In Conversation with Ronnie Rowe Jr. on Black Cop

Every September, Torontonians eagerly wait for the arrival of TIFF and its noteworthy films and spectacular talent. This year, TIFF mounted over 336 films through a range of genres and early releases. It’s my favourite time of year. Not only are stars brought in from all over the world, the festival is special in that it is a great place for new and emerging talent to shine in. Some are right from our own backyard. Ronnie Rowe Jr. is a Toronto native who is hot on our radar. He stars in his first feature film Black Cop, which premiered at TIFF, a spectacular feat for someone new to film.

I caught Ronnie Rowe Jr. on his way to a fitting for a TV show in Toronto that he can’t quite talk about yet, but something tells me that Black Cop won’t be the last we see of this talented individual.

Photo Credit: TIFF

Kimberley Drapack: How did you first get involved in acting?

Ronnie Rowe Jr.: I was actually forced into acting funny enough, because of a grade six teacher. He was really into musical theatre so he forced all the grade sixes to audition for these plays. One of them was Oliver Twist, another one was Greece, and another one was the Sound of Music. Through this opportunity, that’s when I fell in love with acting. I got to play Danny Zuko, so I might have been the first black Danny Zucko. I got to play Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist, I was the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz.

I thought it was amazing that I could remember the lines. It never felt like I was memorizing.

K: Did it feel like second nature to you?

RRJ: Yeah, I thought it was so much fun and the most fun I’ve had. I got to be free and do it in front of people and they enjoyed it.

The lights really helped. I got nervous at one point, and thought, “oh, I can’t even see anybody.”

Photo Credit: HO-Cylla von Tiedemann

K: What has it been like building your career in the Toronto film and theatre scene?

RRJ: I just came off a theatre tour with Soulpepper, we remounted Kim’s Convenience. We got to go Off Broadway because of it.

I started doing independent theatre about five or six years ago with Unit 102. Through that, more people in the theatre scene started to see me. I got invited to audition for Tarragon, which I booked, but funding fell through.

I did a play with Obsidian Theatre and over at Theatre Passe Muraille and from that, I got to tour Canada with Kim’s Convenience. I got to tour Halifax, Montréal, Toronto, and Off Broadway all this year. It’s been a great year so far.

K: You’ve hit all the major Toronto theatre venues.

RRJ: I love theatre so much. Every time I come off of a theatre run I become this different tool. You get to work the same material for so long and you can’t get bored with it, you have to become fascinated with it, dig deeper, find more things and keep it fresh. It’s a great teacher for me.

K: Do you feel as though it builds a different skill set as opposed to preparing for a film scene?

RRJ: I feel as though it sharpens my actor because of the repetitions. Anytime I’m doing a theatre run I’m always working that material. You discover so many things. The more you say something, the more it comes to life. I love the process of theatre because it’s pretty long.

I think film is like that as well. You get to draw out certain aspects, and you’re trying to find these within the character and the themes. Those processes feel very similar to me.

Photo Credit: @RILEYSMITHPHOTO

K: Does one feel more like home than the other?

RRJ: I feel very comfortable in both theatre and film, and I love them both for different reasons. With theatre, it’s the immediacy, and the intimacy. With film, it’s that it’s so character and story driven. It’s about those moments and that’s where the similarity lies. These moments are so key in theatre and in film.

It’s the same with TV, but I feel as though you get to flush out a bit more with those two mediums.

K: It’s nice to have that immediate connection with your audience through theatre.

RRJ: There’s nothing like it. Whenever there is that first joke in a play, to kind of catch the audience within that state of performance is amazing. Then, you just dance with it for the rest o it. 

K: So you’ve been a natural since the beginning?

RRJ: It just really makes me happy, being up there and expressive and vulnerable… I love it because it’s so scary. 

I found that within the journey of self-discovery and trying to find out who you are, I always needed art to be part of what I do, whether it’s poetry or acting, I need to be artistically expressive.

K: Do you write poetry as well? Did you start as a kid?

RRJ: I do. I’ve been doing it for awhile but it’s just now that I’ve started sharing my pieces more.

K: Do you remember the first time you showed someone a poem?

RRJ: For sure. I’m pretty sure it was a female. 

