BTS
Frazer Harrison

12 Hip-Hop And R&B Collaborations With BTS We Need ASAP

K-pop music has steadily grown into a cultural phenomenon that has spread from Korea and attracted a massive, diverse audience across the globe, with a few of Korea’s hottest exports like EXO, Pentagon, NCT-127, Blackpink, and Monsta X gaining momentum in the United States. However, South Korea’s own BTS are global musical juggernauts that stand far above everyone else.

BTS, also known as Beyond The Scene or Bangtan (Bulletproof) Boys, have made the biggest splash of all groups from Korea since their debut EP, 2 Cool 4 Skool (2013). The seven-man union, formed by Big Hit Entertainment in 2010, are three rappers and four vocalists: RM (the leader), Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, Jungkook, and Jin, respectively. With their homegrown, in-house writing and production, they developed a familiar but unique style that combines hip hop roots with the best of Korean and American pop music, and a splash of R&B. It’s presented with pastel colors and an alluring brand of soft, non-conforming masculinity, precise choreography, and deep layers of musical talent. They’ve also earned a staggering amount of accolades, including being named one of the “25 Most Influential People On The Internet” and “Next Generation Leaders” by TIME, the first Korean group to hold an RIAA certification and the first to have been nominated for a GRAMMY, along with four Billboard Music Awards and more honors.

Their hip-hop roots run deep as they started as a teenage rap group, with RM, Suga and J-Hope initially being battle rappers. A trip to Los Angeles, however, as documented on the reality series American Hustle Life, proved they had a very long way to go with understanding of the culture among other skills. Thankfully, after a boot camp style schooling from west coast legends Coolio and Warren G with choreographer Jenny Kita, they’ve grown tremendously as evident on their debut LP Dark And Wild (2014).

Since then, BTS has collaborated with hip-hop stars like Wale, Desigiiner, Krizz Kaliko, Nicki Minaj, and recently, JuiceWRLD on “All Night,” an exclusive from the soundtrack to their new mobile game, BTS World. The boys are riding high after their Gold-selling album Map Of The Soul: Persona, their new film Bring The Soul, and news of a collaboration with R&B/pop singer Khaled on the way. The BTS A.R.M.Y. (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth) is excited for the possibilities of fresh new collaborations with other hip-hop and R&B artists. Read below for VIBE’s list of the 12 hip-hop and R&B collaborations with BTS we need ASAP!

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Drake

Toronto’s own megastar may be a controversial, polarizing pick because of the criticism of him (allegedly) riding on newer artists’ popularity to bolster his own career and “wave riding” international genres and artists without giving the proper credit. Regardless, based on Drizzy’s Billboard chart-topping history, a BTS and Drake collaboration would be nearly guaranteed to be a home run.

Musically, Drake is versatile enough to match elegant harmonies with Jin, V, Jungkook, and Jimin (imagine a remix to the steamy “Singularity”) and go bar for bar with ease next to RM, J-Hope, and Suga over  production from 40. His tracks with artists like Bad Bunny, popcaan, Wizkid, Romeo Santos, Black Coffee, and Giggs have all been solid, but BTS pairs the best with October’s Very Own because they both excel at creating bubbly, up-tempo and mainstream-friendly pop records, late night, vibey and confessional R&B songs, and explosive rap jams for the crowd who craves pure lyricism. And after the two had a warm meeting at the VMAs, fans shouldn’t be surprised if we see something on the horizon very soon.

Lil Uzi Vert

The tone and direction of BTS and Lil Uzi Vert’s most electrifying hits are the difference between night and day. On the flipside, they share much more common ground than you’d think with their high energy songs and performances, and an eye-catching penchant for their colorful, eccentric fashion looks and charismatic, light-androgynous swagger with the dance moves to match.

