Earlier this month, Alex Macpherson (who writes regularly for FACT, as well as The Guardian and others) wrote an article for Red Bull’s editorial site (separate to Red Bull Music Academy, though obviously connected through parent brand) about Future Brown. The article was later taken down from Red Bull, and links redirected to a more positive piece about the group, whose individual members (J-Cush, Fatima Al Qadiri and Nguzunguzu) have been championed by and collaborated with Red Bull in the past.
In his article, Macpherson wrote that the “album’s major flaw is that it sounds curatorial rather than creative: less the soundtrack to an imagined global dancefloor than to an art installation about exoticised street music”, and draws parallels with London label PC Music’s “amateur takes on happy hardcore” dressed up in “derisory grad student blather”. “At the heart of the Future Brown project”, he concluded, “is a co-option of “hood” artists into a thoroughly bourgeois milieu for the sake of street credibility”.
Macpherson has since uploaded the piece to his Tumblr, where he explains Red Bull’s reasoning for removing the piece (they have “concerns that it represents their official point of view”) and counters this with his own take. More recently, Meaghan Garvey reviewed Future Brown’s debut album for Pitchfork, where she stated that “club music doesn’t need to come with a thesis to be worthy of further investigation … but if you’re going to start a conversation, you should be prepared to finish it, and Future Brown feels overwhelmingly like a bunch of intriguing ideas left to drift off inconclusively.”
Al Qadiri’s Facebook post calls both articles “attacks”, and claims that both writers are “attempting to discredit the Future Brown project by proliferating theories and false notions of a malicious nature that have no factual bearing.” Read her full statement below:
“I want to state in no uncertain terms that there are writers attempting to discredit the Future Brown project by proliferating theories and false notions of a malicious nature that have no factual bearing.
“I’m not the kind person to go after writers who merely dislike the music I’ve made either solo or in a group. There are always good and bad reviews, but criticism should not be confused with theory bordering on slander. To base an argument on fabricated ideas, without quotes and hard evidence to buttress an opinion is a reflection of shoddy journalism. The issue is that these false notions influence readers minds regarding the authenticity of a project, especially when presented as fact on major websites. Unlike these writers, neither of which have interviewed the members of FB in person, I have nothing to hide or fear.
“The first writer, Alex Macpherson, decided to attack FB with an article prefaced “warning: contains theory”. The article is peppered with words like “privilege” and “appropriation” in order to aid a superficial argument and instil validity in his attack.
“Alex does not posses a factual grasp of the economic status of Future Brown members or how the album was funded. Nor does he have access to the friendships pre-existing or forged in the making of this record between the producers and the vocalists. Friendships which he felt entitled to exploit so as to reinforce a false narrative, in one instance accusing me of “name-dropping” HBA and Telfar, from an out-of-context quote regarding fashion and friendship.
“To make matters more personal, he drags my collaboration with GCC (a Gulf-Arab based art collective) into the review of FB’s work utilizing the misconceptions of another writer (Mostafa Hedaya, who’s also never interviewed GCC or demonstrated a thoughtful understanding of that project) is even more perplexing in a supposed music article. The article and its theory contain more contradictions than there is space to address, but this points to perhaps why Redbull UK removed his article from their site.
“The second writer is Meaghan Garvey, writing for Pitchfork, making the false claim that Future Brown is based on a “thesis.” She never quotes FB members once to validate this notion but instead insists that it’s her job to “read between the lines” because Future Brown was involved in 2 museum gigs, and the words supposedly used to describe these events in an interview gave her the right to construct a mystery thesis on behalf of Future Brown. She insists there’s a “fair bit of vague art-school conceptualism floating around the project” but refrains from including any evidence. As if countless music acts haven’t performed at museums without becoming pregnant with an unwanted thesis by a writer. As if musicians haven’t collaborated with artists, like DIS, on their record covers without coming down with a case of “commodity fetishism,” whatever that means. And in many other instances, she seems to be throwing words around to make a point: don’t listen to this record because I find it offensive for disingenuous reasons. Her attack seems all the more hollow by stating “These slapped-on layers of meaning only distract from what this project could be at its best: surprising, accessible, genuinely utopian.” And yes, I agree with Meaghan, these slapped-on layers of meaning invented by uninformed writers are a major distraction from this utopian project.
“In these attacks, the writers are not content to concentrate on the music but are irked by art practices, fashion and aesthetics, claiming that FB is an “art-school” project based in “aesthetic theories,” as if countless musicians in the past and present have not been art-school graduates, not withstanding the fact I never went to art school. As if possessing a personal interest in fashion, art or aesthetics is a damning indictment in this day and age that diminishes the work, prohibiting FB from collaboration with vocalists on a basis of mutual respect for music. These writers seem to be living in a cynical realm divorced from genuine music camaraderie. I doubt such hostile words would be reserved for others (and I will refrain from speaking about race or gender) working in the fields of art and music.
“I’m proud of my work, conceptual and non-conceptual, as a solo artist, as a member of Future Brown and GCC. It has taken me years to get here, without the aid of art school or “art-world connections.” My career has been forged through sheer will. I was fortunate to meet my like-minded friends and allies in New York and mutually prosper in an otherwise monochrome field.
“Writers who see fit to assert a theory or thesis on behalf of an artist when there isn’t one, or posit a privilege or claim of appropriation without access, proof or knowledge, create a hostile environment for artists and readers who demand credible journalism, filled with genuine criticism and facts, good or bad.”