Roar writer Natalia Vasnier on o2music’s Instagram takeover with people of colour (POC) artists for Black History Month.
This October was Black History Month (BHM) across the UK. It was a month to remember and put forward the enriching Black culture in society. The Instagram account of o2music celebrated BHM every Tuesday with POC artists taking over their social media for the day. This concept comes as an example of the #ShareTheMicUK initiative, which aims to give a voice to British artists of colour.
The takeover started on the 6th October with Yizzy, South London grime MC.
Yizzy was born in 1999 to a Jamaican father and a Welsh mother. This multicultural background gave him an enriching experience in music. In his song “Grime,” he defines this genre which is often mislabelled as urban, drill, or trap. In fact, Grime is a genre of electronic music that emerged in London in the early 2000s. Grime is unlike any other type of music, the tempo never goes under 138 bpm (beats/per minute) which is rather fast paced and it has a grungy bass-line, a hard-hitting sound and a lot of melody. It is considered to be its own culture and has its own style; Grime is a way of life.
He had the luck to meet and work with some of his biggest inspirations, like JME & Skepta, who have been prominent figures in Grime for around fifteen years. They have inspired young people to engage in a musical career by showing that commitment and hard work are key skills to success. He looks up to them not only as talented artists but also as “prominent successful Black people.” Yizzy adds that, like many other artists, his favourite part of his job is performing, as he is able to connect with his fans and potentially win over new crowds. Indeed, his fresh and endearing style has started to attract attention since his debut in 2017.
He recommends listening to his fellow friend and artist Koder, whose music he qualifies as very energetic and creative, and his personal favourite track is “Richer”. His music style is a mix between Dave’s conscious rap and Eminem.
Tuesday 13th October: the dynamic punk duo, the Nova Twins.
The group members are from London and Essex; Georgia plays the bass and Amy’s the guitarist and vocalist. They describe their style as a melting pot of hip hop, heavy riffs, and rock.
Their inspirational Black figure is Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the hidden pioneer of rock and roll. They claim that people only ever hear the names of men when thinking about this genre and that Sister’s contributions should be celebrated. They argue that blues and rock and roll would have sounded very different without her influence.
The duo’s other musical inspirations, since childhood, were Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé. The image the group portrayed was one of strong, beautiful, and powerful women, which instantly fuelled Georgia’s and Amy’s passion for female empowerment. Because they had not seen much POC representation on stage when they were young, this made them believe they could get there one day. From then on, the Nova Twins played and made music consistently.
They added that “we need to see more diversity in the alt-rock, punk scene,” which means more inclusion of POC artists at shows, in playlists, on rotation at radio stations, etc. We need to acknowledge all the POC contributors to these genres and prevent them from being erased from our collective history.
They made a playlist on Spotify entitled “Voices For The Unheard,” where they compile all the artists they love for their fans and the wider public to discover.
Tuesday 20 October 2020: the neo-soul singer Pip Millett.
Pip Millett is a Manchester-born singer and songwriter who has been described as a sassy singer with a bittersweet edge. She rose to fame in 2018 with her debut solo single “Make Me Cry.” She sang it in 2019 on the renowned YouTube channel COLORS and accumulated over 3 million views. That single expressed her struggle with anxiety in her daily life. Its groovy and catchy beat makes you want to sway your shoulders. In June 2020, she released her EP Lost, a pearl for soul and R&B fans. This album is a study of her family and families in general, which play a big role in shaping our character. Her style is often compared to fellow artists Jorja Smith, Mahalia, and H.E.R.
The music legend Bob Marley is her biggest musical influence over the way she writes her music today. “It was amazing how honest he was. How he could put a political message in a song in such a poetic way. I just thought it was beautiful, and I always wanted to be able to do that myself.” She believes that Black History Month should take place every month and people should support Black businesses all year round.
Artist Ms. Lauryn Hill is one of the best performers Pip Millett has ever seen, and she listens to her music all the time. Above all, Pip says that Lauryn Hill is a strong woman, but her lyrics and her voice are very vulnerable, which is powerful for an artist. The other musicians she recommends are Olivia Dean, BERWYN, and Qhario, all of whom have something special about their music.
Next spring, Pip will be kicking off her first ever UK tour and is excited about it.
The last takeover Tuesday of the month, the 27th, closes with the duo of brothers known as Hype and Fever.
For this takeover, they talked about the origin of BHM, which was created by US Historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Much like Pip Millett, they said that Black History should be celebrated all the time. Black History is a discussion about Black excellence as well as their struggles.
They highlighted the importance of rediscovering the hidden past of the Black community. The struggle was excessively put forward this summer with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, where they participated in the BLM march in Westminster. “We were both reluctant to join, as we felt it was going to be a one-day thing and forgotten about. We are so happy that we went and joined the march, as it opened our eyes to see how many different people from all walks of life can empathise with people who feel oppressed.”
Since they grew up as mixed-race, with Black and Indian origins, they experienced an identity crisis. Within their communities, they were told that they “act more Black” than Indian. However, without that heritage they would not have thought about fusing Indian and Jamaican music together. Their inspiration is their close entourage: their parents, family, the community, and their pupils (since both band members teach in school). They grew up with their parent’s vinyl collection, whose music became their inspiration, from The Delfonics to James Brown to 70s soul music.
They recently released their last “Bump It” track with Marc Benjamin. who gives an electro vibe to their unique music.
All artists’ quotes are from the o2music Instagram account.