Thaddeus DIxon
VIBE/ Stacy-Ann Ellis

Views From The Studio: Meet Music Director Thaddeus Dixon

The Detroit native describes the epic story of how he became Bryson Tiller's music director for his current Trapsoul Tour.

Thaddeus Dixon is a living testament of the saying "don't waste God's gifts." The Detroit native, who found a love for music within the church, honed his drumming skills by practicing during or after service, and absorbed a keen ear for various sounds within the holy establishment. From the sanctuary to the studio, Dixon pursued his passion which led him to become a music instructor at UC Berkeley and a music director for major artists from pop sensation Meghan Trainor, R&B songbird Teedra Moses, and Trap 'N B crooner Bryson Tiller.

Dixon gained the near-missed opportunity (you have to read his recollection of how he landed this venture below) to serve as the music director for Tiller's critically-acclaimed Trapsoul tour. As the conductor for the national trek, Dixon is responsible for the seamless transitions between each song, making sure the audience remains on a constant wave of elation, and of course he commands the sticks behind the drums the entire time.

Here, Dixon details the beginning stages of putting together Tiller's sold out tour, how higher education helped shape his career, and the craziest moment he's seen thus far on the North American trek.

VIBE: As a professional drummer, do you think being well-versed with an instrument gives you a better ear for music?
Definitely because you just don’t see music from one perspective. A lot of producers who are musicians, their records are strong in what their instrument is. For me being a drummer, the records that I produce, my drums will be really strong, but my keyboard skills or other parts would lack. I’m not saying that’s me (laughs) I’m just giving an example, but I would definitely say knowing whether it’s singing, playing drums, bass, keys, that definitely helps give you a more well and round perspective of a record.

You followed through with your music education from Detroit's Performing Arts High School to becoming a music instructor at UC Berkeley. How’d you get that opportunity to teach at that institution?
There was a lady [Daisy Newman] who had a youth music program called Civic Orchestra and that was developmental in my process of learning and becoming a better musician. She had a youth program that I was a student of, and that was before I went to college. After I went to college, she started the same program at UC Berkeley and she needed some teachers. I guess the drum teacher had left and went on, so she called back to Detroit and said, ‘Hey, I need someone to fill this slot, can you all recommend anybody?’ I had graduated from school, so someone said, ‘Yeah, Thaddeus.’ She said, ‘I know Thaddeus, that’s one of my former students.’ I talked to her, and worked for two years in the summer at a program they had called Young Musicians Program (YMP), and that was very interesting to be 26, 27-years-old on campus as an instructor. It was a weird experience. The students accepted me because I knew what I was talking about. I have everything to back it up with, but outside of being in the classroom it was like, ‘Who is this young…?’ But it was interesting.

How has higher education played a role in guiding your career?
I think I can say because I have a Bachelors of Music, my mom always used to tell me that is something they can’t take away from you. I went and followed through with it and having a Bachelors of Music on paper looks good and makes me official. It doesn’t necessarily mean I know what I’m talking about because there’s a lot of people that have degrees and look good on paper. But for something like music, just because you have degrees doesn’t mean you can go down there and perform and kill a show. The majority of people who are doing this don’t have any degrees. It’s kind of separate, but being in school it taught me how to be a young man, be responsible, how to grow up, do certain things, and what I did learn in school I do apply to out in the field.

You’ve produced across all genres, but how do you make it a point to put your signature on genres that demand a certain type of sound?
To be honest, I haven’t really developed a sound yet. Maybe someone else looking from the outside in may be able to listen to my body of work and say, ‘Okay, this is something I can tell that exists in every one of your records.’ I try to treat each record separately and differently. I don’t want to produce a Meghan [Trainor] record and it sounds like a Bryson Tiller record and vice versa. I want to be accepted and respected for producing the true sound of this genre of music. If we’re doing a Meghan Trainor record or I’m doing a pop record for Katy Perry, I want it to sound in that lane of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, pop that’s competing against the pop producers. If I’m doing a trap record I want it to sound in the vein of a Mike WiLL Made It or DJ Mustard. I don’t want to cheat, you know what I mean? I do feel after a while you should develop your own sound like Mustard did, but producing across all platforms I want it to be what it really is and not cheat. I feel if I don’t make it 100 percent true to what it is, they’ll say, ‘Oh, he can’t produce a pop record,’ or ‘He can’t do that.’ It’s like, ‘No, I can do that, and I can do that, and I can do that too,’ to its true form and competing with the best of gospel producers, R&B producers, you know what I mean? I think I’ll be respected more for just having more musicality.

