Coming 2 America: An unneeded and unwanted sequel

Khadisha Thomas reviews Eddie Murphy’s cinematic return as Prince Akeen Joffer in an unimaginative rehash which hangs on nostalgia.

Official trailer: ‘Coming 2 America’

The 80s classic that starred Eddie Murphy as wide-eyed African prince, Akeem Joffer, frolicking the streets of New York in search of a wife, is back! However, this time 33 years later the Prince is no longer a prince, he is a king, and the King isn’t searching for a wife. He is searching for his illegitimate son.

‘Coming 2 America’ was released on Amazon Prime in March. The sequel to the successful romantic comedy sees old faces return such as Arsenio Hall as Semmi, the King’s trusted sidekick and Shari Headley as Lisa, the King’s love interest-turned-queen. New faces also emerge in this movie, faces that many may already know from urban popular culture. Singer Teyana Taylor who rose to fame as the dancer in Kanye West’s fame video and rapper Rick Ross are just some of the African American modern-day stars to make an appearance. Despite this mixing of generations and where ‘Coming to America’ stands in black entertainment history, the follow-up movie misses the mark.

The plot seemed rushed and would have benefitted from further development. In this film, King Akeem’s father passes away and by way of Zamunda tradition Akeem needs to have a male heir to his throne. Unfortunately for him he only has daughters. Despite his eldest being more than capable and worthy of assuming this role, Akeem’s obligation to patriarchy leads him to New York to find his long-lost son Lavelle. Lavelle is a struggling yet ambitious salesperson, living in a dingy apartment with his whacky family. After all the time that has passed since the first movie, this would have been the perfect moment to take us on a trip down memory lane. I would have liked to see King Akeem reminisce more as he passes the shops, bars and people he met for the first time in New York. Apart from the brief reunion in the barbershop, McDowell’s and a reference to the Knicks football game date, that link to the curious and impressionable experiences of young Akeem isn’t made.

I would have also liked to see King Akeem and Lavelle form a father and bond. Perhaps Lavelle could show his father what he has been doing in all these years of absence. There were grounds for a more in-depth story here, but it was wasted. It felt like King Akeem just hopped on a plane picked up his son and flew back to Zamunda.

Once on African soil, the movie does not get much better. Although the African outfits are beautiful no number of vibrant colours, feathers and beads can hide how terrible the accents are in this movie. They also cannot hide Hollywood’s fantastical obsession with Africa being a land of wild beasts roaming. Even Lavelle’s royal task of plucking a lion’s whisker seems quite ridiculous. The only good thing about this movie is that it touches on the misogynistic ideologies that still exist in Africa. By the end of the movie, King Akeem appoints his daughter as his heir which shows this much-needed change in thinking.

The full circle effect of Lavelle falling in love with an African woman against the political trajectories of his father in the same way that King Akeem fell in love with a working-class woman from New York, is satisfying. However, it is a bit unbelievable that the characters can develop a real romantic interest over hair styling…

Overall ‘Coming 2 America’ is another example of an old-school favourite dug up dusted off and polished in a 2021 lacklustre shine. The comedy did not live up to the hype and like many reboots of movies from back in the day, it should have never happened.

Coming 2 America is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.


The Promised Neverland: A tale of darkness told with warmth

Filled with dystopia and brimming with emotion. Savannah Duncan reviews the dark fantasy anime.

Official trailer: ‘The Promised Neverland’

At first, I didn’t understand why I cried during this series considering it doesn’t have the saddest story, but then I realised I became incredibly emotionally attached to these kids who were fighting for their freedom. Not the story.

‘The Promised Neverland’ had my heart aching for these tiny children because their characters were incredibly written and fleshed out. Despite not having a backstory I still felt like I knew them. Anime is known for taking audiences into amazing worlds with incredible stories and ‘The Promised Neverland’ doesn’t fall flat in meeting these expectations.

It follows a group of kids aged 12 and under within an orphanage, but you soon come to understand that the refuge for these children is not all it appears to be. This dystopian dark fantasy shields its viewers and characters from the truth and leads them down various hallways for answers and explanations, whilst also leaving you with even more questions than you had before.

Each of these characters maintains the interest of the viewers because they are forced to connect with them on an emotional level, regardless of whether or not they’re real.

Not to mention the amazing visuals and animation that is gifted to us with a perfectly looped bow on top. The animators didn’t slack when it came to showing us beautiful landscapes and adorable children, while also hitting the gruesome attributes of the antagonists.

The anime was a loving recreation of its manga which was able to come first in the 2017 ‘Tsutaya Comic Awards’ Next Break Division’, third in ‘Tsugi ni Kuru Manga Awards’ and much more. It comes as no surprise that the manga had 1.5 million in print, in August of 2017 which then increased to 2.1 million by October of the same year. It is without a doubt that the anime will showcase the same success as its manga counterpart since it had already received a miriad of postive ratings and accolades.

