“My work says, ‘I’m not a slave, they can’t make me do what they say’”: Gaika recalls the powerful influence of reading Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth
“My parents are from the Black Power era and they had Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth in our house. I read it when I was 13 or 14. For me, it crystallised something I’ve believed from a young age: that society isn’t right. I never felt OK about seeing a homeless person sleeping in the doorway of a giant glass bank and there was nothing my parents could say to help make sense of it. The Wretched of the Earth taught me I was right to feel this way, that it’s the effects of imperialism. In our society, we’ve got this obsession with the emperor, with those who have dominion over us. Imperialism forces people to do things against their will – it makes them crazy. Simply put, Fanon explains how slaves can conquer their masters. It’s influenced me a lot. My work says, ‘I’m not a slave, they can’t make me do what they say’. I’m prepared to die to ensure that.”
Once dubbed electronic music’s answer to Basquiat, Gaika describes his musical output as “academic rap music”. Raised by two activist-scientist parents, Gaika grew up in south London at the intersection of two worlds: academia and “the hood”. A club promoter turned art student, he started making music videos and then music itself, crafting sounds that evade simple categorisation: a warped, electronic blend of grime, dancehall, garage, hip-hop and R&B. Gaika is a staunchly moral and fiercely political artist who maintains that, despite the darkness in some of his tracks, “there’s always a ray of light” in them too. “I’m just trying to increase the peace, you know?”
Hair: Christos Vourlis at Calliste Agency. Make-up: Mayumi Oda at Calliste Agency. Set design: Jean-Michel Bertin at Streeters. Digital tech: Frederike Heide. Photographic assistants: Mickaël Bambi. Styling assistants: Rebecca Perlmutar and Maria Bonfà. Production: Artistry London. Post-production: Studio Private
This story originally featured in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale now.