not just get their hair done but to get an experience. See, for Susy, hairstylists are more than just beauticians, they’re healers of the community. In an interview with Kulture Hub, she told me,

“When someone sits in my chair, I like to open the energy, introduce myself, I wanna know who they are, what they do, what their lifestyle is because all of that comes into play on how to do their hairstyle. If someone is an athlete, you would wanna do a style that fits them for their everyday wear but still different at the same time. I try to cultivate each style according to their lifestyle, their swag, where they’re from. I love when it’s collaborative because if you have something that you like, and I have something that I like and we put it together, it’s just something amazing.”

Susy recently released her first book, Lady, filled with portraits that tell the stories behind her favorite styles. To celebrate the launch of Lady, Susy teamed up with Okay Africa for the Lady Exhibit — an exhibition embracing the strength and beauty of black women and our hair.

Photo Credit: @justindjohnson_

To put together the looks in the book, Susy partnered with several creatives who she felt are inspiring Black women within the beauty/lifestyle industries including; Kiitan A., Nneoma, Ronke Raji and Chizi Duru who she also honored during opening night.

Opening night also included a live painting by Ike Slimster, spins from Odalys, dance performances, suya bites and a full-on fashion show with models sporting the latest from Eldior Sodeck. The event kicked off a lady empowerment week with events centered around living your best damn life.

Throughout the week, attendees learned about health and wellness, financial literacy, and even got a hair tutorial from Susy herself. The week capped off with a good ol’ paint and sip because drinking with your girls while learning how to a sunset just soothes the soul.

“The Lady Exhibit was just an idea I had in my head about two years ago. All of my clients that came into my salon kept talking about their hairstyles not being allowed in the workplace. ‘I can’t do box braids, I can’t do color, I can’t do afros’. Those hairstyles are just too cultured.”

Photo Credit: @justindjohnson_

The racial bias in what’s considered “professional” at work has been an issue for too got damn long now. Y’all remember a couple years ago when it was discovered a Google search for “unprofessional hairstyles for work,” will show numerous photos of Black women sporting naturals like fro’s while a search for “professional hairstyles” only showed images of white women?

This is a problem that has suffocated many women of color in the office, making them feel compelled that straight hair is the way to go if they want to be successful.

This association and stigmatization of hairstyles and conduct is just disrespectful to the culture and inspired Susy to create an exhibit to show how multifaceted natural hairstyles are, and how multifaceted we as Black women can be.

“This is a problem. If everyone keeps saying the same thing and everyone has a problem, I have to do something about it because this is something that is coming to the salon. Once again, we’re healers, we’re not just doing hair, we’re speaking to the culture at the end of the day. From that, I was like ‘I gotta have a hair exhibit, I gotta show people you can still be swaggy at work, you can have any type of colors, you can have any type of vibe that you want and still have that professional attitude.”

Photo Credit: @justindjohnson_

Nothing should come between a girl and her swag and you shouldn’t have to hold back your creativity to get a bag. Growing up, Susy was teased for rocking braids.

Hairstyles that made her feel good, that reflected her culture and her relationship with her mother was counter-culture to the then-popular straight, permed hairstyles that sometimes were pressured on young girls.

“My mom used to braid my hair, she used to braid my hair when I was little, she used to braid my hair in tribal hairstyles, I was always inspired because it was so creative. Kids used to make fun of me, but I didn’t care. I was about 16-years-old when my mom said ‘ I can’t do your hair anymore, you have to figure something out.’ so I started doing my own hair. I started doing hair for people in my community, people from school, family, friends and after a while it was just like I was doing hair for every single person in New York City.”

Susy’s confidence in her creativity shines through her styles. She truly gets to know everyone who steps into her chair and every hairstyle is a true collaboration.

Photo Credit: @justindjohnson_

Susy is notorious for using bright splashes of color in braids and playing with colorways and different braiding patterns to create one-of-a-kind styles.