BTS’s recent effort with Juice WRLD, “All Night,” has already shown how well the group can pair with the hip-hop superstars from America’s Soundcloud generation, especially with the right producer in tow (Pro Era’s Powers Pleasant). With Lil Uzi Vert, we can expect a hit that carries the same pop and crossover appeal with that glittery sheen Uzi displays on “That’s A Rack.” However, if they really want to blow our collective minds, it would be a fresher look for BTS to see how the Bangtan spitters RM, Suga, and J-Hope would fare on the aggressive, high-octane end of Uzi’s versatile playground. They obviously can be as explosive on wax as evident on their first full length album, Dark and Wild, and in a more recent context, “IDOL” and “Mic Drop.”

BTS could fit with a respectable number of Uzi’s contemporaries as their cadences, flows, and gender fluid style are the products of its time. The Philly rapper stands above the pack however because of his smooth versatility to rock out, no matter the genre or direction of the song. If these two forces of nature got together, this could be an unprecedented crossover song for both of them.

Black Hippy

Kendrick Lamar and BTS have been tied together through a combination of minor controversies, and frequent collaborator, producer Teddy Walton attended a show and declared on Twitter that he wanted to work with the group. Obviously a Kendrick Lamar and BTS collaboration would turn heads, but who said he’s got to be the only one who gets to have all the fun?

If we live long enough to get a whole collaboration between BTS and Kendrick, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul, it would be the greatest gift that a hip-hop fan never knew they needed. RM, Suga, and J-Hope all are very nimble and clever lyricists who can go bar for bar with Black Hippy while the other four vocalists are no stranger to blending in on a pure hip-hop song. Also, their collective versatility ensures we wouldn’t get the same song twice.

When it comes to content, the catalogs of both groups contain plenty of songs that go into a wide range of topics, be it personal or social commentary, braggadocios raps, and just strictly for the turn up. Musically, BTS’s flows and vocals are versatile enough to ride over either a beat by Terrace Martin, Sounwave, or DJ Dahi.

Missy Elliott

For over 20 years, Missy Elliot has been a maestro of the clubs, the streets, the bedrooms and the Billboard charts for herself and a long list of some the greatest solo acts and groups who have ever done it. Her and BTS would be a very strong tandem because of her own experience in working with R&B and pop groups like Playa, 702, Destiny’s Child, and The Pussycat Dolls.

Missy’s no stranger to working with top artists from across the globe as she has created with Little Mix, Lady Sovereign, and MC Solaar. A BTS collaboration would not be so far out of her comfort zone because they both share a connection with their colorful, vibrant, eclectic music and imagery with their versatility with rapping, singing, and dancing.

Their effort could create a unique moment because both are great creating danceable hits using a wide variety of sounds from different genres (“Get Ya Freak On”/”hip-hop Phile”). We could also get some very sultry standouts as both are known for having sensually sweet voices and have great chemistry with partners. (“The Truth Untold”/”Crazy Feelings”). And if that doesn’t entice you, imagine the insane possibilities for their video treatments and their choreography at their live shows.

Tech N9ne

On the group leader RM’s solo mixtape Rap Monster, he tapped Strange Music’s resident crooner Krizz Kaliko for the soulful tune “Rush” back in 2015. Considering how far BTS as come along since then, it’s about time that fans got to hear one of rap’s most wicked lyricists, Tech N9ne, create a monster masterpiece with the group.

Albums such as Dark And Wild (2014) offer the group at their most aggressive while recent tunes like 2018’s “MIC Drop” and the Steve Aoki remix with Desiigner feature their most explosive lyrical performances, proving doubters why they’d make such a strong pairing. With Tech N9ne being one of the greatest rapid-fire spitters of all time and BTS, collectively, being able to switch flows and spit just as fast, we'd be likely to get a raging, lyrical barnburner. Possibly with Tech N9ne’s frequent collaborator Krizz Kaliko back on board as well.

On the flipside, Tech N9ne has shown tremendous versatility in his content and beat selection over the past 20+ years with thought-provoking deep cuts like “Show Me A God” and fun, loose bangers like “Caribou Lou.” And the soundscape on BTS songs like “Boy Meets Evil” and “Am I Wrong” from their 2016 album Wings are the kind that demonstrates not-too-bubblegum, yet not-too-hardcore sound where Tech can shine. If we can get a “BTS Cypher 5” on their next full-length album with Tech N9ne, we should all lose our collective minds.

