In celebration of Black History Month, KEXP’s Alina Santillan interviewed numerous local and national African American artists about what Black History Month and Black Future mean to them. Seattle rapper Gifted Gab talks about celebrating black history all your round, getting her musical education from her mom, and offers inspiring words to other minority artists trying to make their own way.
KEXP: So can you start by telling me who you are?
Gifted Gab: My name is Gifted Gab. I'm from Seattle Washington. And it's lit.
So KEXP's celebrating Black History Month. I'm going to throw in celebrating black future and blackness in general. Can you tell me what what Black History Month means to you, but if you want to take that further and into saying what blackness in general...
I got you. I got you. OK, so [laughs]. What black history month means to me – it's a month of celebration, a month of appreciation, a month of learning. It's really Black History Month all year round, forever. But, you know, we get the shortest amount, but it's all cool. And it's my birthday month so it's extra lit. So February is definitely the best month of the year. I grew up – my parents really instilled learning history. And I spent a lot of time in Oklahoma and my aunt every Black History Month, it was like Christmas the whole month. We would do something every single day. They took it very seriously, so that was something that always stuck with me. It's just it's just really lit to highlight just things that black inventors and stuff people don't even think about. It's crazy that we only talk about it for a month out the year, really highlight it, but black people and just people of color [are] just behind everything. So it's really good to you know teach and spread the word and spread knowledge to people that may not know. Just cram it in their head all in all in one month.
Who has been an influential artist to you in any any intersection of your identity; as an individual, as a hip hop artist, as whatever. Who's been somebody that's really influential to you?
I mean there are so many artists that I can name, but I think probably my mom is my biggest inspiration just for music in general because I grew up in the church. In growing up in the church you don't really have no choice as far as like you've got to be in the choir, you got to do all this stuff. But I grew up watching her sing and she was just she was just hella dope and she always played records all the time and we were always listening to music. All different types of music. So I really owe it to her and my aunties and stuff for just all the memories I have. There's always like a sound check. If I don't remember exactly what I was doing, I probably remember what song was playing or what the vibe was at that time. So yeah, I would say my mom.
Is there an artist that she played that you were like, "Woah," that kind of opened up...
She loved The Ohio Players. She loved The Ohio Players and she tried to hide that, because they were kind of out there for that time. So she would try to like hide the records but I would always always find him and just be like amazed by. She loved The Ohio players so we definitely listened to a lot of funk and saw a lot of Chaka Khan. You know I'm saying, a lot of Anita Baker.
Is there somebody that you've played with recently or maybe a collaboration or another artist that you're working with like locally or – it doesn't have to be a local either – that you've just enjoyed playing with and being creative with?
See I don't like to get to naming people because then you leave people out. It's like awards speeches [laughs]. Once you start, you can't stop. There's so many! There's so many and so few. I've only really collabed – and when I say collabed, I mean not just like somebody hits me up and sends me the track and I send it back. That's not really collaborating to me. Collaborating is being in the studio or like planning this stuff out together. I mean for one I got to shout out my says Blimes, Blimes Brixton. She's based out in Cali. We've definitely collabed recently on some stuff. We have a video out now and that was really dope. Who else? Obviously all my bros from Moor Gang. Jarv Dee, Nacho Picasso, all of them. There's many there's many I want to collab with that I haven't yet. I got a little list of people that I'm definitely planning to reach out to or have already reached out to. We still in the planning stages.
Why do you think music matters?
Hmm, that's deep. Why does music matter? Because there's nobody on like the face of the earth that doesn't listen to music. Even the question, "Do you like music?" is so redundant. Like, do you eat? Do you sleep? Do you do normal human things? Everybody listens to music but also music can mean different things to different people. For some people, that's their therapy. That's what gets them out of bed in the morning. Gets them through bad times or amplifies good times. Music for some people is just background music. But whatever it is, it's I think very necessary whether we think about it or not. Music is everything.
It is everything is there anything else that you want to add or you want to encompass in this message? It can be realated to Black History Month or not.
I want to give a shout out to all the minorities, the black and brown artists in Seattle, that are doing their thing. I know what the politics are like. I know how the climate is. Just in general being a black and brown artist just in the industry. Just keep going. Keep checking through it. Follow your passion. If it's your passion, then it's gonna happen. If it's not your passion, then you're gonna run into some roadblocks you might not be able to you know get across. But if it's your passion and this is what you are supposed to do – do it. Don't let nothing stop you from doing it. Do it.
For more and a litany of amazing interviews featuring the incredible African-American musical artists that have shaped our lives, click here for all our Black History Month coverage.
Whitney Mongé is a Seattle musician, who plays what she calls “Alternative Soul”, a blend of the R&B and ‘90s rock music that inspired her. In celebration of Black History Month, she shares influences and talks about how it's "pretty cool to be a brown person playing music."
Sistas Rock the Arts is a collective that presents weekly open mic and jam sessions at Rumba Notes in Columbia City. Co-founder La Tanya Horace, aka SistahLuv, talks to KEXP about creating community and black future.
Om Johari is a Seattle based Afro-Punk Musician and Feminist Activist who has sung in Bad Brains and AC/DC cover bands. She has a unique and interesting perspective on Black History Month and why artist Nina Simone matters.
SassyBlack talks about Quincy Jones, debunking the myth that there's a lack of women producers, and how vast blackness really is.
Seattle based hip-hop artist and KEXP DJ Gabriel Teodros, who is of Ethiopian and Scottish descent, tells us about Black August and shared insight into an artist who was very influential in inspiring his 2014 album Children of the Dragon.
Seattle's own Falon Sierra shares with KEXP the joy she feels during this month, the artists that have inspired her, and offers encouragement for young artists looking to make their own way.