Our partners at AFROPUNK, a cultural movement that celebrates black punk rock in America, kicked off this summer’s series of events with the 2017 Afropunk Battle of the Bands Semifinal in NYC. The critically-acclaimed competition offers lesser-known bands the chance to play the bigger AFROPUNK stage with well-known acts. We had a chance to catch up with this year’s semi-final winners before they move on to the Battle of the Bands final round on August 11 at the Knitting Factory. Read on to meet, learn about and listen to: Tang Sauce, Courtnee Roze, Qaasim and the Juggernaut War Party, Ethan Piper and The Instigation and Shacar.
How was your Afropunk experience this year?
Incredible. I loved the vibe, and really enjoyed the opportunity to perform and network —the audience was so open minded and welcoming. It felt great to show Brooklyn how the culture from where I’m from (Hartford, CT) approaches Hip-Hop, and to have DJ Stealth right there behind me truly locked that feeling in.
How did growing up in Hartford influenced your music?
It gave me nuanced opportunities to rise up to, and amazing artists to work with and look up to. I’ve played my style of music in unusual settings, and had to adapt to that setting on my own. I’ve had people to look up to that gave me wisdom, trained me, and made me give more of myself than I knew I had.
What music are you obsessed with right now?
Beyonce! I am blown away by how amazing she is. Growing up, I was so drawn into Hip- Hop, I barely checked any other genre out, so many of her songs are new to me.
How’d did it feel to win a finalist spot at Afropunk?
Afropunk represents a large portion of who I am as an artist. I knew I would bring a visual and sound that has never been tapped into on Afropunk’s platform. So, it felt exciting. It felt like I was understood. It felt like my out of the box work was celebrated and appreciated. It felt extraordinary.
How did growing up in Harlem and living in NYC influence your music?
Back in the day, Harlem was the definition of cultural excellence for me. My discovery of Harlem’s street musicians, parades and street performances influenced my music. I was very intrigued by the choreography, costumes, drums, rap battles, break dancing and beat boxing that surrounded me in New York City. Hearing and seeing that rainbow of culture as a kid is what molded me into the creative musician I am today.
What made you decide to start playing the drums?
My mom was a professional dancer (African, hip hop, house etc.). She would take me to every dance class and performance possible. My mom was the type of mom that stood firm on her children not hanging out in front of the building, but instead always having something productive to do. I went to my first drum class at the age of 7 and never left. That was the beginning of my career as a musician.
What’s the best way for people to find your music and where to see you perform – other than August 11 for the Finals?
I have a residency at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, but YouTube, Soundcloud, Instagram and my Facebook fan page have the most recent updates.
Qaasim and the Juggernaut War Party
What made you decide to enter the Afropunk Battle of the Bands again?
Because of its ingenious value to the community of artists regionally and nationally. It was mad humbling and educational to hit that stage. We’d like to do it until eventually we get hired to come in and perform and hit the stage on an annual basis.
You’ve had a long musical career at a young age. How is playing for the Afropunk crowd different?
Being on HBO’s The Music in Me nationally showcased me as a young artist. Playing with the Naked Brothers Band taught me how to play guitar, and American Idol taught me how to actually perform: singing, dancing and playing the guitar. Playing Afropunk actualized these elements to the real world. Afropunk gives me the opportunity to incorporate those same skills with my own original music, in my hometown.
What are you working on now?
Original music, due to be promoted at the end of the summer/beginning of fall with a college and city tour; all whilst still forming what it means to truly be Juggernaut.
What prompted you to start playing guitar?
I always loved electric guitar, and decided to teach myself in 7th grade when my friends and I really got into The Clash and The Sex Pistols. The music felt explosive and the distorted guitar tunes were very simple and accessible.
What song or artist can you not get enough of right now?
Betty Davis, “If I’m in luck I just might get picked up”. A 1973 song that I just discovered and can’t get out of my head — she just may be the original Afropunk poster child.
What’s the best way for people to find your music and where to see you perform – other than August 11 for the finals?
We often play at Pianos NYC on Ludlow Street, on Thursday nights, about every other month. Piano’s has been very good to me for years, and it’s sort of our home base.
What made you decide to enter the Afropunk Battle of the Bands?
I saw something online last year about the Battle of the Bands and I thought: I want to play that, I can play that and I can win that. My music has a message that people need to hear and Afropunk’s platform fits best for it, especially in this moment.
How did growing up in Florida influence your sound?
Florida gave me history — past experiences to talk about — or things I couldn’t say to my home because I moved to NYC. Actually, NYC has influenced the majority of my music, and gave me a sense of freedom to really find myself, my sound and what I wanted to explore.
What song or artist can you not get enough of right now?
I’m vibing to SZA heeeaavy right now, Vince Staples just dropped a new project, and Jay-Z’s album is on fire.