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George Floyd: when will it stop?

As everyone is aware, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was murdered by police officer, Derek Chauvin, on May 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a case similar to that of Eric Garner in 2014 because both men said “I can’t breathe” whilst being restrained by the police. Having said that, it was a case that was similar to so many others and it seems that the cycle continues.

To see a man killed in such a way, with Chauvin leaning his knee on Floyd’s neck, was particularly brutal but unfortunately not something that I haven’t seen before, showing how desensitised we have become to events like these.

I feel conflicted about going onto social media when events like these initially happen, at least without researching the situation first. If not, it could seem like a trend that people follow then forget about, until the next black person is unjustly killed by the police. However, it is something that I have to talk about because police brutality is a trend that needs to stop. When will black people respected? When will people stop denying the truth? When will it stop?


Three responses to the event stood out to me, not including the looting in Minneapolis, Donald Trump’s tweets or the arrest of a CNN journalist at the protests.

No, these responses are from three men who live in London. The Attack the Block actor, John Boyega, the educator, rapper and author of the book, Natives, Akala and the rapper and House of Pharaohs resident, Sam Wise.

On March 27th as much of the social media response unfolded, I saw that John Boyega was trending. Accustomed to Twitter and its trends, I knew that this could potentially be for the wrong reasons. However, I was surprised to read that he had tweeted “I really fucking hate racists”. I mean, that seems like quite a safe statement to make. A black person that doesn’t like racists. Any person that doesn’t like racists.

However, with social media and people being the way that they are, this comment caused discussions in his mentions and led to him having to defend his previous comments on Instagram live. This all stemmed from responses insisting that Boyega was being short sighted, adding to the problem or not looking at the bigger picture. Tweets about racism towards white people, the different ways that racism can occur and the statistics showing black on black crime.

What I repeatedly fail to understand, is how this has any correlation with Boyega’s tweets and the murder of George Floyd. They are simply distractions. We all saw what happened and understood what he said so there was no reason for him to have to defend himself and his statements. Nonetheless, it was great to see someone of Boyega’s stature speak out in such an uncensored way and take a stand.

It felt similar to the situation with Streatham rapper, Dave and his track entitled Black, in which he received backlash from BBC Radio 1 listeners due to the content of his song. He even said in his performance of the song at 2020’s Brit Awards, “if you don’t want to get it, then you’re never going to get it”.

Sometimes I wonder what the point is, in giving energy to people who deny someone’s concerns about race. It reminded me of a chapter of Natives that I read while working on my personal statement for university.

The chapter is called, Interlude: A Guide to Denial. The most relevant point was the one with the title: “But what about [INSERT ANY INJUSTICE HERE]?”

Yes, we know that other injustices exist but this is what we’re talking about now and in the case of the John Boyega back and forth, some of these other injustices seemed trivial in comparison to George Floyd’s murder.

This reminder meant that I checked to see what Akala had to say on Twitter, given that he is someone that we look up to in the black community and he said something very telling.

This is something that needs more unpacking and possibly someone more well read to do it justice but it caused me to think about the lack of respect that black people are given. The idea is that if we improve the situation in black countries economically, politically and militarily, it won’t matter that people don’t like us. The phrase, you don’t like me but you’ll have to respect me comes to mind.

And it was a sentiment felt by Sam Wise also. On his Snapchat he was going off, talking about the subject and how things could change. He used the examples of China, Japan and the United Arab Emirates to illustrate how it could be done, through the sale of oil and industrialisation.

Now, they are “big time world player[s]” and they have a level of respect that black people don’t have. Why do you think that schools have introduced Chinese into their curriculum? They’re soon going to be the biggest world player. So, you can make jokes about how they name children by dropping a spoon on the floor and calling them whatever sound the spoon makes, but it won’t affect them in the same way that racist jokes would affect black people. They will soon be laughing.

And we know how they have treated black people and non-Chinese people generally during this pandemic. It sucks to be the bottom of the bottom. And if this will only end after African and Caribbean countries become stronger, then there will surely be more cases like this and more frustration.

Nonetheless, there are ways to actively confront the problem, like donating money to his memorial fund, donating to the legal funds for the protesters who have been arrested, signing petitions and contacting officials. Rest in peace George Floyd.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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What’s your addiction? (w/Braedon)

I was slightly reluctant to write this article because it requires me to be open and honest with myself. I was becoming quite frustrated and was losing sight of the goals that I had previously set.

I ended up having a random chat with my friend, Braedon, about betting, given the return of the Bundesliga. He said that he “won’t start properly though [beyond free bets] because he’s “the kind of person who’d develop an obsession for it”.

It got me thinking about a different Kanye West song and albumAddiction off of Late Registration. So I asked Braedon; what’s your addiction?

“I get addicted to things like gym so I can’t channel [my energy] negatively because that could easily create huge problems for me”.

Braedon


This is something that I related to because I try to put my energy into positive things, although it can be difficult, especially when you have formed an attachment to things that no longer serve you.

For Braedon, these were things like drinking, negative people and Tinder. Lockdown in some ways has made it easier to give certain things up. Drinking, for instance, is a habit that can be brought on through peer pressure. And although Tinder could be particularly useful these days, lockdown has allowed people to form their own habits, with less outside pressure.

“I also don’t like being addicted to one thing because that just makes you one dimensional…if you channel the addictiveness towards different things then you’ll become good at many things”

Braedon

You may call him Braedon but I call him Aristotle. We’re creatures of habit and by forming good habits, we can try to overcome our incontinent will.


Personally, I injured myself working out at home, meaning that I had a void in my day, leading me to think about my habits. I wasn’t following my workout routine correctly and had become more concerned about reps, rather than technique and my safety.

I also learned the value of exercise for your mental health because not being able to work out, meant that I didn’t have the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a set. I thought that I was going to lose my gains.

But, I’m learning to have patience because so many people get injured or have flat days. With the extra time in my day, I was getting caught up in comparisons and overthinking.

Nonetheless, I have to keep going because creating is the way in which I can get my ideas out. I just need to try and enjoy it, stay motivated and inspired. And with that being said, I will reference one last Kanye West song – Gorgeous – the namesake of my latest single, dropping on Friday.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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Love Lockdown (w/Tori)

808s & Heartbreak is by no means my favourite Kanye West album, but at the moment, it is the most relevant. There’s a Love Lockdown. Many of us are either separated from our partners or missing real life interactions with potential love interests.