Bad Bunny

Beyond Korea, K-pop has extended its reach into Latin America, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and brown folk in the United States. Coincidently (or not), we’re also witnessing the ongoing reign of Urbano and Latin Trap music, including one of the brightest, most eclectic stars of them all, Bad Bunny. That said, a Bad Bunny and BTS collaboration would be the international answer to the 1980s classic Run-DMC and Aerosmith tune “Walk This Way”, that music needs right now.

Despite the language barrier, it wouldn’t be impossible for them to create an international smash as BTS are known to enjoy various genres of Latin music. Working with Bad Bunny would be a fun match because they are both known for their flamboyant, colorful styles that defy gender norms, and electrifying flows. Bad Bunny’s talents would add a unique flavor that would bring more attitude, flair, and exciting, bouncier flows if paired with BTS. And while K-pop and Latin music collaborations aren’t anything new (Super Junior and Leslie Grace already beat them to the punch with “Lo Siento”), the impact could possibly be greater if done for a worldwide audience in the Western music world.

Beyoncé

It doesn’t take a music industry genius to know that if some wise guys or gals came up with a world tour with Beyoncé and BTS together, there would be no stadium big enough to hold both the Beyhive and the A.R.M.Y.

Beyonce’s voice is powerful enough to add an extra compelling layer of emotion to a song like “Listen,” and dynamic enough to get the party rocking like she’s done with “Get Me Bodied.” BTS already has the range, depth, versatility, and work ethic as a group to meet Beyoncé’s high level of singing and performing and it would be interesting to see what the band would look like with choreographer JaQuel Knight or how Beyonce’s moves would look under the guidance of J-Hope and Jimin. Hearing and seeing these two together for the first time would be a matchup of the century.

Boyz II Men

One of BTS’s biggest co-signs they’ve unexpectedly earned this year was from Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman, when he covered Jimin’s solo cut “Serendipity” while playing his guitar on a video he posted on Instagram. And that’s a high honor considering how BTS are the same fruit off The Jackson 5’s R&B/pop tree as the Philly trio.

Out of the many iconic groups that precede them, Boyz II Men is the best choice for a collaboration because the four vocalists and the trio’s voices can work cohesively together as they have a balanced range of pitches. And if need be, Boyz II Men are no stranger to singing in different languages as they covered k-pop songs on 2005’s Winter/Reflections and 2011’s COVERED -Winter. The only disappointing part is knowing that Michael McCray’s deep, sultry bass won’t be present after he revealed his battle with multiple sclerosis in 2016. Still, both groups have the musical range to appeal to both Asian and black audiences at the same time, so seeing them work together would be an amazing passing-of-the-torch moment.

H.E.R.

Love Yourself, ‘Tear’ (2018) from their Love Yourself trilogy is a prime example of how the group's collective vocal ability isn’t limited to pop music. They’ve proven with songs like “Singularity,” “The Truth Untold,” and “Magic Shop” that they’re just a proficient in contemporary R&B and neo-soul as they are at everything else. And while many contemporary American acts could sound great with BTS, perhaps the one that would be the most refreshing is H.E.R., whose deep, sensual, and gripping style will grab you by the ears and hold you by the heart. Both have the vocal range and deeply layered content to create an emotionally rich affair that could wind up either in the form of duets with either one of the singers or full group collaboration. We might not get a strong pop song from them, but considering how strong their emotional appeal and relatability is with their music if brought together, we don’t need them to make one at all.

Chris Brown

BTS’s lead dancer and singer Jimin has mentioned on a few occasions that he is a Chris Brown fan and he’d like for him to work with the group one day. In fact, three members once danced on stage to Breezy’s “Take You Down” and the crowd couldn’t get enough. Imagine how insane that same crowd would be if he were with the group on stage.