What's Meghan Trainor like when you're collaborating with her in the studio?
She’s very talented, I have to respect her for her talent. She has found her niche as far as writing songs. I think she’s developed her own unique way of writing songs. Working with her is great. I have funny relationships with artists that I do records with because I’m not the producer that’s working with the writer. Although I’m a producer, I’m still this person’s music director and drummer so I’m always sensitive to the fact that I work for you. It’s like you’re the boss and I have to do what you say because if I rub you the wrong way then it’s like, ‘Let’s get rid of him.’ But working with Meghan was fun. I’m glad I got to do music with her.

How’d you feel when you found out the song you co-wrote with her, “Better When I’m Dancing” from the Peanuts movie, was considered by the Oscars?
Inside I was like, ‘This is crazy. Does it really have a chance?’ On the outside I said I didn’t want to get so hyped up and into it and then it doesn’t get nominated and I’m super upset. I said I’m going to let it do what it do. Just for it to be considered out of all the songs that came out during this year, and they picked 75, then top 15, it’s still something. I got paid the same way (laughs).

You also worked with another vocal powerhouse, Teedra Moses. Describe your studio sessions with her?
That’s my sister. I love Teedra because I started working with her as a drummer too and music director, but when I was really going hard as a producer, like no one knows me as a producer, only a drummer or music director, she was really open to creating with me. She helped give me confidence. It wasn’t like I had to impress her. Sometimes as a producer or songwriter you have to impress the artist because they can work with any producer or songwriter. She didn’t make me feel less of a producer. She made me feel like an established creator just like any other producer, songwriter or artist that she’s worked with. She helped me with my confidence of, ‘You’re dope,’ and not like she had to counsel me, but just working with me meant a lot. Working with an established artist that helped.

Now you're focusing your energy on Bryson Tiller and serving as his music director for the Trapsoul Tour. How’d you link up with him to lead up to this point?
My homie Tunji, who is the A&R who signed Bryson over at RCA Records, hit me up. It’s crazy though because at the time I was on tour with Meghan Trainor. He said, ‘What’s your availability? I got this kid named Bryson Tiller that I want you to start working with.’ I said ‘Okay, cool.’ This was maybe summer time or spring April, May, June. He said, ‘Can you do it?’ I said, ‘Yeah I’m available,’ knowing I’m out on tour with Meghan (laughs), but you never turn down work. He said, ‘Let’s have a meeting on Monday.’ I was like, ‘Sh*t, ain’t no way I can get to L.A. on Monday,’ because I’m on tour, but I couldn’t tell him that because he’ll call somebody else to do it. You know how labels have meetings on Mondays and sometimes they get pushed back two weeks, so I said I’m going to wait it out until he gives me the time and the day. He didn’t hit me so I said, 'I already knew.' A couple of days pass and he said, ‘When can we meet?’ I said I need three weeks because the tour was about to end or we were going to be in L.A. He said, ‘No that’s too long. We need to meet before then because the dates are these dates.’ I can’t remember if the dates conflicted or not, but Meghan had ruptured her vocal chords and they had to cancel the tour. I hit him and said, ‘Let’s meet! I’m ready, let’s go.’ I got back and that was it. I started rolling with him. It’s crazy how it happened.

