PHYSICIST-TURNED-NOVELIST FEMI FADUGA’S DEBUT NOVEL, “THE UPPER WORLD” IS A MIND-BENDING, TIME-TRAVELING YA WORK THAT HAS GARNERED A HUGE FOLLOWING, INCLUDING DANIEL KALUUYA.
There’s a new sci-fi book series that’s taking the young adult genre by storm—the first book, The Upper World, written by Femi Fadugba has already caught the eye of studio executives, and “Netflix has acquired the film rights…[and] Queen & Slim’s Daniel Kaluuya [is] attached to produce and star.”
Fadugba’s debut novel was also recently “shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize…in the Older Readers category” in addition to being “longlisted for the 2022 Branford Boase Award which is given annually to the author of an outstanding debut novel for children.”
One review attributed the novel’s “unusual credibility” to the fact that Fadugba is a real-life physicist and “has based his ideas about time travel on real science, including Einstein’s theories…(even if you don’t grasp it at all).” Fadugba wrote the novel after many conversations about with people who would ask him to explain quantum physics. “They’d always be super fascinated and wanted me to recommend a book, but I couldn’t find one that I could put my hand on my heart and say: ‘You’ll dig this,’” he told The Guardian.
Fadugba, 35, who splits time between the UK and the US, sat down with ESSENCE to discuss his inspiration for writing the book, his career path and meteoric rise to fame, as well as his upcoming projects.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ESSENCE: What inspired you to write The Upper World?
It’s a complicated one because it has a few different angles. I went to university, and I ended up doing quantum physics, quantum computing, specifically and I thought I was going to be an academic physicist at that point. I published an article at PRL, which is the same publication that Einstein published a lot of his stuff in, so that was kind of like the peak of my career. I was looking for what’s next, but the academic route just felt a little bit abstract.
As a Black African boy in the UK, there are lot more serious problems faced by people than partial differential equations. So, I decided, let me go into working world and see what impact I can have, and I went into business, I did solar energy. But it just wasn’t quite cutting it. I felt like I hadn’t found my voice and didn’t have a platform. I started digging into things that excited me when I was younger, and I rediscovered my love for physics, and especially about time travel. In many ways the genesis of the book was after reading pretty much 100 books on relativity to thinking, how do I explain this in a way that 16-year-old me would have not only understood it, but also have a reason to give a s–t.
That’s why I ended up putting it into a narrative, because people like stories, that’s how we learn things. Look at the book of Genesis, that’s a story about nature. It’s a story about physics in many ways and how the universe came to be, it told a story because that’s how we absorb things, and I think the other side of my motivation was because of the actual story part, the specific characters I chose, the location, the theme I explored. Again, I think for me it was about writing the kind of book that teenage me would have f–ked with basically. A big part of that was, I don’t want to lecture the kids. How do I meet young Black boys where they’re at and then give them a story that combines philosophy, physics, real-life s–t and elevate the conversation and never at any point underestimate their curiosity?
When you think of the Dallas music scene and you combine that with R&B, Neo-Soul, and Hip- Hop, you instantly think of The Erykah Badu, often called the “Queen of Neo-Soul”. And if you’re from Dallas or even reside in Dallas, it’s a joy to know that this amazing soul lives amongst us. Erykah is an integral part of our Black history as well as our Dallas History. How many times have you heard someone say,” You know she lives here right?” Don’t tell Tyrone though.
Born in the Triple D, Erykah essentially started awakening her talents at the age of four, singing and dancing at the Dallas Theater Center and The Black Academy of Arts and Letters under the guidance of her godmother, Gwen Hargrove. She later graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and later chose to study theater at Grambling University. Though Theater Arts was something that she always loved, she decided to focus more on her musical talents.
It was a 19-song demo called Country Cousins, created while working and touring with her cousin, Robert “Free” Bradford that landed the attention of record producer Kedar Massenburg. We can go On&On about what happened in between, but this moment in time led to a duet called Your Precious Love with singer D’Angelo and she eventually signed with Universal Records.
Back in the Day, the 1990s that is, the music scene didn’t consist of anyone quite like Ms. Badu. Of course, you had many Black artists at your disposal but Didn’t Cha Know on a mass level, it was mostly alternative rock, heavy metal, pop-rock, and adult contemporary. If you wanted to feel seen or heard, you ran to BET for some good grooves and Donnie with the light eyes, Donnie Simpson. You know, folks that looked like you. It didn’t matter if it was rap or R&B, it was your escape. It was relatable. So, yes, we saw us, but when Erykah emerged onto the scene in 1997 with her debut album Baduizm, she was in a class of her own.
