Latasha Alcindor on Art, Attitude and Her Afrolatina Roots
In a world of multi-hyphenates, Latasha Alcindor is still in a league of her own when it comes to diverse talents. The Brooklyn native seamlessly navigates the worlds of performance, music, and visual arts with ruthless rap takedowns, kaleidoscopic graphic designs and mind-blowing gigs. We met up with Alcindor at her Bed-Stuy pad to talk about how she harnesses her creativity into multiple outlets and what challenges women of color still face today as artists.
Job: Rapper, Singer, Visual Artist, and Creative Director
Heritage: Puerto Rican, Panamanian, Haitian and Jamaican
How does your Afro-Latina identity play into your work?
Latasha Alcindor: In a lot of different ways. I rap in Spanish. Then culturally my understanding of feminism has a lot to do with my background. In my opinion women in Puerto Rico and Panama are so strong and always holding down the house. I’ve always watched women be strong-headed, expressing what they want and then getting it. In Jamaica, women work hard and hustle for everything — which is what I am always doing too!
You’re a singer, visual artist, performer and creative. How do you juggle your many talents and how to do they influence each other?
They all play into each other. I started out as a spoken word poet when I was younger which turned into me rapping which is now turning into singing. When I am in the process of creating an album, I keep my mind sharp with other activities, which in this instance was visual art for me. I have also been doing graphic design for several companies.
Since you’re so busy, finding inner peace is an important theme to you. How do you try to achieve it?
Sleep is my only time for inner peace. I try to do the meditation thing but end up falling asleep. Whenever I feel anxiety coming on I try to just lay down and turn off my phone. Or hang out with people I love — my family and friends. I find my peace with them because they are the people that know me. I also love vacations, even though I haven’t taken one in forever! I would love to go to Barbados or the Bahamas. Also, when I am just creating [art] in my own space and my own world, that’s where I find the most engagement with myself and my higher power.
What challenges do women of color face in the arts?
All of them [laughs]. No, that’s not true but there is a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding. It happens with language especially — that’s a big barrier. Masculinity has had such a big hold on the arts, but the irony is that underneath that veil there’s all this feminine energy. The biggest problem is connecting masculine and feminine energy and finding a shared language. Women talk differently because of the constructs that men have created. The biggest challenge I deal with is people not listening to me when they are looking at me. People will be like “oh she’s pretty” or “she’s adorable” when I am talking about some real-life shit. I have a song that talks about how I am afraid to birth a child in America because of all the deaths that are happening to young men. I performed this song at a show and then I got offstage and a white women was like “oh she’s adorable.” I was like “are you kidding me?” It’s about listening — we have to be in a space where we all hear each other in this world.
Being born and raised in Brooklyn, how did that shape you and what are your thoughts on how Brooklyn is evolving/changing?
I talk about that a lot in my art. I feel like what’s happening to Brooklyn is what’s happening to people in general. There’s this sudden evolution that’s happening but we’re all on autopilot. The real change happens when we talk about things like gentrification directly to each other. In Brooklyn, a lot of white people are entering new spaces and feeling uncomfortable upon their arrival. At the same time it’s like you’re here now and you’re the one not saying hi to anybody. I’ll say to my roommates “hey, I know this [neighborhood] can seem scary but when we come to your neighborhood we feel scared too.” Also in New York everything is about money and that applies to all people. A lot times you’re told you can’t stay here and develop your vision of life because you get priced out. Then people move somewhere else.
Brooklyn has also shaped me in the sense that I give love, that’s what Brooklyn is. It’s love. But it’s also given me this hardcore shell. I’m very honest and very raw. That all came from growing up here in Brooklyn. Everyone from here says exactly how they feel.
Just as you’re working on new things all the time, I can see your look is also changing all the time too. To what degree does what’s going on internally with you reflect what’s happening externally?
All of it is internal really. When I feel happy and jazzy I wear a wig, put on lashes and will be extra. When I am just having a regular day, I’ll do the look I have now, pulled back hair and a little makeup. When I am depressed I am in my bed and no one is seeing me that day [laughs]. I’m always running around and don’t always get the time to fully decompress. My release is in my look. What I’m feeling inside is released into my appearance.
Do you have any products that you love?
I use e.l.f, their brushes are my favorite. They are so good because they are cheap and high quality. I love Lots of Lashes from Maybelline because the brush is so cool. I love concealer, I like L.A. Girl and MAC. I also love Sephora and NARS but that’s when I am bougie and have a lot of money. I use a lot of L’Oréal True Match.
You performed at the Nicholas K fashion show during Fashion Week, what was the experience like?
Nicholas is amazing, they’re like family now. We met at National Sawdust, I am an artist in residence there. They were all about real hip-hop vibes and they wanted it for their show. I paired up with a dope DJ called Rob Swift and models were walking while I was performing. Everyone was like “whoa.” That day was insane because it was the biggest snowstorm of the winter. It was the first time I was in a fashion week environment and it was so intense. You see all the models getting glammed up and everyone was probably thinking “who is this thick chick? She doesn’t belong here [laughs] .” I was like I get to eat and do this the same time [laughs].
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion speaks for everything I try to encompass storytelling-wise. I can’t have a story without wearing the clothing. For example, my last album was called Teen Night at Empire which used to be a skating rink in Brooklyn. I dressed up like I was going to the skating rink with a little skirt outfit and had on roller skates.
When do you feel most beautiful?
I feel the most beautiful on stage. That’s where my beauty is shining out – I feel like beauty is when I don’t care. That’s where my light shines the most.
What are you working on next?
My album just came out, United Empire, so that’s booming right now. I am really excited about it. We’re doing a lot of music videos and I am teaming up with some really cool people to shoot. A few of my videos will have some of my graphic design. Some of my videos are directed by me. I love to see my vision come to life. When you’re a women of color they expect you to not be particular but that’s just not the case. It has to look a certain way, otherwise I’m not happy with the video.