ATLiberia: Ace Harris’ Southern Rap-Meets-Afrobeat Album Highlights The Experiences Of Second Generation Africans

Liberian-American producer Ace Harris shares his debut album ATLiberia, highlighting the experiences of first generation African immigrants.

Ace Harris. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Lassana “Ace” Harris has already made a name for himself in the hip-hop world. The Grammy- nominated producer has produced hits for Nicki Minaj and T.I. amongst others and is now taking his catalog a step further with his debut album ATLiberia. As its name suggests, ATLiberia represents the musician’s dual Liberian and American heritage, mixing elements of Southern rap with pulsating afrobeat, highlife and soca beats.

The album—featuring guests like Lloyd Musa, Laza Morgan and Cypha Da King—explores themes of culture and identity, highlighting experiences unique to first generation African immigrants who’ve had to navigate various aspects of their cultural identities in their everyday lives. ATLiberia celebrates the many facets of Harris’ bicultural upbringing, “it is music that embodies the rhythms and textures of Africa and the pulse and heartbeat of diasporic culture” he mentions.

In a brief interview with the musician below, Ace Harris further discusses the concept behind ATLiberia and shares what he wants the album to symbolize for fellow first-generationers.

Damola Durosomo for Okayafrica: How did the name and concept for ATLiberia come about?

Ace Harris: I was sitting up one night last October and thinking about my career and what type of mark I would want to leave on culture. I feel like every great producer either breaks a sound or breaks an artist. I hopefully plan to do both. So the idea hit me that I should do a project that’s a reflection of my heritage and upbringing: Atlanta Raised, Liberian Made… ATLiberia. Plus, my mom, who is not really hip to music at all, fell in love with Michelle Williams’ hit song “Say Yes” feat. Beyonce and Kelly and randomly says to me “you should try putting some of the African beats in your music.” Coming from her that was like total confirmation to do this project.

Why do you think it's important to incorporate your Liberian culture into your music?

I think it’s very important because it’s who I am. Growing up first generation American to Liberian parents has influenced literally every part of my life! Plus I grew up playing drums in a West African church so I was introduced to that African sound at an early age. There’s no denying that that exposure and upbringing has always shaped the way I make music. I feel like African music and specifically African rhythms and syncopation have influenced a lot of the popular music we hear today. Now, whether African music gets credited for that is another thing.

You've worked with some pretty big names in the hip-hop world, but from our understanding, this is your first time producing music with heavy afrobeat elements. How was this experience different from production you've done in the past?

Though I’ve made some afrobeat type songs in the past this is my first time really honing into the sound and really creating a project with those elements, so I’m super excited. This experience was different, for one, because I’m shaping and curating the whole sound and themes of the album whereas the work I’ve done with like T.I. and Nicki Minaj I was more so contributing to their overall vision. Also, this experience was unique because It was cool to bring in the various artists and mash-up their style with that afrobeat sound. Like the song IFE which I did with D. Woods was a cool fusion.

As a Liberian-American musician, how important was it for you to explore themes of culture and identity on the album?

I had to make sure ATLiberia had that African aesthetic in terms of the music but also representing that African pride in terms of the lyrics! Like on “African Star,” which I wrote with Lloyd Musa, it’s a total celebration of life and heritage. History lesson aside, we all know that for some our heritage was stripped from us. So I think it’s super cool and necessary for us young Africans in the diaspora to rep our culture. I feel like when we do that and be genuine to who we are, people from all walks of life and all cultures will appreciate our story and buy into our music.

What do you want ATLiberia to represent for listeners? Particularly for those who have grown up as second generation Africans in America like yourself?

I want ATLiberia to be the Soundtrack for Africans in the diaspora. For me and for many other first generation Americans it represents the sound of Africa in America. It’s hip-hop, it’’s dance, but with an African aesthetic. I feel like the African sound is really starting to impact globally and there are so many artists who are out there killing it. My hope is that ATLiberia adds to this movement and puts on for my country Liberia.

ATLiberia is available now, a portion of the album's proceeds will go to the ICF Mission of Hope school in Liberia.

