Just in time for summer, Amsterdam based optics brand Ace & Tate has released three new ‘90s inspired styles alongside an exciting SS19 campaign. Among the three artists who started in the visuals and who each submitted a verse for the project are Berlin based tattoo artist Monty Richthofen and Amsterdam’s singer-songwriter BEA1991
At the centre of the project is London based spoken word artist and musician James Massiah. At just 28 years old, James has performed at the Courtauld and the Tate Modern, read at the Houses of Parliament, and collaborated with the likes of Nike and Loewe. James uses his poetic verses to paint a vibrant picture of youth culture in the country’s capital and is one of the most groundbreaking artists in London today. We spoke with him about everything from the campaign and his work in the fashion industry, to the Word Up project and what he expects from 2019.
Sabrina Soormally: Why Ace & Tate?
James Massiah: They got in touch and they got in touch at the right time as the brand name had cropped up in my primary group chat a couple of times in the days before. “Anyone seen my Ace & Tate shades?” and “hey I think I left my shades at yours last night, the Ace & Tate ones”
SS: What is your favourite piece from the collection?
JM: The darkest ones
SS: Do you feel that brands like Ace & Tate are making a real difference to the industry with projects like Word Up, giving a platform to young artists like yourself, BEA1991 and Monty Richthofen? And what do you want to use this platform for?
JM: Well definitely, it could be argued that since the dawn of the internet the power in arts is with the brands and the businesses. Saying that, the “people” still have a say in who the brands or business will decide to work with, but projects like this are the kinds of things that reinforce your presence in the minds of the people who you want to connect with and the money from projects such as these helps to sustain the artist, offering access to resources to continue with art or just go shopping and partying to let off some steam! Works either way
SS: The campaign focuses on Optimism – what does the word mean to you?
JM: It’s about one’s self interest, in a deterministic and egoistic way. There is no universal right and wrong in so far as there is no objective code of morals or values outside of maths and science. What the optimum is for any individual is subjectively determined and governed by their experiences, so everyone’s optimism will look different related to what their self interest demands of a situation
SS: You write a lot about gentrification and racial issues in London, is there anything you feel very optimistic about in the near future?
JM: I’ve written less about those things than I have about sex, drugs, suicide and the occult. I think in any of my speaking on those subjects it’s been related to the expectations of people who look like me or are from where I’m from to have specific interests and conduct themselves in a particular way. Any optimism I have related to these topics could only be said to be that whatever I look like and wherever I go I’ll know that I’m not limited to behaving or thinking in a certain way because of the things I didn’t have any choice over i.e the skin/town I was born in. I’m optimistic about my own ability to navigate short-sighted judgements and me and my work and those of others who I share some of these traits with but who have subverted those expectations, not for the sake of subversion, but because they wanted to do what felt right for them as humans and not as anything other than that
SS: How would you describe your personal style?
JM: I wear black a lot!
SS: You’ve collaborated a lot with the fashion world in recent years, Liam Hodges, Loewe, Nike, Grace Wales Boner, have you always had a strong interest in fashion, and how do you think these brands can engage better with an audience that is becoming younger and younger thanks to social media.
JM: I’d say so; it’s probably to do with aspiration and wanting to dress well as a status symbol more than anything else, relative to how things were when I was growing up. I’m definitely still trapped in that matrix to some extent; people need clothes of course but how many clothes? It’s relative to each individual need of course, I just like to work with the people and artists that I respect and some of them are designers and others are poets and others are producers. Sometimes it’s about the money or fulfilling those early childhood aspirations, but if I can say that’s how I got sucked in, it’ll probably be true of other young people. If aspirational imagery and stories can be created than people will buy into it, and this is true for most things outside of just fashion
SS: Tell me about Different Skies.
JM: Optimism is about achieving an optimum or a high point, it’s often said that the sky is the limit but which sky?
For one person the sky is £100 for another it’s £100,000. The poem just expands on my earlier point of everyone having different interests and different solipsistic experiences of life and reality meaning they’ll seek out different things. For one person it’s life for another it’s death, for one it’s alcohol for another its sobriety. We all have different skies
SS: Where do you draw your main inspiration for your poetry?
JM: From the philosophies of funk, nihilism, egoism, satanism, objectivism, determinism, stoicism, absurdism and aeism, which is my own personal philosophy
SS: What are you feeling optimistic about for 2019?
Check out James Massiah's submission for 'Word Up'; Different Skies.
"The joy of the lord shall be known to the horde
Me and all my g’s on one accord higher than a plane
A high one, now (not on the runway or anything like
that, no! You know?)
Way off terrain!
No hills or sea or fields of grain
In the sky, now
You know? High these days
High! Happier these days in spite of being sad as hell
Because I’m not trying to be, you know?
My G was low and so we cleaved
My G was high and so we cleaved
My G was My G and so we cleaved
I am my only G and so I cleave
Yo? What’s the deal with those selves?
Why they act so? You know? Yo!
I know! Everybody’s got their own sky!
Their own low [high]
Their own foe [friend]
Their own no [yes]
We’re all the same like
Trying to be in the sky
But it looks different you know?
From coast to coast
From eye to eye
From ear to ear
From smile to smile
From cot to grave
From sky to sky
From low to low
From high to high
From you to you
To I and I
Aye! The joy of the lord shall be known to my horde
Me and my G’s will fly! Skyhigh and happy as hell
Hop on the plane, if you like these skies
And cleave to me! Aye! Aye!"
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