Name: Brandon Lucas
Occupation: Producer, songwriter, singer, DJ
Current release: Brandon Lucas's new single "Over Now" is out via his own Purple Label Sound, a collaboration with Dr. Cornel West. The concept behind the imprint is to "elevate a diverse collective of voices in dance music" and to focus on more awareness for the connections between Black history and dance music culture.
Recommendations: Race Matters by Dr. Cornel West; Hope on a Tightrope by Dr. Cornel West; The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Awaiting: Assembling a Black Counter Culture by DeForest Brown
For more information about Brandon Lucas, visit his excellent personal homepage. He is also on Instagram, and Soundcloud.
When starting out, many artists want to "change the world" with their work. What was this like for you? What were some of your early ambitions and in which way were you able to realise them?
One of my primary goals as an artist is to help re-elevate artists of color in dance and electronic music.
Of course, like when it comes to any kind of change in the aggregate sense, this starts with “the self” -- working towards excellence within my own platform as an artist -- while concurrently being a vessel to help create real community and visibility among such artists, both established and rising, who a share similar or relevant goals.
Working with Dr. Cornel West is one way in which the Purple Label will stick out. What does the collaboration look like in practise?
Dr. West, myself and Seth Troxler are working towards releasing a compilation project of Black and Brown artists in the spirit of Dr. West’s overall mission and message, including his demonstrated love and perspective on Black music and how house and techno are a part of the Black musical tradition.
Tell me a bit about your perspectives on West's ideas and how they relate to music and the role of music in society.
Similar to Gospel music, the house and techno genres were born in confined spaces where mostly Black and brown, and largely queer, people would congregate to dance and shout. These warehouses were essentially churches for a community of outcasts to be themselves and be free.
Dr. West oftens speaks of the Black musical tradition and how it has always been centered around radical freedom and love, and having the courage to express the catastrophe through creativity and passion. This is not only rooted in genres like Hip-hop and R&B, genres most known to be rooted in “Black Musical Tradition”, but is also very much so demonstrated in house and techno .
The label seems to be a very personal affair, as is your music. Can you please tell us a bit about your own sense of identity – and how it motivated you to take an artistic path?
My artistry and return to music today is directly correlated to me now knowing and understanding who I am and what I have to say and give to the world, and being as fearless as I can to the end.
Back in the mid-2000s, I was signed to a R&B group, for 4 or 5 years where I learned so much about life and being a musician/artist, but it was under the guise of a person I was not. I believe that all of my experiences “in front of the camera” , in the business behind the scenes, my various relationships (romantic or otherwise) and spending a lot of time in house music scene, have uniquely prepared me for where I am today.
Moreover, I wholeheartedly believe that being a Black man from Inglewood who doesn’t live in the binary makes my creativity especially unique as it pertains to dance music.
A mission statement of the label was that the "intersection between Black history and dance music culture must be brought to light". Why do you feel so passionately about this topic?
I believe that if you don’t know where you've been, you won’t know where you’re going. We have a problem in dance music with appropriation and oftentimes this problem is rooted in the fact that most people just don’t know. It’s hard to place blame to that end, but it mirrors the larger social issues around race that what we are dealing with today and the movement to be anti racist.
Dr. West also talks about how even in the face of tremendous hate, the love of Black people has taught the world how to love. Black culture is global -- like it or not it’s for everyone. However, there is a lot of undoing that needs to be done, when it comes to how Black culture and music has in many ways been colonized to the point that
a.) Black contributions have been erased, and
b.) most Black people aren’t really given the space or position to revel in the beauty, freedom and love in the dance community -- neither as consumers or as artists.
I just conducted a Brian Jackson interview, where he said: "I am a Black man living in America. That reality never escapes me. I can’t live my daily life outside of that context, but I have learned not to allow others to define that context for me. My music is a product of the conflict between what I am expected to be by my own people, the rest of the world and how I see myself that so many African Americans experience." Is this something you can relate to?
I absolutely relate -- not just in music but in my everyday life. One of my goals with my artistry is to show the world that my dopeness is not an anomaly. There are so many new Black artists in dance music specifically who are so dope, but may not have the right access due to them not being in many non-Black circles.
There are more of me -- but I also want to make it clear that we are all different. Although I endeavor to empower collectively, I also hope to embrace and celebrate our humanity as individuals.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation, especially when it comes to black history and dance music. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I believe that we as Black people should devote more energy to controlling the narrative of our apparent dominant influence on popular culture, than over-policing who is doing what. Education is key -- and once you know better you do better. It’s tough to fault the consumer when many just want to recite the words to their favorite song.
That said -- the people need to know. What is this music about, how did it come to be -- how do we celebrate this and credit this? A fan of anything would want to know.
I believe educating from a place of love gives people room to grow, and the opportunity to do better. However, it can be very frustrating in the process, and oftentimes the history may not be known by its own people.
Does your artistic work in any way feed into your activism, would you say - and vice versa?
My music is a call to action to myself and the world. It’s rooted in love -- self-love, love for dance music culture, and love for Black people who love dance music. .. Black love is revolutionary after all.
Art can be an expression or celebration of identity, but it can also be an effort to establish new ones or break free from them. How would you describe your own approach in this regard?
It’s definitely an expression and celebration for me -- my artistry rebirthed only when I realized the purpose behind my gift. As an artist, you are putting your heart and soul out on display for the world to see (and judge) with a hope to inspire -- and people feel when that is authentic.
Mine is personally at the intersection of the soul and sex … not too different from the legend that was Prince and many others from my musical tradition. For others, which I imagine will be the case for many in the coming generations of Black dance music artists, it will be a freedom and breaking free from the norm -- and I'd love to help.
Do you feel it important that artists become more engaged with the political and social challenges facing us? If so, what are the best ways to do this?
It’s inevitable! I find it weird when people challenge or dismiss artists and athletes when they make public political or social stances or statements. Literally, our history books tell countless stories of how such people's art and influence impacted the world. Art is used to move people, and to say something -- and has historically been very indicative of the time in which it was created -- the Renaissance period, Baroque, Modernism, Jim Crow, Y2K, etc.
I believe we are experiencing a new Renaissance given everything that has happened in the world over the past couple of years. A lot of artists have A LOT to say. It’s exciting.