Aesthetically and musically, BTS has the most similarities to Chris Brown when it comes to their intense work ethic, creativity, natural dancing skills, and their knack for seamlessly weaving through hip-hop, pop and R&B on their albums. The obvious difference is that Brown is highly skilled at all those things, where some of the individual members are weaker in at least one of those aspects. It can be argued that J-Hope, Jimin, and RM are literally Chris Brown if you were to separate him into three people because those members, individually, carry all the things fans love about Brown’s music and performances.

Based on all of this, a BTS and Chris Brown collaboration would be insane because their styles would perfectly gel, which could create real chemistry that we could see and feel on stage.

J. Cole

It’s been documented that BTS, especially the leader RM, are fans of J. Cole as they once sampled his James Fauntleroy-assisted “Born Sinner” for their song “Born Singer.” If you were to listen to some of RM, J-Hope, and BTS’s earlier work, you can even see how they were inspired by Cole through their content and flows. Since the group is far more of a polished act nowadays and has cultivated their own style, a J. Cole and BTS collaboration would be something special.

Just as J. Cole garnered a cult-like following through his music and the way he addresses social and mental health issues, BTS has done the same thing for the past several years on wax, interviews, and more famously, in their speech in front of UNICEF in 2018. A joint record between the two could be a powerful track that cuts through like a hot knife on butter. Or we could even get a chance to hear Cole, Suga, RM, and J-Hope perform lyrical surgery on a “BTS Cypher” or on a J. Cole album where really gets in his bag like “MIDDLE CHILD” or on the Dreamville posse cut “Down Bad”. BTS has the language and versatility to match with J.Cole, so this would be an exciting effort from both acts.

Janelle Monae

This may look unorthodox on paper as BTS and Janelle Monae’s respective approaches to music and performing come from different, but related musical influences from black music. A closer look at the two however shows that they still share a parallel space. They often defy gender norms with their outfits and soft color schemes, giving some of the most vibrant, creative visuals you’ll see in this generation with videos like “Boy With Love” and “Pynk.” Also, both are vocal allies of the LGBTQ community and people of color.

Musically, Monae is an multi-faceted artist who can sing, dance, and even trade bars with the best of them as heard on “Django Jane.” And the way she uses her vocals and bars to create \ soul-stirring moments on socio-political songs like “Cold World” and “Americans” as BTS has done on “21st Century Girl” and “Am I Wrong.” Together, Monae and BTS could be a freedom fighting force on wax and create a groundbreaking moment that will cross racial and gender barriers across the world.

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For VIBE's 2019 Best R&B Songs list, we decided to not only choose songs that deserve a spot on a baby-making playlist but also celebrate the artists who've kept the core of R&B intact in their own way. Some songs are well-known, some are deep cuts. Some of these artists have won a music award or two this year, but the others are just as worthy. Here we've compiled an alphabetical list of songs that have resonated with the R&B lover in us. Get into it.

 

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In 2018, VIBE presented a year-end list dedicated to albums by womxn and this year continues that tradition of spotlighting some of our favorite womxn– who happen to rap. The term "female rapper" has become sour by the minute, with many artists in the game refusing to pair their gender to an artform seemingly jumpstarted by a black womxn. “I don’t want to even be a female rapper,” CHIKA told Teen Vogue recently. “I’m a rapper. So for someone to have a qualifier like that and throw it out there so publicly — it feels really backhanded. I don’t like [it].” She isn't the only one. As hip-hop continues to dominate pop culture, the womxn in the genre are demanding respect for the craft. Here's a list comprised of some of our favorite songs that hit the charts or slipped under the radar.

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Steve Morris @stevemorrism

Afrochella Sets Sight On Connecting The African Diaspora, One Festival At A Time

African music and culture are going global.

There’s a concerted effort to create and connect on the continent and to the continent. In Ghana and Nigeria specifically, a number of events, festivals, concerts, and activations have grown to prominence over the past five years, attracting newcomers and serving locals. This year, December will harvest a crop of opportunities for those abroad and at home to tap into the music, art, food, and fashion of the new-wave vanguard.