What was the brainstorming session like putting together the tour?
They brought me in to be music director and potentially produce records. They respect me musically as a music director. This is Bryson's first tour, but luckily he's a natural performer, very humble, a great artist, and great person to work with. He has a smart manager, Neil, and smart A&R, Tunji. He has a good team behind him, a good label and support. Musically they trust me to bring my knowledge and experience to the table to build a small foundation for him to just plant what he wants and how he feels and I just mold it, shape it and make it great. Mike Carson (creative director), who also works with Big Sean, so Bryson has a team behind him especially to be a new artist. I’ve worked with a lot of new artists who don’t have the support that he has so kudos to his manager and people at RCA for really giving him the support. Bryson has proven himself. He’s all over the place now so you have to support him and if you don’t, you’re crazy. Bringing this together has been an easy process.

With songwriters and producers they try to build songs lyrically or sonically. The tours that I’ve been to, it’s like a visual story or something that’s playing out before your eyes. How’d you seek to build that type of atmosphere for the concert attendees to take home a story?
It’s really supporting the story that he already has. I don’t think we’re doing anything that’s magical or mystical or special or crazy. One thing that I’ve learned by working with artists is that you want them to be true to who they are and what they’re doing, otherwise it’s not going to be believable and the crowd is going to see right through it. I think that’s one of the things that attracts people to Bryson. He’s open, honest, real and pure. Musically, I think we just support his story. It’s like a wave. He starts out real vibe-y and cool, his mellow songs, and in the middle of the show we turn up. Between those songs and the turn up songs he tells a story that leads from how he made this song, or how he felt with this song and go into where he was at in his mind with what people or what was around him to make the turn up songs. Then we go back to the songs the ladies want to hear. Then we go into “Don’t” which everybody wants to hear (laughs). It’s a little musical journey and we mesh the songs together so it’s not like you’re listening to the CD where it’s stop play, stop play. We have little transitions whether it’s musical or him talking.

What has been the most challenging part in making sure the wheels keep turning night after night?
It’s not really challenging, but just making sure everybody is happy. When I was a young music director wanting to be a music director it was because it was about having power. I want to be the person making decisions. I want to be the person making the calls, who you have to come to for this and that. But you learn it’s not about that. It’s about making everybody feel comfortable, making sure everybody’s job is just as important as yours. That’s what a leader does. It’s not to say, ‘Hey, I’m the leader.’ It’s to say, ‘We’re all doing this together. This is your part, and you fit in this piece of the puzzle.’ Making sure everybody is on the same page. Letting everybody know what their responsibilities are and just making sure everybody is happy. I want Bryson to be happy, the label to be happy, the management to be happy, the fans, the agent because then that books more shows. You can tell energy-wise by interacting with me, the artist, the DJ, everybody’s energy is just good and chill.

Is this a gateway to doing other artist’s tours?
Absolutely, anybody who is paying me (laughs). I enjoy bringing the best out of an artist and bringing the artist’s vision to life. Even with Bryson, my experience may have had me to do things this way in the past no matter if he’s toured enough before or not. He’s the artist so what he wants and says goes. I have to support that and make his vision be the best it can be. From doing that I can learn another way to do something that I haven’t done before. I want to be a music director for anybody who wants me so I can bring their stuff to bang. I’ve been doing this for a little bit, but I’m not in it to have my name be a part of something wack or going down in flames. You know when I’m a part of it, that sh*t is going!

What has been the craziest thing you've witnessed on tour thus far?
We were in D.C. There was this little boy that was like five or six years old. I said, ‘Why is this little boy in here?’ He’s sitting on a guy’s shoulders, probably his dad, an uncle or big brother, and he was singing every lyric! No lie. That’s when I was like okay this is on some other stuff. I mean the verse, the hook. I’m thinking, how does he know this music? I’m like okay, this is something special.