“If I’m doing cornrows it just has to speak for itself, it can’t be regular. If I’m doing a ponytail, it has to be a different type of ponytail, any hairstyle it is, I try to put my own spin on it, something that says Susy.”

When speaking at the opening of the Lady Exhibit, Susy stressed the impact creatives have can have on society. There’s a power that comes with having a strong influence on others and for Susy, that power should be used to speak up for what’s right.

A lot of times traditional Black hairstyles appropriated by white women are considered to be trendy without giving credit to its origins in Black culture, so it’s important that we as black women embrace these styles in all aspects of life.

“As leaders, we were created to kinda protect the world and when there’s injustice going on, we gotta speak against it. Creatives are the most powerful beings ever because we actually shift the culture. We are the culture. The Lady Exhibit is that all in one.”

Photo Credit: @justindjohnson_

Lady shows various natural hairstyles that are sleek, but daring, hairstyles that push the boundaries of what many consider to be “professional.” Braids, twists, locs, styles that play with the complex and simple patterns and show the depths of techniques when it comes to Black hair.

Along with staying true to your creativity, Susy attributes consistency as a strong factor to her success. We all know that being on the come-up as a creative is tough, a lot of times we’re balancing multiples jobs, getting no sleep, and not getting paid to do what we love. Being consistent is hard, but it’s important to success according to Susy, who’s consistency helped her build her empire from being in her apartment to her own storefront.

“Definitely be consistent, work hard. When I started to do hair I was always consistent, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, I worked from 9:00 am – 2:00 am. I eat breathe and sleep here. If you’re creative or if you’re trying to birth something, you have to really love it, embrace it, all in one. Have passion, keep God first and always give customer service. Every person that comes into my salon, whether they’re a blogger, a doctor or a student, I always try to give them the best service ever because you just never know who’s sitting in your chair.”

Photo Credit: @justindjohnson_

The Lady Exhibit was a moving event, a room filled with women and men celebrating and embracing so many facets of the special relationship between Black women and our hair.

It was beautiful to see such eccentric expressions of creativity on canvases that aren’t always given the platform to do so. Susy Oludele is one hell of an advocate and provider of that platform that is inspiring women on a daily to flaunt their natural self.

MNEK writes songs for superstars, now he is on track to become one

When someone signs their first music publishing deal at the age of 14, they have something special. On top of that, how about someone that has been producing music since they were 5-years-old. This is the story of Uzo Emenike, better known as MNEK.

MNEK is a singer, songwriter and music producer whose collaboration list racks up to an impressive CV, writing songs for the likes of Madonna, Beyonce, Rudimental, Dua Lipa, Kylie Minogue, Gordon City, Duke Dumont, Oliver Heldens and more.

While MNEK has spent his time writing for superstars, the release of the 23-year-old’s debut solo studio album Language signals that the artist is destined for pop superstardom.

Born in the South London borough of Lewisham, MNEK spent his younger years channeling his love of music using Dance eJay, a preliminary music production software that his father had bought him. The purchase of Dance eJay, at once marked MNEK’s early exposure to music production, as well as started MNEK’s musical journey.

MNEK started putting out his music on MySpace. His after-school activities consisted of reaching out to his favorite artists and sending them his music in the hope it would be embraced. Incredibly, at 14-years-old, his efforts paid off, as the young teen subsequently hosted business meetings and discussions over contracts in the living room of his family home.

Though what transpired in the living room may have confused and surprised his Nigerian parents — MNEK’s father, a police officer and his mother, a retail worker at Mark’s & Spencer’s — a year later, MNEK landed his first publishing deal with a songwriting gig for the major British music production powerhouse, Xenomania.


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📸: @lukenugentphotography 🌈

A post shared by MNEK (@mnek) on Nov 27, 2018 at 3:52pm PST

Taking on a personal project of music analysis, MNEK would dedicate time to breaking down the music styles and arrangements of the formative producers such as R&B producer Dark Child, Jam & Lewis and Max Martin, who crafted some of the biggest tracks of the ’90s and 2000s. It was a project that helped the young artist not only compose lyrics but input melodies and other production ideas for Xenomania.