The show is worth visiting if you’re looking for a story filled to the brim with twists, dark truths and horror, balanced out with a bit of warmth. It’s definitely the kind of anime that keeps you wanting more and constantly surprised because of the engaging storyline.

The Promised Neverland is currently available for streaming on Netflix, Funimation, Amazon Prime Video and Crunchyroll.


Haram: A creative collaboration of hip hop harmony

Samuel Hornsby reviews the new album by the rap duo ‘Armand Hammer’ and veteran record producer ‘The Alchemist’.

Armand Hammer and The Alchemist team up for a solid 40 mins blend of some of the finest talent in the game from both the East and West coast of America.

The Alchemist is a seasoned producer with three years of experience under his belt, honing his skills on the albums of some of hip hop’s greatest heavyweights. His back catalogue includes credits on the works of Nas, Ghostface Killah, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Cyprus Hill, Kendrick Lamar and the late, great MF DOOM. As of recent, he also found acclaim through his collaborative project ‘Alfredo’ with Freddie Gibbs.

The man knows his way around a record and the production on this LP is sleek, stylish and imaginative. He ends up delivering a jazzy, abstract listening experience filled with glitched-out saxophones, rattling drums and the noise chirping crickets. It’s an engrossing sound that is grabbing and captivating enough to leave you sat there for its runtime satisfied, impressed and wanting more when the silence hits as the last track comes to an end.

On the microphone we have the cult New York duo ‘Armand Hammer’, made up of rappers Billy Woods and Elucid. They pump the album with dark lyrics that are loud, clunky and direct in delivery. It may not be the most graceful of lyrical displays with certain points starting to feel more like the kind of delivery you would find from vintage spoken-word rap units such as ‘The Last Poets’, but what it lacks for in finesse, it more than makes up for in effectiveness.

The contents is grim and grimy with the topics mirroring the cryptic beats and melodies in perfect harmony. The Alchemist and Armand Hammer feel in sync in their musical vision for the LP by presenting a project defined by the atmosphere both parties are working toward together.

Also sprinkled throughout the album are a fine selection of artist features including appearances from Odd Future member, Earl Sweatshirt and the distinctly deadpan voice of Quelle Chris. The latter of these examples, in particular, injects a lot of personality into their track turning it into one of the most memorable tracks on the album. Even if the appearance is only a fleeting glimpse it leaves a lasting mark.

Overall, ‘Haram’ is a brilliant blend of abstract and conscious hip hop contrasted with a darker hardcore edge. It is a meeting of the West and East coast and two unique styles in union to create a listening experience that provides both a bark and a bite.

Opening track: ‘Sir Benni Miles

Haram is currently available for streaming on Bandcamp, Spotify and YouTube Music. It can also be purchased from backwoodzstudioz.com both on CD and digitally.


After We Collided: A viewing that offers the best of the worst

They took a detailed and complex story and squashed it into nothing more than a basic teen drama. It’s like making a BLT without the bacon or lettuce… or tomato. Review by Savannah Duncan.

Official trailer: After We Collided

Allow me to paint a picture, young Sav was scrolling through Netflix on a night she had nothing better to do, only to fall onto a film called ‘After’. A burst of excitement runs through her body as she frantically presses the play button. This was a Wattpad story she read back when she was just 14 years old.

She prayed for the day it would become a film and unfortunately that day has arrived. Be careful what you wish for.

I grew up reading this Wattpad story back when the characters were named after the One Direction boys and not the bootleg names we see today, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about.

The first ‘After’ film was the biggest disappointment I have ever had in my entire life. I mean it. Imagine dreaming for something almost your entire childhood, only for it to become true in every wrong way possible. That’s what that film was.

I thought they’d stop there but, oh boy, did they make another one. Sadly, the only good thing about it was that Dylan Sprouse was in it, but the film was so bad he won’t be appearing in any more of them.

Okay, that’s not entirely true, but he has stated he will not be filming for the other two films. Yes, they are making two more.

You know how usually the first film is the best in the franchise and then the sequels don’t quite manage to hit you as much as the initial instalment did?

Well, ‘After’ was bad from the start, so why did they make a sequel and why are they making two more after this sequel? I’m so frustrated I might just deactivate my Netflix account.

It follows the basic romance within a teen drama, a girl who falls for a boy and they have an on-again, off-again relationship… only this boy has alcohol and anger problems. She really knows how to pick them.

The one thing I loved about reading this book was the story and how relatable Tessa Young was when she spoke about her feelings for Hardin. Not to mention the dilemmas she faced when it came to her new friends, who were clearly bad influences, and her mother.

Many things happened within the story and the writers tore them all out, only to leave the film with the most basic plot known to man. To be honest it would have been far more successful as a series with 40 minute episodes. The original story is so complex it’s the only way it could have worked.

I read a comment that said: ‘that was the best worse movie I have ever watched’ and I couldn’t put it better myself.