It’s always nice to get feedback and when people resonate with what you’re saying. Just like with acting or any other form of expression.

K: What is it like to have a film premiering in TIFF?

RRJ: I haven’t seen the film in its entirety yet, so the premier will be the first time I’m actually seeing it. It’s a weird thing, where I’m going to be judging myself…

I’m from Toronto and to have my first feature film premier at home. It’s pretty epic. I have such a great support base and family and friends that are so excited to see the film. I get to experience this first thing with them. It’s pretty awesome.

K: Tell us about Black Cop. How did this collaboration first begin?

RRJ: The movie is a satire/drama. It’s a man’s struggle between his duty and who he is as an individual. Through every day life, he experiences profiling, or being profiled by a police officer and it sets him over the edge to take things into his own hands and set out on a path of revenge.

K: What were your first thoughts on the script?

RRJ: I’ve worked with Cory Bowles (director) before on one of his short films called Free Throw. That was four years ago, and he always told me that we were going to work together again. Last year, I get a call and he says he has a script that he wants me to look at.

I read it and thought that it was dangerous. He asked me to come in and tape and to show the producers what I could do. Then they said they wanted me to do the damn thing.

We filmed it in twelve shooting days on a micro budget. I’m really happy with the things I’ve seen based on what we had to work with. It’s pretty amazing.

It’s a dream come true. Most actors I know want to be a lead, but a lead in a feature film and one that has life, a real story behind it. For it to be premiered at home… I couldn’t have wrote it any better.

K: How does it feel to be a leading man?

RRJ: It feels fantastic. It’s something that I was always capable of being and now I’m thankful for the opportunity to showcase that and for other people to see what I already believed.

K: What can Black Cop tell its audiences, especially considering the current political climate around the world and issues around profiling?

RRJ: I feel as though it’s a very timely film. I don’t know if it’s necessarily going to tell you something, but what it does is allow you to observe a different perspective. A perspective that I’m sure that not everybody considers. Based on how things go down, you know that not everybody is considered, or else things would be different if they did.

This film will start conversations and open up conversations that you may have not started before.

Photo Credit: TIFF

K: Black Cop reveals its protagonist as “calculatingly taking control of terror rather than submitting to it.” Is that part of the revenge story you were talking about? What does this mean for your role?

RRJ: Definitely. It means that he begins to profile the profiler. We have heard or seen things through social media, and some of these things may be what you encounter with this gentleman, because he’s heard it. He’s thinking, “let’s see how it feels when you go through it.”

It may promote empathy. It’s easier to sympathize with something, when you see someone like you go through it. The film gives you this opportunity.

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In Conversation with Peter Kuplowsky on Midnight Madness 2017

Midnight Madness is certainly not for the weak of heart. But those who were feeling a little brave this year decided to take part in the Toronto International Film Festivals lineup of horror films, led by Peter Kuplowsky. No stranger to the festival circuit, Peter trained under Colin Geddes for four years before taking the reins himself.

At just 30 years old, Peter already has quite an impressive resume. He is not afraid to take risks and, because of his meticulous planning, creates a safe space for a memorable movie-watching experience for all to enjoy.

We had the opportunity to chat with Peter about this year’s lineup, and to see where we can find him next.

Kimberley Drapack: How did you first become involved in film?

Peter Kuplowsky: I’ve always been interested in movies and I’ve always wanted to make film. When I was eleven years old my mom took me to the TIFF offices back when they were at 2 Carleton and I interviewed Steve Greystock, not realizing that over a decade later that I would be working with him. TIFF seemed in the cards for a long time.

I was an undergrad student at the University of Toronto specializing in Cinema Studies and at the same time I was helping out with an emerging festival called Toronto After Dark. I enthusiastically volunteered after just having come back from Montréal and experiencing the Fantasia Film Festival. It was an eye opening experience to me and was my first introduction to film festivals because back then Toronto was an 18+ festival and I couldn’t get into any screenings, although I definitely tried and was turned away.

