Family ties

Video exclusive: behind the scenes of Ancestors, a new video by NYC artist Loftblue
By Anthony Jamari Thomas | Music | 1 July 2019

Still, ‘Ancestors’ LoftBlue / directed by Joshua Olley

HERO exclusively premieres Ancestors, a new film by New York musician and poet LoftBlue – here in conversation with friend and frequent collaborator Anthony Jamari Thomas, a multi-disciplinary artist in his own right…

In less than a year, LoftBlue has begun to carve a musical odyssey grounded in lyricism and patience. The artist hailing from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn continues to gain popularity for his charisma and ability to sculpt presence in both his sound and stage show, establishing a following of admirers within the confines of the artistic community.

Driven by personal experience and the narratives of his peers, LoftBlue‘s catalogue is solely based on introspection, earnestly leaning into his gift and love for crafting music. Recently, the artist has performed with Dover Street Market Los Angeles and just a few weeks ago, headlined the legendary SOB’s in New York City.

Today, we arrive at the release of his latest film, Ancestors. Premiered here, the film is directed by photographer Joshua Olley, Paradigm founder Theophilos Constantinou and edited by Zak Cedarholm, while hosting a multitude of cameos  – including Salome Brown, photographer Koki Sato and recording artist TheyKnowtheName – who all salute while LoftBlue delivers his signature wordplay.

Below, LoftBlue discusses the power of music, the art of being vulnerable, keeping your friends close, while reminding us why he flows the way he does, and why he insists we should all “Rest away our pride, and vibe.”

Anthony Jamari Thomas: Brother, tell us where are we right now?
LoftBlue: Lower East Side, Alphabet City, Avenue A.

AJT: It’s been a while since we’ve discussed your mental health, since you started filming Ancestors and headlining SOB’s how does your heart feel?
LB: My heart feels like it’s in the right place, I think more than anything it’s really about me trying to understand myself more – if I can’t understand this, I can’t give, so my heart right now is in this constant process of recovery, replenishment and trying to get to a place that’s better for me.

AJT: Tell me a little about where you came from…
LB: Mom Dukes moved from Trinidad when she was about fourteen years of age with my grandmother, so that’s where my blood is from. Historically, I’m from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. I grew up on Macdonough Street, Malcolm X Blvd, Macon etc…. I’ve definitely seen a lot. I’m now starting to understand where exactly in this city I attribute my history. 

AJT: It’s insane that we were raised a block away from each other… Macdonough Street is just so surreal… a different flavor, you can feel it, we wear it on us.
LB: Yes, yes, my grandmother playing Whitney Houston, Calypso music which stems pretty deep for me. Real rap, you should get a street corner named after you!

AJT: Nah, that’ll be Nana before me!
LB: True, that’ll be ill. 

AJT: In terms of your music, you speak about reaching back in your memory and speaking from a place of sincerity, very much sacred to your upbringing – which gives you the space to create. Can you describe this place?
LB: It’s sort of like a euphoric place, when I’m tapped into making music, it’s like I’m channelling a different type of energy. It’s the same when I’m performing and recording, the moment when I lose sense of that connection I mess up, or get thrown off.

Gallery: Behind the scenes on the Ancestors video


AJT: Where do you see yourself moving with this type of energy? You’re navigating a lot, your career, life, your narrative, identity, do you expect there to be an end outcome to all of this?
LB: I don’t know about an end result, I move now in the light of how my music moves people, how people feel about my music, but I also realise that in my music I’m discussing the struggle of my life and of my peers. Emotionally I only feel my music once words are being recited rather than on wax, but I’m talking more to my people and their struggle… I mean, there is struggle everywhere, but I can only talk about what I know, what I have grown from and what I’ve seen – trying to get people I care about to see what’s on the other side. For me to serve as that beacon of light, to be an example for someone to make moves and believe in themselves, that’s what moves me right now.

“What makes our work so powerful is the way we use it to comfort our pain…”

AJT: I was watching an interview with Anton Corbijn, and he spoke on discovering your technique, the limitations of your technique and advancing through this. In the past, I have watched you sculpt and work through various phases of design, so it’s interesting to see you finally find a sense of place with music. In the case of those disciplines, you fill those spaces – reconciling your pace and that of the history of said discipline. How do you feel about challenging where you are now, and the limitations present in your craft?
LB: First and foremost is enjoying it, having fun. Not losing the feeling of what it gives me has probably been the only thing that has helped with my compulsive disorder, the missing groove I need to function. Sculptures taught me to accept things for what they are and not what they could have become, the music confirms this, accepting the fiction and reality of what I speak on track and allowing it to just be that for the moment. I think emotion, time and growth elevates my spirit, my voice, so my advancement will only continue, but again I only speak for now. I am starting to pay attention to the power one can possess when you are able to move people, like how do you share this energy. 