There is nothing really good to say about this film. It’s just a basic teen movie. Do yourself a favour and buy the book instead, I promise you’re not missing out.

After We Collided is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.


The support of Abigail Pinehaven’s viewers was the only thing that kept her going

When she was in the most difficult point of her YouTube journey the main thing that motivated her was her viewers. Now Abigail Pinehaven does full-time YouTubing with zero regrets. Savannah Duncan hears her story.

Abigail Pinehaven began to slow down her speech as she tried to remind herself of a massive challenge she had to face, within her four-year YouTube career. It was not long before her speech pattern was normalised, and she began to tell her YouTube journey.

“Um, so I think for me I struggled actually last year because I was going to college and I was doing an acting foundation course,” she says.

“I was getting up at six o’clock in the morning, and I was not coming home until like eight o’clock at night.

“It was very intensive because it’s an acting course, it’s creative as well. So, when I come home I’ve got no energy, I’ve got no motivation, and I have no creativity as well. Because I’ve literally spent it all at the college but something that got me through. It was- and this is a little sappy I will admit, but it was the comments and the messages.

“Even when I haven’t posted for two, three, months people are kind of still coming up to me in-game and saying, ‘oh hi you’re a YouTuber, hello!’ and that kind of re-sparked the love and the joy from it for me… I’m going to make sure that what I’m creating is positive in the community.”

Abigail is a 19-year-old YouTuber who creates equestrian gaming videos mainly with the popular horse game Star Stable Online. However, she can also be found producing content with games such as Minecraft, Alicia Online, Rival Stars and Red Dead Redemption 2.

She started her YouTube career on the 27th of December 2017 at age 15, with an editor programme she had gifted to her for Christmas that year. Abigail has always wanted to practice editing and used her channel as a fun way to gain the experience.

At first, she was not taking YouTubing as a career path. But as her channel leapt from zero – 56.5K subscribes in four years, she explained how her viewers played a key role in maintaining her motivation to produce content.

Minecraft tutorial: Abigail’s digital barn tour

She takes in a sharp breath. You could hear the excitement in her voice as she says: “When I was kind of balancing my real life and my YouTube life, just having interactions with people – they didn’t necessarily have to be fans, just people reinforcing that what I’m doing is helpful and positive. That re-sparked everything for me.”

At first, Abigail wanted to pursue an acting career. Once her college acting course ended, in March 2020, she applied for a degree in drama. Unfortunately, she was not accepted into her preferred university.

“That for me ended up being a positive thing because in acting. Obviously, it’s a very person to person contact and in the current virus situation that’s not possible

“A lot of people I knew from college, who went onto university, are doing online school and there is only so much you can do online for an acting course.”

Abigail is now YouTubing full-time and has not applied for a university for the next academic year, because she wants to wait until the virus is under control so it will be safe and worth studying a drama degree.

At the beginning of her YouTube career, she was not adamant on her channel being found. Instead, she felt embarrassed by the idea that others may view her channel as strange.

Equestrian gaming: Farming Simulator 19 letsplay

“I stopped being afraid that people would find my channel… when I hit 40,000 subscribers somewhere in August,” she says.

“I’m not ashamed of it anymore.”

The fact that Abigail was finally able to feel comfortable with her channel, was when she felt she had reached true success within her career.

Eventually, she found a love for live streaming following her first live stream on May 21st, 2019. Afterwards, she was doing an hour livestream every day in July.

“I didn’t have that much practice to be fair,” she says, “obviously I did have that fear of like, what if no one turns up?”

She started her first event in July 2019, when she hosted an in-game Star Stable Online world tour. Where she visited various servers within different regions of the world, so she could branch out and meet other viewers which she could not usually meet, for games and activities.

“For me, seeing them in-game gave the entire region a personality and that was so beautiful to me, to be able to see these people interacting with each other.”

You can hear Abigail try to maintain her giggles as she spoke about the
relationship she had with her viewers. All her words bounce off the walls as if they were dancing with one other.

It is clear Abigail Pinehaven strives to enforce positivity within her viewers, whilst they consistently motivate her to continue to create content even in her darkest of days.


King Rocker: A fitting tribute to two cult Birmingham giants

Photographed by Michael Cumming: Robert Lloyd and Stewart Lee in front of the Kong statue

Samuel Hornsby reviews the new Michael Cumming documentary about singer Robert Lloyd and an 18-foot statue of King Kong.

I had never heard of Robert Lloyd or The Nightingales before watching ‘King Rocker’, but it made me want to. That seems to be the mark of a good music documentary.

Comedian Stewart Lee hosts an exploration into the life and works of Birmingham underground post-punk musician Robert Lloyd whilst using the story of a rejected giant statue of King Kong which once adorned the city as a mirrored comparison of underappreciation. Lee also weaves in his own personal stories and experiences with these two outcasts of Birmingham to complete the through-line.

