In celebration of Black History Month, KEXP’s Alina Santillan interviewed numerous local and national African American artists about what Black History Month and Black Future mean to them. Formed in 2009, Black Stax set out on a mission to "honor the legacy of Black Arts & Culture by ‘stacking’ all forms of Black music and art." Founders Felicia Loud and Jace joined us in-studio to discuss what this month means to them. Black Stax will be LIVE on KEXP's Audioasis on Saturday, March 10th at 6:30 PM.
KEXP: Can you tell me what Black History Month or Black Future mean to you?
Loud: Both are very difficult, only because, you know, "Black History Month" is "Black History Day" every day, 365 days a year for me, as a black woman. And as far as the future, black people have a history that is so deep and rooted that we've always been a part of the future. So, the future looks like the humanity of where people can go. The future for black folks looks like the consciousness of what it is that we are now able to hear other people voice about their own experiences and their own joy in their own culture, and really be able to share with us the things that we've been talking about in terms of joy, in terms of injustice, in terms of justice, in terms of human equality, in terms of living, in terms of the environment. So, the future looks really bright and it gets darker and darker as it goes, if that makes any sense. You know, bright and darkness -- they have their own cohesiveness.
Jace: I think it's important that black history is black culture is American culture. It's in the fabric of America. It's what gives America its rhythm. It's what gives America soul. When you talk about black history, I think about all the things that happened before American history and while we've been here in America. It's a big deal. As far as future, look at the youth. Jace loves the kids, you know what I mean? I look at, what legacies are we leaving for them? What is the blueprint that we're leaving for them to follow? Is there a blueprint or is it all just up for grabs and willy-nilly? And I think when you talk about future, you're talking about humanity. I know that was mentioned before, but it's a real thing. We've got to take care of each other. We've got to make sure that we all survive because if we try to destroy one, we're going to end up destroying all of us. And so, black future, black history is all that wrapped in one.
Which artists have been influential to you as a person or in your music?
Loud: Marvin Gaye. Ask my man. Hands down. And the song that Marvin Gaye wrote that speaks me to the most is "Sexual Healing." But prior to that, let's talk about "Trouble Man." "Trouble Man" really is an inspirational vision of what he talked about in terms of the now and the future.
Jace: Well, I'm giving a big shout out to a queen who is no longer here. And her name is Negesti. She's a Seattle spoken word artist. She was my godmother. She was very influential in me keeping up with the rhyme and keeping up with the times. She gave me books to read. She gave me calligraphy lessons so my handwriting was right. She took care of the art side, but she also wanted to make sure that we were aware of what was going on. So, I would love to give a shout out to Negesti.
What about an artist who influenced your sound?
Jace: My favorite was Otis Redding back in the day. When I wake up on Sunday mornings, my mother and father were playing Earth Wind and Fire, Al Green, and Nina Simone, and all of that. Otis Redding stood out to me. He just stood out. There was something about him. Maybe it was the rawness of his voice, the rawness of his style. I like that. I like to say Black Stax is "polished dirt." You know, we're raw edges but we're polished where we need to be. And so I think that Otis Redding is something that was against the grain. It stood out to me. Otis Redding was probably the artist that I most identify with.
Is there a song of yours that you think speaks to what we've been talking about?
Loud: Right now we have a song called "Hope Dealer" that would speak to that as the right now, the hope, the vision, the redeemer, the love, the good, the expression. It's about faith, it's about healing. It's about the process of what healing means. It's about the faith in which you have to have in oneself, and the faith in other people to trust that you know what you're doing and that what you're saying is going to be heard in a way that can uplift them and either yourself in a way to keep growing.
Jace: I think in the catalog of music that I've been blessed to put together, it's hard to differentiate, because in each project there's a song that identifies with exactly that, speaks to exactly that. So I say right now I will go "Mind Element. " There's a song called "Mind Element" and I think that speaks more to the times and I think this speaks more to my mindstate.
Why does music matter to you?
Loud: Music matters because it is the heartbeat of everybody's soul. There is no one that functions without the heartbeat of their heart. You know, they talk about Shakespeare and they talk about how you know he spoke in or wrote in iambic pentameter and that was "bum bum." That's the heartbeat. And music is like a heartbeat and it is a continuous thing. And, so that speaks to the rhythm of ourselves. And music will always be continuous because whether it's speech, whether it's the sound of the ocean, whether it's fish with bubbles coming up, whether it's you know a child crying -- it is sound and music and it is a beat it if you are unaware to hear, you can feel the vibration of music.
Jace: Music matters because it's the soul of the people. It's the rhythm of the nation, it's the rhythm of the world. Without music we would have no time. We have no tempo, we have no beat, we would just be like, blahh. So, music matters because I don't like being blahh.
For more and a litany of amazing interviews featuring the incredible African-American musical artists that have shaped our lives, click here for all our Black History Month coverage.
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