Over the past two years, we’ve been working with DJ and radio producer Anja Ngozi and The Vinyl Factory on a collaborative album and youth project.
Today, we’re delighted to announce Untitled to the world, featuring 18 artists over seven exclusive collaborations, alongside a series of educational workshops which explore the enduring themes presented in the culturally iconic work of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The LP, which will be released on 31st May, features music from a carefully curated selection of artists including Kojey Radical, Mala, Nubya Garcia, Lord Tusk, Joe Armon-Jones, LayFullstop, Coby Sey and Shabaka Hutchings.
In collaboration with The Vinyl Factory and Arts Council England, the project was conceptualised and produced by Lonely Table co-founder Lexy Morvaridi and Anja Ngozi, with the aim of exploring the intersection between different artistic mediums around a social purpose.
“Basquiat saw society for what it was and used his creativity to reflect the issues that affected him most. Untitled is a continuation of these ideals, bringing the themes he presented to a contemporary setting and using music to tackle issues that are still prevalent in today’s society. This album is a visceral response to the times we live in.”
Lexy Morvaridi, Untitled co-producer / Lonely Table
Specifically, the project asks how the experience of visual arts can inspire the creation and development of collaborative music, particularly when oriented around urgent social commentary. Many of the featured artists attended the Barbican Centre exhibition Basquiat: Boom for Real, the first large-scale exhibition of Basquiat’s work in the UK, before being given a blank canvas to collaborate on tracks in response to his legacy.
Basquiat is famously quoted as saying “I don't think about art when I'm working. I try to think about life.'' Reflecting this, soon after the project had begun it became clear that the music would take on a life of its own, becoming much more about the societal themes in Basquiat’s work than about the man himself.
It continues a conversation that, 30 years on from the artist’s death, is still relevant today. This conceptual underpinning pervades the Untitled project, with pertinent themes surrounding ethnic identity, representation and social inequality weaving their way through a dynamic, eclectic collection of tracks, voicing opposition to the same structures of power that Basquiat attacked through his work.
“I loved the idea of bringing together a range of different artists from the UK music scene, all of whose work I admire and respect, and having them collaborate to create something unique in response to an artist who inspired and influenced so many. The artists all had a truly individual direction with their tracks, and really understood the whole ethos behind the project and why we were doing it. I'm so thankful they were all on board and for all the incredible work they've done on this album.”
Anja Ngozi, Untitled co-producer
Alongside the album, Lonely Table and Anja Ngozi worked in partnership with Ruff Sqwad Foundation and Spotlight youth centre to further explore the messages within Basquiat’s work and encourage the ideas and talents of the next generation through a series of workshops. Together we took seven BME 12-18 year olds to visit the Tate Modern to create music in response to what they saw. Two further tracks were created as a result of these workshops, exploring the approach and ideas of Basquiat. Stay tuned for articles covering the workshops and the music created there.
Other artists featured on the album include Maxwell Owin, LayFullstop, Roxanne Tataei, Moroka, AJ Kwame, Wu-Lu, Lex Amor, Ego Ella May, Confucius MC and Kwake Bass (=CoN+KwAkE=). The result is an album which reflects the UK’s ever-expanding musical landscape, touching on dub, jazz, hip-hop, post-punk and ambient, though never settling on one style for too long.
“We really wanted to keep this album as open musically as possible, so I really hope that it speaks to people and they can engage with it on some level. It's also important today that we don't forget these issues and keep the channels open for discussion on issues regarding race, identity and equality.”
It’s clear that the project was an inspiring process for all involved. Speaking of his own connection to Basquiat’s work, Shabaka Hutchings said:
“What inspires me most is his ability to project the idea that aesthetics governing a (maybe imagined) past, whereby artistic endeavour was employed out of necessity and urgency, results in work which resides both in the past and the present. This adherence to a duplicity of mental timeframes is the spirit which I like to inform my own practice.”
While LayFullstop encapsulates the project:
“We're celebrating a legend who fought with his brushes and spoke with his work. The need for his work is still as current as ever. The issues we're attacking are still as current as ever. So it's only logical that Basquiat is and will continue to be as current as ever.”
Various Artists - Untitled
Wu-Lu, Lex Amor, Ego Ella May - ‘Legend’
LayFullstop, Moroka, AJ Kwame - ‘Broadcast By Chocolate’
Lord Tusk ft. Roxanne Tataei - ‘Know Ways’
Kojey Radical, Shabaka Hutchings - ‘No Gangster’ (Produced by Kz)
Mala, Joe Armon-Jones, Nubya Garcia - ‘Scratch & Erase’
=CoN+KwAkE= - ‘Same Ol Samo’
Maxwell Owin & Coby Sey - ‘Response to Michel’