Three new magazine illustrations by R. Kikuo Johnson for a feature article in GQ Germany, 2014. “Art Director Jana Meier-Roberts and I collaborated on a set of images rethinking a few famously complicated relationships of cinema.”
Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 73: The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction!
“The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! special issue exists to relieve a brokenness in the genre that’s been enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. Here we bring together a team of POC writers and editors from around the globe to present science fiction that explores the nuances of culture, race, and history. This is science fiction for our present time, but also—most of all—for our future.
People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! is 100% written and edited by people of color, and is lead by guest editors Nalo Hopkinson and Kristine Ong Muslim, with editorial contributions from Nisi Shawl, Grace L. Dillon, Berit Ellingsen, Arley Sorg, and Sunil Patel. It features ten original, never-before-published short stories, plus ten original flash fiction stories, by writers such as Steven Barnes, Karin Lowachee, Sofia Samatar, Terence Taylor, Caroline M. Yoachim, and more. All that, plus five classic reprints, by the likes of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler; an array of nonfiction articles, interviews, and book reviews; and more than two dozen personal essays from people of colo(u)r discussing their experiences as readers and writers of science fiction.”
Aaliyah Dana Haughton, singer and film actress, was born in Brooklyn, NY, on this date January 16, 1979. Aaliyah started voice lessons shortly after she learned to talk. Determined to be a star, she signed a contract with Jive Records at the age of 12 and came to popular acclaim in 1994 with her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number. Produced by the successful singer R. Kelly, the album quickly sold a million copies and eventually earned platinum status based largely on the success of two hit singles, “Back and Forth” and “At Your Best (You Are Love).”
While a student in the dance program at Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts (she graduated in 1997), Aaliyah released her sophomore album, One in a Million (1996). Helmed by the well-known pop producer Timbaland and featuring rap performer Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, One in a Million portrayed the 17-year-old singer as a sultry hip-hop chanteuse with a self-confidence well beyond her years. The album garnered favorable reviews and sold two million copies.
In 2000, Aaliyah made her acting debut in the surprise action hit Romeo Must Die, starring opposite martial arts star Jet Li in a Romeo and Juliet-inspired story set in modern-day Los Angeles. She was also an executive producer of the movie’s soundtrack and performed the hit single “Try Again,” which netted her a second Grammy nomination as well as two MTV Music Video Awards for Best Female Video and Best Video From a Film.
Her third album, Aaliyah, was released in July 2001 and reached No. 2 on the Billboard album chart. Also in 2001, she played the title role in Queen of the Damned, based on the bestselling novel by Anne Rice and set for release in 2002. She scored a major casting coup when she signed to appear in two upcoming sequels to the blockbuster sci-fi thriller The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne.
Tragically, Aaliyah was killed on August 25, 2001, when a small Cessna passenger plane carrying the singer and her video crew crashed in the Bahamas, where they had just completed work on a video. She is survived by her parents, Diane and Michael Haughton, and an older brother, Rashaad. via bio
Frank Ocean is an enigma. An artist who refuses to explain
himself or his art. He speaks through his art. After a little more than
4 years, and one and a half years after the initial announcement of his third
official album “Boys Don’t Cry” (or whatever it will be called), Frank launched
a mysterious livestream inside a warehouse where he built a staircase to climb
and reach the top by the end of the livestream. He did it for 4 days (starting
August 1st), and then disappeared for 2 weeks, with no explanation,
and no album, even after the New York Times reported the album and the magazine
would be out on August 5th. Two weeks passed until Thursday night
when Frank came back to the livestream and it came to a conclusion and his new 45-minute
visual album “Endless” was released as an Apple Music exclusive.
