On episode 10 of BTRtoday‘s When We See Each Other, I chatted with the politically conscious rapper, Billy Dean Thomas. We talked about everything, from the elections to what book they are currently reading. Billy Dean just recently dropped their album, For Better or Worse, which is available everywhere. I highly recommend checking it out! It was a real pleasure talking with Billy Dean, and listening back to the convo gave me hope for the future. You can check out the interview HERE.
On this episode of BTRtoday‘s When We See Each Other, I interviewed Black queer, gender-nonconforming femme, soul music artist NYALLAH. We chatted about their debut album, Reflections, and how much it is a look back at the past and journeying into a healing future. We also talked about their experience in the indie music scene as a Black queer, GNC, femme. Check it out HERE or anywhere you get your podcasts!
Twenty-eighteen has been both a really trying and surreal year! I’m so thankful to have released my EP, QUARREL, and to have worked with humans who continuously inspire me. This will be our last show of the year, but we’re looking forward to a brighter twenty-nineteen. We’ll be coming through shredding some intentional guts!
I was so inspired by the The Sea I wrote this sort of sci-fi story. I’m hoping to adapt it into a short film for the song The Sea off my EP, QUARREL. If you’re an animator and you’re interested, or if you know an animator who would be interested, get at me! I’m aware of all the urgent issues we’re facing, and the environment is one of those issues for me. I think about what kind of world future kids would have to live in because of choices we make today. This is primarily what the story is about, and also these kids’ resiliency while facing great adversity.
In Spirit of Borges’s “Mutations”
After the collapse of the global empire, they are the children left. Descendants of the human race, whom survived the nuclear blast.
The nuclear blast destroyed all infrastructure and further poisoned all natural resources; leaving the land and the sea barren.
Affected by the toxic radiation, many living beings died immediately. Those beings whom adapted to the poison, became radioactive mutants; passing this gene onto their offsprings.
The life expectancy of anything became almost impossible to predict. As after birth, most beings experienced accelerated growth spurts. Aging exponentially in minutes, a baby can become an adult in a week; and if it survived the environment, dies from accelerated aging within a month.
The remaining scientists developed a vaccine which temporarily blocked the growth spurts, but they were still incapable of completely reversing the mutant gene which affected aging. So the life expectancy for any human is eighteen years, if that. They also were incapable of treating individual mutations; as the gene affected each human differently.
The human survivors live in the deep tunnels of once major hubs; creating underground shanty towns, or they populated caves until the rising tide flooded these temporary cities. The ever rising tide has drowned entire islands. The survivors are forced to return to an ancient practice of nomadism.
This is a tale of some of the survivors (approximated ages seven to fifteen):
Gus – because of their mutation they can only communicate through sounds. Their best octaves are those of seagulls: shrieking a soaring through the permanently blood orange acid rain sky, and their violent cawing when irritated. They are also twelve feet tall (and still growing), with almost elastic like limbs.
Beau – because of their mutation they absorb matter, and when agitated they become an enormous glowing mass of blue atomic energy. Their energy matter is a magnitude! Electrifying all the broken relics they and their siblings find discarded in the rising tide debris. They believe they were once the ruler of the sea: The Blue Whale.
Pen – because of their mutation, they have gill like openings around their neck making breathing the already toxic air difficult. They have an impeccable sense of smell which becomes overwhelming enough that they cannot see! Their hands and feet are webbed and flipper like… They are oval shaped, making walking and running difficult. So on days the children have to run from the acid rain or rising tide, Pen’s siblings take turns carrying them on their backs. Pen believes they could swim as gracefully as a penguin in the Sea.
Elie – because of their mutation their skin can easily create static. They can burn anything, so they cannot wear regular clothing, but a cooling skin like suit created by scientists. Because of their mutation they are capable of creating fire, which not only helps keep them all warm, but can heat and purify the toxic water for drinking and other purposes. They believe that in the sea they are an electric eel.
Buccoo – because of their mutation they can spread rapidly, changing and creating color and shapes: expressing their urgent emotion in branches of colorful reach, and mimicking their environment. Their most impressive and tranquil transformation is changing into a tree… The children read about “Trees” on a tablet they restored. With great meditation alongside Beau’s blue atomic energy, they discovered that their branches can extend and reach even further. Having the ability to create buds which blossoms into various fruit and vegetables which they all can eat! Buccoo believes that in the sea, they can become an entire reef where all can inhabit!
