video premiere: niki black’s new politically-driven video ‘rise again’
By Sound Check
January 20, 2016
When Niki Black walks into a room, all eyes follow her. She possess a grace that is a rarity among most 20-year-olds while also maintaining a sense of humility and self awareness.
I first met Niki while performing at an Underground Youth event in Los Angeles. It was one of my first shows and she was the most engaged person in the audience; so naturally, I performed my entire set directly at her. From that moment on, I knew Niki possessed a sincere appreciation for art but also a vulnerability that made her susceptible to truly feeling the pain in this world – which translates beautifully into her music.
By KiNG*, AFROPUNK Contributor
This week, marks the premiere of her politically driven music video: Rise Again, which purposefully falls on the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day – a time to celebrate the social justice hero who has influenced Niki’s life and the trajectory of America as a whole. I was able to sit down with Niki and ask a few questions about her music, her purpose, and the importance of activism:
What was the inspiration for Rise Again – lyrically and visually?
Rise Again is a song that I actually wrote pretty strategically. Each verse of the lyrics addresses a different societal power, and directly confronts them on the hypocrisy that they perpetuate that continue to oppress people of color. But, the lyrics also are meant to empower, as I believe all we need is to speak out, regardless of whatever shade of skin we are. We all individually need to be the loudest siren call of change in order for anti-racism and the elevation of black power and people of color to actually register and become effective and therefore rise again to where it always should have been.
Visually, the video juxtaposes historical footage of America’s disgustingly racist past and present with me as the embodiment of a symbolic phoenix who rises from the ashes, just as the oppressed will. I hope the visuals speak for themselves, as we carefully picked them.
In being able to watch Niki’s music video, there is this old soul voice that belts out of a young woman’s body – it’s astonishing and mesmerizing, which beckoned me to ask:
Who are your influences/mentors?
The biggest influences to me in music are Lauryn Hill, Nina Simone and Kendrick Lamar. Not only sonically is their music such powerful perfection, but their use of music as something bigger than themselves is what inspires me the most. They use their voices, on and off the record as tools to reflect the reality of our world and problems we need to face is what I am so inspired by.
With influence comes purpose, when did you realize your purpose?
I’ve always been extremely empathetic. I didn’t know what to do with it, I legitimately will cry at anything sad or emotional you put in front of me. I’ve been privileged enough to be able to attend university, and I am eternally thankful to have enrolled for Women’s Studies 101 my spring semester of freshman year. From then on, my empathy turned into a roaring siren call for change. My hetero-patriarchal white-washed (even as the daughter of an Iranian immigrant) capitalist influenced views and brainwashing completely were torn down by this class, and I saw was able to see things as they truly are. From then on my purpose became to tear down the aforementioned racist hetero-patriarchal capitalist society that has caused so much pain and destruction in this world.
It is a blessing in this life to be able to discover your purpose in general – but to be able to find it so early and be brave enough to pursue it makes Niki a powerhouse. She speaks with intention and empathy that is beyond her years, which is particularly evident in her Instagram.
Combing through your social media, it is apparent you don’t use it like a typical 20 year old would, what is your relationship with social media and how do you utilize your platform? I’m SO saddened by the way some people use social media. People are suffering, people are in need, there are huge political movements occurring around you, and you are more inspired to a post a picture of your damn yogurt parfait? You are more inspired by your own narcissism and need for social validation with your highly edited selfie than the Black Lives Matter movement? REALLY?
We need to use social media as a platform for social change. WE NEED TO. We are already addicted to our damn screens and Facebook and Instagram feeds, so might as well fill them with politically aware information. This way people can change their damaging societally conditioned thoughts and inspire more people to get off their asses and VSCO filter editing apps and help the world. Share the inspiring shit you see. Share the sad realities of the world. Keep yourself and your virtual community woke! Do not be afraid to share something on Facebook – you never know the one person who will see what you posted and change the world because of it. Idealism, but hey – you really never know the power of social media.
And that’s exactly what makes Niki different, there is no ego, there is no need or desire to become famous or earn a superfluous amount of money; she is a young woman who is aware of the current state of our country and wants to see change through the lens of music. My favorite quote of hers is, “I’m too controversial and honest to be a politician, so I will change the world with music instead.”
With a clear vision and evident talent, it is obvious Niki is going places in the music industry. While many people strive to just have a radio hit or a top 40 album, Niki seeks longevity but also wants to change the face of the music industry. She is aware of how much the media influences culture and allows for a sense of ignorance and oblivion to be acceptable; Niki seeks to contribute her voice and lyrics consistently to “…elevate the oppressed, and cause real political change and an awakened consciousness from this apathy so many feel.” In the future, she hopes with whatever money she makes to donate to as many causes as possible and be a role model as to how creativity and civic engagement can work together.
* KiNG is a 21 year old gender fluid, bisexual, biracial, spoken word poet, as well as co-founder of SLiM Poetry (an open mic at the Container Yard in the Arts District). Through writing and performing, I seek to create dialogue and develop a rapport with readers/audience members. I also intend to shatter stigma pertaining to mental health, feminism, racism, and anything social justice related as well as encourage creative communities to integrate and innovate.
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