Fast-forward and MNEK has 8 years of experience in the industry and has collaborated with some major artists. Now, he is looking to shape and make an impact on pop music, but this time, solo.

MNEK wants to challenge conceptions around pop music that figure the musical genre as simply following a cookie-cutter template. He maintains that pop is a conflation of sounds and aural influences. For MNEK, pop allows for greater freedom, flexibility, playfulness as well as enabling constant reinvention in music production.


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my debut album #LANGUAGE🌀 is out in ONE WEEK!!!!!!!! preorder now from the link in my bio but if you’re more of a handsy person, in the picture above i’m lying on top of several (SIGNED!) physical copies of the vinyl and the cds of the album. they are available to preorder/purchase on 🤗🤗🤗 i also think it’s stupid that you still can’t hyperlink in captions but that’s neither here nor there. anyway yayyyy it’s so surreal to be able to hold what is my first real body of work like physically💙. i can’t wait for everyone to hear it!. now, pls abeg you guys don’t let my album flop too hard, otherwise these (and myself) will just lay around in my studio forlorn and unappreciated. and that isn’t the tea…. so.. LANGUAGE 7th SEPTEMBER!! oopssss and thank u for all ur kind words re: Correct! i’m so proud of the song and i’m so happy you guys get it 💙💙 thank u to everyone that helped make the video happen too! BIG MOTHERFUCKING HUGGGGG🤗🤗🤗

A post shared by MNEK (@mnek) on Aug 31, 2018 at 10:54am PDT

The broad application of the title of his debut album, Language, speaks to the way MNEK isn’t interested in conforming to any singular idea of himself as both an artist and a person. Nor does he figure these two identities as mutually exclusive.

For MNEK,  every individual has their own mode of communicating to others, their own language of love, their own language in which to express their race, gender, and sexuality — for our identity is performative, the ‘norm’ is in itself, an effect of multiplied performances.


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A post shared by MNEK (@mnek) on Sep 8, 2018 at 3:22am PDT

At the same time, MNEK does identify as British-Nigerian and his identity as an openly Black gay male music artist is empowering for Black queer youth since the representation of this community is so lacking.

Given this representational void in the music industry, in discussing with ShortList, whether he feels the pressure to be a public face for the LGBTQIA community, he said,

“I don’t feel pressure. I think there’s fun to have. I want to be real and I want to have fun. And I want to show that being gay and of color doesn’t have to be a sob story all the time.”

At the same time, MNEK spoke about the tension in his image being marketable, in speaking to OUT Magazine, he expressed,

“I will never be typical, no matter how much weight I lose, no matter how much more hair I get. I used to think these things would hold me back, and maybe they will, but I see strength in them now. I saw the impact of me being myself.”

The music video for MNEK’s “Tongue,” by the directing duo Bradley & Pablo, presents a total subversion of the gaze, more specifically, the straight white cis-male gaze. In a series of shot-reverse-shots, the camera conveys the sexual tension between MNEK and his love interest in the narrative of the video.

In short, there is some serious eye-fucking going on. The song’s lyrics convey the coded language typical in queer erotic interaction. To put different, in choosing not to speak, or forcibly not being able to speak and disclose, instead enables the body to be the predominant register in which to communicate.

Additionally, the different modes of black masculinity and gender presentation performed by MNEZ exhibit his identity as fluid, subject to change, never static.

In speaking to DIY Magazine on the title of the album, he states,

“The album is about learning. It’s about me learning what it’s like to be a pop star. It’s me learning what it’s like to be a recording artist. It’s everyone’s first real chance to learn about me. This is how I articulate myself. This is how I feel. This is everything that I want to say. This is my language.”

The solo album will be MNEK’s introduction to a lot of people. Whether MNEK has fears something will be lost in translation, there nonetheless, is a huge community who relate and speak his language and are ready to embrace not only his stunning vocals but what he represents.