Michael Cumming knows how to treat misfits and oddities. He’s done it many times before by framing eccentric characters in several comedy shows over his career including ‘Brass Eye’ and ‘Toast of London’. His previous direction of Lee on the show ‘Comedy Vehicle’ also shows he’s learnt how to best display the comedian and get across his dry, sarcastic humour in a way that will resonate with audiences. In addition to this, even though Lee is not directly comedic in the film, the way in which he recounts the tales of King Kong’s statue, laces in his own memories and interacts with Lloyd, all keep the captivating flavour that works so well in his stand-up sets.

Throughout most of the film the main focus, Robert Lloyd, appears to be the sort of bloke you’d stumble into sat in a pub talking shit into his own pint of ale. Cumming and Lee excellently highlight the undiscovered brilliance of Lloyd’s catalogue and life story to an enthralling effect. They frame him as warm and charismatic but at the same time down-to-earth and fairly normal. This works in the films favour as images of him chatting with Lee in a greasy spoon café or pottering in his kitchen showing off the assortment of pills he has to take work as great contrasts to the unique music and the witty stories placed about the film.

Equally as captivating and intriguing is the story of the Kong statue. The 18-foot monster was built by the pop art sculptor Nicholas Monro as a commission for the centre of Birmingham as part of an arts initiative called the ‘Sculpture for Public Places Scheme’. Lee lays out the story of the fibreglass beasts’ conception and eventual rejection by almost everyone who it found its hands in.

The parallel stories are further stitched together through the use of short, crude animated flashbacks displaying different occurrences from Lloyd’s past with a cartoon depiction of the giant ape standing in for Lloyd. It is a great additional way to help solidify the thematic bond between the two subjects of the film which at first may appear to have very little connection.
The end result is a heartfelt low-budget documentary made with a lot of passion and love for its premise.

King Rocker: Official Trailer

King Rocker is currently available for streaming on Now TV and Sky Go.


Singer Cole LC is taking UK airwaves by storm

Cole LC: Photo credit to Max Cheshire

The 17-year-old artist talks to Khadisha Thomas about busking, signing to Columbia records and ‘Letter to Piotr’, a song dedicated to his late friend.

Cole Lawton who goes by the stage name Cole LC is the latest act to emerge on the UK music scene. He’s been compared to Ed Sheeran who he lists as one of his biggest inspirations and recently collaborated with high profile drill artist Double LZ. The rising star who crosses the genres of RnB and rap is played on national radio stations BBC Xtra and Capital Xtra.

At just 17 he’s signed a deal with Columbia records so it’s safe to say that he’s in his prime and has a long career ahead of him. However, before the music industry presented itself Cole was your average young lad hailing from Leeds.

“My earliest memory probably would be, you know them little yellow cars you get when you’re a kid, I remember running to one of those, I must of been in nursery, and I dropped and scraped up my arm,” Cole says.

He laughs as he reminisces on one of his sharpest childhood memories and over his belief that his mother wouldn’t be pleased that the only thing he can remember is his yellow car-induced casualty.

Growing up Cole states that in school his teachers described him as quite loud and a bit annoying. Cole jokes that if he wasn’t doing music he would probably be messing about in college somewhere in Leeds.

“I wasn’t the most perfect student in the world but I was an enthusiastic kid,” he says.

That enthusiasm was particularly directed towards the subject of music and being part of a family that had a strong passion for music was also a big influence to him.

“My parents were always into music and I was always into different musicians, and I had a lot of older friends who were rappers, so I’ve kinda always been around it. There wasn’t really a point where that was my choice.

“It’s always been a thing that I enjoyed and everyone that I looked up to has been in music, so I wanted to get where they were.”

Official music video: ‘Westbrook’

Cole first sang to an audience when he took part in a school talent competition at age 12 but before he worked up the courage to perform, singing would be something he kept behind closed doors, that perhaps his family would hear only if they put an ear to his door.

“I was embarrassed because there weren’t many boy singers but then I did a talent competition at the end of Year Six and I won that” said Cole.

He was gifted a speaker a year later and decided to take it into the town centre where he started busking.

“I think busking is one of the best forms of promotion because you’re just giving the music first hand and that’s how I built up my ting,” he says.

According to Cole there was never a dull day on the shopping high streets of Bradford.

He smiles cheekily as he shares one of his busking experiences.

“I remember this one time these crackheads were walking past and they were like ‘you don’t deserve all that money, gimme that money, pack up and leave’ I was like ‘alright alright mate’ and then a guy from a shop come out and was like ‘leave him alone’.”

Cole believes that his days busking gave him even more drive and that without it he wouldn’t be as thick skinned as he is now.

“You got to be resilient and not care what people are saying or think because people will shout things or say things but they’re saying that probably just to get a laugh out their mates, they’re not trying to hurt you. You just got to take the negative things and brush it off. Most of the time the positives outweigh the negatives,” he says.