U of T had a student union that had a very generous budget to rent movies so I became a programmer there, selecting films to the student union to show other undergrads. I heard that Colin Geddys, who used to run the midnight madness program, had a large kung fu film collection and I was really into Hong Kong cinema, I reached out to him and started renting prints from him and at the same time I was working at the Bloor cinema as a concessions jockey. I really wanted to start putting on movies there, specifically this one film, Troll 2, considered one of the worst films ever made. I found it so entertaining. I ended up booking the Bloor and putting on a screening of the film there, it was a big success and got Colin’s attention, and he referred to me as the “T2 kid.” We organically began to hang out in the same circle and he noticed my enthusiasm for film programming and putting on shows and eventually asked if I wanted to be an assistant and help him on some of his projects. Initially, it wasn’t Midnight Madness, we collaborated on a festival in South Carolina called Action Fest, I think it was sort of a trial run. We worked on the festival for two years and then after that, I had just finished another job and didn’t know what I was going to be doing and that’s when he suggest I start working with him on the Midnight Madness program.

For the last four years I was the the programming associate, working with Colin. In January he retired, and he generously passed the position to me, which I was completely thrilled about. As bittersweet as it was, I’ve been such a huge fan of this program since I first started attending, I’ve always felt that it was kind of a state of the union of genre films for the year because it was so tightly curated and it spans such a diverse array of different type of genre films, not just horror movies, but martial arts films, films from the around the world… it’s surreal to have that responsibility now but it’s something that I feel really privileged and excited about.

K: Your goal for Midnight Madness over the next five years is to create a lineup of not only horror films, but also a broader genre of films and to emphasize movies that discuss important hot topics. What does this mean to you?

PK: My favourite kinds of genre films or “movies to watch at midnight” are movies that really upset expectations because one of the attractions or appeals of great genre cinema are not really their generic properties, or the generic formulas you expect, it’s the stuff that you don’t expect and the fun is watching the movie that starts in a very familiar place, as many horror movies and action movies do, but it’s how those movies subvert the formula and subvert the expectation of what people are really looking for when they watch genres. They’re looking for something that’s recognizable and familiar but they’re looking for something to surprise them and I think the best genre films do that. I’m very interested and passionate about the films that go out on a limb and take those risks and try to challenge expectations and transgress those boundaries. In putting together this year’s lineup, I was really interested in finding a mix of film makers who had a history with the program and filmmakers that were brand new and trying new things. I think I achieved that with films like, Let the Corpses Tan and The Crescent, respectively, one is an action film and one is a horror film but they are told in very esoteric and eccentric ways. The style and form in which they articulate and express their story has it’s own identity and is not something you can compare easily to other films.

K: It’s great that you found films that deliver important messages and aren’t just there for their jump-scares. 

PK: It was important for me to deliver a wealth of different experiences. I have a film such as David Bruckner’s, The Ritual, which is a traditionally scary movie about campers getting lost in the woods, it’s also from an emerging filmmaker who has spent the last ten years has making a number of short films and anthology projects but he has yet to make a feature. He was someone I wanted to support but his film differently assumes a traditional trajectory, where as, a film like The Crescent is a lot more esoteric and psychedelic and unpredictable.

K: When putting together the line-up for this year, or previous years, is there a certain way in which you go about choosing your films?

PK: I think that a good programmer, especially one that is putting a section together that is as tightly packed as something like the Midnight Madness section, it’s something that I learned from Colin, you have to consider how they flow together. You don’t want a program of ten zombie films or ten martial arts films. You want to deliver a different experience each night and in putting this line up together I was thinking about how I wanted to start, what I want to do in the middle and how I wanted it to end. There is an audience that tries to come every single night so I’m very considerate of their experience each night so I want to change things up.

In terms of how I found these films, you watch a bunch of films that have been submitted to the festival and you’re watching films that you have been contacted about, sometimes by the filmmakers themselves, or their sales agents/distributors. We’re also going out in the world and looking for these movies. I have a background in short film programming, I programmed short films for the Toronto After Dark festival for eleven years and I currently do short film programming for Fantastic Fest. One of the other things that I do when I first started working on the Midnight Madness program was that I emailed a lot of short film makers that I had been a fan of to see if they were working on features and a few said they were, such as David Bruckner.