The children are performing a dance battle. Gus break dances at the start of the music. The musical instruments are from the relics, objects of the old world, which the children have collected and recreated to make sounds and to serve their needs for survival. When they are not scavenging for better shelter, the children perfect their instruments and dance moves.
With their elastic like neck, Gus interchangeably shrieks up to the blood orange sky, as their dance gracefully soars like a seagull in the shadows of the cave inhabited. They recreate silhouetted images of the dead animals who once roamed the land of the old world. They end with an infinity pose, while crying their best seagull.
It is an invitation, as Beau takes Gus’s energy and magnetically recreates their shadow. While Pen’s webbed feet and hands pulsates vibes and sustains this interaction, both Gus and Beau dance like the image frames from the broken cell phones, iPads etc. (relics) they restored.
Needing each other, the children look at each other with an understanding. As they perform the synchronized group part of the dance.
There is an old folk tale which they discovered on one of the relics. It was the tale of a mysterious sea creature – called The Douen – that bewitched children with the allure of the sea. This folk tale of The Douen was older than any of the worlds the children learnt of, as the tale was used as a cautionary example to scare children from venturing into the sea or else, “The Douen will have you for all of eternity!”
This old folk tale completely possessed them.
Gus, Beau, Pen, Elie, Buccoo were not frighten by The Douen. In fact, they wanted to find this mysterious sea creature, as none of them had ever experienced a “beach”! They have only read of the sea.
The sea of the old world was not what they’ve lived with.
They can all swim, but they could never swim enough to survive the ever rising tide!
With joyous giggles and wondrous glee, they all proclaimed their different stories of encountering The Douen.
They went to sleep searching for The Douen.
The Douen – with its broad brimmed hat made of colorful straws which hid its eyes and most of its face, and its just as brightly colored clothing – discovers their dreamings. Dancing hypnotically into their dreams, it visits their blood orange sky that rains acid. The Douen sings a song, and with each melody, it sounds fresh air inviting them into its sea, where the children become what they are:
<This is at the climax of the song, nearing the end where the guitar explodes alongside the piano’s garden forming flowers>
Bucco transformed into a entire reef garden, with ever growing green vegetation and algae, while Elie sailing along sporadically electrifies this hiddenness, while Beau gloriously spews blue through their vibrating magnitudes, while Pen swirls, somersaults gracefully through the currents, while Gus keenly looks from above, gently walking barefoot, as they squeal a joy unimaginable.
That said, although I was 100% sure this was what I needed to do, I did have moments where I felt I was losing my mind, for real! But I wasn’t walking into this fire alone. I could not have finished QUARREL without my co-producer and dear friend Mackenzie Shivers, and as well as the seriously gifted musicians/artists on the EP.
How I ended up working with Mackenzie and these musicians/artists was serendipitous as well. As QUARREL couldn’t be possible without another dear friend, Kenyon Phillips! I’m so grateful I’ve found these amazing humans who I can say is my extended family! Thank you family! Thank you Universe!
Finally, as QUARREL is a tribute to my mother and brother, I felt it would make for the best birthday gift to my dear mother, Bernadette McLeod.
QUARREL is available everywhere on October 30th! You can stream the singles, Deep Cry and Quarrel on all platforms!
Drinking Again by Aretha Franklin
Leyendecker by Battles
What Would I Want? Sky by Animal Collective
Deep Cry by Nikkiesha McLeod
Nessun Dorma by Aretha Franklin
The Parting Glass by Mackenzie Shivers
Falling in Love with Love by Ahmad Jamal
On a Highway by Animal Collective
Lilac Wine by Nina Simone
Why Did You Separate Me From the Earth? by Anohni
But For Me by Ahmad Jamal
Atlas by Battles
Execution by Anohni
4 degrees by Anohni
Quarrel by Nikkiesha McLeod
Believe by Mackenzie Shivers
I’m very excited as my debut EP, Quarrel, release and show is happening in a month (October 30th). The release show will be at Rockwood Music Hall, where I’ll share the night with the brilliant and wonderful Mackenzie Shivers. The night will be dedicated to my late mother, as it is her birthday!
Also, Quarrel the single is making waves. Here is a thoughtful review from If It’s Too Loud:
“The second single from Nikkie McLeod’s upcoming EP is a more traditionally structured song than [their] first, “Deep Cry,” was. “Quarrel” moves towards more familiar instrumentation for mainstream American listeners, but there is still plenty of originality for us all. McLeod constructs a song that starts off as a laid back singer/songwriter track, but that simmers with this undefined intensity right below the surface. That lasts for almost four minutes, and then the song restarts as an almost orchestral song. It’s an over six minute song that feels both familiar and experimental.”