Arts + Culture

This Stunning Series of Self-Portraits Explores Love And The Concept of Letting Go

Cape Town photographer Meet The Internet shares a few images from her exhibition.

Cape Town photographer Siziphiwe Ngqoyiyana, who is known online as "Meet The Internet," does not take the topic of love lightly. "Most of us rushed into it," she says, "and we started dating without understanding what love is."

Her latest photography series, Love Through My Eyes is, is a reflection on how people around her deal with love, from staying in toxic relationships because they fear being alone, to those who build walls around themselves in fear of heartbreak and are hence unlovable.

"We come from broken families," says Ngqoyiyana. "Some with no fathers at all, so we go out yearning to be loved by a man and pray for better experiences than what we see our mothers go through. We get our fair share of hurt, we watch people come to our lives, we share our bodies with them and when it's enough for them they leave. We even start understanding and forgiving the cycle."

This cycle is reflected in the photos. In most of them, the color red is prevalent, symbolic for love. And the main subject, which is the photographer herself, is elusive, hiding her face either with a mask or red ropes, which could symbolize the blinding effect of love and how it can suffocate you.

Ngqoyiyana wants the images to focus on both sides of love. "I like the concept of balloons," she says, "because from a young age it kinda teaches us the concept of holding on to something and letting go. Obviously letting go is never fun, hence we cried when we would see our balloons fly away."

Ngqoyiyana got into photography by taking behind the scenes photos in music video sets. Her first gig as a photographer was a matric ball, and she recently started directing music videos.

The photos for Love Through My Eyes took "roughly three weeks" to make, and are all self-portraits. A confessed shy person, for a long time Ngqoyiyana wasn't happy with her appearance. "I can be whoever I want to be with self-portraits, and I am not so conscious about the way I look," she says.

"When I started taking pictures I was at a stage in my life where I was depressed and anxious, because I didn't have a career, and with no tertiary education," says Ngqoyiyana. "I felt I was "wasting away," she says. "Self-portraits were more of an escape, or a 'pretend like I am doing more than I actually am.' But after seeing the reception on the Internet, I did more."

Love Through My Eyes ran for a day on the 10th of November in Observatory, Cape Town. As a result of the amazing reception, says Ngqoyiyana, more prints of her work are on the way.

Photo courtesy of Siziphiwe Ngqoyiyana

Photo courtesy of Siziphiwe Ngqoyiyana

Photo courtesy of Siziphiwe Ngqoyiyana

Photo courtesy of Siziphiwe Ngqoyiyana

Follow Meet The Internet on Instagram and Facebook.

Blinky Bill 'Don't Worry.' Source: Youtube.

Watch Blinky Bill's New Video for 'Don't Worry'

The Nairobi producer releases the humorous visuals for his second single.

Blinky Bill dropped his long-awaited debut album, Everyone's Just Winging It And Other Fly Tales, last month and it's clearly been well received by fans in Kenya and all over the world.

His latest music video for the hard-hitting single "Don't Worry" was filmed in Detroit and directed by his usual collaborators Osborne Macharia, Andrew Mageto and Kevo Abbra.

Blinky prances around Detroit's Heidelberg Project—an outdoor art installation created to support the surrounding area's community—lighting up the vibe of this aggressive song.

"The song is called Don't Worry and I feel like the vibe we created with the visuals is in tune with the spirit of the song, which is just about staying in your lane and minding your business," the Kenyan artist mentions. "I like that it takes a song that is serious and aggressive and makes it a little more fun."

This video is an instant mood-lifter and definitely worth the view.

Watch Blinky Bill's new music video for "Don't Worry" below.

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Photo still via YouTube.

Falana's New Music Video for 'Ride or Die' Is a Must-Watch

The Nigerian singer returns with her first single in 4 years in this Daniel Obasi-directed work of art.

Falana couldn't let the year wrap up without making a statement.

The Toronto-raised Nigerian singer recently dropped the music video "Ride or Die"—her first single in 4 years—directed by Daniel Obasi.

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