I try to be thoughtful in terms of putting things together. For instance, it was very important for me that the first film be something that would have a lot of impact, and the film that I chose, Joseph Kahn’s Bodied, is a movie that I thought wouldn’t make sense to have anywhere else but at the start of the festival because I think it’s a sort of film that can start a conversation that can carry through the festival.

I wanted to end the festival on a lighter and fun note, and Vampire Clay ended up being my choice because I really like the story behind the making of the film, it’s the first feature of a filmmaker who is in his late forties, and has worked in the industry of special effects and as a makeup artist on much lower budget productions and I have seen some of his short films and I was really impressed with them and excited to see what he would do with a feature. I found the film really resourceful and fun and unpretentious. I think it is a great counter note to some of the other films in the program where this is a fun way to end the festival experience, not a heavier way.

K: Do you have a particular film that you are most excited for audiences to see this year?

PK:  I’m excited to see how the audiences will react to Brawl in Cellblock 99, simply because I’ve broken the tradition. Historically, every Midnight Madness film begins at midnight, or 11:59 PM, but I’m starting this film at 10:45 PM. The reason is that I really feel that the first hour and seven minutes are not really delivering the Midnight Madness experience. It’s more of a gritty crime drama that’s rather sober and measured and deliberately paced, but about halfway into the movie, a big plot detail emerges that begins to escalate and bring a momentum to the story that makes it feel a bit more Midnight Madness oriented. When it finally gets to the climax and delivers a really brutal and bloody sequence, that I think is going to shock and satisfy the Midnight crowd. I’m looking forward to see how that plays in the room, the steady escalation where people aren’t going to be sure of where the movie is going and then what the movie will deliver in its final scene.

K: Are there any current trends in the horror genre that you were hoping to include or avoid within the lineup?

PK: It’s interesting, while watching the submissions this year, I did see a few trends emerge. I think that you can look at a number of films this year and see a lot of parables of broken masculinity taking place. At the same time, what I was hoping to see more of is women working in genre, and I did see a small, but a presence of women that is just great. A lot of this is a systemic problem where a lot of emerging female directors just aren’t getting a chance to make that jump from short films to feature films as quickly as their male peers are. Last year, we had the amazing film, Raw, directed by Julia Ducournau, and this year we have Hélène Cattet returning for Let the Corpses Tan along with Coralie Fargeat’s debut, Revenge.

A really common genre that gets submitted to a genre festival is the rape-revenge film, or a sort of female-vengeance story, but the fact that this was directed by a woman had me really interested and I think Coralie gives you a really new perspective on how this story gets told, specifically in how she puts the scrutiny and the gaze of the film more centred on male bodies than female bodies. In a rape-revenge story, that’s a really substantial detail.

I’m hoping for the industry to allow more voices to tell stories, because I do think we are seeing the same story over and over again. The amount of times I’ve seen a horror movie or action movie hinge on a protagonist that just wanted to ask a girl out and the whole movie is just so that he can win that girl… it’s a trope and it’s been around for hundreds and hundreds of years and there’s nothing wrong with that type of story, but there’s more than that.

I’m encouraging filmmakers to think about their films and if it’s a story that’s already been heard before, then why do they feel they should tell it again? What do they want to add to the conversation? That’s something that I’m interested in finding in future editions of the program.

K: Along with your many years of experience as a festival programmer, you also have a lot of producing credits, such as: Manborg (2011), the concluding segment Z is for Zygote in the anthology film The ABCs of Death: Part 2 (2014), The Interior (2015), The Void (2016), and the short film adaptation of Dave Eggers short story Your Mother and I (2016). Do you see yourself more as a producer, or would you rather be programming festivals?

PK: Both roles I’ve stumbled into somewhat organically. I’ve always wanted to make movies but early on I found myself more preoccupied with showing other people’s movies. While doing that I’ve made a connection and friendships with short film makers and then those friendships eventually turned into collaborations where I asked a short film maker what they were working on and they would start talking about their process, and because I was gaining contacts and experience working alongside distributors and exhibitors and sales agents and financiers, I was able to parlay some of that experience and some of those contacts into helping some of these short filmmakers make new projects including features.

