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Artist Of The Week - Nola Darling
Monday, June 29, 2009

Most people know the AOK Collective as a crew of some of the dopest emcees in NYC. What they might not realize, however, is that there are two females in the crew, Jaq and Alex, AKA Nola Darling (pictured L to R). The duo aren’t seen at a lot of shows in New York because while Alex is from the city, Jaq is an LA resident. When they do get to hit the stage, though, they aren’t just there to be part of the scenery, they’re there to rock the mic and every time they do they prove that they have no problem hangin with the boys. This week I caught up with Jaq and Alex to get the details on what it’s like being the lone female members of AOK, what they’ve learned about Hip-Hop through their world travels, and what Blair Underwood and a royal crown have to do with their story.

Adam Bernard: Start me off with some Nola Darling history. Who is Nola Darling and how did you two get together?
Jaq: Well one amazing autumn in the 80’s introduced the world to Alexandra Nikkobya Lavelanet AKA Alex, born in NYC, and Jaquita Shashu Aziza Ta’le AKA Jaq, in Los Angeles. We were weird little late-bloomers born on opposite coasts who never got the guy, but always got the bomb report card! We were both accepted into a young people’s acting program at NYU and discovered we had similar stories and interests. Unknowingly, we started exploring song material then. When it came time for college we both found our way back to NYU, where we earned our bachelors degrees. Post graduation we traveled around the world creating “Word?! I Didn’t Know (_______) Could Get Down Like That,” our guerilla-style Hip-Hop Travel Documentary. Seeing Hip-Hop through various cultural lenses really opened our eyes and Nola Darling was born out of that experience.

Adam Bernard: That’s an amazing story, but doesn’t living on opposite ends of America make it hard to record and perform? How do you stay on top of your game?
Alex: True that. At times it has been hard to record and perform with the two of us on different coasts, but we are both currently in Los Angeles working on new music and doing shows with a lot of LA cats. We also just performed at the UCLA Reggae Festival opening for Tanto Metro and Devonte and Mavado, so we definitely feel like we’re stepping out on the good foot and putting this RUDE GAL movement in action.

Adam Bernard: You are a part of the famed AOK Collective. Is there any added pressure or responsibility being the lone female element of the crew?
Jaq: No. Maybe. {laughs} We’re pretty aware of the fact that we are the only girls in the crew, but at the same time, each member of the collective has their own individual and unique lane. If anything we kind of feel like being the “lone female element” is just another aspect of our specific “uniqueness.” However, with the current lack of prominent female emcees in the game we do feel a responsibility to represent for all the young women with skills out there who want to have a place in a community that is predominately male, but are hesitant or afraid. So yeah, ladies, we can hold our own, and so can you!

Adam Bernard: Aren’t you also the final members of AOK to release an album? When can we expect something official from Nola Darling and what kind of album is it going to be?
Alex: Yes, we are the final members of AOK to release an album. We’re concurrently working on several projects at the moment and will most likely be releasing an official Nola Darling album sometime in 2010. For now all we can say is that we’ll probably touch on everything from boys and paying bills to Pan-Africanism and teleportation {winks} and we’ll leave out all the explicit jazz about how we move weight across state lines for our gangsta boyfriends… you know, just so we don’t incriminate ourselves.

Adam Bernard: Of course! Now, you know that being a female duo the comparisons to Salt-N-Pepa are inevitable. Are you cool with that? Would you consider them an influence of yours?
Jaq: Salt-N-Pepa and Spinderella were and are dope! We’re a female duo who rap, so of course people are going to draw comparisons, and they are an influence, just as much as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill, Yo-Yo, or any other female emcee or singer that we grew up listening to and were inspired by is. We’re honored that people make the Salt-N-Pepa parallel and strive to continue to break barriers for those who come after like they did for us.

Adam Bernard: OK, let’s get a little less serious now. Alex, tell me something about Jaq you don’t think she’d reveal about herself.
Alex: Well, she is slightly embarrassed by the fact that she’s had to put a number of restraining orders on Blair Underwood over the past few years. She tried to let him down easy, but sadly, he just can’t let go.

Adam Bernard: Jaq, you get equal time, tell me something about Alex you don’t think she’d reveal about herself.
Jaq: For the sake of protecting the royal crown Alex won’t admit to it, but she’s actually the princess of Zamunda. You’ve got to peep the trail of rose petals that follows her.

Adam Bernard: I’ll definitely be lookin for that at the next show. Finally, you mentioned earlier that in addition to being emcees you’re also bona fide world travelers. Tell me about what you’ve learned about Hip-Hop thanks to your trips around the world.
Alex: We still have many places in the world that we’d like to hit up, but the world as we know it has mad skillz! In our travels we’ve observed that organic Hip-Hop is still a revolutionary response from a disenfranchised population in the struggle for equality. No matter how commercialized parts of the art form have become, examples like the Pan-Africans, based in Rotterdam, or Abraham Bojorquez of the Aymara people in Bolivia, prove the true essence of Hip-Hop is still very much alive and working for the benefit of the people. At its root Hip-Hop continues to be a tool for social and political change.

Related Links

MySpace: myspace.com/whoisnoladarling
Blog: noulaproductions.com/blog
Blog: lionessintheconcretejungle.blogspot.com
AOK Collective: aokcollective.blogspot.com
Free Mixtape: Nola Darling - Pretty Gritty


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:38 AM  
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