A very important and key element of this whole
livestream/film was that every day, during the time Frank was working, we would
hear snippets of what appeared to be new music from a boombox inside the
warehouse, in a very minimal manner. We would hear a beautiful acoustic guitar
melody looped for few minutes, then it would cut to a synth melody looped for
another few minutes, so on and so forth. But every day, these sounds became
more developed as more elements were added to them, and on the final day, we
heard the full songs while Frank was finishing the staircase. What I got from
this was Frank showing his creative process in the form of a metaphor (making
the staircase) and when you hear the album, there’s this strange sense of familiarity
and satisfaction at the same time. That the snippets that we heard for 5 days
have actually lead to the full songs (and interludes).
“Endless”, however is not “the” album. It’s the prelude to
the album that is supposed to follow up “Channel Orange”. But if “Endless” is
anything to go by, the forthcoming album is going to be an astonishment to
behold, because “Endless” itself is an all-around great album. It’s bold,
gorgeous, unsettling and confident. With this album, Frank has taken a whole
new path with his music and lyrics. A lot of these songs (18 tracks in total)
have no form or structure. At times they sound as if they were created in one
day as Frank was experimenting with different sounds and vibes with his
producers without any sort of pre-planning or pre-written material. As a
result, the lyrics of this album are like a stream of consciousness, and they
are emotionally unsettling and dark for the most part. An instant highlight of
the album “U-N-I-T-Y” is the first track where Frank legitimately raps in a
very rant-like, confident manner and his compelling flow never lets go of your
attention. You keep trying to understand what he is saying, and his lyrics are
strangely out of character.
“Is you Roger or Novak? You still are no match, you get no
rematch. Boy, you missed your moment.” That’s not a very Frank Ocean-esque line,
is it? Yet it’s pleasantly surprising that Frank delivers interesting lines
like this over a very beautiful, laid-back instrumental consisted of a guitar
and programmed beats (which sound insanely fresh, by the way.) Another very out
of character lyric that is strangely fitting is in the song “Sideways” where
Frank raps “Sucked a dick long, had a swan neck, put some real swans in the
pond then.” The very seamless transition from melodic rapping to singing that
Frank does throughout the album is absolutely incredible. His rapping does not
feel forced at all and shows a different side of his musicality.
The best track of the album, and quite easily
one of Frank’s absolute best songs musically and lyrically is the very somber,
heartbreaking “Rushes To” which is about Frank describing the time he spent/is
spending with his lover. It’s one his ‘narrative’ songs, the more you listen
the more you take out of it. It’s also one of the very few non-rap/beat-oriented
songs of the album all the way through. It’s only consisted of an acoustic
guitar, a bluesy electric guitar and a distant synth line that fades out
quickly. “Saturdays involved making our entrances into life outside” Frank
sings in a very quiet, vulnerable way.
Then the story of the song gets a very dark turn lyrically
as Frank describes the time when he made a sextape with his lover and rewatched
it to recapture the moment they had, but the “only difference is it’s flat.” A
simple yet absolutely crushing line that suggests that intimate moment may
never be recreated through rewatching a sextape. Then few moments later comes
the most stunning vocal range and high notes that Frank has ever delivered. It’s
so incredible. I cannot praise it enough but it’s something that needs to be
experienced rather than read about.
“Endless” is a challenging album because of its unconventional
structure and lyrics. None of the songs have a hook or chorus. They’re not
radio-friendly. The songs are very personal (Frank makes them sound personal even
if they are fiction). The sound of the album is very different than “Channel
Orange”. It’s more electronic and beats-oriented and despite the complexion of
most of the beats (particular “Higgs”) there’s always a sense of “space” in
every song, which adds to the lasting impact of the album long after it’s
finished. Malay, one of Frank’s frequent producers mentioned that the majority
of the album was made with a handheld mic in the control room. So you get a
sense that a lot of these lyrics were most likely sung in the moment, and you
might also notice some human error in the album as well, which makes the album
more human and intimate. Even if Frank doesn’t releases the “official”
follow-up to “Channel Orange” anytime soon, “Endless” once again proves Frank’s
magnificent artistry on all fronts.