With nothing but a dream and a voice every weekend Cole set off to the streets of Bradford, but singing to the public could only achieve so much. To expand his reach he posted covers on the internet and he recognizes how integral the internet was to his success.

“I think it’s benefited everyone a lot, 100%, without the internet it would be harder for people to notice you. If you got a million people from different countries they’re the people who will take you to the top, not these men in suits. That’s the most important thing, people who are sat at home who can connect with your stuff.”

His covers received a lot of praise and soon enough they were seen by online platforms who noticed the teenagers potential.

It wasn’t long before Columbia Records, the label behind big UK artists like B Young, Deno and Da Beatfreaks, approached Cole.

“I was sat in my room with my mum when I signed it in quarantine which wasn’t ideal but it was good tho! It’s opened doors for me and it’s a whole new experience, it’s going into a whole new lid.”

At the mixing desk: Photographed by Max Cheshire

Cole is amazed by all the support he gets from producers who have years and years of in-depth knowledge. The record label helps with ideas for music videos, cover art and he feels lucky to be in this position at such a young age.

“I feel like there’s more stability in what I’m doing, it’s not going out on the weekend trying to busk and earn a bit of money,” Cole says.

A few weeks ago his close friend, Piotr Piekara, sadly passed away and in his memory Cole made a heartfelt song for him called ‘Letter to Piotr’.
The experience has made Cole mature and see how vital music is to expressing his emotions. He doesn’t only want to make songs that people can vibe to, but songs that tell stories.

“The shock of it has really made me and everyone around me appreciate things more and makes me want to get the things out of my head that I want to be said or even the things I don’t want to be said but I’m gonna say it because I’m gonna regret not saying it in the future. Just want to share everything we’ve got because we might not always be able to.”

Tribute to a friend: ‘Letter to Piotr’

Despite dealing with the loss of his friend, Cole wants to keep pushing and is excited for what the future holds. As soon as lockdown restrictions ease and a sense of normality returns he plans to do gigs all whilst continuing to release mixtapes.

“It’s kinda what carries me to be honest, everywhere I go I have music on and I express myself through it, now it’s my job and yeah man it’s just everything really.

“It’s communication and it motivates me.”

It’s clear to see that music means a lot to this young man and with bangers like ‘Rollin’, ‘Grip N Slide’ and ‘Westbrook’, we can only anticipate what more he has in store.


Finding survival through poetry with Amaal Said

Khadisha Thomas the Somali poet and photographer about journals being the one thing she can’t live without, lack of diversity in literature, covid impact on arts and the BBC.

After the hustle and bustle of a moving weekend, Amaal Said is a friendly face on Zoom. She sips her Starbucks, excited about how she is preparing to live with her soon to be husband. However, when she isn’t getting ready for the big changes in her life, her poetry and photography takes centre stage.

Amaal is a Danish-born Somali poet and photographer based in London. Her photography has been featured in Vogue, The Guardian and The New Yorker. She is the winner of the Wasafiri Magazine New writing prize for poetry. Her photographs have been exhibited in Ghana for the fourth volume of the African Lens and exhibited in LA. Amaal grew up in a town called Odense in Denmark and then lived in Copenhagen for a few years. She moved to London at the age of eight.

For her, getting accustomed to her new surroundings was difficult at first because she didn’t know any English.

“I’m really grateful that I came over when I was young because I think when your younger language is a lot easier for you as opposed to being older… I was put in one of those classes that you’re put in when you don’t know English,” she says.

Writing was Amaal’s passion, growing up she would buy multiple journals for different purposes. In her office surrounded by shelves and boxes of books, she laughs as she lists her god, family and her books as something she can’t live without.

“I have all my books everywhere, they keep me sane.”

After stumbling across Tumblr she saw people posting their writing and realized she could do the same.

“I was always writing stories and I would keep diaries. I would keep one for my general thoughts, I would plan out blogs so one journal was for that and I had another journal that was for short stories.”

Watching people tag their writing gave Amaal the courage to share her writing. She was shocked to see so many people like her poetry. This gave her the confidence to apply for the Barbican Young Poets programme.

“I’m from a little corner in London, I’m on the border so I never used to travel to Central, I never went to art galleries, I didn’t have any link to art apart from the internet,” Amaal says.

She submitted her portfolio of poems to the scheme and to her surprise she was selected. This was when her digital bubble perished, and the once mystical world of art opened up to her. Amaal finally got to travel, go to events and meet like-minded individuals, however, she still felt out of place.

“It was mostly a shock because I wore a hijab and when I started there weren’t many poets of colour in that group. You just kinda see each other across the room and stick together. I felt like I didn’t belong, people like me don’t come here. The friends I grew up with had no idea what I was doing on the weekends,” she says.

For Amaal her poetry is inspired by family and mental health.

“I would use my phone and ask my mum questions, ‘tell me this story’ and I would go back and write about it. I was a really nosy child so I would listen to my mum’s phone convos.”