What do you hope concert attendees will gain from the tour?
I just hope that they’re happy and come back the next show, to expect something greater. You know how sometimes you might go see an artist, you might like it or you might not like it, but you’re not hype about seeing him again, like ‘Next time I have to go see what they’re going to do next.’ I want there to be some anticipation of, ‘I wonder what they’re going to do next?’ I think everybody has that with Bryson. There’s a little mystique, so that makes you want to be engaged, search and wonder. I think the next one… I have some things planned for the next one. I got some things in my back pocket just waiting to be pulled out for the next tour. Just intros and outro ideas, musical things and band ideas to expand the show. I didn't want to hit them over the head because this is the first tour. Bryson is particular on how he wants the vibe of his show and in respect to that we build off of that and adapt to it. He wants to do it a certain way. It doesn't have to be like the way I've done it or anyone has done it in the past and that's cool because that sets up the stuff we do for the future.

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Tekashi 6ix9ine Identifies Cardi B And Jim Jones As Nine Trey Members And More Takeaways (Day 3)

Daniel "Tekashi 6ix9ine" Hernandez's witness testimony continues to shock the masses. On Thursday (Sept. 19), the rapper took the stand again to elaborate on his kidnapping as well as interviews he gave about his broken relationship with members of the Nine Trey gang.

Interviews by Angie Martinez and Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club were analyzed due to the rapper's subtle jabs towards his former manager Shotti and defendant Anthony "Harv" Ellison. 6ix9ine's social media personality was also broken down as he explained the definitions of trolling and dry snitching.

But perhaps the most questionable part of his testimony arrived when he name-dropped Cardi B and Jim Jones as members of the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods.

Below are some of the biggest takeaways from today.

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Day 3 1. Tekashi Claims Cardi B And Jim Jones Are Members Of Nine Trey Gang

Hernandez provided context to a wiretapped conversation between alleged Nine Trey godfather Jamel "Mel Murda" Jones and rapper Jim Jones. Complex notes a leaked 'individual-1' transcription revealed who appeared to be Jim Jones. During Mel Murder and Jim Jones conversation, the two discussed Hernandez's status as a Nine Trey member.

"He not a gang member no more," Jones reportedly said. "He was never a gang member. They going to have to violate shorty because shorty is on some bullshit." Hernandez went on to identify Jones as a "retired" rapper and a member of the Nine Trey.

Prosecutors play phone call between Nine Trey godfather Mel Murda and rapper Jim Jones. Tekashi says Jones is in Nine Trey.Jones: "He not a gang member no more. He was never a gang member. They going to have to violate shorty because shorty is on some bull--it."

— Stephen Brown (@PPVSRB) September 19, 2019

When it comes to Cardi B, the rapper named the Bronx native as a Nine Trey member. He was also strangely asked if he copies Cardi's alleged blueprint of aligning herself with gang members in her early music videos. "I knew who she was. I didn’t pay attention,” he said. In a statement to Billboard, Atlantic Records denied 6ix9ine's claims that she was a member of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods. 

In a now-deleted tweet on her official Twitter account, Cardi B responded to the allegation writing clarifying her affiliation, “You just said it yourself…Brim not 9 Trey. I never been 9 trey or associated with them.”

2. Tekashi Defines The Term "Dry Snitching"

In a quick back and forth with AUSA Micheal Longyear, the rapper gave an odd definition of dry snitching. He also made it clear that he was open to becoming a witness to reduce his prison sentence.

Q: Who is Jim Jones?#6ix9ine: He's a retired rapper.Q: Is he a member of Nine Trey?A: Yes.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) September 19, 2019

3. Tekashi Was Willing To Pay Hitmen $50,000 To Take Out Friend Who Kidnapped Him

Shortly after he was kidnapped by Harv, the rapper went on Angie Martinez to slam those in his camp. Without saying names, Hernandez promised he would seek revenge on those behind the kidnapping. The court was then showed footage of the incident which was recorded in the car of Jorge Rivera who was already a cooperating witness in the case. Hernandez reportedly confirmed he wanted to pay a hitman $50,000 on Harv after the kidnapping.

