Blast from the Past: 10 Musicians from the Cultured Archive

In honor of our upcoming summer music issue, we're recapping 10 conversations with some of our favorite musicians, whose work consistently plays with genre, blurs boundaries, and truly inspires us.

Cultured Magazine

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Kelsey Lu in a look by No Sesso. Photo by Dicko Chan.

Kelsey Lu
The artist Diamond Stingily profiled Kelsey Lu for us two years ago, writing of Lu’s incredible presence: “Regardless of where Lu performs, she has a way of making her stage presence feel intimate. I’ve never known a musician to exert force as softly as she does, yet with an intensity that turns listeners into viewers.”

Solange Knowles with Isamu Noguchi’s The Void, 1970. Image by Awol Erizku.

In an interview with Toyin Ojih Odutola, Solange Knowles describes the inextricable link between the visual landscape of her work and the music itself: “For A Seat at the Table, it was really important for me to develop some sort of a visual language…Once I got a grasp of what that repetition meant to me, and studied some of the movements, I realized that I was creating shapes and sculpture within these movements.”

Grimes. Photo by Chuck Grant.

In our recent cover story, Claire Boucher, known as Grimes and also as c, Khalila Douze admires the artist and musician’s earnestness: “The way c can so quickly turn her conviction off and on is admirable and like watching micro ego deaths happen in real time. Her humility radiates.”

E. Jane, styled by Eric N. Mack. Photo by Matthew Morrocco.

E. Jane
The visual artist E. Jane makes music as MHYSA, an alter-ego of sorts. As Sable Elyse Smith explains, “the genius of this work is its rigor and its slick ability to fold into itself. It is shape-shifting. On top of the fact that it’s just gotdamn sexy.” It is, she says, an “aesthetic embodiment of what poet Fred Moten describes as ‘hapticality’—’the capacity to feel through others, for others to feel through you, for you to feel them feeling you…'”

Uhuru Moor, Ayotunde Osareme, Jasmine Nyende, and Tianna Nicole of Fuck U Pay Us. Photo by Alima Jennings.

Fuck U Pay Us
In this interview with Sondria, the punk band outlines their vision. “Having to use your oppressor’s tongue to voice your lament against him is not without its challenges, and FUPU is working its way through that,” says Sondria. “I’m communicating with the spiritual realm and translating to the material realm in the white man’s tongue. It’s very complex for me,” says guitarist and singer Uhuru Moor. Drummer Tianna Nicole adds that, even if reparations were met, Fuck U Pay Us would continue writing “more songs that imagine black futures.”

Esra Padgett. Photo by Kyle Knodell.

Esra Padgett
As Audrey Wollen writes, Esra Padgett, “half of the band Angels in America…whole of the music project Chicklette, songwriter, DJ, teacher, and scholar of linguistic anthropology,” manages to move between it all with ease. “Not ease as in a lack of struggle,” says Wollen, “…but more in the way relief from restriction has its own sharp pleasures.”

Alicia Keys-Dean and Kasseem Dean, aka Swizz Beatz. Photo by Jamel Shabazz. Styled by Emma Pritchard.

Alicia Keys-Dean and Kasseem Dean, a.k.a. Swizz Beatz
2018, writes Rebecca Bengal, was “a year of shared accolades and major ventures” for musicians Alicia Keys-Dean and Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean. As the two work closely with the art world (the Dean Collection is their philanthropic organization and art collection, featuring artists like Gordon Parks and Deana Lawson), they continually seek truth, particularly in photography. “Alicia and I really believe that photography is the future,” says Kasseem.

“Dreamcrusher’s performance energy,” writes Stingily in this profile, “is fanatic…They aren’t restricting themselves to boundaries as to what a performer is to the viewer but what a performer is to them.” Dreamcrusher confirms: “[T]here’s the weird air of people who stand there watching a person, like, ‘Impress me.’ I’m not here to impress. If you’re a part of the DIY community, get involved. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t hold back.”

Yulan Grant. Photo by Sarah Muehlbauer.

Yulan Grant
Yulan Grant’s visual and audio installations, writes Sara Roffino, feature a “simultaneous layering and deconstruction of histories, narratives, and identities.” This energy is the “the driving ethos of her SHYBOI persona as well,” the name under which the innovative artist DJs. Says Grant: “I’m trying to create a different perspective or narrative around the LGBTQ community in Jamaica, and how they’re creating their own storyline outside of the queer politics of the global North.”

Greg Fox
Drummer Greg Fox—who is truly a multi-instrumentalist—”embraces the element of chance, and even writes it into some of his sounds,” says Toniann Fernandez in this profile. “He is a man with one foot in the music world, one foot in the art world, and a universe in each fingertip.”