I found that in my desire to want to make movies I feel like I realized that maybe I’m better at other people make their movies. I really enjoy that sort of collaborative process. Career wise, I’m trying to see if I can balance programming for festivals six months of the year, and helping people get content and getting their films off the ground the other six months of the year.

The most valuable thing about programming is seeing what other people are making and the quality. A lot of the stuff I’m seeing, by objective or conventional standards, might not be up to snuff, or “great works”, but I feel like they’re always teaching me something or establishing trends, some to potentially follow or some to maybe avoid. They are also revealing filmmakers, actors, or cinematographers that I may want to work with. It’s one of the reasons why I want to continue programming other festivals because I feel by watching short films, it’s allowing me to see a couple years into the future because I’m looking at filmmakers that are starting out. I hope to notice them and put them in touch with people that can help them make their films.

K: You’re part of that process with them.

PK: A lot of programmers see a movie well before it’s finished. A few of the films I saw this year, in their assembly versions, or their first drafts. There was a back and forth between me and the filmmakers and their producers about what I thought was working and what I thought wasn’t. While I never intend to say, “I think you should do this,” I try to be candid in terms of what my reactions are. Sometimes it has an effect on someone and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s a real feedback loop between festival programmers and filmmakers these days.

K: It’s always best to do what you love.

PK: Fortunately enough I still like movies. There’s always that period where I’m in the eye-of-the-storm watching stuff and maybe haven’t seen something in three weeks that I’ve liked, and that’s when you get worried because at that point if something good comes around you’re not sure if you’ll notice it because you feel so beaten down. The thing is, every time I’ve gotten that feeling, every time I do see something that I think is strong and good, you notice it within a few seconds. It can be the subtlest decision on the director’s part but I feel that it’s so apparent. As subjective as it may be, there is a way to direct a movie or a way to tell a story that can immediately convey to the viewer that someone is in control and steering the ship.

When someone asks me what I consider as constituting a good film, or what I look for as a programmer, it sounds like a simple thing, but I look for direction. I look for a film that I feel is articulating it’s ideas of clarity. Whether it’s the movements of the camera or the staging factors, I don’t feel like things are arbitrary or left to chance. Even if it’s a movie where things are improvised, or a documentary, the assembly or decisions that are made in putting the package together just feel like decisions.

I like hearing the voice of the filmmaker or the collective voice of the team that has made a certain movie.

K: It must be like a lightbulb that comes on when you do see something special.

PK: When I do see something I like, I have a tendency to stand up and start pacing a bit. I get rather excited when that lightbulb goes off.

K: It must be really exciting to be in the screening and to see the same reactions that you first had.

PK: I love watching the audience watch something in a program. Going to Fantasia in Montréal and then my first Midnight Madness in 2005… it’s the reason I do this. I love sitting in an audience that for ninety minutes or two hours there is a feeling of complete unity where everyone is in line or joining the wavelength of the story being told.

I think Midnight Madness is one of the programs that really delivers that because it often plays with big emotions and is able to create that feeling to get everyone as energized and charged.

K: What’s next for you?

PK: I go straight into Fantastic Fest where I do a shorts programme that is broken up into three sections. There is a horror section, a general comedy section and a section of more experimental, arthouse genre exercises.

After that, the machine sort of beings to start up again for next year but before it does, in earnest, I will likely be trying to work on my many projects with various filmmakers and it kind of depends on what is ready and what needs the help.

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Most Fashionable Video Game Characters Of All Time

Video games have long been associated with nerd culture, which is often seen as the opposite of fashion. However, if one were to look past what was on the surface, they’d realize that both industries and worlds are deeply rooted in design, and visual and emotional stimulation. While one stimulates by using technology, interaction, and visual stimulus to immerse players into a dream world separate from their own, the other uses visual stimulus, texture, and the promise of luxury and exclusivity to take fashion lovers into a different world. Yet, even though these two worlds are far apart, many designers, both game and fashion, are coming to realize how important one another’s industries are. Nicholas Ghesquiere realized this a few seasons back when he had Louis Vuitton collaborate with legendary video game developer Square Enix for a Final Fantasy themed ad campaign, which was the first ever fashion & video game crossover and opened the doors to an entirely new niche market where video games and fashion come together.