Stream his album Language here:

Abstract artist King Saladeen on chasing his dreams to become a trailblazer

Contemporary abstract artist King Saladeen has always painted. He started during his youth drawing on the walls of his room and painting portraits for his supportive parents. Still, he didn’t take notice of his calling to truly show the world what he can do with a paintbrush.

Motivation to chase “the dream” comes to individuals a couple of times during their lifetimes. The decision to act on said motivation comes to some but most decide, no. Truthfully, sometimes we need a little push in order to realize what we are destined to do.

It was Saladeen’s late childhood friend JP, who saw his “Money Bear” logo painted on a t-shirt and pushed him to pursue what he was designed to do. Painting portraits were never the same for the abstract artist after his best friend passed away because he now had heavenly assistance.

In response to the many forms the “Money Bear” has taken on, Saladeen said,

“The inspiration behind the “Money Bear” was my best friend who passed away from cancer [JP]. He was already on a level up mindset. So, I think all of this is coming into play from a heavenly mindset…”

Fast-forward to the present, Saladeen’s career is blossoming like a bouquet of freshly cut roses. An art installation at the NYSE, a capsule collection drop with Champion, and his work with charities prove that he is well on his way to becoming a legendary contemporary painter.

The young artist believes in his vision, now, more than ever. Plus, with JP by his side, including, the love and support of his family big things are in store for the art king.

Be sure to check out the above video to hear Saladeen’s story. Also, to view some of his latest works, in person, pull up to The Compound in the BX. We heard it’s LIVE!

Independent artists can now make bread by uploading music to Spotify

Streaming services have been applying pressure to record labels for a while now. With Soundcloud, Audiomack, and others, artists have seen the most leverage in the music industry than ever before. Now, Spotify is taking it to a whole new level.

Just last week, Spotify announced they were unveiling a new beta feature that enables independent artists to upload their music to Spotify.

This is a game changer because now any artist, no matter the cache or following, has the ability to make money off of the music they upload. In a way, this eliminates the need for a label or digital aggregator, changing the landscape of the music industry forever.

The new feature will be featured on Spotify for Artist — an online dashboard that arrived publicly last year — and allows artists to see how well their music is performing on the service. This dashboard also provides an accompanying mobile app that allows artists to track metrics surrounding their streams and their fan base demographics. Spotify said in a statement on their site,

“In the past few months, we’ve been testing an upload tool within Spotify for Artists, because we believe getting new music to your fans should be simple. Starting today we’re inviting more artists to participate in the beta.”

Artists can now upload music, preview how things will appear, then edit the music’s metadata, if need be. They also will be able to choose when those new tracks “go live”, as well.

Most importantly, artists’ royalty payments will be directly deposited into artists’ bank accounts every month.

Senior Product Lead for Spotify’s Creator Marketplace, Kene Anoliefo, confirmed the payout structure saying,

“Artists receive 50% of net revenues from the songs they upload, and Spotify also accounts to publishers and collection societies for additional royalties related to the music composition.”

Artists like Noname, Michael Brun, VIAA, and Hot Shade have already begun to take advantage of this feature, providing feedback in earlier testing ahead of the beta launch. Anoliefo continued,

“We started off by working with artists who are both deeply engaged in our platform – so they use Spotify for Artists often –  and they also release music often.”

Spotify says the feature is only debuting in beta on an invite-only basis in the U.S but plans on going public to the over 200,000 monthly active users of the Spotify for Artists platform. Anoliefo said,

“We used the test with them to shape the tool and make an upload process that we think is really easy, transparent and flexible. It’ll enable artists to use the tool to upload music through Spotify for Artists whenever they like. There are no barriers or constraints. And they can upload as often as they’d like. And as many times as they like.”

It’s lit!

Get inspired by Jumoke Mendez, the mastermind behind Athletes for Art

Since the dawn of time, humans have worshipped Olympians for their athletic abilities, but we seem to have lost focus as time has gone on, forgetting that they too have the intellectual skills to be world-renowned creatives.

Enter Jumoke Mendez and the way he is looking to change our perceptions of sports heroes. Through his collective, Athletes for Art, he is hoping to inspire athletes everywhere to become global ambassadors for change.

