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Kelela's 'Take Me Apart' Is A Sci-Fi Saga On Black Women's Sexuality & Power

In her new album, Kelela creates a moment that is afrofuturistic, progressive and reaffirms the mysticism of black women.

Black women are conjured from the earth, seasoned by the sunlight and marinated by the magic of a million fore mothers. We are enchanted beings, grounded by the roots of our tresses and complexions that mimic the earth's skin.

Despite harboring these energies, we have endured oppressive and discriminatory social and cultural ideologies that attempt to crush our spirits. Misogynoir, or the distinct intersection of racism and sexism that we face, impacts our self expression, our ideas of beauty, self worth and sexual liberation. Even when we break away from it, it persists.


Kelela, an Ethiopian-American black woman, is all too familiar with the complexities of carrying this intersectional identity in a nation that devalues black people and women. Her journey to finding and expressing her voice, creating music she believes in and loving and lusting unapologetically has provided her the ability to compose sensational, rapturous lullabies. Every black woman knows they are not from this world; that this world cannot handle her.

I pondered these realities while listening to Kelela's Take Me Apart. The title itself is both confrontational and commanding. On one hand, it suggests the several ways our society tears black women apart, whether through direct violences and micro-aggressions or indirect cultural norms that seeps into our mentalities. On the other hand, she requests to be dismantled, to be shred to pieces, through sexual ecstasy or through the patience and delicacy needed to acknowledge her emotional density. I have been torn apart by lovers in ways that have left me broken and deformed, but rarely in ways that have made me feel seen, touched, changed.





Kelela defies convention. With thick locs bluntly carved into an asymmetrical bob, speckled with bulbous bubbles or gold hoops; a shaved side of her head; and a sensual, psychedelic fashion sense including baggy fits, bold colors and sexy, skin tight threads, Kelela is not what people expect of a black girl. She also doesn't fit into the narrow conventions of stereotypical R&B, a genre that black singers are expected to submit to. She steps outside of the box and stares at it seductively, before deciding she wants something better.

Take Me Apart showcases the depth of her personality and challenges the preconceived notions of black feminine sexuality, romance and independence. What makes this project even more captivating is its articulation. Fusing sci-fi instrumentals, otherworldly melodies and superhuman vulnerability, Kelela creates a moment that is afrofuturistic, progressive and reaffirms the mysticism of black women.

It took Kelela 6 years to complete this album. It outlines the evolution of three crucial relationships: first with a tumultuous lover ("Frontline," "Waitin," "Take Me Apart," "Enough") the next with herself, where she explores her being and, loosely, others ("Jupiter," "LMK"), and the last with a new, hopeful romance ("Truth or Dare," "S.O.S."). These narratives are expressed through a fantastical escape where whispery echoes, airy synths and electronic beats are the means of communication. Her planet is one where movement, sensuality, mystery and vulnerability are the ways of life.

However, the album transcends an intergalactic journey through relationships and sexual experiences: Kelela declares uninhibited desires, demands the most out of her lovers and confronts toxic relationships. In some moments, she is remarkably candid about her sexual and romantic expectations: "Don't say you're in love until you learn to take me apart," she warns in the title track. On "S.O.S.," she accurately describes how much more stimulating it can be to play with a partner instead of playing with yourself: "I could touch myself, but it's not the same if you could come and help me out."



Kelela 'Take Me Apart' album cover.

Other times, it isn't straightforward requests she sends—it's heartbreaking confessions of unfulfillment and disappointment. "Despite what you took, I miss what you gave," she sings in "Waitin," a deceptively upbeat tune describing her complicated relationship with a previous lover. The opening lines of "Better" are even more real: they describe the moment you realize that getting back with your ex was a bad idea. "We got back and it's not the same, and I'm afraid to say it out loud."

It's this candid courage that makes Take Me Apart infectious and emancipating all at once. I'm inspired to continue going after who I want, telling potential lovers how I feel, to be forward, fierce and flirtatious, without worrying about the constricting gender norms that try to shackle our actions and decisions. By knowing oneself, and being true to our emotions and expectations—both within and with others—we can lead lives based on freedom, instead of fear.

Kelela's hyper-awareness of herself, her influence and her position in the universe propels her music into distant yet familiar landscapes. I adore "Jupiter," a brief snippet that encapsulates the freedom in space and solitude, the grace in building our own personal planets. "Find in me, find a love that oozes," she breathes, reminding us that love of self reigns above romantic connection. I imagined what power we could manifest if we succumbed to our transformative energies, created the worlds we wanted to live in, and stepped into them like the sultry goddesses we are.

Photo courtesy of 1-54/SUTTON.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Landing in Marrakech is 2018's Most Anticipated Art Event

The leading art fair dedicated to contemporary African art makes its mark on the continent for the first time this weekend.

This weekend, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading art fair devoted to contemporary African art, will debut in Marrakech, Morocco. The announcement of the Fair's expansion to the continent last year has left aficionados of contemporary African art in eager anticipation of this "homecoming"—this author included.

1-54 debuted in London in 2013. Although an expansion to New York followed, a presence on the continent was always part of the long-term vision of the founder Touria El Glaoui. Finally, the time has now arrived.

Here are five reasons why we're looking forward to 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Marrakech.

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This Olympic Figure Skater Blew Us Away Again By Pulling Off a Costume Change Mid-Routine

First Maé-Bérénice Méité performed to Beyoncé, now she's effortlessly slaying outfit changes mid-routine. What can't she do?

French-Congolese and Ivorian figure skater, Maé-Bérénice Méité, has pretty much been the life of the Winter Olympic figure skating competition.

Earlier this month, the athlete had the internet shook when she performed her opening routine to two Beyoncé songs. Now she's back with even more black girl magic.

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Video still via YouTube.

10 Stand Out Moments From Janelle Monáe's Powerful Music Videos

Janelle Monae came back making a statement—and we're just as obsessed as you are.

We've got to talk about Janelle Monáe.

Over the past half decade, she's embarked on a profound journey that's solidified her as an artist, creator and activist who isn't afraid to shoot down the stars—or shoot with them.

After having roles in Hidden Figures and Moonlight—two Oscar nominated movies where one won an Oscar, a stellar speech at the Grammy's and a stunning presence at the Black Panther red carpet, she's ready to grace us with "Dirty Computer," the latest musical venture in her Afrofuturistic saga.

To whet our appetites before the album, which is set to release on April 27, Janelle dropped not one but two music videos yesterday. Both are distinctly entertaining: one is a black, intersectional feminist anthem and the other a psychedelic soundtrack of sexual fluidity.

Watch both, then read some of the highlights we gathered from the hypnotizing visuals and powerful wordplay.

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