All photos: Tristan McDonald
David Aidoo is a breath of fresh air. Providing personal insight through heartfelt and unfiltered lyricism, the audio-visual artist has already been making waves through 2016 with album 21 & Done.
Releasing under the moniker ThisisDA, Aidoo grew up between London and Bristol. Surrounded by white people until he started secondary school, Aidoo says the transition had a profound effect on his music. “The whole jump of culture was weird to me; it was a complete shift in understanding what life was about. Recently I’ve been trying to record conversations so I can sample them and put them into songs – I feel like I hear a lot of things that spark my interest when it comes to making music. Your environment is the key factor in making music, if you ignore it, you’re not really going to make good music.”
“I’ve always felt that I’ve been pushed into the ‘Black Bristol Rappers’ box and it’s not really who I am”
Navigating between these two distinctly different environments has allowed Aidoo to surpass the confining boundaries of UK rap. Like many of us during our teenage years, indie music was inescapable and now as an adult, ThisisDA is using it to channel his ideas with the world. “I work with bands on a general basis; I was on the Sumo Chiefs album and I’ve worked with Oliver Wilde as well,” he says. On how this relates to his own music, he explains, “The esoteric lyrics in ‘indie’ are way more fulfilling than hip-hop. Hip-hop can sometimes be so candid, so straight to the point that when you’re listening to it you immediately know what the rapper is going through.”
Expressing his dual consciousness with vocal experimentations to create his own unique blend of harmony and melody in arrangements, his tracks feel familiar yet fresh. “I get my influence from so many outlets so it’s a natural thing for me to change my sound. I’ve never been the sort of person to do what everyone else is doing. I listen to a lot of mainstream hip-hop but I also listen to everything I can do, from The Beatles to Pixies. I’ve been listening to a lot of ScHoolboy Q lately too.”
“I’VE NEVER BEEN THE SORT OF PERSON TO DO WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING”
Besides his nostalgic affection for indie, art in the broader sense is increasingly playing a significant role in Aidoo’s work. In October, he was involved in an evening of music and art – Don’t Trust These Walls – accompanied by Beulah Davina and his brother, Eric Sings. “I’m not an artist as such, that exhibition was the first thing I’d done. I used to draw majorly as a child but I haven’t for years.” But in 2017, Aidoo aims to incorporate more visual elements into his work. “I have a video mash-up that I’ve done which is loads of 80s commercials and weird film bits that we intend to show through a projection. I’m more into the filming side of things, especially moving images.”
Judging from his music videos, it’s no surprise to learn that Aidoo helped curate the Black Lives On Film event at Watershed. An alumnus of the BFI Film Academy and the National Film School, Aidoo is committed to changing the narratives surrounding the representation of black people on screen and in the wider creative industries. “I feel like we’re always put into a box. As a black person you’re ‘this kind of artist’ or ‘that kind of artist’, you can’t just be a human individual. You’re a black guy from ‘that place’ so you must be representing ‘this’. I’ve always felt that I’ve been pushed into the ‘black Bristol rappers’ box and it’s not really who I am.”
Affected by the inaccurate and demonising portrayal of young black men in film, Aidoo remembers an encounter he had with the directors of Kidulthood. “I got into a massive argument with [Kidulthood dir. of photography] Brian Tufano. He was doing a talk with [the director] Menhaj Huda, and they showed the first film they made together in the 90s. It was about a group of black boys after school who clashed with a group of Asian kids. The two groups got into a fight and one of the black kids ends up stabbing one of the Asian kids. When the film finished, the whole cinema was silent. Everyone was there to obviously study the cinematography of it; I just put my hand up to ask ‘what was the point in that film?’”
“For many black people, this is how we’re used to seeing ourselves presented by the white male-dominated creative industries. When you’re not part of the marginalised group you’re presenting, you escape the implications of negative and false stereotypes,” he continues. “They get to select what’s on TV – it just fucks everyone up. The majority of people on Earth are coloured, they’re not white, so we’re not the minority. We deserve to say whatever we feel like; if the media want to censor that, we’ll find another outlet.”
For Aidoo, artists of colour and consumers alike need to look forward: “You need to be realistic about the situation black people are in… We need to make moves internally and keep collaborating with people.”
ThisisDA and NTS Radio are curating a show at The Crofter’s Rights on 22nd Jan, which will see ThisisDA perform, with Bad Sounds, Eskimoe and Kojey Radical also playing. Check out ‘The Sufferbus’ below.