Musician Wesley Joseph on the Multisensory Magic of Kahlil Joseph

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AN41 Wesley Joseph
Self-portrait by Wesley Joseph

“When you work with another person who just gets you, it’s spiritual,” the artist tells Anna Cafolla in AnOther Magazine Autumn/Winter 2021

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine.

The DIY spirit has always burned bright in the Walsall-raised, London-based musician, filmmaker and producer Wesley Joseph. The 25-year-old started out as a founding member of the radical rap and production collective OG Horse in his hometown before heading to London to study film in 2016, all while crafting music in a makeshift home studio. With sinewy, elastic beats that hop between genres and sensual lyricism, his self-produced debut album, Ultramarine, dives deep into romance and infatuations, nostalgia, loss and thrill. While his self-directed visuals flirt with neo-noir and the surreal, Joseph’s sound oscillates between R&B and future funk, delivering vocals with the ice-cold flow of André 3000 and the textured aesthetics of Jai Paul. It’s in this bombastic affinity between screen and sound that the artist’s world-expanding storytelling comes to life.

“When other kids wanted to be firefighters or astronauts, I wanted to be a filmmaker. It even came before music for me. All my favourite pieces of art, music and film come from a dark place that looks towards a brighter one – it’s the work of Kahlil Joseph that really encapsulates that perspective and gets to that emotional, human mission I want to be at the centre of.

“Kahlil’s visuals uplift the music of the artists he works with. I felt this first when I saw his short film for Flying Lotus’s [2012] album Until the Quiet Comes. When you’re young and making your way through Tumblr and all the small internet communities, stumbling on a piece of work like that is life-altering. He has what I see as a deep understanding of tone, time and the importance of a truly emotional journey. His world-building is so fantastical and yet so real. The landscapes can feel chilling and faraway, but he injects his work with such warmth. It always moves me in a completely different way. Creative work should feel like a tapestry that you can revisit again and again and come away from with new thoughts and feelings each time.

“The film for Sampha, Process, was just sick. It has this beautiful way of subtly but powerfully demonstrating culture and heritage. You get what that dense, hot air feels like in his streets, the energy from his grandmother’s voice. It is all-encompassing, and in partnership with Sampha, gives the music more depth and another perspective. I was totally floored when I went to see The Infinite Mix exhibition in London [in 2016], where they showed his film for Kendrick Lamar, MAAD – seeing it with the surround sound and the multiple screens really added to the multisensory experience you get from a Kahlil film. He just understands how to elevate the story of a musician with his own interpretation – he can bring you headfirst into Compton, diving deeper into that ridiculous Kendrick album and its themes. I push myself to find that detail and truth in my own work – I’m really working on it.

“He makes me think of the power that music videos have today, too – you can condense so much emotion and complexity into a short space of time and create a piece of work that really stays with people. I go into my projects with these hopes in mind – like my recent film Patience, with Jorja [Smith]. I always want to appeal to people on an abstract level rather than in a traditional way with characters and a plot and backstories. I wrote, directed, scored and edited my own short film, Pandomony, and I went into it intent on displaying human emotion in sync with the music, on going into those vast relationships and differing experiences people have of grief. This was very much inspired by his touch.

“It’s easy to get lost in the ocean of meaninglessness at the moment, especially in this field of work, and even more so in a pandemic, when you have to seek out inspiration. BLKNWS [Kahlil’s installation/news channel] has continued to feel like an innovative, relevant moment – even last year, amid it all. It had such a strong sense of purpose that we all needed to feel.

“The power of collaboration is also integral to his work – when you work with another person who just gets you, it’s spiritual. You feed off each other and intertwine perspectives to create something that’s vast and layered. On my own record [Ultramarine], I got to bring people together who want to push boundaries like me – Leon Vynehall, Lexxx, Jorja, Dave Okumu, Mike Bozzi. It makes me feel like a supervillain when you hit on that magic point collectively – you flex these creative muscles together in the studio and create a more powerful thing. When I engage with work like this, work with people who have these ideals, I feel my purpose.”

This article appears in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.