SPEAKING WITH TAUPE Y BEIGE
N: Design - Specifically Architecture and Interior Design have always been close to my heart. With the idea that every design choice is fueled by not only the needs and wants of the end user but the unknown pleasures and desires that only the creator can conceive. recently i've found a new way to conjure the flow for my creative essence .In the fall of 2016 I began moonlighting as muse and figurative modeling. For me it marks a full circle moment in my life. When I first moved to New York I weighed 260 lbs, years prior at my heaviest I weighed 330 lbs and I wore a 44 inch waist. So I was a big boy. The time when I am musing I become in tune with my body and can even go deeper into my existence to find the source of my inner self and go beyond.
K: I don’t think I knew you then...
N: No you didn't know me then but I had a tremendous weight loss. During the time when I first moved to New York I started working for this design firm,as Creative Director/Designer. The work was critically acclaimed and received many honors and awards. I was heavily involved in at times many stressful operations. I enjoyed Prototyping and designing fine art wallpaper collections as was it fascinating as the walls are often the most overlooked detail in many cases. My work was exhibited across the world but I think throughout that time I was just trying to make sense of how I wanted a different more intimate relationship with design clients. The shallowness and shocking behaviour of colleagues was wearing me thin.
N: Consciously, because so much of what the design world is, is about outside aesthetics. I mean no one respects your opinion unless you look a certain way and that's just what it is. For me that weight loss was a huge turning point and when I left the design firm in 2016, I took that year to focus on myself and truly nurture myself Creatively, Spiritually and Physically. I started a regular yoga practice,running 3 to 9 miles daily, biking, eating consciously started exercising daily and it just made such a big difference and my mood lifted. I was really depressed before that time because I had gone through so much trying to gain respect among my colleagues and it's hard to commit yourself to building a brand and give your all and know that it's not being appreciated or reciprocated in any way from the other party.
I discovered how rewarding it could be working solo, developing Interior Design projects for residential and commercial clients. I often spend my time creating custom art objects for private clients. In this I found focus channeling my Creativity and Innovation into each project. In October of 2016 I started figurative modeling to go deeper still into my depths.
K: What made you decide to do that, it's not a very common choice...
N: Absolutely not, i'm sure of it.While studying at the Savannah College of Art and Design I took several Drawing classes and I had never really considered the complexities of the human form. I gained a deep reverence the lines of the body. I feel we all have different bodies and we are all are complex in our own bodies. I think that the nuances that come between them are really beautiful. I formed relationships with a couple of muses throughout my time in college and I just always remember having so much respect for what they did and feeling like they were so powerful to be able to command a room not speaking, not doing anything, not moving. Completely garnering your attention for the time that they're on the podium.
My story is best told in my body for the longest time I was obese and overweight which lead to depression and body dysmorphia, triumph of the will can overcome
When I thought about doing it, it was really me coming to that place of, comfort with the body in which live and this was a breakthrough. I've already designed something, changed my life and , so what can I do now that can enrich someone else but then also help me share myself with the world and that's how I came to figurative modeling. It's the only thing that is a silent collaboration, truly. You are engaging with this artist who needs inspiration for maybe a light pattern or a texture and that comes from you. Totally original. Totally Abstracted by the artist and that dialogue that happens I think is so romantic, so sensual but just what it is. It's the beginning of something. It started with that. Because of the time that I spent doing so much yoga I had a really good sense of how to move my body and how to engage certain areas.
Practicing the Stanislavski technique of focusing energy into this one character. Married with Kriya yogic meditation to maintain a certain breathing pattern. It's difficult but also has been very integral in me becoming more comfortable and finding a performative presence without even speaking. All while traveling in my minds depths.
Considering I took the stage on August 21,2017 to perform my music, that first show followed the most wonderous celestial event, a total solar eclipse. It wasn’t difficult for me to get on stage, the room was maybe stocked with 60 people or so. It wasn't difficult to be there physically but it was hard to reign in on all those things that you don't have control over. The sound, the mic, Are people paying attention? Once I started performing all of that stuff came together and that's the magical thing about music and being a performer and entertaining. Music has such an interesting way of cutting through bullshit
That's what enjoy. I love design for how it can change people's lives so intimately. But I think that music is unpretentious and it's understandable by everybody. Design just isn't that way. I want to make something that can have a lasting effect for generations , lasting power
K: Interesting that you say music isn't pretentious I hadn’t thought about it in that way.
N: [Claps his hands] It comes from anything, like anything! It's so humble and I think that we all know it. You hear a beat and it makes your body ungulate immediately. You don’t have to know how to read or be really smart you know what I mean. The world that we live in right now is so divided in so many ways especially in America as far as racial tension goes. Any way that we can cut through difference is important.