As a teenager growing up poetry became her way to express her feelings and deal with her issues. “It was a mixture of dealing with mental health as a young anxious girl and also things happening with family and trying to write through that muddled history and trauma.”

She thinks the poetry and works of women of colour are not widely consumed and she has always made a conscious effort to seek out and gain influence from women of colour. One of her favourite poets is Warsan Shire, who is also Somali British.

“She would write really beautiful poems about Somali women and Somali people and I had never seen that before.

“Things that were going on in my own home which I had never seen before. It was so sick!”

Amaal believes it’s important to read poetry from women of colour and that in the past poets of colour weren’t widely available because they were thought to not be marketable.

“I remember going to the library and literally searching out peoples names who look ethnic, because for me it was a political thing because if you’re not providing it I need to go out and support and read their work.”

She is part of Octavia, a poetry collective for women of colour. It was set up by her friend in response to the lack of representation of women of colour in literature and the academy.

With a freind, she attended a poetry collective where they were the minority and due to the ignorant comments and lack of understanding from other poets, they felt a space needed to be created where women of colour can feel celebrated.

“Of course it’s incredible you get to do poetry in these collectives but at the same time the type of questions, or feedback or conversations you get, are not conversations you’d be having if it was another woman of colour reading your work, there would be a general understanding because we’re dealing with similar struggles,” she says.

Since the coronavirus, working in the arts has been incredibly difficult and Amaal can attest to how this has affected her as a poet and a photographer. Due to travel restrictions she has lost out on work abroad. Lockdown has also hindered her from doing photoshoots as her job isn’t essential.

Expression through photography: Portrait by Amaal Said

“It’s really difficult, I think you just need to have faith in yourself and belief in yourself, but also to figure out how to have a presence online.”

Despite this, she feels lucky that other opportunities have been presented to her . Unlike other creatives that rely on one sole talent to stream income she can switch back and forth between being a poet and a photographer.

“Funding is opening back up for artists to be able to do their own projects and right now I’m getting ready to start a Adobe artist development fund project, so I feel incredibly lucky to still be able to do what I do even though it hit me really hard in the beginning,” Amaal says.

She was part of the BBC 1Extra Words First, a partnership with Roundhouse that seeks to find the hottest and freshest spoken word talent from across the country. Amaal gave performances alongside amazing British poets such as George the Poet and Holly Poetry.

“We had a showcase and that was really beautiful because a lot of us got to write together and perform together. There was a film on BBC iplayer for a little while,” she Amaal.

Amaal’s most memorable moment from this experience was reading an important poem she wrote about her mother’s miscarriages.

“I remember reading that to her and her being like ‘oh I’m really grateful you wrote that because I don’t want to forget because it meant something and it’s good to remember even if it hurt.”

From a shy Somali girl as she describes herself, tapping away at a keyboard or scribbling down on a page, to a poet who’s performed on stages across the country. Amaal’s words have definitely made a lasting impact. What was once a coping mechanism, has now changed her life beyond imagination.

“Poetry for me means survival, I wrote poetry when I couldn’t write anything else… I was around a lot of people who didn’t understand me so I took it to the internet, blogs and then I took it to perform, and it became a way for people to connect to me.”

For her, the idea of making a career out of what she loved to do the most seem unimaginable so she’s delighted that she’s been able to.
She aims to continue living her dreams as an artist in all regards.

“When the pandemic started I was like ‘oh my god, what am I gonna do? Am I gonna have to put my politics degree to use and sit in an office?’, but no I really wanna be out there and chatting to people getting their stories,” Amaal says.

With hopes that things will go back to some sense of normality, we don’t doubt that she will be out there with her camera and powerful voice, championing the stories of women of colour.


ItzKeisha changes YouTube with a single video

Whilst chasing her dreams of being a singer and YouTube influencer, Keisha Shadè, was able to kick-start a positive transformation within the YouTube community. Savannah Duncan hears her story.

Keisha’s words began to spill from her mouth as she spoke. You could tell she had a lot to say but wasn’t able to completely accommodate the speed at which she remembered. Her words stumbled over one another, each fighting to be heard.

“Do you know what’s crazy?” she says, “I actually didn’t realise it at the time, at the time I was so nervous to put that video out.”

YouTube commentator and singer Keisha Shadè, 20, created a video titled ‘Where is the diversity on YouTube’ in 2019, tackling the controversial topic of racial segregation between YouTube influencers whilst they were on a brand trip.

It sparked a conversation within the platform on the racial concerns that were occurring. Eventually, enough people began to speak up which encouraged the brand to completely abandon ship and close its business.
This brand was a popular shopping app that allowed its users to shop for clothes and accessories from multiple stores. They provided all-expense-paid trips to various countries for Influencers of their choosing, with the condition that they promote and support their app with vlogs, videos, and pictures.

