I’m tired. Tired of waiting on other people to give me the key to share my own work. I’m not sure how to work around it just yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.
Last year, I went to Dubai for Sole DXB, one of the highlights of my career so far. A group of us lot from London in Dubai causing a madness? Come on. Skepta and Little Simz were headlining, Stormzy was the special guest, and SLOCAL, Crepe City and Trapstar were out there too. It was more than a special moment, and we all felt it.
Anyway, I wrote a piece for a pretty well-known music & culture publication – we agreed on the content and my submission. When you are a freelance writer, your attendance at these events ride on making sure you have content – so it was crucial I composed the scheduled pieces and delivered. Unfortunately, my photos and copy (article) were never downloaded from the wetransfer link on the other end. I’ll be honest – I’ve created content that hasn’t gone up in the end too, but more my own work I didn’t end up having time to edit and upload.
Almost one year on, this content is still not shared. At the end of it all, I want people to be able to access and share joy. I have left the copy as it was last redrafted a few months ago, and to be honest, I just want to share what a special time this was and how big it was for the mandem and gyaldem to be out sharing Art in Dubai thanks to Sole DXB.
As we gear up for Sole DXB 2017, Almass Badat focuses on family and community, releasing never-before-seen imagery and conversation bites from some of the leading creative pioneers at last year’s festival.
It’s always gratifying to receive recognition and have a platform for your work, but even better to enjoy the fruits of your labour with the ones you keep close. Last year, I attended Sole DXB - founded by three friends Raj, Josh and Hussain in 2010, Sole is growing as one of the leading geographical points for street culture in the East. The festival draws heavily from Hip Hop, inviting sneakerheads, DJs and musicians, ballers and music enthusiasts from around the world to celebrate a weekend of creativity otherwise unseen in the Dubai. In addition to the festival’s Hip Hop roots, Sole DXB 2016 focused on bringing together UK Hip Hop and Grime music, culture, and people. Amongst those representing onstage, Skepta (with a surprise appearance from Chip) and Little Simz headed the line up while Stormzy came through as adidas’ surprise guest. Rounding up culture and apparel were Crepe City, Art Comes First and Trapstar, who hosted conversational sessions. Slocal also took over the festival’s radio station and opened for Skepta – and in hindsight, it felt pretty damn good to be in the desert with a bunch of sun-starved Londoners.
“It’s all about community”, Crepe City’s Morgan Weekes told me. We found a spot of much needed shade in the midst of the festival, in between checking out the sellers, basketball games and brand stations. “Crepe City works to bring people together”, begins Morgan. Both Morgan and business partner Ron Raichura co-founded the UK’s largest online sneaker forum, and at Sole, hosted a talk on their ethos and journey on the Sneaker Boom stage. While there is obvious hype around sneakers and sneaker culture, Morgan and Ron focus on the people. “The BBQs, photo meet-ups, pub quizzes and charity events outside of the main Crepe City festival come out of our pockets, and it’s a way to give back and thank everyone for supporting us”, explained Ron. The duo are passionate about using their platform and love for sneakers as the unifier for community building and support, and they’re not alone. Crepe City have since hosted a number of charity-focused ventures, as well as executing the first Crepe City of 2017 in March with Air Max Day.
As far as supporting each other goes, festivals like this give birth to connecting the dots. I met up with Chicago-born AJ Adams, Co-Creator of the underground Hip Hop night Dubai Street Jam. AJ is now based in Dubai and is at the helm of this wave. “I call my generation the Culture Cowboys”, he explains. “We are third generation kids who have no culture as we are so displaced from calling anywhere home. We absorb everything - as this city is so shallow, we’re starving to create and connect. I bring through talent on an uncensored platform, and trust me, Dubai has talent”. He has a point. At first glance, Dubai may seem to be hardly anything beyond the skyscrapers, yet beneath the city’s exterior is a clean canvas. The likes of AJ take advantage of Sole DXB to cultivate the beginnings of the fast-growing community in the UAE, and I look forward to seeing how much the scene has now grown since we spoke. As I continue to explore the festival, most conversations seem reflective. Pushing integrity and expression comes a sense of duty- a belief that Trapstar Co-Founder Mikey echoes. “As a brand, we were born out of struggle, and when we got our foot in the door, we realised that we had a responsibility. Now we have missions and always try to add to them. For example, Trapstar supports new music artists – we have a duty to the culture, and as it gets bigger we can open more doors. Right now we’re here in Dubai and reppin’ the UK. Couple years ago we were just trying to rep London, and before that we were trying to do right by the mandem. So as things change, we try our hardest to be mindful and responsible.”
I feel positive in returning to Sole to see how it's part-generated, part-organic vibe cultivates, and I anticipate what Raj, Josh and Hussain have up their sleeves this time around. If there is one thing I came back to London with last time, it was a feeling of elation. As UK culture continues to plant seeds around the world, there is comfort in knowing that we can now link up with, tun up with, and lean on family from home turf along the way. Spaces like Sole DXB are fantastic when bringing together familiar faces, but also push us to use our skills and talents to strengthen new creative relationships around the world. “Everybody is equal”, as Skepta said at the close of the festival. “Fuck celebrities, I hate them. This is some family shit, and we’re in the future. It’s a gang ting till death. No Ego. If you came here with your day one and your friend for life, this is your time”. See you at Sole DXB 2017.
Thank you Eddie who supported me through the sleepless nights of editing and redrafting this bad boy. You're a real one.