4. He Believed He Was "Too Famous" To Hold Gun Used In Assault Against Rap-A-Lot Artist"

The alleged robbery of Rap-A-Lot artist was brought up once again when Hernandez confirmed that he recorded the incident. A weapon allegedly used in the incident was tossed to Hernandez by his former manager Shotti. When asked why he refused to hold the gun the rapper said, "I'm too famous to get out the car with a gun." As previously reported, the rapper was kicked out of the car after the incident in Times Square and was forced to take the subway back to Brooklyn with the gun.

5. Tekashi May Be Released As Early As 2020

Cross-exam Q: If you get time served you'd get out at the beginning of next year, correct?#6ix9ine: Correct.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) September 19, 2019

There's that.

6. Footage Exists Of Tekashi Pretending He Was Dead

Harv's lawyer Deveraux: Do you recall publishing a video pretending you were dead?#6ix9ine: Can you show me? For now, a private viewing.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) September 19, 2019

Before wrapping up, the court briefly touched on his trolling ways. From setting up beefs to strange notions like faking his death, the videos were viewed privately.

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Tekashi is seen in Los Angeles, CA on November 8, 2018.
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Nine Trey Trial: 4 Takeaways From Tekashi 6ix9ine's Testimony (Day 2)

The second day of Daniel "Tekashi 6ix9ine" Hernandez's witness testimony provided insight into the handlings of several incidents surrounding the rapper including the attempted shootings of rappers Casanova, Chief Keef and former labelmate, Trippie Redd.

As Complex reported Wednesday (Sept. 18), Judge Paul Engelmayer noted the leak of the rapper's testimony that hit YouTube by way of VladTV. Shortly after, Hernandez explained how the Trey Nine gang began to fall apart–or split into four groups–leaving him to take sides. In the end, Hernandez was robbed and kidnapped by his own manager as video footage revealed. The rapper explained how his initial deal turned into extortion as he provided over $80,000 to the gang.

See more details from the trial below. Hernandez will take the stand again Thursday (Sept. 21).

Day 2 1. Tekashi Arranged A Hit On Chief Keef For $20,000

The hit against Keef was widely reported last year but Hernandez provided clarity to the incident. The rapper admitted to arranging a hit on the Chicago rapper after a dispute over "my friend Cuban," a reference to rapper Cuban Doll. Although Hernandez planned to provide the gunman with $20,000 he paid him $10,000 since the hitman fired one shot and subsequently missed.

2. 6ix9ine Credits Anthony “Harv” Ellison For Barclays Center Shooting 

 

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A post shared by Tr3y (@tr3yway_ent) on Sep 6, 2019 at 3:11pm PDT

Hernandez's brief beef with fellow Brooklyn rapper Casanova sprouted from Cas' diss song, "Set Trippin.'" After hearing it, Hernandez said he was ready to "run down" on the rapper. Seqo Billy tipped him off about Cas' alliance to the Bloods set, the Apes and how they would more than likely retaliate if Cas is harmed.

“There’s a kite out saying if any apes happen to cross ya path to fire on you or anybody around you… smarten up,” Seqo wrote in a group chat presented in court. Ellison allegedly replied, “Apes can fire on this dick… They don’t want to war with Billy’s [Nine Trey]." From there, several shootings took place in Brooklyn with one inside the Barclays Center.

3. Tekashi's Beef With Rap-A-Lot Crew Caused Bigger Fallout With Trey Nine 

Hernandez went on to detail the very complicated story behind his beef with Rap-A-Lot records. The debacle started when Tekashi and the Treyway crew didn't "check-in" with Jas Prince before taking the stage at Texas' South by Southwest in March 2018. The incident was further muffled since Trey Nine members like Ellison and Billy Ato were beefing with Hernandez and Shotti at the time. In the end, Hernadez never performed. His crew would later go on to rob and attack an artist from Rap-A-Lot in New York a month later.

4. Footage of the Robbery/Fight Was Filmed By Hernandez aka 6ix9ine

As he and Shotti fled the scene, Shotti kicked the rapper out the car forcing him to take the train to Brooklyn with a gun in his possession. All of the incidents led up to the kidnapping scenario which Herdanaez claimed was in no way staged.