She had a style that we had never seen before or perhaps failed to see what was already us, and she was a bold reminder to embrace our culture differently. Though wearing a head wrap is pretty common now, seeing Erykah wear one was a game-changer, especially during a time when it was all about hairstyles like finger waves, swooped bangs or the pixie cut. Also, music videos were all about the bling-bling, rappers, and singers surrounded by video vixens, dance sequences, and yeah, lots of shiny stuff. It seemed like the foil-like shine never stopped, but again, Erykah was in a class of her own, unapologetically, almost before her time, but right on time.
Let’s get back to the music. From her debut album Baduizm, her lead single “On & On which was released in 1996 reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, which led to an amazing nomination and win at the Grammy Awards, where the single won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and the album won Best R&B Album.
Erykah recorded her first live album, Live in 1997 which reached number one on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Its lead single Tyrone, an anthem that most of us know word for word became another R&B hit single. It’s a song women will vent loudly for generations to come. It never gets old. It’s powerful. It does that thang.
Erykah has also been featured on many songs with artists like The Roots, Eve, Common OutKast, Jill Scott, and many more. She went on to produce more albums, Mama’s Gun, produced by the Soulquarians and noted bassist Pino Palladino, with the notable Bag Lady, Worldwide Underground, New Amerykah Part One, New Amerykah Part Two, Window Seat.
In 2015, Badu released a remix of Drake’s single Hotline Bling and later released a mixtape, But You Caint Use My Phone through Apple Music. After one week, it was released to other digital retailers and streaming services. This marked Badu’s first release under her own record label Control Freaq.
Not only is Erykah one of the most notable singers of our time, she’s also an actress, starring as Turquoise in the film The Land, in which she also released a title track of the same name featuring rapper Nas. She’s also a three-time host of the Soul Train Music Awards.
In 2020, Badu was featured on a single titled “Beehoove”, alongside D’Angelo on the album Slingbaum One, and also was featured on the song Lowkey by Teyana Taylor.
If you are lucky, you can look forward to scoring some tickets to her annual Birthday Bash Concert, which draws in people from all over the world.
At times when the music scene, seems a bit underground in Dallas, Erykah has set some major precedents in Dallas when it comes to music.
Singer. Mother. Actress. Spiritual Maven. Host. Midwife. We are happy that Ms. Badu lives amongst us.
SOURCE- Dallas Weekly
On April 20, I walked into the African American Museum to meet with Dr. Harry Robinson and request the use of the museum auditorium to give a lecture on May 5, Cinco de Mayo. While it may seem strange to some that I, an African American, would give a lecture on Cinco de Mayo, my work has been the culmination of years of research on the origin of the holiday and its relationship to people of African descent in what was earlier New Spain, later Mexico and its relationship to Juneteenth.
Robinson referred me to Robert Edison, the museum’s director of education. As I waited to speak with him in the rotunda of the museum, I look over my head and there to my surprise were the words “YANGA” with a figure of an African man in broken chains.
I could barely contain myself as I rushed up the winding stairs to see what my eyes had beheld. I entered the gallery, there before my eyes the story I had been researching for so many years. There in the African American Museum was an exhibition presenting the journey of African people from slavery to freedom.
While the story of Africans journey from slavery to freedom is not new, what is new is the journey through what is today Mexico. During my early studies of Cinco de Mayo, I became aware that it was a one-day victory of the Mexican army and indigenous “rag tagged” farmers over the well-armed Napoleon III French army. A defeat that would soon be overshadowed by the later French army victory.
But why was this victory so important? Why did people celebrate it? And why is it celebrated so widely in America among Latin citizens?
As I sought to understand the history of Cinco de Mayo, I came across the name Yanga. As an African American historian, I never heard the name. The name never appeared in any history books I had studied on African American freedom. It would be through use of social media that I would find a lost story of the first liberated and independent town in the Americas, led by Yanga, an African Maroon.
Origin of Yanga
Yanga was captured by the Spanish in the 1500’s and brought to the sugar cane plantations of New Spain. But Yanga was not just any captured African, he was a West African Bagon Prince, skilled in diplomacy.
The images I found of Yanga were those of a strong African man. Except for Toussaint Louverture of Haiti, I had never seen such an African leader in the western hemisphere. Both men had in common that they were enslaved African freedom fighters and had defeated powerful French armies.
But why had Yanga been hidden all these years? Why has his story never been told?
As I continued by journey into the gallery, their stood Yanga, mounted on a stand with his raised arms one in a broken chain, the other holding a machete. What a moment for an African American man in America. I was deeply moved as my eyes began to try and take in all they were seeing. Statues, painting, documents all about slavery in the Americas and Yanga.
It was if I was a little boy again. I had found my Super Man and he was Yanga! But unlike the fictious Clark Kent, Yanga had been a real human being. His story was real, and it related to me and millions of African people in the America’s. It was the story and journey of our freedom.
But how does Yanga relate to Cinco de Mayo, and how does Cinco de Mayo relate to Juneteenth?
