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Hirakish & GAIKA on corporations, crucifixes and selling out



When we spoke to Hirakish earlier this year, the New Orleans multi-hyphenate (he’s a musician, artist, actor, and Hood by Air catwalk model) proclaimed himself a modern day rock star. “All the real legends of rock’n’roll and music culture are dying off,” he said. “Now it’s time for me to take their place.”

As a true icon, he’s also the star of a new film. Directed by Andre Bato, scored by Daniela Lalita and first shown across three screens at MoMAPS1 alongside a live performance by Hirakish. IN ORDER TO ENDURE SIN, THE SLAVE MASTER MUST INVEST CAPITAL FOR ETERNITY sees Hirakish debuting as a provocateur unashamedly indulging in sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll for pure pleasure.

Careful manipulation of corporate perspectives and power is laid bare as Bato’s meditative camerawork shows Hirakish roaming around a blank white space, hands in chains, with lipsticks and crucifixes making unsual appearances.

Our political editor-at-large, London musician and artist GAIKA, spoke to Hirakish about his involvement in Bato’s film and his position as an individual and cultural influencer making the work his wants to while living under capitalism.

GAIKA: Are you a buyer or a seller?

Hirakish: I’m both.

GAIKA: How do you mean?

Hirakish: To be a seller you have to be a buyer – because if you want to know how to sell, you gotta know what to buy. As a kid I used to sell t-shirts, so for me to know what the customer wanted, I had to be a customer myself. To catch a fucking sheep, you gotta be a wolf – to be a sheep you gotta know how a wolf act. You know what I’m saying?

GAIKA: This idea of programming people and being programmed at the same time, then. Do you feel subject to or part of consumerism in America? Because it’s such a pervasive thing.

“I don’t care about an artist just making a DIY, VHS video. Fuck you! I wanna do some Stanley Kubrick type shit” – Hirakish

Hirakish: Yeah, I think that consumerism is a big part of our whole business anatomy in America and its transpires in other countries. So in America when let’s say a tragedy like 9/11 happened, the president said ‘Don’t let this stop us from shopping and living our lives.’ Those kind of things are really crazy. Then you got shit like Black Friday in America, a day where everything goes cheap. Why the colour black have to be cheap? Or a colour that represents cheap, or half price, or greedy? Sometimes people get killed on Black Friday. It’s just a way to brainwash and make them buy, buy, buy. No one is saying buy into yourself these days, spend on yourself to learn how to create those things from your mind and not your pockets.

GAIKA: In the video, the text on the screen about the crucifix – did that legit happen?

Hirakish: The thing is, people were like, ‘We want to see the crucifix, you said you suck it on it like a dick.’ I mean, it's there underneath those words, but due to certain circumstances – like me moving forward as an artist, not wanting to piss people off that may be watching and want to help me out – I don't want to give people the wrong message. All I'm trying to do is buy Lamborghinis and do my art. Like Kanye says, I'm a slave to the passion too. I want gold chains and gold rings. I want to do the same thing.

GAIKA: I think you can take these things for what they are, like gold chains, Lamborghinis, whatever – that doesn’t mean you have to stop thinking about other stuff. I also think (that’s) a way that white power tries to control us, (saying that if you want) to be conscious or to have intelligence in your work, you’ve got to forget about the things you grew up with. (Meanwhile) the very same people are coming at you from a privileged position where they can say, ‘Oh no, that’s vulgar.’ I mean, is it though?

Hirakish: You can watch a Martin Scorsese film or a Quentin Tarantino movie, you can watch all these fucking movies where people get raped in it, Holocaust movies that white people made – you can see all kinds of shit in movies. When I do something, or we do something, it’s ‘You guys are too much.’ C’mon, ya’ll motherfuckers blew buildings up, ya’ll killed people in movies! Y’all do this shit in real life! (But) when I do something in my art, it’s not a good thing for America? I think that for some interesting reason we were brought to America to be capitalised on and to be confused and hypnotised so we can be the energy fuel for the mainstream culture. Because, actually, people that buy shit are black people in America – we’re a very small percentage, but we buy almost anything and everything.

GAIKA: You say you’re a corporation? People look at such personal expression as some kind of figment of neoliberal imagination. It comes back to my original thing about being a buyer and seller, without people consuming your work. Does it exist? Does it matter? Is it for you, is it for other people? Or is it for both?