“Ghana remains home to the global African family,” Ghana Tourism Authority CEO Akwasi Agyemang said in an interview earlier this year. "We are positioning Ghana as a gateway to the West African market," Agyemang added. As African cultural productions popularize abroad, Accra and Lagos have become the go-to grounds for people of the diaspora to initiate immersion into experiencing Africa. 

The Ghana Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture have lined up a slate of activities in an effort to boost the country’s tourism industry. The government has taken initiative to further pushing for mobilization, galvanizing both descendants and diasporans to visit, invest, and live in the country.

Certain factors make Ghana appealing for visitors. Along with it being one of the more stable nations in West Africa, according to a 2011 Forbes report, Ghana was ranked the 11th -most friendly country in the world, ranked higher than any other African country. But as of last year, according to the World Atlas, Ghana didn’t rank amongst the top 10 African countries to visit for tourism in 2018. There is already a history of diasporans permanently relocating to Ghana. The government attempted to facilitate this process when it waived some visa requirements and passed amendments to a 2002 law that permits people of African origin to apply to stay indefinitely in Ghana. 

But this year has been a particularly important one for visitors. This December marks the ending commemoration of the Year of Return. Ghana 2019 is an initiative of the government formally launched by the President of the Republic of Ghana in September 2019 in Washington, D.C. as a program for Africans in the diaspora to unite with Africans on the continent. The mission transcends a marketing strategy. The year 2019 commemorates 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown, Virginia. The program serves to recognize the surging people and the following generations of achievements, sacrifices since then. 

The past year has seen a steady influx to West Africa. According to a report in Quartz Africa, Ghana’s tourism sector contributed 5.5 percent to GDP in 2018, ranking in fourth place after gold, cocoa, and oil in terms of foreign exchange generation for the country. And the government is hoping for more growth. Ghana is reportedly projected to rake in an annual $8.3 billion from the tourism sector by the year 2027 in tandem with an estimated 4.3 million international tourist arrivals.

But with the opportunities for connection and investment comes a slate of new concerns attached to old ones. Tourism, for example, can be lucrative for local business, but also can have a broader disruptive impact on the nation’s economy. Then, there are the issues that programmers face to bring locals and visitors the sought-after idealized experiences of Ghana— a taxing and a challenging feat to execute in an environment that’s still developing its infrastructure in multiple sectors. Along with improper documentation of visitors, the 15-year development plan put in place to help push the numbers, in ways, has not been implemented in full force.

But a rush to Ghana is still projected, and there’s a slew of events coinciding in the region at the same time this year aiming to accommodate this. One of the events slated for a return is Afrochella, the annual art, music, and food festival happening in Accra from December 20 to January 5. Separate from the official year of return events, each event also aims to fulfill a similar mission and market individual appeal amidst similar events. There’s AfroNation, the popular Europe music festival holding its first-ever edition on Ghana’s coastline at the same time as Afrochella, while Nativeland is planning a selection of panels and immersive activations with Melanin Unscripted focusing on music, art, and culture in Lagos right before it.

Afrochella was conceptualized by Abdul Karim Abdullah in 2015. Abdullah, along with co-founder Kenny Agyapong, and COO Edward Adjaye, launched the full-scope festival with the hopes of curating a connection to the continent this year, focused on increasing visibility to the rising talent on the continent. Their 2019 theme is “Diaspora Calling,” aiming to promote networking within the Ghanaian community and diaspora, ensure African youth value and celebrate their native cultures while connecting communities through education, fashion, art, music, and business in Africa. 

Community involvement representative Emmanual Ansa states they want the event to become “the impetus and mecca for the celebration of African music, culture, and art.” But amidst the many options on the ground this year to fulfill these missions, where does Afrochella stand, and how does it stand out?

VIBE sat down with the Afrochella co-founder Abdullah to talk about the structural challenges of executing this initiative while appeasing the demands of a growing consumer base, the cultural significance of the event, and envisioning Ghana as a premier frontier for a global black connection.

Can you talk about the origin of Afrochella? What inspired it?