“I’m pleading with Harv,” Hernandez said. “I’m telling him, ‘Don’t shoot. I gave you everything. I put money in your pocket.’ I told him that I was tired of being extorted.” The robbery/kidnapping was filmed by Ellison but also recorded by Hernadez's driver Jorge Rivera who was already a cooperating witness in the case.

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Gary Gershof

Jeremy O. Harris Is Prepared To Make You Uncomfortable With 'Slave Play'

September is a tricky time in New York City. Some days the ninth month can be charming with its cool breeze and clear skies, you forget Old Man Winter is three months away. Other days, September is deceitfully chilly dropping 10 or 15 degrees after sunset. You hug yourself to create warmth and to also block shame for not knowing summer has packed its bags. On the fifth day of September in New York’s East Village, the weather, however, is kind. Clouds like stretched cotton balls float through the sky, while the sun peeks through adding just enough heat without being arresting. It was, like Bill Withers described, a lovely day.

The beauty of the weather was only matched by Jeremy O.Harris’ bold yet inviting presence. Wearing head-to-toe Telfar Clemens, the Yale School of Drama playwright mingled with friends, castmates and the press inside the penthouse suite of The Standard. Holding the last puffs of a loosie and a black purse, O’Harris and I make eye contact. He smiles. I wave and a second later he's pulled into another round of congratulations, cheek kisses, and praise.

Such is the life of an award-winning playwright.

Harris’ production Slave Play earned chatter while at the New York Theater Workshop and has since made its way to Broadway, making the 30-year-old the youngest playwright of color to accomplish the feat. Yet before the mecca to the world's theatrical stage, Slave Play merited quite the hubbub and scathing critiques for its plot. Set on the MacGregor plantation in the antebellum south, three interracial couples work through their relationship woes made present by their sexual disconnect.

And that’s all that will be said about Slave Play. The rest must be witnessed to be understood or at least examined. Harris knows the play will make many uncomfortable and he's okay with that. The Virginia native stands at a towering 6-foot-5 and has always known his mere presence was off-putting to some. Add his Afro to the mix and Harris, a black queer man with hair that defies gravity, is too much to digest. Thankfully, he doesn't care.

He walks over to the terrace and we both lean in for a hug but stop prematurely and settle on a professional yet distant handshake.

“Are you a hugger?” I ask.

“Yes,” he smiles.

Relief. Huggers finally able to hug.

O’Harris is pressed for time so we only chat for 15 minutes but we gag over both being Geminis, talk about white discomfort, why, of all names to give a play, was Slave Play the best choice and whether or not white America can fully love black people.

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VIBE: When creating Slave Play was white discomfort ever a thought?

Jeremy O. Harris: I had this moment with someone the other day and we were talking about the importance of mirrors and seeing each other inside the mirrors of the set. Well, the reason the idea came about was because at Yale the theater was in a three-quarter thrust and the second year project is one of the smallest projects to do. The audience, I think, is 70 people every night. It wasn’t a huge audience, maybe 90, I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s a three-quarter thrust. I went to Yale at a historic time. There were more people of color there than at any other time. The craziest thing about the show for me was while watching, I saw all the people of color checking in with one another throughout the play and them having these moments of revelation together and looking at white people like, "Why are you laughing then?"

I make people uncomfortable. I make people who are straight uncomfortable. I feel like everything I do, I do loudly by accident.

What’s your sign? I’m a Gemini.

Oh my God! I’m a Gemini. When’s your birthday? June 2nd.

I'm June 17. (Laughs) I think being a Gemini is also part of why I live loudly. I don’t shy away from who I am. My hair has always been big. People might eroticize my hair or fetishize my hair but they’re still uncomfortable by it because their hair can’t do this. Also, because I went to predominately white institutions as a child, I learned quickly that my intellect made people uncomfortable.