Hirakish: I feel like, as an artist, I speak for myself. When I wake up in the morning, I want the world to know my art, and I want the world to appreciate it as something that is very worth their money and their time and their spirit, because I want people to invest their spiritual time into my art. The spirit costs more than the money. If I can get you to say my name and people say my name around the world, I win – like, fuck the money, if I get over a million people in the world to know Hirakish and his art. But (at the same time) as an artist, I’m put on a cross, because if I don’t succeed at this shit I’m homeless, I’m broke, I’m gonna be an old guy living on the street talking about his old days. I don’t have a 411k plan, I don’t have a job, never had one, so it’s just like, ‘This is what it is for me.’

So yes man, I don’t really care if people say, ‘This art is this for me, I paint for myself.’ No motherfucker, I’m painting and I’m singing and I’m dancing and I’m making this art for people to recognise and experience it. (I want them to) have a memory about it like, ‘Damn, I went to this dope show, it changed my life, and I wanna make art too.’ I don’t believe people who are out here making art for themselves because this world we live in is too consumer-based, too commercial, for people to be doing shit for themselves these days.

And I want, like I said, Lamborghini pipes. I want that. The monk in the mountains is too wealthy to hang because one who is too wealthy – in the spiritual and mental and physical realms – does not wanna hang with a person who is too rich in the material world. They are two different types of riches, and I’m trying to be both types of riches.

GAIKA: I think getting actual subversion at scale, and doing stuff that’s disruptive and matters to more than a few people who sit around in galleries, is massively difficult. That’s one thing that jumped out to me about that film. This is such a beautiful, amazing piece of work that’s so well put together and is unashamedly like that, you know what I mean? It’s beautifully lit, beautifully coloured, the sound and everything’s great – rather than being like this kind of almost guilty, underground style.

Hirakish: Honestly man, my team, me and Andre, we came through with the best production, we came through on time, we were in front of the museum before to help people open up. We came through early, leaving emails on emails, hacking at ‘em like, ‘Yo, we need this, we need this.’ We had it (projected) on the wall, it couldn’t even fit the wall that big. The first time we tried it out, they was like, ‘It looks good, you guys did a great job, such a great job!’ We was like, ‘No, this is not our vision – we need this shit to be big as fuck because our names is on this.’ We want the world that gives money out to artists to accept us and to say, ‘Okay we want to give you 10,000 dollars to do another one of these shows because you guys move it all the way to the edge and do a good production on it.’

I don’t care about an artist just making a DIY, VHS video. Fuck you! I wanna do some Stanley Kubrick type shit. If I can do high production with music videos and my music, art, and my talent, and that means I can get a more coherent, stronger message across with the political ideas I have in mind, with the visual appeal I have in mind – there’s a lot of things you can do in the mainstream world that still can affect people in a very strong way.

“Ozzy Osbourne and Led Zeppelin have mad money, but no one’s saying they sold out. Them niggas are rich as fuck off royalties of royalties, but for black kids saying they want to be rich as fuck... (people try to) say it’s not cool” – Hirakish

GAIKA: Have you found a way to stay real and engage outside of fashion, galleries, and this kind of stuff? Or is that something you even want to do?

Hirakish: Honestly, it might sound fucking crazy, but I want to be in the box. I like the box, I like the mainstream entertainment world. I love being pigeonholed (as) the one black dude who made rock music. I want people to think that a lot of people like me don’t exist. I love the idea of the mainstream saying that, because that’s what makes a star. Most kids our age won’t hop in (the box, and act) like, ‘Oh man, fuck that mainstream, I’m going to have this underground party, I’m a go to a fucking fashion show in a sewer.’ Whereas I got a mom, daddy, brother, and sisters, so I want to be rich as fuck! I want to be able to crouch the barriers, I wanna get five Grammys, I wanna be on the Oscars, I want to have those things because that’s what the fuck I want.

That’s another thing with the corporate world – kids are being illusioned about selling out. Kids saying Supreme sold out because he made a billion dollars or whatever. I’m like, ‘Bro, do you understand skateboarding was an outlawed culture?’ For a skate company to have a collaboration with Louis Vuitton is amazing to me because my father was a skateboarder and he had mad skateboarder friends for forever. They tell me they couldn’t imagine skateboarding being this far along in commercials.

Fuck anyone who is saying that myself, Supreme, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, or Rihanna – people that wanna do better for the culture – are selling out because they want more money. Fuck them! Ain’t none of them got no money. Ozzy Osbourne and Led Zeppelin have mad money, but no one’s saying they sold out. Them niggas are rich as fuck off royalties of royalties, but for black kids saying they want to be rich as fuck off what they doing, the corporate world – or kids who a part of the corporation – want to say it’s not cool. Corporations ain’t just fucking the big buildings; corporations are the people, the spirits of the city that we live in or the town we live in. Everything is a corporation to me.