I went to school in Ghana for about seven years, and then I came back to the US and I went to high school in the Bronx—  High School For Teaching And The Professions. I went to Syracuse University in 2006 and got my bachelor's in psychology and biology. And then I got my master's in 2016 at CUNY Hunter college in public health. I've been working in medical research for eight and a half years. But this has been a passion of mine that I've always done on the side, which is throwing African-inspired events.

That’s when my team came together. It started out with me wanting to do a festival here in New York called Native Tongue festival, and that was geared towards food. I just wanted to explain the culture and engage people within the diaspora. But then, on our yearly trip to Ghana, I found that we would gather and we would have a great time, but we couldn't really have that much of an effect once we left. I felt like we could have an effect; we could encourage more people to reach back home and do certain things by creating a space where we can engage each other. I thought there was so much talent coming in from all over the world that were from Ghanian descent or African descent and if we could create a place where we can galvanize all of that and the people that are doing amazing things within those industries, we would be able to create something pretty good. [In] 2017, we decided to do something like that.

How has it changed since 2017? Has it been easier to translate what you're trying to do in terms of this new interest in Africa — Ghana and Nigeria in particular? 

My team is battle-tested. We understand what we have to do in order to make the event successful. But, I wouldn't say it's been easier; each year presented different challenges for us. In year one, it was financial. Until this year, it was navigating bureaucracies. Last year, it was navigating governmental agencies. This year is navigating competition, navigating finding more funding.  One of the things that we noticed about events in Ghana specifically is that once it [nears] completion, people tend to not attend it anymore. What we want to make sure we do is every year we want to increase the amount of people that attend— and each year we have at least by 30 percent. Each year, we've been able to define our message more clearly. 

Talk a little bit about the government in Ghana. How has it been dealing with things on the bureaucracy level?

I would say our event is doing a big service to Ghana. Afrochella has definitely given people an opportunity to visit Ghana. The government should support us in a way that makes gaining access to certain government facilities easier. But that has not been the case. We've had to be very proactive about that with regards to certain policies that may exist that are not written on an online forum. Like in America, if I wanted to do a special event in the park, I'd be able to go to an online source. I'd be able to see all the things that need to do in order to get a specific permit for a specific venue. In Ghana, these things don't exist.

For instance, this year we received an email from some agency. Out of all of the years, we've never communicated with them and in the third year, they're reaching out to us about musician copyrights and, apparently, we have to pay a tax. Those are the kinds of things that we've faced. You can end up paying people that are not actually supposed to get paid. And there's no way of you knowing whether or not it exists or doesn't exist. 

Last year, we had a very weird incident four days before the festival. We were told by the Ministry of Aviation that our stadium is right by the takeoff of the planes leaving Accra. I would think that the venue that we're renting out for this festival would be able to let us know, “hey, you need to do this with the Ministry of Aviation,”— they did not. The day before Christmas, we got a notification that we have to change venues because they feel our lights will interfere with flights taking off. It's, of course, an accident. So, we reached out to the Ministry of Aviation, sat down with the director and devised a plan in order to allow our event to continue. Those are the kinds of things we faced as an event that we are still trying to navigate. Hopefully, as we grow, it will get easier.

Do you think it'll get easier when some type of infrastructure is built to help those types of events move more smoothly?

I think that Ghana is going to have to look itself in the mirror. We all don't know what to expect in December. Because there are a lot of people going to Ghana in December, the anticipation is very high. All the major hotels in Accra are sold out. How Accra responds to the influx of people I think should inform the government on how they should prepare for events and things like this for the future. I do hope that there is an effort created to streamline policies. 

I would like for the government to encourage events. I think events is one of the major drivers of tourism. And if they're paying attention, they will notice that a lot of people are coming to Accra for Afrochella and the events that exist during that last week of Christmas. The double mission is to take a deeper look at this creative industry and figure out a way to encourage that positively in a way that it affects both the people on the ground and the people within the diaspora. 

The government has not been welcoming this with open arms or does it not have any type of structured initiative to help this run smoothly?

