|Swedish Rhapsody ll: Excerpts From The Book of Swag|
June 22, 2012
New York, NY
A$AP Rocky in the center and A$AP Ferg in the foreground.
Zebra Katz and Njena Reddd Foxxx
Harif Guzman and David X
Summer officially began and ended with a most grand celebration hosted by Kanon Vodka at New York's Bowery Hotel. This year's time honored tradition of Swedish Midsummer was commemorated with a showcase that included the likes of the A$AP Mob, Zebra (F--kin') Katz and Njena Reddd Foxxx, and Icona Pop. Seriously how can you top that lineup unless you were hosting Christ's 2nd Coming?
Opening up the festivities, Zebra Katz performed and engaged the crowd in an underground ballroom style circle where he chanted over tracks, while Njena Reddd Foxxx dropped down to the floor on beat, with the audience giving their verbal and gestural approval. Although Mr. Katz has been in the mix a while, fashion heads became well acquainted with him following Rick Owens' use of "Ima Read" in the Paris Fall 2012 runway show.
The main course of the evening came fashionably late, in the form of the A$AP Mob usurping the miniscule makeshift stage, with an entourage of what seemed like a hundred (Not including the multitude of dames who danced on stage with them). Full audience participation was involved when A$AP Rocky stage dived and crowd surfed. The magic of this ancient rite was channeled through these musical shamans conjuring up the angst of my adolescence and from the moment they took stage to their departure, I was sent into a frenzy of chanting and throwing elbows. My sweat-drenched clothes were the end result, but they also symbolized a sign of relief, as I had expelled a week's worth of aggression within an hour or so.
A$AP Mob's appeal has been their balance of rogue and renaissance, most notably amongst A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg. Additionally, they've jarred trite notions on how musical styles are branded, proving that genres don't necessarily have to be stuck within the geographical regions they originate from. Despite hailing from Harlem, they possess a style more commonly known amongst the South. However, certain Uptown traits are evident in their need to "stay fly." Throughout history, Uptown has always been a touch more flashier than other boroughs, as it was home to a Renaissance in it's own name. There hasn't been a movement in New York hip hop so prominent since the all mighty Wu Tang Clan, the legacy of Queensbridge and the Dipset. Indeed, we hope the gods look favorably on A$AP and grant them longevity, as it simply the beginning.
Zebra Katz shares some words:
First off, where does your name come from?
Zebra Katz: It came from the top of the cat's head.
Dancing around a maypole is a customary Midsummer tradition. What songs would you play to prance around the maypole to?
Zebra Katz: It would be Gunplay "Jump out"; Mike Q and Kevin Prodigy "Let It All Out"; and Men Without Hats "Safety Dance."
Your style is quite versatile, where do you draw inspiration?
Zebra Katz: Growing up in the arts academia, I lend myself to a lot of different subjects and mediums. At 1st, making music was a hobby and it grew into something larger with "Ima read" being released on Mad Decent and used by Rick Owens. The music kind of took its own course, but my personal influences are anywhere from Nina Simone, Andre 3000, Missy Elliot to James Blake. My former schoolmates, who reside in Brooklyn, inspire me, too.
Where did you attend college?
Zebra Katz: I graduated from the New School, but I'm originally from South Florida's West Palm Beach. For the past 10 years, I've been a resident of Brooklyn.
How much does your hometown play in your sound?
Zebra Katz: Many names come to mind when you think about the music from my hometown's area, such as Dem Damn Dogs, Jam Pony Express, Uncle Luke, and lots of other bass heavy music. More recently, T Pain, who revitalized auto tune and is one of my faves. Its all definitely influential cause I love and was reared on the Miami bass style, but also my Caribbean background of being 1st generation Jamaican (born in America) plays a connection. Growing up in a Jamaican household we would listen to old school riddim all day.
When's the last time you had to read a bitch?
Zebra Katz: It was in college and that was the start of the madness, where it got gross but it was well needed. The collegiate experience can be really crazy, especially at a small liberal arts school when your experience it as an "other" or "a diverse student." Often times, you have to teach your fellow peers a lot and sometimes they may not want to hear it. The end result is a lot of dishing and shade in the academia setting, though I learned a lot from it.
How much of an influence would you say has Black and Latino Gay Subculture had on mainstream pop?
Zebra Katz: I would say its just culture. Look at all of it with blinders on and take what you enjoy about it. Learning from it is the most important thing, whether it be gay, straight, black, brown, queer or other. The influence is everywhere and the ballroom scene has never left. However, now it looks like a resurgence cause "Paris Is Burning" just went on Netflix; Rick Owens used "Ima Read", and the popularity of Vogue Evolution. Vogue culture has always been in pop culture and right now there are floods of artists who are gaining attention, which is great. These talents are working outside of the box to expand how the public perceives the art.
On a dance level, who in the ballroom scene is killing it?
Zebra Katz: Kevin Prodigy, who also is an emcee; Leyomi Mizrahi and all the Vogue Evolution kids; Dee Dee Revlon; rest in peace to Alloura and Willi Ninja. The list is endless, but what's so great is you find uniqueness in all of them and the manner in which they express themselves through vogue. You can then apply it to yourself.
What's the next step for you?
Zebra Katz: That's tough cause I prefer to keep it on the wraps. When you leak too much, by the time people get to focus on it, it has already been watered down and placed in a box for someone else to open up and package. However, if I may divulge a bit, we just shot a video the other day and we're heading to London after this show, plus we're really excited about Fashion Week because we've been working on new runway music. Hopefully we'll take Paris by storm, again. The world has opened up to us and there are a lot of major collaborations coming up we're looking forward to.
Words and interview by Mister Lee
Images courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency
|OWN magazine  7/1/2012 4:00 EDT|