One of the tracks that I played during the show is called ‘flashback.’ It was actually inspired by a piece of philosophy, Plato’s “Allegory of The Cave.”
Where he talks about some prisoners who are chained to a wall in a cave and all that they can see are these shadows on the cave wall. So it’s this idea that you're placed this false reality and you're given everything and told to accept it the way it is and the way you we see it. But the prisoner eventually break free of those chains to move outside of the cave realizing that everything that they've come to know, understand and love is not real.
This sort of disillusionment that comes with living in the world when you finally get away from something that's been causing so much pain you realize things can be better or maybe they're just really fucked up. ‘Flashback’ takes inspiration from this great piece of philosophy.
K: When did you first read that?
N: Years ago. It's weird how information resurfaces . Because I wrote the song maybe six months ago and I when I wrote it, I didn't really have the text in mind and I came across ‘the cave’ again and I was like oh my gosh this is exactly it. The mood is absolutely captured and I think it's something that's important to where we live right now. Everybody's been in a situation where you felt like the were stuck. Whether it's a job, a relationship, a living situation, you begin to accept the way your world is. You feel like I can't change it and there's no way it's too hard. But they’re just chains. Physical or metaphorical chains they can always be broken, there's always a way to cut those strings. It’s an important thing to put out there that you can change it and you’re in control of your own destiny. This project ‘The Lament Marathon’ as a whole, once it’s finish will speak to every aspect of that. I want everyone to think about the places they’ve been in life and the places they are going and where they are presently and how each of those things affects each other.
K: Where do you feel that you are presently?
N: I’m in this transformative space. I feel new every day that I wake up. Nothing feels right or the way it has always been. It feels like I'm constantly rediscovering everything. That to me is the way the world truly is or should be if you want to be a real active presence aspect the world.
K: Do you stay tapped in to the news and social media...not that we have to get into politics but how do you make sense of what is going on, where are you at with that?
N: I really try and stay clear of mainstream media. I'm always one for direct information Although I love things like Twitter and I appreciate things like Instagram. I’m also a very visual person too, so the more that I can see things first hand I appreciate it. In some ways I'm also a little reluctant to accept a lot of it because it's so hard to consume.
Take a moment to consider some of the protests that are going on like Charlottesville or otherwise. That stuff is really graphic and it's hard to see. Today where we live in that age of technology and everything is accessible whether you're there or not. You can be halfway around the world and still experience something first hand. In a lot of ways that’s so troubling but it's also really necessary to the world that we live in. I couldn't imagine what it would be like going back to a time where everybody didn't have a cell phone in their pocket or we couldn't document everything. As much as it's really scary and hard to watch sometimes it's actually the way we need to be. We need to accept change and push towards the future but also be cognisant in the sense of what we say and what we do because it's all going to be documented for us to perhaps reference later and it might not be something that we may want referenced. Racism in America and hate crimes in America, all those things that are just really ugly. They can't go away.
Just like every other atrocity they're going to need to be rectified at some point in time. It's going to have to start with each and every one of us. The man in the mirror, Michael Jackson. [laughs] We have the cause for change. So if that means we're outside taking photos, snapping and documenting something that’s going on, then that's one aspect of it but we also have to be held accountable. The world needs more empathy. Do you care for your fellow man in the way that you would hope to be treated?
K: Does any of that reflect in the music you're working on?
N: That’s something that's always on my mind. ‘The cave’ is a great reference and a great example of how we are. Metaphorically every one of us in America is chained to a cave wall right now. We can't even see what other possible America there could be. We're only still in these chains because we were so many years ago. I'm saying black people or white people or hispanic people or anybody who's been held back in America at any point in time we're still in those chains. That's what the protesting is, it’s rebellion against something that you feel oppressed by. Realistically there's no reason for us to protest Trump because he’s not the one really in charge. I mean there's a larger system that's acting that we're not truly engaging with in the nature that we should. So we’re out in the streets grieving and that does nothing. I hope to include more stuff like that in the project and create a full circle thing that people can understand and take a step back from their own life.
K: Yeah. It's a bizarre time where I feel like if you say something againsts the “social justice warrior” rhetoric it becomes problematic.
N: I feel like a lot of people who go out and protest they don't even know why they are protesting. We have to get to the bottom of where our pain comes from only then can we live in a bright future.
K: Yeah I totally get that.