Cinco de Mayo
It has been said that on May 5, the Mexican army and “some ragged tagged indigenous farmers” defeated Napoleon III French army. For years this ideal of indigenous farmers helping to defeat the powerful French army clouded my mind. It didn’t make sense.
Being a farmer myself and coming from a line of African American farmers, the ideal of minimizing these farmers seemed strange in relationship to the story of Cinco de Mayo. I felt that there was more to the story than meets the eye.
As I continued my online search, I found that Yanga had organized other African men and women and built a Maroon settlement on Pico de Orizaba or Star Mountain, the highest mountain in Mexico.
Maroons were Africans who escaped slavery in the Americas to create independent communities on the outskirts of slave societies. They often mixed with indigenous peoples such as the Zipotec, eventually evolving into separate creole cultures.
It is important to understand that Yanga was the leader of the first free African Maroon settlement in the Americas, which they built and defended in 1618.
While being farmers, Yanga and his men would launch raids against Spanish troops to gain supplies and weapons. The raids proved so effective that; the Spanish government was forced to negotiate with Yanga. The results of the negotiation were the establishment of land that soon came be known as, San Lorenzo de los Negros later renamed Yanga, Veracruz in honor of Yanga, the freedom fighter.
Advancing now to May 5, 1862. The Civil War is in its second year. Napoleon III sought to take advantage of the confederates’ position of strength and acquire cotton for France that was an essential economic commodity in exchange for guns. The French army assumed they could easily take the town of Pueblo. Much to their surprise, they found themselves met not only by the Mexican army, but by descendants of Yanga’s freedom settlement – Black African Maroons skilled in raids and fighting, willing and able to fight for the land they had so long inhabited.
While only a small victory at Pueblo, the victory gave President Lincoln and the Union army enough time to reorganize and gain an upper hand on the confederate army, thus altering the course of the Civil War and ensuring victory of the Union army, ultimately leading to the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth.
As a result of my search, one can relive the Battle of Puebla and see the skilled maroon fighters acted out in black face and straw hats as they engage the French army. History now complete. Through my lecture, “Yanga, From Cinco de Mayo to Juneteenth,” I tell the Negro – Spanish for Black – journey of freedom. A story that carried on into the 20th century Civil Rights Movement.
Join me on May 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the auditorium of the African American Museum as I share more of my research on, YANGA, Cinco de Mayo and Juneteenth.
Experience this powerful American freedom story for free in collaboration with The Latino Arts Project, during this the first National Juneteenth National Holiday Observance ’22. YANGA will run through October 2022.
Yanga, El Libertador Negro!
Juneteenth, Glory Halleluyah!
SOURCE- Dallas Examiner
Hitmaker Kal Banx is fusing Dallas sounds with West Coast hip-hop.
Kal Banx spent his 30th birthday in his hometown last October.
The date coincided with rapper Isaiah Rashad’s tour stop at the South Side Ballroom in Dallas. Banx handled production for nearly every song on Rashad’s critically acclaimed 2021 album, The House Is Burning, and the two bonded during the collaboration process.
“My best friend Kal Banx is from Dallas,” Rashad yelled into the microphone before presenting Banx with a birthday cake that the beatmaker eventually heaved into the rowdy crowd.
Banx lives in Los Angeles, where he has made a name for himself as one of hip-hop’s most sought-after producers. He split his childhood between Duncanville and Oak Cliff. And five years after being pulled away from Texas by the West Coast rap label Top Dawg Entertainment (often referred to as TDE), which is famously home to Kendrick Lamar, he realized he had begun to miss his home state.
“I just feel like being out here I lost a lot of time with my people, friends and family,” Banx says. “And now Dallas is growing and blossoming. There’s a lot more cool stuff that I’m into that’s out there.”
But for all the nostalgia and excitement Dallas offers, Banx is likely to stay in Los Angeles for the near future. With a Grammy nomination and a number of star collaborations already under his belt, he’s got talent and momentum on his side, and he’s not finished bringing his Dallas-influenced sound to the West Coast.
A Dallas soundWhen Banx was at Duncanville High School and later at the University of North Texas, a cultural movement called “Boogie” or “Dallas Boogie” was centered on hip-hop music in North Texas.
Overlapping with New Orleans Bounce music and Houston’s Chopped-N-Screwed music and car culture, and symbiotically inspired by Atlanta hip-hop production, Dallas Boogie became nationally known thanks to a few Dallas rappers’ repetitive but catchy songs such as “My Dougie” by Lil’ Wil (2007) and Dorrough’s “Ice Cream Paint Job” (2009). Complete with its own dance moves and a fairly extensive lexicon, it evolved into a sort of local parlance. Fluency meant Dallas credibility.
“That still influences my music now,” Banx says.
SOURCE- Dallas Morning News