Proving itself, the global platform allows athletes from all sports to exhibit their creative and intellectual gifts. These men and women can not only inspire people through their athletic abilities but can remind people that it forever will be brains over brawn.

At the end of the day, isn’t the brain the strongest and most used biological structure?  According to Mendez, it’s time to “reshape societies perception regarding the stigma that athletes are just one dimensional.”

For Mendez, it’s all about athletes finding a purpose beyond their physical abilities. A lot of athletes find themselves trying to fill this empty void after an injury or entering retirement.

Simply put, Athletes for Art is that bridge for active and nonactive athletes in search of a transition from sports to living and pursuing their true dreams.

The athlete-artists in Mendez’s collective are dope as hell and are direct proof to what a sportsman or sportswoman can do off the field. Take, for instance, retired professional basketball player Desmond Mason.

The former NBA player and the abstract artist always used art to overcome adversity and express himself. Since the NBA Dunk champ’s retirement from the league he has made it his objective to inspire the world through his creative art pieces.

According to his Athletes for Art bio, he said,

“The most important thing in my life is my family… My wife Andrea and our children, Jada and Elijah. They are my inspiration. God blessed me with this artistic talent and I will continue to use it to make a difference.”

For sure this fresh perception of athletes should give you a newfound idea of what an athlete can really do. Never should we forget that these physical beings are much more than their godly statures and abilities.

Yes they, wow us constantly on the field but it is more important that they continue to amaze us after they put the ball down. Longevity is the key to inspiration, not instant gratification.

Mendez said it best,

“Our platform helps encourage creativity, innovative ideas, intellectual growth and showcases these talents through a variety of mediums.  There are many forms of art such as visual art, dance, film, motivational speaking, photography, and etc. The world should know that today’s modern-day Athlete is ‘Doing More than just playing sports’.”

Carlos Rolón is the OG visionary changing the art game with urban artifacts

Carlos Rolón is a visual artist and true OG from Chicago that looks to convey a different message to the global community. His art pieces have allowed many to “embrace their past while still being present in the moment.”

Straight from the tiny Island of Enchantment, Rolón has always been inspired by the surroundings that identify him as a person. The cultural nurturing from his Puerto Rican parents in Chicago allowed him to be born “between cultures.”

Still, at one point in his life, Rolón had to make a conscious decision to dig deeper. That choice has proved itself time and time again as he has taken his urban influences and skillfully combined them with his ethnic aesthetic.

Kulture Hub was able to catch up with the art OG via e-mail and what Rolón had to say about his artistic journey was truly inspiring. In a similar way, his story spoke to me the same way his art did. It contained a kind of vivid language that one can picture with their eyes shut and a domestic vibe that couldn’t be shaken.

The search for his inner culture started at an early age and Rolón was “provoked” to question his identity while growing up with his parents. Rolón said,

“Though I grew up in the U.S, my parents proudly instilled where we came from at a young age that provoked me to question identity and my personal surroundings. Culture is something that I personally have always been interested in, not only for the obvious (that I was born “between cultures” you could say), but rather because of what it offered me while growing up.”

His surroundings played huge roles in propelling his creative instincts and stimulating his artistic drive. So much so, that Rolón found himself making the conscious decision to leave college, leaving the idea of an art degree behind.

He left for a greater calling. His focus turned towards making the environment around him a museum so that people could appreciate the everyday beauty they never stopped to enjoy. Rolón spoke on making art in a public domain,

“Making art in a public domain allowed me a large audience that could view my artwork. I also grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood, so a lot of my neighbors and friends were not privileged and did not make the effort to go to a museum or gallery…”

OG Rolón also expressed what has changed since then,

“The excitement of making work for a different audience in the public domain is now more of a nostalgic feeling than anything else. I was very young and saw the world through the eye of a needle. Now as an adult with the power of the internet, printed matter and my career allowing me to create large-scale work, the public that relates to the work I create can visit and view it at a gallery, museum, or institution. Making it intimate, personal, public, and communal at the same time. I now find a different kind of risk, excitement, and adrenaline…”

The cultural influences that affect his art come from a place deeply intertwined with personal memories and domestic environments. Amazingly Rolón is able to channel ideas from his upbringing that reflects a sense of “blue collar baroque.”