Lastly, I made this super dope SPOTIFY PLAYLIST, which includes music by my favorites!
Follow me on SPOTIFY for more music listings!
So, I put together a night of art with two amazing visual artists, Renee Valenti and Esther Hidalgo. It’s a mixed media exhibit with provocative post-modern paintings and avant-garde photography. We see through the eyes of these two women, as their work deals with the convergence of people, relationships, past and present.
Opening Night: April 1st
Time: 6:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Musical Guest: Libel
Where: Fort Useless, 36 Ditmars Street in Brooklyn, one block from the Myrtle Avenue/Broadway stop on the JMZ trains.
Esther Hidalgo likes to use antique and vintage processes to create contemporary works. She received her B.F.A. in Photography from the Corcoran College of Art & Design. Her photographs have been displayed throughout the East Coast and in private collections across the country. She lives and works in Washington, DC.
Artist statement: “You Were Here” is an on-going project documenting scenes of development and urban decay primarily throughout Washington DC. These compositions, taken between 2004 – Present, are meditations on urban life and the intersection between that which is known and forgotten. www.estherhidalgo.com.
Renee Valenti is currently working toward her B.F.A. at Pratt Institute and is looking forward to graduating in December 2011. Previously, she had been pursuing a career in acting, and has enjoyed the cross-over of performing to visual arts, but also seeing ways how they can influence each other. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NYC.
Artist statement: I have been working with recurring topics like relationships and sexuality, day to day human experiences and connections, or disconnect, with others. In some of these works the personal experience of life in the crowded urban environment, particularly New York, has definitely come into play. The squishiness and fluidity of oil paint on canvas, paired with classical techniques has been what I enjoy working with most; however I also explore other mediums such as paper and photography. www.reneevalenti.com
In other news, I will be on the radio, Washington Heights Free Radio (WHFR), this coming Wednesday, March 30 at 8:00 p.m.
I’ve been in a downloading craze lately, mostly Soca and Calypso, but there’s also some Dub, and Indie Music, maybe even metal. Lol, we’ll see on Wednesday.
Bringing you stories, live events, and much more, WHFR tries and remains independent of any corporate sponsorship. So, if you like what WHFR is doing, you can donate by contacting us at email@example.com. DIY forever baby!
Also, if you’re in a band or know someone who is, and would like to be on the show, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been working with Magnetic Island, an exprimental, indie rock band based in NYC, on the single Subterfuge.
Not only did I play the drums, and the steelpan on the single, I also sang!
It was so great being back in the recording studio, and playing in general. Even though at times it was a challenge, I learned so much from the experience.
Working with Magnetic Island was really refreshing as the sound is completely different from my band Telenovela Star.
I think the difference is that I was more focused on percision rather than power. Less concerned with trying to prove how fast I can play or how much agility I have, but more concerned with how to bring out the song, make it tell the story that it’s dying to say.
Working with these guys also gave me the opportunity to break out my steelpan, which has been sitting in my closet for sometime now, and as well as to sing. Being brought back to my first instruments, my voice and the steelpan, reminded me of why I desired to be a musician. I was blown away. I didn’t realize that I was capable of expressing myself through these other mediums, especially singing. I realized that I can do more than carry a tune. I have a voice. I can sing.
All in all this was an eye opening experience for me, and I’m thankful to have had the chance to work with such talented, and genuinely remarkable musicians. They brought out a side of me that was starving to be explored.
Here are some shots of us in The Fort recording studio:
If you missed my other persona, Calypso Sally, on the radio, you can listen to the broadcast here (it takes awhile to start). The next show is Wednesday, September 30 at 9:00pm. Check it out!
Everyone is Guilty Akron/Family
Big Bang Swati
What About Us? Mr. Lif
Dirty Loop Onra
Hey There Girl Yo! Majesty
Song 57 Goes Cube
Part Bloodhound Susu
Your Mouth Telefon Tel Aviv
Hold the Line Featuring Mr. Lex & Santigold Major Lazer
The Under Over Rob Sonic
Talking About Money Wye Oak
Winner Telenovela Star
High Road Deradoorian
Down In The Park Kirb & Chris
Fangela Here We Go Magic
Waiting for the Sun to Rise Lightning Dust
If you’re in a band or know someone in a band, and you’d like to be on the show, just email email@example.com.