Ivy Valentine — Soul Calibur

Photos: Wikia | Vogue Runway

Soul Calibur’s voluptuous English femme fatale is as deadly as she is stunning. Having been a staple character within the Soul Calibur universe, Countess Isabella Valentine has been featured in all of Soul Calibur’s cannon games as well as many of the game’s spinoffs. And for good reason. Ivy is one of the most easily recognizable characters within the game’s universe, not just for her iconic whip sword or bra size, but for stunningly designed outfits that are equal parts dominatrix and regal, perfectly matching her dominant and savage personality. Emulating Ivy’s look is simple: Look for something with equal parts sex appeal and regal dominance like Redemption.

Dante — Devil May Cry

Photos: Wikia | Vogue Runway

Being born to a demon father and a human mother may come with plenty of struggles, but dressing well isn’t one of them. Since the release of the first Devil May Cry game, Dante has been the spitting image of a rock and roll badass. Now many other video game heroes have donned the go-to leather jacket and combat boot combo, but none have done it with hellish flare like Dante. In his newest incarnation, Dante sports his usual leather get up, but adds some runway flare by making his look less costumey and more realistic, mimicking what’s been seen on the runway time and time again. Recreating Dante’s iconic look is pretty easy, opt for something with nods to rock and roll like John Varvatos.

Bayonetta — Bayonetta

Photos: Wikia | Vogue Runway

Being a witch comes with its perks. Sure mastering gunplay and demonic witchcraft may sound cool at first, but when you realize that Bayonetta uses a portion of her magic to manipulate her own hair into turning itself into an outfit, you realize just how amazing being a witch can be. Imagine never having to buy clothes again. Instead, you can create any outfit your heart desires, from Dior gowns to Alexander Wang jeans — the options are endless when your hair is as malleable as silly putty. To best emulate Bayonetta’s style, look for designers who use heavy weaving and tassels, like Julien Macdonald.

Alucard Tepes — Castlevania

Photos: Wikia | Vogue Runway

What happens when you’re the son of Dracula? Well, you end up with an astounding taste for vintage clothing and gothic romanticism. Alucard Tepes main claim to fame may be his endless fight against his villainous father in the Castlevania universe. However, his historic bloodline shouldn’t be the only thing he’s known for. His character design is among one of the most fashionable and charming within the world of video games. Taking direct inspiration from all things gothic, Alucard emulates the perfect vampire, equal parts handsome and stoic, dark yet inviting. To recreate Alucard’s iconic style, try opting for vintage John Galliano.

Princess Peach — Super Mario

Photos: Wikia | Vogue Runway

You don’t become the single most recognizable female video game character in the world by riding on the coattails of a man. No, you grab him by his coat tails and throw him off the arena. And you do it all with style, grace, and a healthy amount of pink! That’s what’s kept Princess Peach from the Super Mario universe so relevant throughout the many decades she’s graced screens around the world. Not only is she badass in the sweetest way possible, having gone from damsel in distress to racecar driving and fry pan wielding heroine, she’s managed to do it all in her iconic pink ball gown and pointy red pumps. Without dropping her jewelled crown even once! For her look, you’ll have to take a flight to Paris, because this princess’s personal style goes hand in hand with Galliano era Christian Dior. How glamorous is that?

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Album Review: Leikeli 47 and LCD Soundsystem

Leikeli 47

Text: Toni Styles

Leikeli 47 is a rapper from New York City and quite possibly the heir to the throne of sassy, biting rhymey-rap. If Missy Elliott and the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, aka the ODB, had a child, it would likely be Leikeli 47. Like Missy, she is sufficiently other worldly with her signature attire that consists of various ski-masks, and, like ODB, she has no censor when it comes to her content. I’ll be the first to admit, the popular often stilted lyrics coming out of the studios of many of today’s female rappers just don’t do it for me. Having listened to several of her vanity themed tracks, I must admit there are some catchy lyrics. On repeat from her recent album “Wash & Go” is the single “Braids tuh’da flo(w)” — a song that puts you in the middle of a club huddle with the artist and her “girls” as she sings line after line of girl power: “Lit. Brand new outfit. Braids down to the flo. Y’all already know. My girls don’t trip, my girls keep winning, my girls don’t lose, my girls just keep on, getting braids to the flo.”