N: I think it's time for everybody to rage against the machine. Like rage against your parents, rage against your spouse, your neighbors. I mean like everything that's not working in your life I think we need to question it. It's the only way you can get closer to a place of truth. Like I said before in 2016 I took that year to focus on me because I needed to extract all the stress that was going on in my life, away. that meant people, what I was choosing to engage in the most sincere way. Within that time it was cathartic to get to that place of joy. I know now that health is something that I always need to keep in mind. The day that I don’t go out and have some type of physical activity or engage with nature or talk to someone I love, that’s when my spirit goes down. I try to be a positive person in every way that I can. I have to stay positive, stay on my path and keep going.
K: Yes! Those are key elements man! When did you start making music...have you always been into music?
N: I've always been into music. When I was a kid I took piano lessons, I was in band and I played the flute I was actually second chair in the band. I’ve always had that in my head, always loved Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind and Fire. This is the stuff my parents would dance to in the living room with each other. All my memories of music are very romantic and wrapped up in people and experiences and places. To take on this project I wanted to curate that. That soundtrack behind an experience because so much of life is paired with music. Your wedding day or a funeral. The power that comes from it and the stories that can be told are so interested. Being that I was an interior designer for so many years I understand how to tell a story even if it's just in a collection of objects. With that in mind, to do it sonically is interesting.
Working directly with myself, like teaching myself on garageband or getting tidbits of information from a producer friend or other musician friend and putting that all together and creating a series of really bad demos [laughs] that’s how I got started. My friend Bosco, suggested submit my work for a residency at Converse Rubber Tracks which I secured in January of 2016. I appreciated the knowledge I got from the staff and engineers while recording there.
All these people were helpfulin helping develop a sound and also nurturing in the sense that they helped me get to the right places or helped me get studio time or create the sounds that I’m sharing with you today.
K: There’s a difference when there is soul in something. You can feel it...can’t be taught.
Have your parents heard your music?
N: My parents have heard my music. The creation of a sound that people can connect with is important. That’s why I think music is the most grand design. You hear it, you feel it and that’s what matters.
K: What do they think of it?
N: I have to talk about this stuff because it’s interesting. So the eclipse. In 1999 there was a solar eclipse it actually happened on my birthday.
K: When is your birthday?
N: August 11th. Being that I’m a Leo the sun carries tremendous weight for me.
But my parents throughout my life even now they are so proud of me.
I booked my first show in Brooklyn on August 21st they were really excited,the day after the solar eclipse which made landfall in Charleston only after crossing the entire continental United States. On that day I talked to my mom in the morning and I was just really excited because of the eclipse and getting ready for the show. But later that afternoon my dad had a stroke and had to be sent to the hospital, to the ICU.
The Sun has so tremendous energy in it and when you see the solar eclipse the moon covers this surging gaseous mass that's 400 million miles away.
K: I can’t fathom how far that really is...
N: It’s so Fantastic, truly an act of God that we’re witnessing. The sun is 400 million miles and the moon is exactly 4 times as far away from it, so for us they appear to be of the same size in the sky and that’s why you have the eclipse where the moon covers the sun. In that time when the moon covers the sun you can see the sun’s atmosphere in the form of these corona that are reaching out from the shadow. This is so beautiful, the idea of it was on my mind that week and knowing that my parents were going to see it and everyone I know growing up that still lives in Charleston was going to experience this thing, I was inspired.
The sun's energy is tremendous and so much stuff has been happening to me personally leading up to this event and after especially with my dad having the stroke. So here again, looking at the past and understanding the present and how it can inform the future. This eclipse was something that I knew about even in 1999 when the first one happened on my birthday. I remember them projecting the next one to be in 2017. I think it's really interesting that I'm entering this place of transformation right as the moon is making this very simple trip across the face of the sun. It’s something that we could all ignore but it's so momentous and it happens so rarely. Also over land, like I don't think people realize that eclipses happen all the time but they mostly happen over the ocean. So perhaps it's happening over land could be God saying “look pay attention.” This time that were in in America is so pivotal, everyone is so polarized, people are saying and doing unspeakable things. We’re just in a new place and for me to take on this project right now feels so right.
N: I had all these emotions but I still felt uplifted enough to continue in hopes that it would inspire someone else. That’s what music is for, it’s not necessarily about the person that’s delivering it. I just want to be a vessel. That’s what I pray for every night, that’s what I hope for, to inspire someone to do something better than they did the day before. Weather it’s me making music, designing someone’s home, taking a podium as a figurative model, they all work in the same way because it’s enriching people.
K: All very bold things.
N: Very bold. I'm very comfortable now in my skin and that took a long time. I definitely would say like after the weight loss I suffered from,body dysmorphia and the most interesting thing about figurative modeling is that it actually is one of the jobs I can think of that pulls in race, body issues, gender, sexuality ,all these things, make an intersection here whether you realize it or not. For me the nude form isn’t sexual at all. It’s just a body, you have one I have one we live in it.