Initially, I started to get withdrawals. As a straight man, the thought of not being around young women for months, was something concerning. As an animal more so, I had one thing in my head; to reproduce.

Then, my rational side kicked in and I realised that the lockdown could serve as a much-needed break from some of the stress that relationships can bring. This is time for me to work on myself – self-care and all the clichés.

However, I started to wonder what it was like for people already in relationships. How were they coping? Can they maintain what they had before Covid-19?

So, I spoke to my friend, Tori, to get her perspective on lockdown love. And, here is what she had to say:


How would you describe your relationship before lockdown?

I’d say [it was] very strong, almost co-dependent because we’d spend almost almost everyday together.

How do you think that this has changed since the government announced the Covid-19 restrictions?

It’s changed because I’m locked down with her so it means [we’re together 24/7]. It’s difficult… [because] you have to keep your mood up in order to keep the other [person] in high spirits, which makes it harder when… [my mood is] up and down in lockdown.

[However], it hasn’t changed in the typical way, like: I’m sick of this person.

So, do you think that when lockdown ends, things will be different? Would you need a break? Or would you be closer?

I think closer in the way [in which] it will be weird not going to bed together. But I think it will mean that we can appreciate going out together and being able to see our friends and just regain the balance.

I don’t think that [lockdown has] made us worse but it’s…not all rainbows, especially because we’re both frustrated with not being stimulated by school or having distractions.

[Having said that], we’re good at letting each other do our own thing if we need some space. Like, she’s playing Xbox…warzone. [And,] I’m normally calling my friends or family.

So, you’ve been able to keep the balance?

Mostly yeah [but] I’ve also noticed [that lockdown equals] exes [getting] back into your life. I think [it’s because] generally people find this experience very lonely. [Therefore, people get back with their exes] as a form of safety or comfort because they’re lonely.

Do you think that those relationships will be long lasting?

In my opinion, no (laughing emoji). [There are so many exes or past tings that] I haven’t heard from in years, shouting me and it’s just pathetic.

Obviously, your situation is different because you’re with your partner, but do you think that people can build and maintain relationships purely online?

I think…hypothetically, [yes]. Someone moves to you, you get to know them and you can give them a lot of attention…[so] something might blossom.

But in my experience…I’ve been through all of that and then met them and felt completely different [so you need to actually be around the person to know].

What do you miss the most from pre-lockdown life?

[Well], I just turned 18 so I haven’t had the experience of…going clubbing, going to bars (legally) [with my friends]. I just miss my girls.

Off the Coronas

I found the conversation with Tori interesting because it wasn’t what I expected. I expected it would be difficult for couples to stay in touch but this doesn’t apply in her situation. This gave me a whole new perspective and helped me to understand what it’s like to live with a girlfriend and the effect that that can have on your relationship.

This is an experience alien to me so I knew that she was going to ask me about my love life in lockdown. And, here is what I had to say:

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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A conversation about colourism (w/Tabitha)

Last Monday I opened Twitter to see Nella Rose, Chunkz and Somalis trending. I didn’t think much of it because they’re quite popular influencers/YouTubers and at that point, were considered the people’s champions. However, I quickly realised that they were trending for the wrong reasons; as so often is the case on Twitter. Their Tweets along with those of other influencers like Only Bells, Aliyah Maria Bee and Yung Filly and rappers like Tion Wayne and Headie One, were being exposed all over the timeline.

These Tweets offended mainly dark-skinned women as well as the Somali community and included derogatory language. It was something that saddened me because they were comments from black people and reflected the self-hatred that some of us feel.  However, I was more interested in getting women’s perspectives on the situation, since it is an issue that doesn’t affect men in the same way, as I don’t think there is the same pressure in terms of beauty standards.

Colourism, which is discrimination against people of a darker skin tone, is an issue within the African diaspora and is something that I think should be discussed in order to move forward. So, I spoke to my good friend, Tabitha, to get her take on the situation. And, this is what she said:


How did you feel when you saw the Tweets?

“I wasn’t really surprised by them, which is a bit sad but only because the bashing of black women online is not something that is completely unheard of.

[However], I was kind of shocked to see who the Tweets were coming from… because these are obviously like black, dark skinned women.

I was a bit annoyed because I feel like Nella Rose especially is a role model for a lot of black girls …she’s kind of got herself together [yet] …had been a part [of the bashing of black women]”.

I watched Nella Rose’s apology where she spoke about what motivated her Tweets. They seemed to come from a self-hatred. I was wondering if you had ever felt that way?

Skin tone

“I’ve never hated my skin tone or anything but sometimes you do think negative things about it because people say negative things.

I wouldn’t want to be called blick (an offensive term to suggest that someone is darker than black) for example, but that shouldn’t be a bad term, if you’re just saying someone’s dark. [It means that] you’ve grown to think that’s a bad thing”.

Preference

When it comes to men making their preference known, the fact that “you’re not even really acknowledged [could mean that you] feel a sort of way.

A lot of the time you might have to think, oh, am I someone’s type or is this person going to find me attractive?

Some black men say we’re here for our dark-skinned sisters but do you actually practise what you preach?  I think that a lot of that love for dark-skinned women or black women in particular is a lot online.

For example, [if] you hear a small throwaway comment about someone being dark like that’s a negative [thing], would you pick up [on it] or would you just laugh and shrug the conversation off? What would you actually do in real life if you were faced with these problems?” 

Comparisons

“As a woman you get compared and “me who has a light-skinned best friend – normally we’re compared. [And] you start attaching different features to your skin tone…[like] dark skinned women [being] aggressive. It leads to the fetishisation of lighter skinned women”.

What do you think about colourism and your experience as a whole?

“I think people always try and ignore the issue.

With racism for example, that’s a black versus white thing and people will see that as…an issue from someone outside our community. We can fight that.

 But I feel like with something like colourism, or just issues with black women in general, people don’t want to talk about it because it makes people feel uncomfortable that some kind of injustice is happening within our community. I think whenever black women bring it up, we’re seen as trying to be victims or causing problems and all of that, when we just have an issue that [needs to be addressed].