I'm not saying that. I just feel like in general, we do not know what changes in infrastructure or policy being made to accommodate the amount of people that are coming in. For instance, with Afrochella we understand that because there's going to be so many people—there was an excessive amount of traffic coming into the stadium last year—that we need to figure out a way to get people to the festival in shuttles. If we can get people that are shuttles, then we could reduce the amount of cars. We reached out to the Ministry of Roads to help us so we can avoid traffic in front of the stadium and that we can make sure that there's a safe way for people to enter. This is some of the planning that we have done. Until now, I personally have not seen any information come out, access [to] policies that exist. 

One of the major complaints that people from the diaspora face when they go to Africa during Christmas time is we feel that we should be having the same sort of customer service that we enjoy abroad. With the influx of people, I think that it's going to get worse.

We just wanna make sure that infrastructure exists to make sure that people that are coming do not disrupt the way of life in Accra.

There are a lot of other events happening around the same time as Afrochella. What is the concerted effort to kind of stand out from the rest?

Our goal is to highlight the thriving millennial talent from within the continent. So we take pride in making sure that we're highlighting people within various industries of food, fashion, music. With our Afrochella Talk series, we’ve been able to highlight people that have been doing amazing things within the creative industry. In December, we'll be doing one on music. And this is an opportunity to be able to educate people on opportunities that may exist within their field or create a platform for people to be able to discuss questions they may have. 

We're also involved heavily in charity. Last year, we supported Water Aid to help provide clean water to families in need. The year before that, we gave out school supplies to kids within Madina Zongo. This year, we're doing charity twofold. We're rebuilding an orphanage school, in Jamestown, Accra and also providing them with school supplies. We call this initiative Afrochella Reads]. We’re also doing Afrochella Feeds on December 26th. 

Our goal when we bring people to Ghana is not just to come and turn up, not just to have a good time, but also to give them a feel of the vibration of the country, what the culture is.For us, it's a holistic approach.

What does the full festival entail?

The festival itself is art, music, food, fashion and all of that culminates in our eyes what culture is. We believe that each part of these is equally as important. Not one part is more important than the other and that we should celebrate them together. In addition to people getting to go to our festival, we also give them the opportunity to be able to engage with the country through our tours, through our charity. The tours and the charity that we do is to make people understand that yes, Africa is a good time— you can go to all the clubs— but we want to make sure you leave and provide an impact at the same time. 

Talk a little bit about the Audiomack rising star challenge and that effort to kind of curate the connection with music and culture.

With the rise of afropop music in America, I feel these artists deserve a chance. Right now, the popular, mainstream artists are the ones that are getting the looks they deserve. But I think that there are a lot of talents that exist from the continent that deserve to showcase their talent.

The other aspect of it is, I feel that people in the continent are using all of these apps and all of these different services and they hardly get to connect with representatives from those services. One of our goals is to make sure that we partner with these companies and give them the opportunity to invest in the talent directly. With Audiomack, we're doing exactly that in that we're giving seven individuals an opportunity to perform at Afrochella. And the one with the most streams, we’re giving them $1,000 towards their career and we’re giving them an opportunity to for a studio session at our partners BBnZ Live. This is one model of the type of partnerships we want to, we look to create with companies in the future. 

Why is this year in particular so important for the reconnection of the diaspora in the context of the 400-year anniversary?

A lot of the conversation between the diaspora and the people from the continent is what makes us different, why we don't get along. What we want to do as a festival is take that conversation and change it into what can we learn from each other and how can we help each other. I think that it's very important that as you see the Chinese and the Japanese and the Americans and everyone reaching for Africa, that we engage the people in the diaspora to make them understand that there are opportunities that exist and there is amazing talent in Africa and they are interested in starting a business and you're interested in developing a space and you can engage with your counterparts on the continent and help build the continent yourself.

I think the more black people we get to invest in the continent, as a whole black will be helping each other. This year is absolutely important and I think that shoutout should go to Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana for declaring this year The Year of Return. Ghana is definitely a good site that people can visit, but we hope that as people enjoy themselves and have that experience that they use that as a platform to visit other African countries and see what opportunities are there for them to be able to leave a lasting impact on the continent.

This interview was lightly edited for clarity.

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