The social constructs that we've all come to accept make us have feelings that might be sexual or gender or race focused when you’re talking about the body. All of these subject that I’m talking about I’ve come across in my time. People have been out right racist. I was modeling recently with another black model, it was a months pose and we had this romantic gaze into each other's eyes because we were to be two lovers falling in love in a park
K: Do they give you a prompt when you get there?
N: It’s normally a collaboration between the model and the artist. You create the pose based on what they’re looking for. So here we are two lovers. I was with this other black model and She and I were on our break from the pose and we were talking off to the side and this Latin women walks up to us and does a gesture where she puts her hand up to my arm.- Now, you have your own racial background but there are two things that she did. She encroached on one’s space without asking and she also did a “paper bag test” as that's known. Now I completely understand that this woman is an artist and the mind of an artist is perhaps inconsiderate at times. She forgot to introduce herself or to perhaps in some way say ” hi thank you for posing for us, your skin is great .I’d love to get a closer look at it so I can render it better.” I got that that is what she wanted to do, but she didn’t she just acted. So only left with her actions.I expressed to her that I got her intentions but that it is important to just ask. We’re people and to always remember that.
It’s not just about the surface, things go a lot deeper especially with artists. They’re sensitive people and they are the best barometer for the times and for the zeitgeist were in right now.
K: Would I ever do that? Would I ever be willing to strip down on some, not just physically but on some heavy emotional shit and be willing to look at a rooms work and understand that this is how this person sees me. I guess it’s really the ultimate exercise about how we see ourselves.
N: Suddenly you’re in a very different space by striking a pose in room that’s populated with people who are looking at you. There have been times when I’ve been on the podium and this is 15 minutes in to a 20 minute pose and I have some sort of insecurity or embracing itch. It’s not on my face, it’s nowhere for anyone to see but it’s there. With my breath I can steady my mood, ease my mind.
K: What do you do with that?
N: You put it away because it’s not there, or so you think, truly. But acknowledging the source of the emotion ,this feeling, to embrace the emotion and not let it control your actions. This is the essence of why I started because I wanted to get inside of my head and get in to this performative headspace and you have to give up a lot and the amount of humility that comes with removing one’s clothes and stepping onto a podium is just enough to get you there. I strike powerful poses and it’s all perception, The Fencer, you’re perceiving yourself to be this mood so you are, even The Matador. We all have to get past ourselves at a certain point and live in the present moment. I love myself a lot more now than I did in the past. Posing is meditation, it’s inspiring to spend such time with myself all while inspiring others.
K: What you said before really stands out to me, about giving things up. I’ve found that to be tremendously important this past year. Giving things up that have weighed me down, thoughts about self and ways of being...and asking people in my life how it is for them to know me, or be my friend of partner how is it for you. Hearing how it is for them and giving up the idea of myself...good, bad, ugly or indecisive.
N: All those things can informed so much. For me so much of my life I’ve strived for consistency. Consistency in my person and how I’m projecting out into the world. The moment that you are not the same people don’t know how to feel. Creatively speaking thats coming soon developing these Taupe Sounds! Giving you what you didn't know you wanted to hear!
N: I’m really excited and looking forward to finishing this project. For now,have two singles, ‘Look and see’ and ‘Flashback.’ Which I will be releasing a video soon. “Lament Marathon” is that journey we all have to take at some point of our lives that sparks a change within towards the higher self. Though battered and bruised you push forward.
K: How did you think of Lament Marathon?
N: The idea of being so distraught that your lamentations become the thing that drive you. This project started from me just writing during a time when I was . Me just getting it out, the release of I had a rough day or talking about an experience. All of those things helped me get closer to a peaceful place. It’s important that we express the pain that we’ve felt over time and with that expression comes clarity. It’s a slow sloth, it’s like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill. You get to the top of the hill only for the big boulder to roll back down.
You know you have to do it again. I have a mantra, “until tomorrow.” I keep it hanging above my bedroom window.
The idea that I have to keep going “until tomorrow” I have to be happy “until tomorrow”, I have to cry “until tomorrow” everything is going to be better tomorrow.This short lamentation “until tomorrow” ,Keep pressing on like a marathon. When you complete it, you're stronger version of yourself. You pushed your endurance. That to me is such a great tale to tell in two words
In September 2017 after this interview was taken Najee’s Father Passed after complications due to a Massive Stroke.
In Loving Memory of Arthur Wilson 1952-2018
Visit TAUPESOUND.com to discover more about Taupe Y Beige.
photography by kylah benes-trapp | Interview: Taupe y beige