And I feel like we also forget that two different things intersect, like being a woman and being a dark-skinned woman. [When these characteristics] come [together], it’s even worse”.

Will anything change?

I feel like it’s a generational thing and it’s just a cycle. It goes on and on.

I have a little sister…and she’s darker than me and sometimes she’s thought negative things about herself and not thought that she’s beautiful because she’s darker. And I think that those are the kind of issues that you have to confront from young, otherwise they kind of slowly become a part of your mindset, which is why they could turn out as self-internalised hate, like how it came out with Nella Rose’s Tweets

What do you think should happen to someone like Nella? Should these influencers be “cancelled”? What do you think that they should do?

[They should be accountable for what they said and realise] why it’s wrong. [Nella] made a whole video on why she thought those things about herself and why she made the Tweets and we all understood it a bit more. I’m not saying it’s right or anything but because you could see where she came from, you felt a bit more like, okay, I can understand why she said it.

She hated black women because she hated herself and I think that that was quite important [to say]. The effect that [colourism] can have on yourself is so big, in terms of your self-esteem [and] your self-image.

In the past, I was a cancel person if a person said a certain thing that I didn’t agree with [but]…you have to realise that people can change and don’t hold the same opinion so you can’t judge them for something that they’ve said ages ago”.

My Uju Milit


Food for thought. I had to do a lot of listening because this is her experience and a shared experience for many women. These are things that I might be unaware of or don’t even acknowledge because they don’t concern me. Nonetheless, it is important that it does concern me since I could be involved in the spreading of these views, which have been passed down. So, if I’m at least aware of it, I can take steps to be active in support and think about what I stand for. Here is what I had to say:


Another inspiration for this article was Alfreda, another young black woman, who recently set up an Instagram page called @rewritingthenarrative_. It made me think and question what I had seen and it’s encouraging to see someone turn the situation into something positive, which is what many people have done during these Corona virus times.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

https://www.instagram.com/xaymacaa/

https://www.instagram.com/saucingforever/

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Songs that I’m listening to (2)

Eastenders, Ambush Buzzworl

Beef over gyal is mad! Ambush Buzzworl (one of my favourite UK rappers) dropped a track with a message last Thursday. The song is called Eastenders and like the soap, it is full of drama.

However, word to Ambush, “life’s real dirty, this ain’t no soap” (I only just caught that double entendre).

The Camden rapper gives us three short stories of men who couldn’t handle their emotions. Stories of jealousy and betrayal. Stories that went too far. But the worst thing is that they are based on real situations.

The last verse is based on the murder of fashion model, Harry Uzoka.

I remember that his death on January 11th 2018, stood out amid concern over knife crime in London because he was so well connected to our scene and remembered as such a positive person.

Harry Uzoka (died aged 25)

This shows that Ambush is trying to highlight serious issues and show people that it is not worth it. There are too many emotions involved when it comes to love interests so the consequences of acting on these emotions can be grave.

As usual, when I hear a powerful track like this, I showed it to my mum. She told me a story about an ex-boyfriend who wanted her and another girl to fight over him. She didn’t know that he already had a girlfriend so was shocked to find out the truth. This situation could have gone left since the other girl confronted my mum but she was cooperative and straightforward so drama was avoided.

Whether it’s gyal or man, the beef is mad and not worth it. Listen to Ambush. God damn!

Slick, Ant D

I’m embarrassed that I’ve come across this song so late. But in reality, this is just the start.

I came across Ant D after listening to Sapphire with him and TBO. I thought that the beat was hypnotising and that his verse stood out in particular due to his deep voice, nonchalant lyrics and smooth flow.

This encouraged me to check him out and I found that he only had one other track out on all streaming platforms. It didn’t disappoint.

When I first listened to it, it made my eyes water. He’s got that old school style that I haven’t heard for a while, particularly from someone his age.

He gives me Potter Payper or Skrapz vibes but with his own style and the beat gave him enough space to deliver his message.

“Beating up the track like Anthony / Girls try trap me / Said she on her reds / But she’ll eat it like candy”

Ant D, Slick

Whenever I hear an artist deliver lines like this, in such a laid-back way, I can tell that they’re a problem. In addition, it’s basically a freestlye with a short chorus, showing me that he’s a rapper’s rapper. I’m basically asking for a feature at this point.

Fronto Isley, Smino

This sounds like a Sunday morning. A Sunday morning with Smino. Despite everything that’s going on, he continues to lift us. Because of everything that’s going on, he continues to lift us.

He dropped his mixtape, entitled She Already Decided last week and I love it. It was difficult to choose just one track to highlight so I went with the first one because of its message.

Smiyeah

The track slaps because even though we are in lockdown, life is good and don’t you ever forget it. There are also those people that you wish you could spend time with now as Smino sings “ain’t no place I’d rather be than with you”. Obviously, that isn’t possible but the track sparks the emotion that I feel for those people.

This is uplifting, like the whole mixtape. He tells us that he only worries about what he can control because the rest has already been decided by mother nature and that’s how I feel right now. We didn’t plan this but we have to deal with this pandemic.

And like Smino, I just want to get these ideas out. No rushing though since I’m not Russian. This sounds like a classic and it dropped at the perfect time.

Playlist

Check out the Forever Sauce playlists with more great songs and follow us on the socials.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

https://www.instagram.com/xaymacaa/

https://www.instagram.com/saucingforever/

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Greatest Shit: Breeding London Kulture

This is the series that looks at people doing some of the greatest shit in our scene. We want to give people the flowers while they are still here and tell them “hey, what you’re doing is great, keep on doing it”. These are people doing it their way, however unconventional that may be. Last week, we looked at the South London rap collective, House of Pharaohs. This week we’re taking a closer look at two individuals with the potential to sign House of Pharaohs to their record label, Breeding London Kulture (BLK), Antz and Abdi.

Antz and Abdi at a shoot for Complex UK

I first heard about the pair, more commonly known as Imjustbait and Abdi TV, ages ago, but it’s hard to pinpoint the exact time that I came across them.


Imjustbait

Imjustbait is a meme page that has been popular for almost all of my time on Instagram. It’s become a part of my timeline and the majority of memes sent to me daily, come from the page.

