Our thirteenth mix comes from We Chief. Listen to his reggae-blasted mix, and peep our chat below.
Hey there! Glad to be chatting with you. Tell us a little more about yourself!
Thanks very much, I’m happy to be here. Well, my name is Geoffrey Rand, proud son of James and Susan. I started a project called WE CHIEF while hurricane Sandy was raging in Brooklyn. I did not lose power and a vision came to me in the form of a song called “The HooHA Gang Bus,” which is part of the soundtrack for our upcoming original animated short film series called The Adventures of Booty Clap Soldier.
You use Native American imagery in your artwork, which has been a longtime source of conflict in dance music culture. In utilizing this polarizing topic, what do you hope you will achieve amongst your fans?
Great question. We use Native American imagery as well as spiritual imagery from all over the world. The reason why this is a polarizing topic is because some people use sacred objects as beauty accessories without any regard or respect for the culture of a people who were almost wiped out by colonization. There are people at concerts who are wearing huge headdresses just because it goes well with their boots or swimsuit they are wearing. It is a mockery of something held sacred – to receive even one feather can be a high honor. If you look closely at the headdresses in our logo, you’ll find my Grandfather Yuddy’s name, who was the Chief of our family’s tribe. The logo was created with good intentions, as a tribute to him. Nobody, I repeat nobody, will ever wear a headdress on stage at a WE CHIEF show.
I’m hoping that I can bring people together from different backgrounds, whose histories are sometimes wrapped in conflict, and through love, respect and not taking ourselves too seriously, dance together.
Are there any specific cultural influences that shine through in your music? Where do you find creative inspiration?
Tribally-rooted music from all corners of the globe influence me. Heavy drums. About 8 years ago I went to South Africa, working with a charity based in a township outside Port Elizabeth. The charity is called Ubuntu, which means “human kindness.” Since then I have tried to employ the meaning of the word in my everyday life. I was extremely attracted to the communal dancing I was exposed to in the township. Spiritually, there is something very special about dancing. It represents togetherness. That’s probably why reggae dancehall is so attractive to me as well. Dancehall parties like Rice and Peas here in NYC parallel the same sense of community.
I find a lot of creative inspiration through frustration – frustration with all the trouble that is going on in the world. I represent this through music and visual art, often times containing a dark, comedic twist. I do play on that line where the artwork might offend someone, but there is a story behind each piece. Take the “Traits of a Chieftain” artwork. On the surface, it might not sit well with a lot of people. However, there really is nothing to be offended by. The character is a blue smurf-like creature, the headband closely represents headdresses worn by some African tribes (not just Native Americans have headdresses in their culture) and the leaves are multicolored marijuana leaves. Basically, the whole thing is imaginary and does not exist in our world. I create this art to be a conversation starter. As human beings we are too divided. We really need to work through our differences, not just set them aside, because we have a lot more in common with each other than we think.
Do you feel that dance music is a helpful platform in discussing social issues? Why or why not?
I feel like any medium where there is an audience is a helpful platform to discuss social issues. Music and visual art are very strong mediums for this. With all the conflict happening around the world, I can’t escape expressing myself this way. I’m not afraid to address the elephant in the room because it may or may not be good for my career. Dance, since the early days of mankind, has been a platform to bring people together and is commonly used in ceremonies and in religion. It is peaceful.
What advice would you give to other producers who are starting out?
As a producer who is just starting out myself, I’m probably not the best advisor but one thing I can say is make sure to eat and get some exercise in. It’s a journey.