when they go low, josh stokes goes lo-fi

January 9, 2019
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In childhood, I remember feeling suffocated by many of the artists that were presented to me. They all looked so clean. The images were perfectly edited, the sounds were highly manicured, and everything had a glossy high quality. Our community’s artistic orientation towards things looking pristine, perfect and of the highest quality can be pleasurable to consume, but all too often, they do not tell a complete story. It is nice to look at images or read text or listen to music that is aspirational, but that wouldn’t be a honest portrayal of an artist’s interior life.

Josh Stokes’ video for “Dare” reminds me about the other side of creation: the dirty things, the funky things, the lo-fi things. Josh Stokes says that his sound and aesthetic is “all derived from the same source. The funk definitely inspires me to the fullest. But I feel it’s just the rawness that they call ‘the blues’ that has inspired everything we create: gospel, funk, R&B, and especially hip-hop.” There is something essential about using everything you have around you — even if it is limited — and creating gold. Stokes told AFROPUNK, “My vision for the video was a lo-fi, 70s, trippy, kinda goofy look that I felt like still fit the high energy of the song, with its openness and simplicity.”

In this lo-fi funk meditation on howling vocals and abstract jazz sensibilities being fearlessly bridged with hip-hop. It’s George Clinton and Questlove jamming in a garage with no pretense, just talent. More than that, it made me appreciate the artists that most Black artists must be: DIY, lo-fi, punk. We make flaws look irresistible and perfection look dull. And artists like Josh Stokes dare us to get our own hands dirty, rebelling against the urge for perfectionism to focus on soulfulness.