I remember about four years ago, one of my schoolmates ended up getting posted on Imjustbait and it was a big deal even then. It was the talk of the school and had and still has the potential to change lives.

That was probably at a similar time that singer, Deno Driz was posted on the page. He was singing in the playground in his school uniform and since then hasn’t looked back. He’s had chart success, featured in the third part of Rapman’s YouTube series, Shiro’s Story and even bought his mother a house. That’s obviously credit to his talent and hard work but I will never forget how his bredrin did a backflip in one of the videos that was on the page. Where has that video gone? I need to find it!

Abdi TV

Abdi TV was a name that I just kept on hearing. It was less on my radar because his following was predominantly on Twitter, which was for a slightly older demographic when I was coming up. However, word on road was that this was the guy for new music.

There are countless artists that he’s put people on to and many that I wouldn’t even know that he championed.

Despite this, I remember seeing Abra Cadabra’s Blackbox freestyle all over Twitter and that was definitely someone that he pushed. From that freestyle, he was able to link up with Krept & Konan for the Robbery Remix, which was one of the songs of the year.

More recently he pushed Octavian and Aitch and although they are both good artists and were getting noticed anyway, an Abdi TV cosign always helps.

Simply put, Abdi is a tastemaker. If he thinks your tune is sick, he’ll promote it and with hard work and more movements, you could soon be gone.  

Business

Since their early successes both of these young men have been able to monetise their pages through promoting artists. They have also had business ventures in order to create brands for themselves.

Antz with Vodka, the Baitlist playlist on Spotify and Imjustbait parties. Abdi on the other hand, with his own music platform, Remy Sounds, while he was studying computer science at Coventry university.

BLK

However, in 2018, they teamed up to start their label, BLK, after Abdi signed the song Fortnite by Boogz, from a freestyle that he saw on Instagram.

This was a success as it played off of the popularity of the game, Fortnite. But, the song that made me pay close attention, was  Lyca by Instagram Live star, Swarmz.

This was definitely a song that I wouldn’t have heard so early unless Abdi and Imjustbait plugged it. I saw them both promoting this unknown guy rapping in a studio. Therefore, by the time that the song actually came out, I knew that it was something to watch out for.

According to Abdi, he was a friend of both of theirs, and he simply approached Abdi on a night out, saying that he had a new song coming out. He sent it to Abdi, Abdi liked it and then it was mixed, mastered and signed. Simple as that.

This sums up the energy that put the two entrepreneurs put out. They will support something if they like it and since they are in tune with people’s taste and have such a large following, it will likely do well.

This happened with Lyca, peaking in the Official Charts at #55 and the song later got licensed to Virgin EMI for £85,000. All from something that they signed for free, out of love of the music. And, it’s safe to say that the song changed Swarmz’s life.  

The thing that I like about the label more recently, is how strategic they seem to be. Currently on their label, they have J Fado, SD Muni, Niko Bellic, Jorday, Rocco and 24wavey. These are artists in different lanes, of different races but all with something about them.

This suggests that maybe their roster isn’t as strategic as I anticipated. Everything that the pair have done up to now has been because they like it and because they think that it can do well.

Antz started Instagram to get the most followers in his maths class and Abdi just started posting content that he thought was funny. They just kept at it until they became who they are today. So, I love how organic and genuine everything seems to be and their persistence seems to be paying off.

What they’re doing could seem quite unorthodox but they definitely have a skill in knowing what young people like, which makes them so valuable. They’ve been able to capitalise on this and there’s been a progression from some of their initial deals to the more professional contracts that they’ve agreed since linking up with Sony Music Entertainment and DJ Semtex.

It’s crazy to think about the influence that they have from their phones. Influence that people behind desks dream of having. The ability to spot a trend and even create a trend.

So, I’m sure as things progress, both of these entrepueners with the label and without, will put you on to more great shit.

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Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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Greatest Shit: House of Pharaohs

This is the series that looks at people doing some of the greatest shit in our scene. We want to give people the flowers while they are still here and tell them “hey, what you’re doing is great, keep on doing it”. These are people doing it their way, however unconventional that may be. Last week, we looked at the creative director for the London based clothing brand, Corteiz, Clint 419. And, this week we have some Corteiz wearers, in the form of the South London, rap collective, House of Pharaohs.

House of Pharaohs are a group of creatives. They are rappers, producers, designers, managers and DJs. They are Sam Wise, Blaze YL, Bandanna, Kevin Taylor, Danny Stern and Mally Chinks (rappers), G Lo (manager), Tilly (designer) and Jamo Beatz (DJ). They also have many associates. And, they represent a portion of the scene in South London yet have global potential.

(From left to right) Blaze YL, Kevin Taylor, Danny Stern, Sam Wise and Bandanna

I first came across House of Pharaohs on Instagram in late 2015. I was trying my best to be wavey so was preeing the “cool kids” two years above me at school and checking out what they were interested in.

I had seen a picture of one of these “cool kids” with an interesting looking fella, who I later identified as Bandanna, at Wavey Garms, a vintage clothing store in Peckham. Just looking at Bandanna, I became intrigued. He had long hair, nice clothes and looked carefree.

To give this more context, I was rocking a high top back then so I thought that if I got plaits, bought a couple of Stone Island pieces and kept on pushing my music, I’d basically be Bandanna.

Anyway, this one photo, led me to the House of Pharaohs. The guy whose Instagram I was looking at, had a playlist with a bunch of their songs and from there I was hooked.

Bandanna in Clint419’s earlier brand, Cade on the Map

This was after they had dropped their first collective tape together, the Southern Stamp EP. It was one of those moments where I thought wow. There are guys like this. Their sound was something that I hadn’t heard before but it seemed familiar because I was so interest in groups like Pro Era, the A$AP Mob and The Underachievers as well as more underground UK acts at the time.

I remember playing their track, 1:11, for one of my boys and he said that it sounded like a lullaby. I guess it’s because he wasn’t used to the sound yet but he soon became a believer.

It was the energy that caught me early on. 1:11 demonstrates this energy perfectly. Although the music and performances in the video were rough, the flair was undeniable and the video very well shot. They were a bunch of guys being themselves. They ran up into a hotel, a casino and a corner shop and had fun, bouncing around, hiding their nerves. They were what you want to be: free.