Racial awareness: Where is the DIVERSITY on YouTube?

Within August 2019, they invited a group of female influencers to Fiji. However, their choice in influencers were thin, white, females with only four being women of colour.

“So those four girls were in a room by themselves,” said Keisha in her video, “it didn’t look like a room, it looked like it was connected to the living room.”

At first, she had doubts about speaking on the situation, because no one had made a statement including the girls on that trip.

“I was like do I post this or not because I feel like I was being a bit too vulnerable.

“And I feel like maybe it’s not my place to speak on these things, because other people of colour on the trip didn’t say anything.

“My brother was saying Keisha just post it, he didn’t watch it, he just said Kiesha just post it,” she says slightly chuckling. You can tell she was grateful for her brothers’ encouragement.

After uploading the video Keisha quickly noticed the unusual amount of attraction it gained within just an hour of being on YouTube.

“I was like ‘oh wow, people probably felt this but didn’t say anything or people were looking for a video where someone will talk about this’.”

She began to realise the positive impact her video made on the platform as more people began creating videos supporting the same topic.
Influencers on the trip started reaching out to Keisha thanking her for raising awareness.

“A creator called Vereena, who was also on the trip,” she says, “she watched the video and then she messaged me personally.

“She was like Keisha, I wanted to speak on it, but I don’t really make content surrounding race and being like an outcast and stuff like that.

“I said just do it and honestly she did it, and I feel like everybody who made a video at that time made a difference.”

It’s funny how Keisha didn’t create her channel to improve the YouTube community but was still able to succeed in kick-starting that positive difference.

She first started YouTube at age 16 in 2016, whilst she went to an all-girls secondary school.

“I can talk on a topic for days if you gave me that opportunity. I thought you know what, let me just stick the camera on and just rant.”

At first, Kiesha only made content for fun and as something she could enjoy in her spare time, whenever she had the chance.

“People started latching onto it and they were like can you talk about this next, it didn’t feel like a chore,” she says.

She never saw herself to be within the position she is in now, seeing as she started her channel creating fashion videos.

“I didn’t know I was gonna be here. I didn’t know what I thought I was gonna do but I didn’t think I was gonna be here.”

Commentary isn’t the only type of content Keisha creates as she is also a singer. She knew that her music wouldn’t take off as easily if it were uploaded to YouTube directly on a second channel, as it might not be found by her viewers due to the YouTube algorithm.

“I was like you know what let me be smart about this, lets do commentary, but let’s also find a way to try and blend the both of them together. It hasn’t been done before. I remember people telling me Keisha are you sure you want to do music and commentary, they don’t blend.

“I remember in my head just saying no, before I release my first one I’m just gonna put it on my main channel… it’s just not me.”

Music has always been one of Keisha’s passions and she’s grateful to be able to achieve it alongside her commentary and music channel theme mashup.

“In primary school, we had these mini journals in year six and we get to write down what our passions are and what we wanted to be in the future and I still have mine now it still says singer.”

Her latest song ‘Freak’ surprisingly turned out to be her least favourite song she created whilst making music.

“Freak is not my favourite song and I can wholeheartedly say that,” she says.

“I wrote it just to say I tapped into a different genre, so that’s definitely not it for me. I think it was only good for the fact that it gave me Melanie Martinez or Billie Eilish vibes, like creepy vibes, so I don’t regret that.”

However, her favourite song out of her collection is ‘Get Over It’ because she likes the funky radio style that the song has.

“My inspirations from music as of recently have been Dua Lipa and a little bit of Doja Cat meshed together and I feel like both their sounds are sick honestly,” Keisha says.

Despite being a small artist and content creator Kiesha still has huge aspirations and goals for her future.

“The goal is radio, honestly and truly ‘Get Over It’ is the definition of radio.”

Keisha’s musical side: ‘Get Over It’

Keisha Shadè started her YouTube channel to create fun homemade videos and to be able to chase her dreams. However, she achieved more than just her dreams and in turn, was able to kick start bringing the YouTube community together by providing a voice for those who didn’t feel they were able to speak up.


Introducing CLAVIS7EVEN

The up and coming artist talks to Khadisha Thomas about his religious influence, migrating from Congo, musicians he looks up to and his tracks.

CLAVIS7EVEN is a 21-year-old Wolverhampton based singer and rapper. He attends Birmingham City University, where he studies a degree in computing. When he’s not staring at a computer CLAVIS7EVEN is in the studio working on music. In 2019 he decided to make the conscious effort to produce and release music onto platforms such as apple music, YouTube and Spotify. Two years on, he has slowly accumulated listeners in 36 countries and has been played on BBC West Midlands Radio Introducing. As CLAVIS7EVEN strives to grow bigger as a new artist he recognizes his Christian faith as the foundation of his musical being.

His name for starters has a religious meaning.