I like discovering a brand-new sound, something that knocks you out with originality — music that is confusing, ridiculous, even scary. Yes, I’m one of those annoying ’90s kids who swears by the artistic superiority of the musicians who haunted the charts during the last decade of the 20th century. Over the course of that period, everything was fresh; primarily because the music industry and labels were unafraid of taking a chance on, and ultimately courting both variety and quality. But, while Leikeli 47’s sound is not the 9th world wonder, she is a sort of wonder “kid” — from my understanding, a part of her mystique is that nobody knows her age. What really makes her stand out is her content more than her sound; she has mastered the ability to genuinely tell a story for an individual listener that remains consistent throughout her tracks. In other words, she, like the best talent, knows who her target audience is and what they want — she does not fail to deliver the goods. Perhaps, in that sense, the ski mask is a necessity, one that not only sets her apart, but also keeps the focus where it should be: on her ability to leave an impression on the listener. If Leikeli 47 can break away from the one-size fits all sound that is festering among  female rappers of the day, she may very well have something great to bring to the industry, something that can even last as long as “braids tuh’ da flo(w).”

LCD Soundsystem is a rock band from Brooklyn, who made their debut in 2002. Their sound is an ’80s-esque cooler than you, their lyrics are ’90s-esque moody distortions, and their overall delivery is an ’00s-esque startling awakening that refuses to bow to the status-quo. Think emo-pop, if you so desire. Simply put, this is music that must grow on you. Yes, that was quite blunt, but nevertheless, in most cases, quite true. LCD Soundsystem is not for a quick listen, it has too much depth to be handled so carelessly. This music is for tea time, a time when you can relax and detach yourself from yourself. On repeat from their recent album ‘American Dream‘ is the title track with lyrics “You took acid and looked in the mirror. Watched the beard crawl around on your face. Oh, the revolution was here — that would set you free from those bourgeoisie. In the moment, everything’s clearer, when the sun line exposes your age. But that’s okay.” The album does not come with many surprises, the music is thoughtful and the tracks transition well. Admittedly, the genius of LCD Soundsystem has yet to make itself fully known to me, but it does exist. I would say, give them a try if you like music that makes you think and maybe, just maybe, get up and dance.

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Designer Profile: Luar

Raul Lopez, designer. Photo courtesy of Vogue.

Raul Lopez makes clothes for the future, where the patriarchy has crumbled and AI bots’ styles are the most coveted thing in fashion. Lopez began his career as one of the founding members of Hood By Air, but left to start his own brand, previously labeled Luar Zepol. After a two-year hiatus, Lopez returned to fashion in 2017 recharged and launched Luar.

Dystopia and unabashed femininity run rampant throughout Luar’s collections. Never shedding its street wear or club sensibility, Luar encompasses all things futuristic and is most inspired by technology. The brand is for the progressive minded, for those who understand that gender is constructed and that labels are something of the past and limiting. No, skirts and dresses are not just for women. They’re for everyone. Lopez’s personal philosophy, one engrained in all his projects, is that fashion and music go hand in hand, one cannot exist without the other. How else do you create an encompassing culture and community? It’s easy to see the kind of space that Lopez occupies when you look at his collections.

Lopez uses his lines to express his opinions and tell stories through his garments. In his first few Luar Zepol collections, it was an exploration of the designer’s identity and upbringing. With Luar, Lopez is using his platform to express his opinions and critique what’s happening around him. 2018 was the designer’s first venture into a full women’s ready to wear collection and, as he explained it, “was focused on the type of woman who is in touch with her hyper-masculine side, one on a power trip and one who is looking for revenge on any man that has ever tried to make her feel ashamed.” He adds, “She is complex — she loves a night out on Dyckman Street [in New York’s Inwood area], but also lives for an elegant and classy moment.” In both his women and men’s lines, Lopez sent out models in deconstructed business people and bankers’attire: ties sewn together to form skirts, deconstructed blazers, and men’s shirts reformed to create something totally new. Trump-esque hair pieces attached to models and Wu Tang Clan’s lyrics “Cash Rules Everything Around me” sprinkled throughout the collection.

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