They also represented a different side of London and Black British culture. It was still familiar but their sound and style wasn’t limited to labels like Grime and Drill, which were popular at the time. They were a mixture of influences and they were able to execute it so naturally. In an interview between Sam Wise and events manager, Mr I Am Next, Sam effectively said that the antics which we saw in the videos, was how they really were – “we didn’t give a toss”.  

This attitude is still a theme but it’s amazing to see how they’ve learnt from the early experiences at shows, how their music has developed and the opportunities that they’ve created for themselves. It’s been seven years of dedication.

In my opinion, what brought the movement to the next level was the run from Raid to RWM (Run With Me). The quality had risen.

When I listen to Raid this day, it brings a tear to my eye. It was a showcase. The way that the beat built, the standard of the verses, the execution of the video. It brought things beyond just energy and into a well-oiled machine and you could tell that many people were involved in making things happen.

It allowed them to build momentum, with the release of Draws next. Again, the way that they were able to capture the fun that they had is beautiful. These videos and sounds are things that they can look back on and things that will bring back memories. Like Raid, Draws was undeniable and perfect for shows with the beat and its menacing hum and slapping snares, accompanied by memorable verses.

Then, it was the most polished track yet, RWM (Run With Me). This track really spread. From being played by Frank Ocean on his radio show, Blonded, to be recommended by a badders with surprisingly good music taste (check the comments section beneath the video). It became the entry point for many people and showed everyone how far they had come and the work that they had been putting in to produce their best song yet.

Since then, there’s been so much more. Project after project: Real Faces, The Fix EP, Seasons, Seasons II. More shows – I still remember the show at Tate Britain – while everyone else in the gallery was admiring the artwork on the walls, we admired the artists on the stage.

And, each member has come into their own, with Blaze’s solo music popping off, Bandanna in Top Boy and Sam Wise with his headline show last month. This individual work gave me more respect for the group as a whole too because there doesn’t seem to be any jealousy. They all keep on pushing and if one of them makes it, they all make it, as I saw when the whole gang came on stage at Sam Wise’s headline.

They are doing a lot for the underground UK music scene. They are laying out the blueprint for others to prosper. They have also gone had mainstream looks, like going on Mixtape Madness’ channel, Tim Westwood TV and collaborating with UK super-producer Nyge. Nonetheless, they remain genuine guys and true friends that also care about their supporters. I just hope that when this is all done, they can reminisce and smile at the great shit they did!

Check out their latest single, AM to PM and make sure to like, follow and comment!

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

https://www.instagram.com/xaymacaa/

https://www.instagram.com/saucingforever/

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City of God

Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) next to Angélica (Alice Braga).

City of God, the latest release from Xaymaca is out now. You got me now! You figured me out! But, before you write this off as vain, self-promotion, read on and learn about the significance behind the City of God title. And, enjoy an absolute banger, which will be linked in this article (okay shameless plugging out of the way, onto the piece).

Album artwork for City of God by Xaymaca

The inspiration for the song’s title City of God came from the film with the same title, Cidade de Deus (in Portuguese). The Brazilian coming of age film, follows Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), an upcoming photographer, through the favelas of Rio Di Janeiro in the 1960s and 1970s, as he tries to avoid the crime that surrounds him.


Perspectives

Rocket caught in the middle of Lil Zé’s gang and the police

One of the things that I love about the film is the different perspectives that it offers. Sometimes we see the same scene twice but just from a different view. For example, when Lil Dice, later Lil Zé (Leandro Firmino) seizes control of Blacky’s (Ruben Sabino) apartment. We see two different perspectives of the same scene and even in such a short scene, we learn the backstory of the apartment, finding out who was there before Blacky and gaining more of an insight into the nature of the characters.

This focus on different perspectives and stories within stories inspired me because I can see it in my real life. I thought more about relationships and about how everyone has baggage. The way in which I see a person is unique and it’s only through speaking to that person that you learn their story and understand why they behave in the way that they do. This is similar to City of God because everything is connected. A person’s past has influenced them, like when Lil Dice (Douglas Silva) felt snubbed by the Tender Trio, leading to the massacre at the motel.

Now, I don’t know anyone with a past like that but trying see things from someone else’s view helps you to understand them in greater detail, which is why I try to explain how I think in the first verse and highlight some of my key influence, who I have studied.

Xaymaca at the video shoot for City of God

“Work, music, girls / I don’t really know much else”

“Follow Nipsey and his Hussle / See how Meek made it out the muscle / You think small, I think Biggie / I think Jay Z, I think Diddy”

Decision-making

Rocket as he captures a photo of Lil Zé dead in the street

This leads on nicely to decision-making. It’s one thing to accept a person’s history but it’s another to respect the choices that they’ve made. All of the influences that I just mentioned, had to make choices to become the people that they are. Similar to the City of God, they came from testing environments and like Rocket they made it out by working on what they loved, staying focused and showing their value.

Rocket is the most relatable character because he’s trying to live a “normal” life despite the circumstances. He stays in school, wants to lose his virginity and has a passion for photography. This is something admirable in a world filled with drugs and violence.

Apart from a half-hearted attempt to rob a store, in which he gets the number of a sweet one, he doesn’t get involved in that sort of action. Maybe the opportunity for him to really get involved in the City of God wasn’t there or maybe he just knew that that life wasn’t for him. Either way, he was able to make it out legally.

At first we have doubts, as he even says “it was like a message from God: honesty doesn’t pay sucker”. However, in the long run it did, since he ends up working for a newspaper as a reporter, losing his virginity and most importantly staying alive. This was down to decisions that he made, even though he saw people around him take different paths.

I related this to my own life, less with a life of crime and violence, although I know that that is reality for some people, but simply with trying to make the best out of whatever situation I’m in. There are usually a couple of options. The red pill or the blue pill. And even if I do take the blue pill sometimes, I want to have the right regrets – word to Arthur Miller. The majority of the time, I would like to make the right decision (if that even exists) but sometimes I’m going to make mistakes. The key is not to stop.

And, sometimes you get luckily or it is your destiny, like Rocket. It was by chance that a reporter picked up his photos and published them. But, at the same time it was through his choices of taking photos of his friends, to taking photos of Lil Zé’s gang, to getting his photos developed, that got him his break. Everything is interconnected and the mind is mighty powerful.

