popular

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.

Op-Ed

Op-Ed: Kanye West In Africa Is Music Marketing At Its Worst

Scream all you want. Feel the euphoria of Kanye moving to our drums, but don't forget he's here for marketing.

One of the most interesting parts of the music industry is the marketing of an album. In developed music markets, accomplished professionals and creatives sit in a room and decide how best they want to sell the music. It's the norm. Many people deliberate and develop a roll-out plan that is improved until it's perfect for execution.

When JAY-Z rented out billboards for 4:44, with everyone wondering what it meant around the world, that is marketing. Mr Eazi drawing a towering mural of himself and Giggs in London, was another marketing tactic to push his single "London Town." Falz created an entire movement filled with conventionally attractive men, and named it the 'Sweet Boys Association,' because he had a single that needed to be sold to fans. Perhaps, what takes the cake in the world of African music marketing is one crazy move by a little known Nigerian artist named Skibii. You see, this guy died and rose again from the dead, just like sweet biblical adult Jesus. He had a single somewhere that needed the attention. Death and resurrection was his thing.

Kanye West is in Africa for marketing. The US rap superstar is holed up at the Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, surrounded by his friends, colleagues and family. He is here because he has an album to release named Yandhi, and somehow, he found his way to the Motherland, where's he's built two outdoor domes, as his working studio. He isn't working from inside a house like a mere mortal. He's in the wild, connecting to Mother Nature and nourishing foliage. This is Africa, Kanye West is an African-American. His ancestors came from this part of the world. He has a claim to this soil.

Kanye West was supposed to drop his ninth studio album on Saturday, September 29. After two days of waiting, three Saturday Night Live performances, one tweet from Kim Kardashian-West and an appearance on TMZ Live, Yandhi was pushed back to Black Friday, November 23. West admitted that he "didn't finish" the album in time, and a member of his management staff suggested pushing the release back.

"I started incorporating sounds that you never heard before and pushing and having concepts that people don't talk about," West said. "We have concepts talking about body-shaming and women being looked down upon for how many people that they slept with. It's just a full Ye album and those five albums I dropped earlier were like superhero rehabilitation and now the alien Ye is fully back in mode… We're going to Africa in two weeks to record. I felt this energy when I was in Chicago. I felt the roots. We have to go to what is known as Africa."

In Africa, Kanye West hasn't laid low. Photos from his arrival hit the internet, and somehow, he was filmed listening, dancing and vibing to African music. Those songs include Mystro's "Immediately," and Burna Boy's "Ye." The videos have gone viral, Africans are wowed by Kanye's interaction with their music, reactions and takes, Africa is moved by Kanye West interacting with our music. Somehow, I used to think we are over this type of event. The event where an an American superstar, who has a huge fan base in Africa, dances to our music, and we lose it. But I was wrong. This content format still has power.

Scream all you want. Feel the euphoria of Kanye moving to our drums, but don't forget he's here for marketing. His album is about to drop, and he's publicly alerted the world that he needs to be in Africa and its strong cultural influence to complete the project. Everyone is watching, the conversation has global traction, and Africans are supporting him. Since Kanye got heat for his infamous "Slavery was a choice," comment, I knew Africa will become a part of that story. The past week has seen him visit President Donald Trump at the white house, and further moved away from the love of his African-American base in the US. Black people are not behind Kanye West right now. The media is tearing him to shreds. Celebrities are in a social media race to dissociate themselves from him. Many fans aren't proud of their icon. But he is in the Motherland, dancing to its native music, and we can all cheer.

"I'm in Africa recording," he says in a 9 minute video on Twitter about mind control free thinking and his greatness. "We just took them to the future with the dome. The music is the best on the planet. I am the best living recording artist. We, rather, because the spirits flow through me. The spirit of Fela, the spirit of Marley, the spirit of Pac flows through me. We know who the best. We know."

On the surface, Africa appears to be a gimmick. A play by a great artist to expand the story of his album for marketing talking points. Yandhi is already anticipated, and generations after us will study his art and point to this project as the one where Africa played a direct role. This black continent is a marketing tool for Kanye. Son of Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti, has already disassociated Fela Kuti's spirit from Kanye's claims. "On behalf of the Kuti family, I want to state that the spirit of Olufela Anikulapo Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West," Seun announced on Instagram.

Perhaps marketing isn't Kanye's only reason for his African trip. Maybe, the world is too harsh on Kanye West and his new level of introspective vibrations. Maybe we aren't seeing the bigger picture. Oh gosh! We might all be victims of this grand mind control programme that West talks about! What if Kanye West is on these shores for some actual influence? Africa has a rich spectrum of sounds, laden with enough culture, soul and character to influence any type of music. From Cairo down to Lagos, there's enough music to add colour.

A clear way for justification of his African trip is perhaps for Kanye West to give back. He is connecting to the 'roots' after all. He is soaking in the energy for inspiration. Perhaps he might actually get to work with an African artist while on the continent. Already, Perhaps Africa's contributions to the project will be anchored by an African. Already, in his creative dome, Ugandan producer extraordinaire, Benon Mugumbya, has been pictured. If he gets some of that Yhandi shine, it wouldn't hurt.

Kanye officially has to be the first hip-hop star to make a trip to the continent for direct inspiration since Africa began to hug the spotlight as an interesting market for global music players. Recent years have witnessed the penetration of African music into global pop spaces. Africa has become the new cool. And as her sonic influence grows, more artists would continue to find new ways to interact. Kanye is making a splash with this. Perhaps, he will be the inspiration for more exchange between Africa and Europe.

Perhaps, his music isn't his true reason for this trip. Maybe Ye just wants to get away from the madness from the USA, and go find Wakanda. Maybe he will discover Ye-Kanda. Either way, only the final version of Yhandi will contain the answers that we seek, and Kanye West's true intention. For now, he is already winning. All those marketing points are already helping the project.

popular

Belgium's First Black Mayor Is a Congolese Immigrant

Pierre Kompany, who came to Belgium from the DRC as a refugee in 1975, was elected mayor of a Brussels borough this week.

Pierre Kompany, a Congolese immigrant and father of professional football players Vincent and Francois Kompany, has been elected mayor of the Ganshoren borough in Brussels, BBC reports.

This is a history-making moment, as this victory makes Kompany Belgium's first black mayor.

Keep reading... Show less
News

Family of Abducted Tanzanian Billionaire Offers Reward for Information on His Whereabouts

The family of Mohammed Dweji, Africa's youngest billionaire, is offering $437,000 for information that will lead to his safe return.

Latst week, Tanzania's richest man and Africa's youngest billionaire Mohammed Dewji was abducted outside of an upscale hotel in Dar es Salam. His whereabouts still remain unknown, and now his family if offering a hefty financial reward to anyone with information that will help lead to his safe return.

Dweji's family is offering 1 billion Tanzanian shillings (~$437,000) to anyone with information on his whereabouts. reports Forbes.

"We would like to thank God, and applaud the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and its institutions for the hard work they are currently doing to make sure that our beloved son is found," says Azim Dewji, the family spokesperson. "We urge you to continue keeping MO in your prayers as our nation continues the search for him."

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.