AJT: So, you’re speaking on distribution of energy?
LB: Yeah.


AJT: Let’s talk about Ancestors, how did this track come about? What is the concept behind the track?
LB: Ancestors really started out with me talking about my real life. Mom Dukes always asked what if someone steals your music? I couldn’t answer then, but now I know if I continue to talk about who I am and my life, that is something impossible to copy. So on the track I speak on my life: growing up, personal issues which have moulded my personality. Ancestors is like a root taking form as a tree, branches then leaves and fruit and just like the tree we are all somehow connected and related, and we need to embrace this – on the flipside, the song is about fatigue and learning, becoming better through this tiredness, who am I when I face this?  

AJT: In a certain sense we have histories we have to reconcile and face before we move ahead with the tides of our present, do you feel encouraged, contested or challenged by your history and which history do you choose to define you? If someone came right now to take it all away, which history would you keep or would you let it all go?
LB: I am more less defending my need to prove something…

AJT: Hm, the process of “proving”, what are you here to prove?
LB: Just that I can actually be one of the few who can make it, looking at my life, how things are set up in terms of how my skin looks and how my community feels. There is trauma, there is pain, there is loss. I would defend who I am today, because these things I have experienced. 

AJT: In that case, is any of this yours? The music, the time, your creation, is this yours?
LB: In a naive way yes, realistically, no – I remember flying to Stockholm some months back, literally asking God what my purpose is. I’ve encountered the most revealing dreams which taught me I am here to shift something. Also, remembering when I visited your studio, and watched you paint, it was mystical, something polarizing. We’ve grown up in a place where opportunity was limited, and self-love wasn’t taught much. What makes our work so powerful is the way we use it to comfort our pain, we overcome eventually, but it teaches non-conformity, intention and how to shape a dialogue based on honesty. Working on me and my spirit gives me the confidence to walk through my obstacles.

AJT: Who are your “ancestors”?
LB: I mean, my grandfather, Atibias – he received this name from a shaman in Trinidad, and also my grandmother, my great grandmother, who is 96 years old, those are my ancestors but even my friends around me are also my family, and my ancestors. 

Still, ‘Ancestors’ LoftBlue / directed by Joshua Olley

AJT: Out of all the inspirations you have, who is instrumental?
LB: I prefer to receive love like Biggie and respect like Jay, Kanye West will remain genius along with the cool flava and unorthodox flow of André 3000. If I am listening to anything, it’s older music – some old Nas, Wu-Tang, Biggie’s early, raw rap along with Jay-Z’s early 90s Flow. Kid Cudi has taught melody and harmonizing which helps me curate this interesting taste of sound and emotions.

AJT: In the video, there’s a lot going on, the tribe is really present: Paradigm, Nothin’ Special, TheyKnowthename? What kind of vibe was it?
LB: It was just a display of bringing people together, different races, different ethnicities, beliefs in one room. From TheyKnowthename to Mark Suciu, Koki Sato, Salome Brown, with Nothin’ Special, Paradigm Publishing, literally my friends, just beautiful faces of those I care about. I am trying to paint a real picture, this game is about who builds you up, those around you who want to help, encouragement, getting those type of people in the room. My friends are beautiful people, and I want to show this. 

Still, ‘Ancestors’ LoftBlue / directed by Joshua Olley

AJT: Honestly, I didn’t know what to make of your request to shoot in Nana’s house, but the feeling wasn’t unfamiliar since we also shot OldBrooklynTape there as well, how has your spirit shifted since then?
LB: The process of learning myself is ongoing. That tape, I personally felt I needed to give to Brooklyn, in order to mine the struggle I witnessed there – I was able to get out those particular thoughts to move towards my latest work, which has given me such strength and place for recovery. 

AJT: and if you had to describe how you feel right now in this very moment…?
LB: I am just grateful to have the privilege to create, the privilege to manifest from God. I will make the best of this opportunity, simply put, I am just thankful. I put in work, I take a leap and I just pray on my next move, giving my all, so if it doesn’t work out I know it wasn’t for me, not because I didn’t really want it. 

Follow LoftBlue on Soundcloud and Instagram.

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