Looking super-suave in King’s Cross

“In a City of God, oh boy / You can get shot, oh boy / You can get locked, oh boy / But don’t ever stop, my boy”


So, now that you’ve understood my perspective, you have the choice. Do nothing, listen to the song, watch the film, or listen to the song and watch the film.  Like another City of God writer would argue, St Augustine, Christian theologian and philosopher, we can never really know if what we are doing will lead us to the City of God (the ideal realm, heaven – quite ironic how Cidade de Deus represents earthly pleasures and corruption) but I implore you to keep going, whatever choice you make.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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Corona virus saved me (and could be helping you too).

Yes. You read that right. Corona virus saved me.

How, you may ask? I am aware of the severity of the situation and don’t want to trivialise it. I would like to say that I am quite an empathetic person and appreciate the number of people that the virus has affected, including people that I know. However, I am someone who tries to make the best out of bad situations and in this case, Corona has potentially gotten me out of a bad situation.

They say that the universe works in mysterious ways. Everything happens for a reason. All dogs go to…okay I’ll stop with the quotes.

The timing of recent events is something that’s interested me. I can only speak for myself but I know that other people have had all types of situations.

My ongoing issue was girl trouble that didn’t seem to go away, along with some tragic news and the expected exam stress. As a teenage boy, this is something unsurprising. I won’t go into the details but it was something that I feel affected me. 

From 2019, my brain was working in a way in which I wanted everything to be perfect and aligned. This meant that I wanted to be doing well socially, academically and psychologically. I’m not sure how much this type of thinking did help my psyche but I’d still say that it worked for me then.

I relied on emotion and intuition for the first part of year, which meant that I just did things if they felt right or I felt the urge. This developed into wanting to do everything as I just wanted to live and experience everything that I felt I had missed out on before. And this developed into stripping things back and focusing on what would make me more successful in everyone else’s eyes, like taking a break from music and concentrating on trying to get into Oxford. Each phase had its purpose but eventually led to a sense of disillusionment.

Anyway, I got myself into a bit of a situation by the end of the year. Things were looking good around November time; I was part of a school project; I was applying for Oxford and I was seemingly happier than before. However, I still felt the stress of wanting to prove that I was a sociable person, who could get girls.

As I look back on it, it sounds so stupid but that’s just how I was thinking at the time. This led to a couple of warnings, where I let my school work slip because I was focusing on the wrong things.

Despite this, I didn’t learn my lesson and I landed myself into a spot of bother. A couple of spots actually. The worst thing was that they happened so quickly after one another. Nope (not the worst), worse still, they became inter-related. They tainted relationships. They caused arguments. They…it was just a bit of an L really. It became a never-ending cycle of negativity. I didn’t know how I was going to get myself out of the situation. And then, Corona and social distancing came.

I used to pray that I could get out of the situation. That I could let it go. That God could cut the demons off. But I never expected this. So, now I have the opportunity to heal. I am detached from the situation. Things have been made easier and now I just need the mental strength to exploit this opportunity. It’s also time that I can use to do things that I really enjoy. There is no pressure of school (I know a couple of man buss case with that decision, me included). I’ll be damned if I don’t use this time effectively.

Six things that I learnt from The Last Dance

“I’m not the biggest basketball fan but it’s Michael Jordan” is what I said to myself as I watched the first episode of The Last Dance on Netflix. However, as the series progressed, I became increasingly invested in the story despite its length, spanning ten episodes. Like the amount of championships that the Chicago Bulls have won, there are six things that I took away from the series.

Why would I think about missing a shot I haven’t taken yet?

In episode 10, Mark Vincil, of Rare Air Media, a publishing company, explained to us, what he thought separated Michael Jordan from other players. “His gift was that he was completely present”. He wouldn’t think about failure or “allow what he couldn’t control to get inside his head”.

This is something that stood out because Vincil didn’t describe his athleticism or competitiveness as the factor that elevated him (literally) over other players – it was something much simpler than that. It was something that you and me could strive for – the ability to be present.

This shows his discipline and explains why he was able to hit so many game winning shots throughout his career, like his last shot against the Utah Jazz in 1998.

Don’t be in awe

Jordan largely presented as someone to be feared, by teammates and opposition alike. Either because of his tremendous skill level or the trash that he would talk if you were to make a mistake. So, it’s understandable that if you were a player, you would naturally be in fear of someone like that.

However, as the show progressed, some of the opposition players especially, seemed less fearful of the Black Cat. Take Reggie Miller for example. David Aldridge, a writer for The Athletic, said that Miller had “insane confidence” and as we saw in the documentary, the ability to back it up. He didn’t back down to Black Jesus, as he jokingly called MJ. He had respect for him but not enough to stop him from shoving Michael Jordan out of the way when he went up for his game winner in game four of the 1998 playoffs between the Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls.

D-Rod

Probably the man of the whole show. Known for his antics off of the court, Rodman has always been one to make headlines. It was striking to see how the coach, Phil Jackson along with MJ were able to deal with him though, allowing him to go to Vegas after a game, in episode three of the documentary. It was a masterclass in man management because allowing Dennis to go wild off the court, meant that he could do the same on the court and be the defensive machine that they needed.

The most legendary moment however, remains his detour to wrestling with the infamous Hulk Hogan. He missed practice after game 3 in the 1998 playoffs against Utah Jazz and was of course fined. Nonetheless, he was still able to perform on the court, living up to his legend status.

It was always personal

This became a running joke in my family. You should play it too – drink every time that Jordan drops a line about things becoming personal between him and an opposing player. I think that it was rarely ever personal but he needed an extra factor to motivate himself to perform.

If anything was said, if there were any comparisons between him and another player or that player won an award, like Most Valuable Player, you would be on his list. He would make it his mission to dominate you.

He even made up an exchange where LaBraford Smith of the Sacramento Kings said “nice game, Mike”, after scoring 37 points in a game against him. Jordan admitted that this didn’t happen but just needed extra motivation to redeem himself in the next game, in which he scored 47 points to Smith’s 15. You may call it psychotic but it’s a tactic that I’ve seen with the football coach, Jose Mourinho and up until recently it worked.

