Head2head: Afrikanboy Vs Cassette Playa
Artist: RWD

One’s a quirky East London based fashion designer whose unique style of “cartoon couture” has been worn by the likes of Ruff Sqwad, Jammer and Skepta and been modelled during London Fashion Week by JME. The other is an Afro grime MC via West London who - after having a kleptomaniac desire to steal from Lidl’s and rap about it - has gone on to inject his unique wit and African heritage into a slew of releases and collaborations with the likes of M.I.A. United by fashion, food and a starry mutual friend we decided to get to know Cassette Playa and AfrikanBoy! Interview by Emmanuel J. Ezugwu

[Due to the monsoon-like rain, our scheduled meeting area outside Hackney library is now taking place across the street in Wetherspoons. After AfrikanBoy admires Cassette Playa’s jumper made of old football and rugby scarf’s we‘re ready to begin...]

RWD: So guys tell us how you got your names:
AfrikanBoy: I’m African and I’m a boy (laughs). In primary school, everyone was on Jamaica, but if you were African some people would get cussed. I don’t know why. Everyone liked light skin boys... tough times (laughs). But in secondary school everything just switched up and that’s around the same time I named myself AfrikanBoy. Everyone was repping their own country and was proud of where they came from. That’s why every lyric I wrote has an African reference in it. I was born here but my culture’s just as strong as somebody who was born in Nigeria. Cassette Playa: My name’s Carri and so my brother used to call me Cass, like a cassette player I guess. It was kinda like a joke but then it was my alter ego rather then using my name for the brand and then it just stuck. I thought it was fun and I used to collect like old beat boxes and cassette tapes and stuff like that.

Until it started raining we were supposed to be meeting at Hackney library, a place you spend a lot of time in Cassette Playa, right?
CP: It’s true, because it’s really near my studio and they have a good library. The kid section is quite impressive actually (smiles). My last London Fashion Week collection was based on Aztecs, and so they had some really good books in there. I like Aztecs and tribal art and I’m a big fan of the African section there too.
AB: I’m studying psychology and sociology at Brunel uni so once I get an essay I try to do it faster then I usually would if I didn’t have music. Usually I’m always in the library with loads of books around me. It makes me feel smart (laughs).
CP:Hackney library has comics. It has a huge section Manga section. We never had that in my library when we were growing up. That’s really good.
AB: How did you get into fashion?
CP: I studied fashion design at University of Westminster. In my final year I did a show and Nicola Fonchetti who’s got a store in Tokyo bought my collection. I’ve been selling with him ever since. How did you get into music?
AB: When I was 13/14 years, everyone was doing music. It was a time when I was listening to all Kano, Dizzee, D Double E and N.A.S.T.Y Crew on Déjà Vu 92.3. Everyone was MC’ing. But if I do something, I like to be either extra or different. My first lyrics was: “Munch my chicken like an African boy/ I eat the chicken and the bone boy.” I started recording and now it’s serious.
AB: A lot of grime people have been wearing your designs, right?
CP: I think that my brand is high-end luxury, but I’m always looking to the streets as well. Brands like JC/DC and Iceberg Slim were a big inspiration and I’ve always been really into the grime scene. It happened quite organically and I like that. I did a video with Ruff Sqwad and I liked them. Then JME did one of my LFW shows after I asked him to model for me. That was pretty amazing.

AfrikanBoy, how would you describe Cassette Playa’s style?
AB: It’s just mad. It’s me, because I like to be different and mad as well. It’s just like when I met Maya (M.I.A). She’s crazy too so me and her really got along. Her style really complimented mine and she taught me a lot of things about my look and being different. And that was when I met Cassette as well.
CP: You know that I told M.I.A. about you though?
AB: Is it? Was it you? Let me clarify this; in every single interview everybody always ask’s me how I met M.I.A. I always tell them, M.I.A. told me that this one person showed her about me.
CP: Yeah, me! (laughs)
AB: Now all three of us are very close.

So how did you hear about AfrikanBoy?
CP: I saw his video on YouTube and told Maya to check him out.
AB: M.I.A. messaged me on MySpace and I thought it was one of those fake messages, so I went to her and it had 20,000 plays that day then I went on her top friends and I saw Timbaland there. Then I went on Timbaland’s MySpace and “Pow!” I replied to her message, she called me, told me she was rounding up the album in seven days and she wanted me to do this track. I was at the studio literally the next day, wrote my lyrics and then I thought after I got paid that would be it. But from there we’ve been really close; I’ve been on tour with her and she’s introduced me to a lot of people who I wouldn’t have known without her.
AB: How did you get to become good friends with M.I.A.?
CP: Before M.I.A. was making music, she was making films. She had asked me to be in one of her films. Me and her were the only weirdos in west London where I used to work in a clothing store so when she did music I styled Galang with her. I then started making clothes for her, like her tracksuits and her tour clothes and we’ve been best friends ever since.
AB: You’re dad’s a chemist. Did that have any bearing on how you approached fashion?
CP: Wow, you’ve done your research! I think it did because my Dad brought me up really nerdy. I really like science and those kinds of thing really interest me. They come into my graphics and the way I design comes from that kind of way.
CP: What do your parents do?
AB: My Dad is a random guy. I know him but we don’t live together. My mum is a nurse. Coming from a Nigerian background, it’s always education, education, education, which is good in a way. I would never drop out of uni for music unless I hit four No.1’s (laughs). A couple of weeks ago, I was in The Metro and I got bare calls from my auntie's saying ‘Ehhh Shola! I saw you in the Metro newspapa!’ My mum called me and she said ‘Oh my God you, I‘m going to send it to Nigeria.’ My mum supports me as long as I stay in uni.
CP: My mum Googles me all the time. And she’s like ‘Oh you’re doing this and you’re doing that.’
AB: So Cassette Playa, have you tried any African food?
CP: Suya Express in Dalston is one of my favourite places.
AB:Bang, bang!
CP: I have the chicken suya and the jellof rice.
AB: My favourite dish isn’t even Jellof rice. I like pounded yam and effo, which is like spinach stew. Washed down with Supermalt.

What’s next?
AB: I got my EP coming up. I’m shooting a Lidl’s video when M.I.A. gets off holiday. She’d directing it and Cassette Playa’s the set designer. My album should be dropping in summer called Captain Africa like Captain America. I’m just gonna record lots.
CP: You should do a comic book.
AB: Like ‘Captain Africa: You Stole My Visa’ comic books.
CP: I want to go to New York, LA, Japan. I’m doing a show in July in Paris so I’m working on that. I’ve got some Nike designs coming out in May, projects with New Era and I’m doing an art exhibition and lots of other projects.
AB: Who would you tip as the UK’s next big thing to watch out for?
CP: I’ve got a lot of time for Kesh and she’s doing really well. She’s doing London Fashion Week’s MAN show, which I did for the last four seasons and is a really great high profile show. That’s a big break for her, so it’s really good
AB: I tip New Brand Flex, JME, Skepta, Bashy and my boy Tinie Tempah. People are saying we’re like the next Dizzee and Kano of grime which is a compliment. Chipmunk! He’s building up a strong fan base and he’s got the swagger and charisma.
CP: I like that about him too. I think he’s a really good dancer as well. I also rate Lee Brasco and Silverlink.
AB: Yeah I’m feeling Silverlink. Sway’s coming out with his new album repping for Ghana so look out for him. Me and Sway will definitely do something, Ghana vs. Nigeria!

MySpace.com/CassettePlaya and MySpace.com/AfrikanBoy

RWD Magazine


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