Meet The Dancer In JAY-Z's "4:44" Video Reclaiming Agency Over The Black Female Body

Okwui Okpokwasili is the brilliant choreographer you want to know. 

"When I'm making work, I'm making it from a black/brown woman perspective. It’s about authorship of language of the body. Authorship of language coming out of the tongue of text. How to make something that is direct comes critically from a particular place," said Okwui Okpokwasili, writer, performer and choreographer.

You might not know Okpokwasili by name, but perhaps by now you've seen her fearless performance in JAY-Z's ambitious "4:44" video. The 9-minute clip is a collage of images of black American life as commodified by the mainstream and consumed in popular culture. It also places Okpokwasili's dance of contorting limbs and syncopated hips at the center, an intensely emotional scene juxtaposed with some of JAY's most vulnerable lyrics.

"My entry into "4:44" feels quite strange and lovely. I feel this incredible productivity and connection that's happening across art spaces right now. I would never imagine myself in a music video, or never have, but [it happened] because Arthur Jafa and Elisa Blount-Moorehead and Malik Saeed and TNEG are traversing these lines that were left porous. For JAY-Z to entrust TNEG with his vision and make something that is absolutely not a video but some really special film. To have words colliding that you don't think would normally collide. To make a space for many other languages and space to emerge," she told FADER during an interview about her latest film, Bronx Gothic, where she "reclaims agency over the black body" and turns a lens on "the lack of innocence society grants black and brown girls."

With that in mind, Okpokwasili had to hear very little of the song to know what JAY's intentions were. "I knew the concept. I knew that it was in some way about a kind of contrition — an apology. I was looking at some interview with the women who were behind the video," she explained to FADER, "and they were suggesting that the apology wasn't just an apology to Beyoncé but also to himself. He's trying to open up a space that isn't necessarily opened up for rappers. It's a worthy endeavor to try and think about. What have you made up of the self? And how can you reduce all of these layers of postures?"

Read more on Okpokwasili's brilliance, her daring work and body politic, here.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Nipsey Hussle attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Steve Granitz/WireImage

Nipsey Hussle Rumored To Receive Tribute At 62nd Annual Grammy Awards

This time last year, Nipsey Hussle attended the Grammy Awards as a first-time nominee. The Los Angeles native, who earned a nod for his long-awaited feature length studio album, Victory Lap, hit the red carpet alongside his daughter, Imani, and partner Lauryn London. Despite losing the category to Cardi B, Hussle's landing a nomination after years of grinding in the rap game, was a victory within itself.

“It ain’t expect nothing,” he told Big Boy's Neighborhood last last year of being nominated.. “It’s been some talk around it so if the list would’ve come around and I wasn’t on it, I wasn’t going to be disappointed.”

Two months after the award show, the 33-year-old rapper and entrepreneur was gunned down in the parking lot of his clothing store. Hussle's tragic death seemingly expanded his fans based an illuminated his legacy and influence, and according to a report from Hits Daily Double, the Grammys will pay tribute to the late recording artist during this year’s ceremony. It's unclear who will participate in the supposed tribute as  the Recording Academy has yet to confirm (or deny) the rumor.

Hussle also received three posthumous Grammy nods for Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung performance. The ceremony is expected to feature performances from Tyler the Creator, H.E.R., Charlie Wilson, Lil Nas X, BTS, Lizzo, and Aerosmith with Run DMC, and more.

The 62nd annual Grammy Awards air on Jan. 26 on CBS.

Continue Reading
Mike Stobe/BIG3/Getty Images

Jim Jones Hints At A Dipset Movie

With recent individual projects from Cam’ron and Jim Jones gaining widespread acclaim, the latter East Coast rap veteran plans to keep that momentum going with this latest news. According to XXL Magazine, Jones hinted at a movie on their rap collective Dipset, which formed in the late 90s but rose to mainstream prominence in the 2000s.

“We started this as young teenagers. We would’ve never thought that we did what we did and ended up where we are and we’re still here today making money off this industry that we dreamed of being in," he said during an interview on Nick Cannon's Power 106 show. "People know we make music and there’s always a nostalgic value when we pop out and do music. But I do believe we got a story that needs to be seen in hip-hop like no other. I know people have a lot of their own glory story, but we really have an action flick that needs to be told.”

Dipset, which is comprised of Cam’ron, Jim Jones, Freekey Zeekey, Juelz Santana, and former members 40 Cal., Hell Rell, and J.R. Writer, churned out hit after hit like “Hey Ma (Remix),” “Real Ni**as,” "Family Ties," “Dipset Anthem,” “I’m Ready,” “Crunk Muzik,” and more.

A Dipset film will not head to production until Santana’s release from prison, Jones also noted. Santana was sentenced to two years in prison for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. He was also found guilty of possession of a controlled substance. According to his partner Kimbella, Santana is expected to be released in summer 2020.

Continue Reading
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Essence

Missy Elliott, Solange, Summer Walker And More To Perform At Governors Ball 2020

Start setting aside your funds now, because the lineup for Governors Ball is one that you can’t miss. On Thursday (Jan. 16), the popular festival revealed its dates and lineup for its 10th edition. On the bill, attendees will witness performances by Missy Elliott, Solange, Summer Walker, Steve Lacy, Pink Sweat$, and more.

Held at Randall’s Island Park in New York City, the event will takeoff June 5-7. In a statement, the festival’s organizers commemorated the annual concert for hitting this momentous feat. “The upcoming 10th edition of the Governors Ball Music Festival marks a major milestone for an event that originated as a shared pipe-dream between New Yorkers in their early 20s who wanted to see their city play host to a music festival on par with the world’s best live music events,” the statement reads.

Tickets hit the market on Friday (Jan. 17) at 12 p.m. EST at View the full lineup and flyer below.

Music makes you lose control💥 Tickets on sale tomorrow, Jan 17 at 12pm est at Very limited Early Bird & Advance tickets will be available.

— The Governors Ball (@GovBallNYC) January 16, 2020

Continue Reading

Top Stories