90s culture

It was particularly interesting to see how basketball became a part of 90s culture after the Olympics of 1992. The mobs of people.

Unlike my family members, I was a fan of Jordan because he had made up a part of my childhood, although I wasn’t alive when he was playing. I watched films like Like Mike, with Bow Wow, and Space Jam, with Bugs Bunny, repeatedly growing up and Jordan was always a figure that was bigger than basketball.

We get to see this clearly in the documentary and there are legendary photos, like the one of the other MJ and Macaulay Culkin, standing with Jordan. That represented the early 90s. He was able to do what few sportspeople are able to successfully do – transcend their game and create a brand.

Human

Overall, the documentary did much to humanise MJ. Episode VIII in which his father died was particularly powerful because of how much his father meant to him. If that didn’t get you on his side, I don’t know what will.

It’s easy to think of him beyond human to which he is often described in the documentary but he was just a human that didn’t limit himself and worked incredibly hard. It does lead you to question why you would dedicate your life to one thing in such a way but it is commendable that he did. I also noticed that he didn’t speak much about his wife or children or speak out on political or social issues. He was a man dedicated to his craft, who became the greatest of all time.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

Unruly interview (w/Ramonie)

Ramonie is a rapper from Hackney, who I initially heard through his pop out song, Xpills. He is able to blend genres like Garage, Trap and R&B to create his own sound, full of cheeky lyrics and bubbly flows.

Unruly, which dropped on May 8th is no different and I was excited to have a conversation with the man himself, following the release of his first music video. I wanted to understand his mindset and get the story behind the making of the song.  


How did Unruly come about?

Unruly was a laid-back freestyle I wrote when I was chilling in the studio one time. It just started flowing really and I ended up writing a crazy freestyle which was initially four minutes long but I chopped and changed [it] into a song with a hook”.

Some of the stories in your song could sound mad to a new listener. Are they all real experiences?

“All of the stuff I mentioned in the track is based on real life experience, which is quite funny because… some people will think I’m just trying to be funny. But I actually write about…my way of life”.

Which artists have influenced your music?

“I’d say my biggest influences are Jay-Z, Dave, Drake and Octavian. However, I…listen [to] a lot of R&B and take inspiration from groups such as The Internet“.

Does your brother, Frenzy, influence your approach to music?

“Having a brother that made music before helped to give me an insight into music and the whole creative process behind it. I was very observant from as young as 11”.

So, when did you decide to take music seriously?

“[I] started to write [at] around 14. [But], I began recording properly when I turned 16 and then I released my first single Xpills. [That was] my first experience [of a]…buzz”.

In the studio

Now that you and your brother make music, is there any rivalry between you?

“There isn’t any rivalry…[we are] a team because we do things like freestyle together in our room for hours,[listen to artists and discover new music]”.

I feel like Hackney has quite an exciting music scene. What other artists should we look out for?

“There’s a lot of talent in Hackney that I would recommend people to give a listen to but to name a few I would say Sir Rockz, Dayor, Arz & Ruty“.

Has Corona virus affected your music or productivity?

“Corona has been a blessing and a curse; it’s helped me to spend more hours in the studio as I have one at home… and I even released my first video, for Unruly, so… I’d say I’ve been productive”.

So, what’s next? What can we expect from you?

“I’m planning to release some more videos over the next few months and finally a video for Xpills“.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is unnamed-2.jpg
Ramonie in Hackney Downs for the video shoot of Unruly

Ramonie seems to have a promising future. He has the right mindset, in terms of wanting to grow from the ground up. He also seems to take pride in his art, reaches out to other artists, like myself, and is active in his local area, helping out organisations, like the Badu Community He’s someone who I would like to do well so make sure to stream Unruly and watch out for his next moves.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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Songs that I’m listening to (3)

STYLY, PVPI STRZ

This was one of those occasions when the YouTube algorithms blessed me. I was going to skip the advert but something told me to give the song a chance. I think it was the way that the beat gradually came in, matched by PVPI STRZ‘s effortless delivery. The chorus catches you and I have found myself asking “where you dey” ever since I heard the track.

There must be something in the water in the Democratic Republic of Congo because along with IDPizzle, Congolese artists or artists of Congolese descent, seem to be taking over. I love the way that artists are embracing being African yet taking influence from other styles of music; in this case, R&B. It makes for a refreshing track that shows that simplicity isn’t a substitute for quality.

And, I can always appreciate a well shot video, with beautiful women, stylish outfits and great lighting. I keep telling these artists that they need to invite me to their shoots. Where you dey?

Trust 2 Tough, Drigyy

I first saw this on the Instagram explore page – a cute video on paige.cw’s account. So, I’m so glad that the tune has dropped and I no longer have to rinse the snippet on Instagram.

Trust 2 Tough has the potential to blow due to its mellow vibe, catchy hook and the buzz around Drigyy, You can hear that his lyrics come from a real place, leading to comments like, “Nahh I can tell from Drigyy’s songs that he was hurt in the past”. We feel you. And, even though I’m not from the South side, I can’t stop myself singing along.

So, don’t trust too tough, unless you want your heartbroken. But, trust me – watch out for this guy.

Jesse James Solomon – No Lie

Jesse from SE has been one of my favourites for a while because of the way he graces tracks with his nonchalant delivery, ridiculous flow and often introspective lyrics. I have been enjoying the change of style on some of his more recent tracks, moving from sombre tones to more upbeat bangers, like Haze with Sam Wise.

No Lie, produced by Skepta is another one, and features former Skepta collaborator, Lay-Z and former Lil Peep collaborator, Jaxxon D. Silva. The sweet-sounding track includes lyrics about some of the hottest women in the UK, like Jorja Smith, Ms Banks and Steff London, which draw you in quickly.

We get an idea of Jesse’s lifestyle, regarding women and he is so self-assured with it. This along with the chorus, make you believe what he’s saying – no lie.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

NS10v10: Wizkid v Vybz Kartel

When I heard about this clash I was conflicted. Who should I represent? My dad’s Nigerian side and Wizkid FC? Or my mum’s Jamaican side and the Gaza?

