Latasha Alcindor Is Turning New York Hip-Hop On It's Head

Credit: Benjamin Toren

Credit: Benjamin Toren

Objectively speaking, Latasha Alcindor is one of the best raw spitters in New York. Nevermind gender. Nevermind the “scene,” or musical subgenre – put her on a stage, and watch her go up against anyone. We've watched her evolution for several years now at Cypher League, and have always been enamored with her well-rounded projects that cull from seemingly every aspect of her Brooklyn-born, AfroLatina lineage.

So far in 2017, Latasha has taken us B(LA)K to the future with Teen Nite At Empire, a 13-track EP that reflects on her formative years in a now-rapidly changing Brooklyn. Latasha worked with her producer to ingeniously bring new life to several staples of her days at the Empire Skating Rink's Teen Nite. She references Trick Daddy's “Shutup” on the dire “Breakthru,” and gives us remnants of “Get At Me Dog” on “Don't Be Mad,” where she lets us know she's “making sure I shine so bright you can't shame me.”

Woman empowerment is a prominent theme of Teen Nite..., undoubtedly spawned by breakthroughs that she reveals throughout the project, most notably on the daringly transparent “Affirming:Life.” I recently got to ask her some questions related to the project, her growth as an artist, and her upcoming All A Dream performances, which she says “looks like New York on its head:”

What made you want to go back to the essence of the Empire Rink at this point of your life? Was there an epiphany?

I've been believing this thought that if I go back to the essence of where I fell in love with Hip Hop, that I might create the Hip Hop that I loved. Teen Nite's at Empire were the first time that I was in some sort of nightlife setting wilding for respect to my favorite tunes from Ruff Ryders to Shabba Ranks, so I'm not sure when but I knew I needed to tap in to bring that element to the Nowness of rap.

How much input did you have in the actual crafting of the production? What were those recording sessions like, adding so much movement and sonic influence into these songs?

I actually created the project by going back to Hot 97 mixtapes and grabbing my favorite instrumentals from the mixtapes and freestyling or writing over them in my crib. Once I finished writing, I would record the verse in my little basement room on my little Apogee USB mic and then I would send a reference and an acapella to my producer Kaui. I told Kaui that I wanted to create music that was pretty sample free but had elements of what we grew up on.

So I would send him the verse and he would make a beat around my vocal. We would go back and forth sometimes until we had exactly what we wanted. The process was on and off for few months until we finally nailed it. Then we got my homie Ken I Produce to mix and master at the EyeStayGold studios and dubbed the skits like in a few days. The sessions were pretty much divinity. I don't remember writing much of the music Cause I usually write at 3am-8am so everything was this haze of God Magic.

Are any of the samples on the project tied to a particularly impactful memory/moment from the rink?

Every song is referenced from some song that I loved. I actually wrote on "knuck if you buck" for "breakthru", "You're a jerk" for "Glo Up" and a bunch more. We tried to stay sample free so Kaui would usually create something new from the references and acapella I would send the ideas from those songs.

Credit: Benjamin Toren

Credit: Benjamin Toren

From “Revoke Thee” to “Affirming Life,” there's some powerfully personal stuff on here. How valuable is it for you as a human being to spill those raw emotions, turn it into something that resonates – and then be able to push them into the world and realize how many people relate?

My purpose and gift is to make myself as vulnerable as I can be because I feel we all have the same emotions caused by different situations. Whether there are 5 people who can come up to me and say "wow, that song spoke to me it was my life," or thousands of people can vibe out during a concert. The most valuable part of what I do is to have people resonate and relate to my life story, we are all human.

How long did it take to not only come to the conclusions you reached on “Affirming:Life,” but to embody them? What was that spiritual growth like?

I'm still in that process everyday but the main resolution I have made in my life is love. Be love for my people, my self, my family, my art and let everything else just flow through. A lot of my music is from a higher self and so I let her speak. I'm just a vessel.

What do you think is the relation between overcoming the trials conveyed throughout the project, reaching a balance on “Affirming:Life” and then experiencing the positive circumstances reflected in project closer “What's Next?” Is there a narrative at play with the sequencing?

Like most of my projects there is definitely a journey of sorts that I am hitting on. But honestly I rather the audience decide what to take from it, for me the story is about the conflicts of growing up in the hood and the freedoms.

What made you choose Radamiz for “Ol BK Soul?” How did the idea come about for you two to celebrate Brooklyn – and New York?

Radamiz is fam from time and avid supporter of my art ,so when it came to an authentic Brooklyn sound, I called on the fam.

If you had limitless resources and could take the project on national tour, what would your set look like? What kind of theatrics or other elements would you have?

Glad you asked that! I'm working on a full production right now, ALL A DREAM which includes performance art, documentary, dance and music from all my music of 2017 albums.

Did you ever envision creating a project like this during those times at Empire?

I always envisioned my music being more than a concert, I always seen it as an experience. My mind already seen this and now it's about execution.

"All A Dream" debuts August 19th @ National Sawdust. You can purchase tickets here.


Andre Gee