Hoodie: Billionaire Boys Club, Jacket: ZDDZ, Jeans, trainers: Kojey’s own
It’s very rarely that we see artists who are able to change the way in which we view art, and culture, as a whole. With work spanning across music, film and fashion; the London-based poet and mixed media talented Martian, Kojey Radical, is definitely one of those artists. Since the release of his debut EP ‘Dear Daisy: Opium in June 2014, Kojey has been on every ‘Ones To Watch’ list from here back to his home planet. In a league and world of his own creatively and artistically, his ever-growing body of work transcends boundaries and continuously challenges the ways in which art can be digested.
In collaboration with Style Stands Alone, 211 Girls had the chance to shoot and sit down with the man himself in his East London stomping ground of Hoxton.
211 Girls: You are the Creative Director behind ‘Push Crayons’. Tell us a bit about it.
Kojey Radical: ‘Push Crayons’ is a creative media agency and collective that I started with my boy, Craig. Its beginnings were inspired by the people who told us ‘No’. We decided go it alone, and over time we met a bunch of new creatives who have also become a part of the movement. The coolest part about it is that nobody knows who exactly is in ‘Push Crayons’, or how many members there are. Our work spreads across art, media, film, music, live engineering, design- you name it.
The name ‘Push Crayons’ developed from my thoughts about what period of our lives the majority of us have the most imagination and are the most creative [without boundaries]. For most of us, that was probably when we were kids with crayons. As we get older, we can lose a bit of that- we mold, we get jobs and start ‘pushing paper’. If you are able to hold on to that ‘something’ and are driven to create without boundaries into adulthood, then that could be referred to as pushing crayons.
211: In your opinion, what is the difference between a ‘talent’ and a ‘gift’?
KR: I think a talent is a gift. How you use your talents is what can differentiate the two. What you do with the ability and ‘blessing’ can be what sets them apart. Some people have a talent but do not view it as a gift. They are gifted but don’t realize the potential of that talent.
211: So why do you think you were gifted with the art of spoken word? Or are you still on your journey to discovering why?
KR: I am definitely still trying to figure out why, and that’s because I discovered this gift last. I did everything else before I did poetry. I started out drawing and painting, and then I danced for 9 years. I did some acting, designing, and then poetry came. Looking back, poetry [writing] was always something I was interested in, but it didn’t really stick until about 2 years ago…and now, here I am. It’s been a journey and I’m still on the road to discovery.
211: Can it sometimes be a burden to you?
KR: 100%. You’ve got to think of it this way: musicians and artists, in general, are some of the most depressed people on the face of the planet. We are forced to wear our emotions and insecurities on the forefront and our work tends to be an over projection of our insecurities. Everyone can see our vulnerability, and that makes us vulnerable.
Hoodie: Adidas, hat: Kojey’s own
211: Does it frustrate you that everything that is coming out of UK at the moment is being classed as ‘Grime’?
KR: Yes! It’s a bit racist. Grime has become the new word for ‘urban’. Its clear to see that I’m not a grime artist, but the thing is one day I might jump on a grime track just because I like the track or the beat. However, to label what I have put out so far as grime is completely redundant to me. Its obviously not grime. To put all of us [UK ‘urban’ artists] under one umbrella is racist. I have the responsibility as an artist to reflect the times and our youth culture, but that doesn’t automatically make it grime.
211:‘Open Hand’ is a stunning piece of visual/audio work that can be interoperated by viewers/listeners in so many different ways. However, is it important that your own personal truth comes in across in your work?
KR: Yeah…or whatever version of the truth I am trying to portray. I always say that words are important but the words aren’t as important as the belief. If you don’t believe me, then what I’m saying is irrelevant. Out the gate, I’ve had to put my messages across in a different way. Poetry, as a genre is often stigmatized and ostracized. People already have their own ideas of what poetry is and what a poet does. I challenge that by making people hear what they see, and see what they hear. You either like my work or you don’t, but true understanding comes with time. Everything I put out is organic and that will never change. Like, if I ever was to sign with a label, then I would want it to be a partnership. I already have the product. I have to be true to myself, my art and my messages.
211: You are a great observer of culture, but what about the individual. Would you say you are a good judge of character?
KR: Depends. That’s a tough question. On a day-to-day basis, I just give everyone a fair chance. With women though, I flop sometimes (laughs). I like to give people the benefit of the doubt because if you’ve just met someone you have no reason to dislike them. Naturally, we all have our guards up, especially living in London, which is so densely populated. So many of us have different beliefs, which can clash. However, fundamentally, you can’t judge someone’s character without getting to know them.
T-shirt: Adyn, bottoms: Adidas, jacket and overcoat: Natural Selection, shoes: Dr Martens
211: An observation of self; would you say that you are good company?
KR: I’m amazing company! (laughs) I appreciate company, so therefore I know the degrees and levels in which company can be spent. I can be in a room with friends for hours, where nobody says a word and it’s the most comfortable feeling. I can sit down with someone, have a cup of tea and have a chat or watch David Attenborough. I can connect with people on a random level and still be interesting or interested.
211: Do you enjoy your own company, and is that when you are most creative?
KR: I’m by myself a lot of the time. I’m social, but I’m anti-social. I hate phones so I don’t call or text people a lot, but people who know me know where to find me because I’m more or less in the same locations. Also, I never know when I might want to create and for that reason being a ‘loner’ has its advantages. I hate to regiment creativity like ‘oh, I have to draw something once a day’. I can’t do that. I just like to exist and then if something comes to me, I have the freedom to get it done there and then. That works best if you are alone a lot of the time. Being part of a collective; I love to create with people around me too but I am alone most of the time.
211: A big topic at the moment is ‘Cultural Appropriation’. I’ve spoken to some who say ‘Well, we’ve just become melting pot and borrow from each other, etc.’; while I’ve spoken to others who strongly beg to differ. What is your viewpoint?
KR: I actually wrote a dissertation on this topic. I studied Illustration at university but did a minor in Cultural and Historical Studies. It’s hard to escape cultural appropriation because of natural human curiosity. We are all very curious about each other. I think the problem is more when things are taken from a culture, repackaged or duplicated, and then the original culture is snubbed out. That is quite detrimental and causes a lot of anger. I’m in between because some things that are attacked for being culturally appropriated are not that deep; where as other things are blatant theft.
211: Are you your biggest critic when it comes to your work or is there someone in your circle that helps in that respect?
KR: I am the worst! (laughs). I hate everything and I pick at everything I do (laughs). I tweak until I cannot tweak anymore. It gets to the point where I have to back away and tell myself that its time to let go. That point is usually when I don’t hear or see anything out there that’s better than what I’ve been working on. My team has an input because we all know and understand why we are doing this- in order to create something amazing. But yeah, I am hard on myself. Not a negative thing, just part of the process I would say.
211: What is end goal artistically?
KR:I don’t ever really plan to die, so I don’t really know. I’m gonna see how I feel in 3000 years.
211: What single artist/song/piece of work changed your life?
KR: The moment that changed my life was seeing Kendrick Lamar at Electric Ballroom (his debut UK gig) in 2012. In the middle of that show he stopped and did a spoken word piece and everyone in the crowd was reciting it. In that moment I knew I could do this. I saw with my own eyes how it was possible for a man to say what he wants say, or has to say, and for people to be compelled by his words and want to live through them. With me, once I know something is possible, then it’s a minor from there.
Photography: Amber Grace Dixon
Styling: Safiya Yekwai
Words: Sandra Omari