To prove it, Rolón’s latest exhibit When We Were Younga four-piece bicycle sculpture installation presented by Arts Brookfield, drew inspiration from the late Benjy Melendez. Melendez was president of the Ghetto Brothers, a gang that focused on uplifting young Latino and Black men in the Bronx community. With the help of the Ghetto Brothers, Melendez was able to broker a gang truce in the BX and Harlem back in 1971.

Check out this short film Rolón produced about the story of Benjy Melendez for an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum called the Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art. 

Even though the above short was a great representation of who Melendez was, Rolón still needed “something other than a TV on a wall to show the film and tell his story.” How could he help himself?  The Chicagoan visionary “bore witness to the ways in which immigrant households adapted to new American lifestyles through everyday items.”

Rolón explained the aesthetic behind the four bikes featured that were on display at the recent Arts Brookfield exhibit. He said,

“Benjy’s mode of transportation was a bicycle. I wanted to create a bicycle sculpture that would relate to his story. These early clubs always made and wore beautiful custom jackets, They created their own communities and would go around the city with flags or tchotchkes on their bicycles wearing these jackets as a way of expressing their identity. This then led me to explore other subcultures and communities that focused on customization. It’s somewhat like being an archaeologist, finding a lost artifact, something that’s been forgotten about. I like the idea of appropriating these objects and giving them new identities, new meaning, and life.”

Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn Museum

Rolón is a pop culture art archeologist. He began working with urban artifacts back in 2007 at the Venice Biennale. To date, his presentation at the event is one of the biggest highlights of his artistic career.

Since then most of his works have been an investigation. As he grew artistically, Rolon became captivated by the aesthetic beauty and functionality of the public and private spheres. Through his artworks, he is able to convey an important message, add a personal touch that the viewer can relate to, and pay historical homage.

Like his 24K golden Conion Boombox…

And his three-part 2016 Afrocomb installation which was inspired by The Free People of Color. The Afrocomb was worn in the hair not only as an adornment but also as a political emblem and a signature of a collective identity.

Lest we forget to mention his collaboration with nail artists for his Mint Museum exhibition Body Embellishment. The exhibit was an exploration of international arenas of body extension, augmentation, and modification in the 21st century.

Rolón spoke about how he allows “space for the creation of identity, hope, and chance.” He said,

“There’s an immediate connection I’m able to make with the viewer. Once that viewer connects with the work, and they begin to investigate, they find out there’s an underlying story. I’m really proud of the fact I can make work that is personal but able to cross over to a pop-culture level.”

Nowadays Rolón’s artistic mind is in constant motion. His 10K80 consists of creating artistic works that tell stories that are honest and personal. His team of assistants and fabricators play an important role in his artistry as well as they are trusted to give the visionary honest feedback.

Still, even under artistic pressure, Rolón makes sure he maintains his mental health by practicing yoga, eating healthy, and surrounding himself with people that he respects and inspire him.

In regards to where his career stands today Rolón is happy but perturbed. He feels as if “the art world still has a lot of work to do with acceptance of women and balancing out how minorities are represented.”

You can trust that he is working on a way to reflect his stories so that he can identify more with the relationship between institutionalization and the fine art world. As for his artistic future, there’s a quote from a spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, that he’s embraced – Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.

For all the young creatives out there, you can definitely apply Rolón’s wisdom to your craft. He had a message for all the youth dem on their grind. He said,

“The World Is Your Oyster, fill it with Pearls. Make sure to look at the ground or some obscure areas…. You may be walking past something that may inspire you to create something wonderful and impactful.”

Challenge yourself just as Rolón has challenged himself. Who knows? You too might be able to create something amazing with a well thought out process and a touch of intuition.