The clash took place on Sunday and was hosted by No Signal, a music platform, which promotes black music. They have been going hard during lockdown and since this clash, they have grown immensely. It’s beautiful to see such a celebration of black music and culture, especially from homegrown guests and DJs.

Honestly, before listening to the clash, I wasn’t very familiar with either artists’ catalogues. However, I knew what both artists represented to their fanbases and their countries. Furthermore, it was going off on Twitter so I had to tune in.

So, here is my opinion based purely on what I think sounded better (I don’t know these artists’ whole discographies or the impact that each song has had) so don’t attack me, like some people did to some of the team members and guests on the show. But it definitely shouldn’t have been 10-0 to Wizkid.

I think the score ended up 6-4 to Wizkid. But, word to Jimmy Bullard, music’s always the winner. Shout out to No Signal for having no excuses and providing us with great entertainment.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

https://www.instagram.com/xaymacaa/?hl=en

https://www.instagram.com/saucingforever/?hl=en

Greatest Shit: Poet and Vuj

This is the series that looks at people doing some of the greatest shit in our scene. We want to give people the flowers while they are still here and tell them “hey, what you’re doing is great, keep on doing it”. These are people doing it their way, however unconventional that may be. Last week, we took a look at the founders of the record label, Breeding London Kulture, Antz and Abdi. This week we’re examining two more fixtures in our scene, Poet and Vuj.

Poet and Vuj in their younger days

Introduction

Similar to Antz and Abdi, it’s difficult for me to remember exactly when I first came across the duo. They have been active in the Black British underground scene for over ten years and have been able to make it into the mainstream in the last five years. However, I think I first came across them properly when I watched Comments Below on Copa90.

I used to love football so much so it was refreshing to hear two everyday guys speak about the latest football news, as a contrast to the Match of the Day pundits, with their polished shoes and ironed shirts. In the most respectable way possible, it made me think; “I could do that”. A skinny guy with plaits and a guy who moved to the UK as a child, from his home country of Serbia made in onto my my laptop screen. If they can do what they love, surely the possibilities for me are endless?

And things progressed. Prior to their show on Copa90, they were already known for wild content, like David Vujanic’s character, Bricka Bricka and Poet’s show, Poet’s Corner. I just missed these moments as they were happening, but even looking back on the videos, it takes me back to a much simpler time and highlights how far they have come and how much they have influenced the new generation of YouTube personalities.

They went on to interview footballers, like David Beckham, Neymar Jr and Rio Ferdinand. They were able to travel the world. And, they did this largely off the back of their own ideas and hard work, like with the series Fifa and Chill, where they wanted to humanise both rappers and footballers alike by having a chat with them and playing Fifa in bathrobes (David Vujanic’s idea).

There are been so many other moves and viral moments with Vuj especially. For example, “mum, I’ve got black friends”, or dougieing on stage at Notting Hill Carnival or dancing in D’Banj’s music video for his hit song, Oliver Twist.

Poet too was able to make moves, like setting up his own football show, Filthy Fellas, Halfcast Podcast with DJ, Chuckie Online and later the YouTube series, Gasworks, with Alhan Gençay.

Fifa and Chill

Controversy

Despite this, the article is quite controversial because of the content of some of their earlier videos and Tweets. Social media was a different place back then. People said what they wanted with no filter – everything was new. The days of Smokey Barbers, Diary of a Badman and KSIOlajidebt. The days when everybody had an opinion about everything, where they would make jokes about themselves and where anyone could get it.

I do not condone any of their homophobic, sexist or racist comments. I think that their previous comments were a reflection of themselves and it doesn’t matter what times we are living, they were wrong. They have both been criticised for old Tweets but Poet’s were the most high profile as he was “cancelled” in April of last year and sacked from his job at Copa90, after a journalist at Football365, exposed his sexist Tweets.

I had to question whether I could put them on my platform and say that what they’ve done is great because some of their views have not been in line with what I stand for.

However, when I thought about the impact that they have had and continue to have on me, our scene and their friends, I felt compelled to follow through with my idea, since they were some of the first names that popped into my head when I started the series.

Poet and Vuj at the 2016 Rated Awards, in which they won

Respect

Since Poet’s cancellation, Poet and Vuj decided to go independent and set up their own YouTube channel. I had to question what this says about our society and the power that men have to continue working, despite their views. Having said that, the introduction and success of their own channel is testament to their hard work and the value that they put into themselves.

When I listened to the Afro Child episode of Halfcast Podcast, I heard them speak about the power that they know that they have. They respect their business and life experience, which is why Vuj could go into corporate meetings and receive the money that he felt he deserved. It’s because he knows that he could do what he does with those companies, by himself and with a team of his friends. And, that type of set up is ultimately more fulfilling in the long run. You can keep your integrity, own your business and learn about all aspects of the industry.

This, along with the; “doing it with your friends”, aspect of the pair, is why they are so inspirational. Poet in particular was able to put on so many of his friends, creating a little scene of his network. People like Maya Jama, Craig Mitch and Snoochie Shy. This sets up a more enjoyable work environment for Poet, since he is surrounded by people that he actually likes and it means that they can all eat together. That is the goal.

They have both also been instrumental in nurturing new talent, directly or indirectly. People like Alhan and Harry Pinero. These guys could be considered competition as the new guys in town, but that’s not how Poet and Vuj see it. They are in competition with themselves and with the infrastructure in the scene now, there is space for so many different lanes.

Harry Pinero on talking on Poet and Vuj’s podcast

Impact

I love how they can do what they want (for better or for worse) and have continued to exist in their own space. I hope and it seems like they are growing as people because listening to Poet over the last year, I’ve realised how smart he is, in a way that I hadn’t before. His mind is very quick and it is a skill to be able to remain relevant for as long as he has.

Vuj too, has a different energy about him. I saw him at the Fresh Voices event at the Guardian in February and he had a calm air about him. He has taken time away to get to know himself better so seems at peace with who he is and is less out there than in his earlier days.

I just want to them to keep on growing, learning and making great shit. And, through their podcasts, they are providing people with a lot of game that could be useful for future careers. I, for one, am going to use it and dedicate time to make some great shit of my own.

And that’s the series done! Some of my influences. Some of the youngest in charge. It’s time to go get it.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

https://www.instagram.com/xaymacaa/

https://www.instagram.com/saucingforever/