“Clavis means key in Latin… so I was like yep I’m taking that and seven is my favourite number, and it just has a lot of symbolic meaning. I have a lot of affiliations with my religious aspect of life and in the bible seven is the number of completion and perfection,” CLAVIS7EVEN says.

Before settling on his name, like a lot of budding artists he did go through the online name generator phase.

“I went through a plethora of names and some of them were absolutely atrocious. We’re not doing that, that’s what we’re not doing,” he says with a cheeky laugh.

He has always felt a connection to God. Going to church was something he grew up with as he comes from a close-knit family that are heavily involved in the church choir. All members of his family sing play instruments and produce.

In the church choir, CLAVIS7EVEN is the bassist and his younger brother plays the piano.

“We pretty much dedicated and developed all of those gifts in church. Essentially my family and church first got me into music, that’s where it all stemmed from,” he says.

His music is an amalgamation of genres, namely gospel, hip hop and RnB, but the word CLAVIS7EVEN would use to describe the music he desires to make is ‘truth’, and this is supported by his belief in God.

“All of the music I make I like to make sure there’s a meaning behind it. I need to make sure someone will listen to it and gain a truth that can hopefully set them free. I like to make introspective music, so the one word I’m trying to say is ‘truth’. And I get a lot of that from my faith and my faith does a lot in terms of being able to line me up and the moral of where I do my music.”

His strongest childhood memory is from when he moved to England at the age of 3 to reunite with his family who were building a new life in the UK. He came to the UK with his uncle, as his parents and older siblings were already settled in the UK. CLAVIS7EVEN was the last of his family to come to the UK, so whilst he was separated from his immediate family he lived with relatives and spent a year in Zambia.

“I remember the day that in Congo my dad was leaving because of a few complications that he had to sort out, so he left me with my aunties. I hadn’t seen my family in a while. I remember landing in Heathrow, and I remembered exactly who my mum was and I ran to her and gave her a big hug.”

CLAVIS7EVEN smiles as he reminisces about how impatient he was on the long journey from the airport to his home in Wolverhampton, and the first time he ever ate skittles.

“Listen, I’m fresh from Africa, fresh off the boat, I’ve never seen these snacks in my life.”

He recalls bothering his mother the entire ride home and the moment when he knocked on his new front door and everyone welcomed him.

“I was reunited with my whole family and I was just looking for my big brother and although obviously in Africa your with your family, this was the family I knew of.”

There are many artists the young musician looks up. One of his ultimate inspirations and someone he would love to collaborate with if he ever got the chance is Kanye West. His eyes light up and a massive grin spreads across his face just at the possibility of it.

“At that point I’d quit music if I can’t even go Tesco anymore,” he says.

His other influences include Wretch32 and Stormzy.

The reason he’s attracted to these artists is that he believes they push boundaries and are not afraid to do break the mould and be individual.

“Being a writer is a different skill entirely and the concept of being able to weave words together to convey a certain narrative and emotion is such a skill. And I’m in awe of these people’s writing abilities. Wretch 32 is an incredible writer,” he says.

In April 2020 CLAVIS7EVEN released his debut EP ‘A Master’s Piece’ which includes songs such as ‘Wisesman Smartman’, a track that starts off slow but catches you off guard rapping kicks in and becomes more powerful. Is showcases his incredible lyricism, ability to rhyme and use of symbolism.

CLAVIS7EVEN says: “Wiseman Smartman shows the different aspects of me. I’m rapping for five minutes so I’m just going, going, going.”

A Master’s Piece: Wiseman Smartman

His second EP dropped later that year and features songs such as ‘Safe To Say (Love Sick)’, which was written and recorded at a time when he was ill. The track is a stripped down almost acoustic song with a soulful melody.

“I haven’t got the strongest immune system- shout out to corona.

“I literally heard the guitar, and I was like ‘wow, I like that and I wrote my raps’. That’s a really special one because I was able to make it even in these conditions, I’m not doing it again tho. Really hurt my throat.”

His song ‘Le, Le, Le’ features a smooth afro beat. It is the type of song you can dance to and the riffs in it are so tantalizing.

“Le, le, le shows my more commercial side, making tunes for parties, clubs. You’re not just gonna be taking me in introspectively, sometimes you’re gonna have a vibe and I can make that.”

This year CLAVIS7EVEN has put out the EP ‘Care Package’ which landed him a spot on BBC Radio West Midlands Introducing.

“I’ve really challenged myself and experimented. I’ve taken time with regards to the artwork, the songs themselves and you need to listen to it in chronological order to get the point. I’d say with this project it’s a story,” he says.

However, the journey is just beginning for CLAVIS7EVEN. He is determined to continue putting out projects and has got the charisma, talent and positive mindset to make it all happen.

He hopes this year he can do gigs and reach more people, making music that sends out a vital message or plain and simply energizes you.

“I don’t have control of which person sees me, or which person notices me, but what I have control of is making good music,” CLAVIS7EVEN says.

We will be eagerly listening.