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Okayafrica Exclusive: Diplo + Chief Boima Debate The Politics Of Tropical Bass


We want a good, clean fight. Now let’s shake hands.

Boima: I mean…it’s the power relationship of the community. If it’s the gay community, you have these situations where people who are mainstream can get down to like a vogue tune…but still a tranny can’t walk down the street and feel comfortable, or feel safe. Even this idea of underground is problematic. That keeps you out of the mainstream, that does separate you as outside, as other. The reality is that we live in this internet age where it is accessible and really, gay parties aren’t illegal like they were in the ‘70’s. Underground used to be an issue of, We can’t do this, it’s not legal to congregate. Now it’s an issue of, Everybody can legally congregate where they want, so let’s create these safe spaces for that to happen and everybody can come enjoy it, let’s not separate it out as this thing. Like if somebody’s using [Masters At Work house classic which is a staple of the gay vogue house scene] “The Ha Dance,” let’s ground it in the context and also have solidarity with that context.

STATS: But to ensure that solidarity by putting in place a structure where only gay people can sample “The Ha Dance”—or to bring it back to your experience in Liberia, only someone from Liberia can profit on Liberian music–seems sort of counter-progressive to me…

Boima: Well that’s not exactly what I’m trying to say. I’ll send you the draft of a piece I’m working on, but in it I talk about how I struggle with this situation where I have to put this comp [of Liberian music] together and market it, specifically for this crowd in the US that I think is going to dig it, which is this global bass scene or whatever we call it. And those are the people who have been hitting me up–but also the [West African] diaspora has been hitting me up. So it’s like, Where am I consciously fitting this album into? And addressing these issues within Liberia, where–I’m sure similar to Brazil–the wealthy folks didn’t really dig what was happening in the hood…

Diplo: Well in Brazil, for example, I feel like I did have an impact on the way Brazil perceived baile funk music, which is weird. It was a strictly Rio thing, and now 5 years later, it’s changed. I think people saw baile funk was getting played by European audiences, and even in Brazil, the stereotypes broke down and people were like, I wanna fuck with this, and girls were like, I wanna dance like this. I see the change of people just seeing, If Europeans like this…All Latin America has this Euro-centric upper crust that feels like they’re Europeans still, still on this colonial mindset.

Boima: But we can fight them, though.

Diplo: We can fight them, but I feel like the kids in the global bass scene, they like music that’s the best.

Boima: They also chase what’s hot. Like how many young producers on soundcloud are doing baile funk tracks any more? or even Baltimore, that used to be the hot shit, and there’s this problematic thing where people are just chasing the latest trend.

Diplo: Definitely a problem.

Boima: So how do we start to change that culture, how do we recognize that, Yo, at the end of the day, people from Baltimore are still from Baltimore and Africans are still Africans and gay folks are still gay folks…

Diplo: Everything’s flash in the pan, I see it like crazy. But, if it’s that great, it’ll stick around, man. I can’t control the internet, the hyper culture that we have, where everything’s being turned over so quickly.

Boima: My question is, let’s say you’re putting your efforts to break something in the mainstream, but if the mainstream is so flash in the pan, what’s the point? As far as the purpose of breaking down barriers, trying to create a better equal situation, globally, what good is chasing the mainstream light? I know it adds some exposure, but if it’s a flavor of the day type thing, how can we change that into substantial change? Instead of just, Oh, now we know about “The Ha Dance?” And then next week something different?

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Eddie "STATS"

Imported from Detroit.

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Eddie "STATS"

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