Were you usually the smartest one in the room? Yeah, or at least the teacher would say that. I think part of the problem with growing up in the south is everything is so racialized, even compliments. It would be "he’s smarter than the white kids and the black kids."

Did you have any other names for the play besides Slave Play? For me, titles are what make a play and the minute I thought of this play was the minute I was thinking about all of the different slave films. The first thing I thought about was on Twitter there was this whole discussion about 12 Years of Slave with people saying, "Why do we always have to be in a slave movie?" and then I thought, "Oh, a slave movie. There are so many slave plays...Oh, Slave Play!

There’s a litany of narratives that can come from that and a litany of histories that come from that. I was like, "Let me try and make something that was the end all be all of these histories" for at least me. It doesn’t have to be the end all be all for the next writer who wants to interrogate these similar ideas and similar histories, but it gets to be my one foray into this question.

I saw Slave Play off-Broadway and it was a lot to take in. However, I think the play isn’t so much about interracial relationships as it is white people’s relationship with black people. Am I correct?

I think you are. I’ve never written a play that’s going to be about one thing.

Because you aren’t one thing.

Exactly. One of my professors said the problem with a lot of American writers is that they write plays that function like similies. This is like this, whereas in the U.K. and Europe and a lot of places I love, those places function like metaphors. I wanted to have a play that functioned as a metaphor. So it’s not like, "Being in an interracial couple is like..." It’s "An interracial couple is" and it becomes a container for a lot of different histories and a lot of different confluences of conflict which I think are important.

Relationships can become an amazing space of interrogation for a lot of our interpersonal relationships, our historical relationships and our thematic, deeply guarded emotional truths that we haven’t worked out on a macro, but we can work them out on this microcosm of a relationship in a way like white-American politics and black-American politics are also in this weird symbiotic relationship.

Do you think white America can ever fully love black people?

I think love is something that’s beyond words. I think its something we have to only know in action in the same way that I don’t know if black America will or should ever love white America, do you know what I mean? How do you love something that’s harmed you so deeply?

Super facts.

But then again, if we’re using relationships as metaphors, [then] we’ve seen people try and make sense of that love in a lot of different ways. You see black America’s relationship to capitalism, which is something that benefits whiteness more than it could ever benefit us, yet there is this sort of weird romance that happens in so much of our music. So much of our literature and so much of our art, with the idea of capitalism even with its own interrogation and criticisms. But there is this weird push and pull. It’s similar to someone who’s in this battered relationship with an ex-lover.

I read you didn’t expect to receive so much criticism from the black community. How did that make you feel? 

It made me feel sad and reflective in a lot of ways. I wanted to make theater for a certain audience and, for me, the best vehicle for making theater for that audience was the Internet. I was like, "How can I flood the Internet with these ideas about what my plays are so I can maybe get a new audience into the theater with more excitement?" And that worked in a certain way. What I didn’t take into account was that I basically asked everyone to learn how to ride a horse bareback without ever learning the fundamentals of riding a horse.

People were interrogating the ideas on the Internet of what this play might be without an understanding of how the theater functions, and so I think that made them feel very displaced from what this play was, and when you feel displaced from something you have to react to it. I don’t blame anyone for their reactions to the title or the images they saw. Some of those images aren’t images I would’ve ever wanted people to interrogate without the context of the theater. In hindsight, I now know, like, "Okay, cool." I do this experiment and I saw some of the false positives of it and I saw the actual positives of it and now I can move on and keep building and repair the relationship. I get to now watch it with more careful eyes.

What questions do you hope white people ask themselves?

I think the whole play is about: how can people listen in a way that’s not shallow but deeply? I think at this moment a lot of white theater audiences believe they’re listening deeply to the black artists that are having this moment right now. But I think when you read the words they write about it, and the quickness with which they have an opinion about it, you recognize they’re not listening deeply. So quickly they’re telling us what they think we said and it’s like, "No, take a second, and let us speak on it." Take a step back.

Slave Play is playing at the John Golden Theater. Get your tickets here.

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