“I want to write about love, but I also want to write about the dark side of the world,” Mapei tells me in a suite at New York’s Ace Hotel. The 29-year-old was recently in Los Angeles filming a video to accompany her brand new song “Don’t Wait” and only stopped in New York for a few days. Raised in Rhode Island and then transplanted to Stockholm, she’s been dabbling in songwriting and rapping since sixth grade. Combining her desire to rap with Swedish club influences and Liberian folk music, her sound is fierce and nuanced—her social commentary more so. A chance meeting with Spank Rock in Sweden led her to connect with Downtown Records, who put out her EP Cocoa Butter Diaries back in 2009. The EP was full of plucky rapping and jazzy, digitized sampling and beats. But after a four-year hiatus, her return single has inspired a rabid new wave of interest.
A darkness surrounds Mapei, but it’s not ominous. It’s more like a palpable defiance, a refusal to fit into any preconceived notions. In place of her gruff, quick-paced elocution, Mapei’s voice is all honey, and she promises her new album will have plenty of both rapping and singing. Assured and deadpan, but equally prone to breaking into laughter, Mapei opened up about how Sweden affected her art, her thoughts on race, and rapping as a female artist.
Because you are relatively unknown, and it’s a little confusing, can you give me your take on your come up?
I did my first song in the sixth grade called “Come As You Are” with a rap group, because I lived in Sweden so the image of people I had in America were rappers. So I wanted to imitate them. When I was 18 I made an album, and I came to New York and shopped it around, but nothing really happened. So then I moved back to Sweden when I was 22 and started freestyling at different clubs, and a scene grew out of that. That was when I met Spank Rock. I didn’t even know of him, but we were doing the same style. I’ve always been scared to sing because my voice has never really been accepted. But now I want to sing more.
I think your voice amazing I don’t think it would be unaccepted! I’ve been listening to the EP a lot and compared to your new song they are very different. “Don’t Wait” is very much alt-R&B whereas the EP is like this plucky rap. For the album that’s coming will the 2009 elements be in there?
There will be 2009 elements in there because I think it’s important for social commentary, just to say how it is even if it’s not from my experience I’ve seen a lot of stories that I want to share. I grew up in the projects and then in Sweden I grew up in the suburbs there with a lot of immigrants and refugees and stuff. So I saw a lot of things I wanted to take from other people’s experiences and my own. So I want to write about love but I also want to write about the dark side of the world. (I used this in the lede, unsure whether you’d want to cut it here or not)
What parts of Swedish culture have influenced your art?
The darkness. It gets dark in the evening there around 3 in the winter. The melancholy that that darkness brought out has shaped me a lot.
How did you choose the name Mapei (pronounced Mah-pay)?
It’s my middle name and it means “wise woman.” It’s an African Bassa name, like a Liberian tribal language.
I noticed you said Liberian music was one of your influences. What is your connection to that?
I went to a record store and found Liberian folk music so I started listening to it. You can go on Youtube and look up “Liberian folk music” and hear folk songs. Liberia was never colonized, but it has a strong connection to America so they took a lot from American folk music. I think I have a bit of a Liberian accent when I sing and rap.
What stage are you at for the album?
I have seven songs that I like. It’s really eclectic. We have punk riffs, but it’s real soulful. There’s some spoken word on there. It’s a mixture of everything I’ve seen and where I’m from.
For “Don’t Wait,” you worked with Magnus Lidehall. What was that like?
He’s very cool, it’s like painting a picture. Music to me is like coloring a picture, and when you have a good partner that you can do that with and the music comes out as you imagine, then it’s really cool. He was in the Swedish rap scene, and everybody sort of knows each other in that scene.
There’s a line on “ “Every three or four years being black is a trend / then a white chick’s a ho because she’s got a black friend.” It really stuck out to me this year because of all the stuff with Miley Cyrus and her cultural appropriation. What are your thoughts on the subject?
I love what Miley is doing. Growing up I would defend my white girlfriends because I don’t like it when people say “oh you’re trying to be black” when they’re just being themselves. I don’t like race lines that people create. So my take on it is that I think cultures should blend, and there shouldn’t be any colors at all.
What are your thoughts on rapping as a female artist? It’s such a traditionally male genre and aside from Nicki, there’s not many other “accepted” female rappers.
I think Nicki is so good and I think she can compete with dudes. Because dudes compete with each other and they don’t really want to compete with chicks. So she can really do that and she’s a really dope rapper. For myself, I’m still developing as a rapper. I need to rap, it’s not like I want to. Sometimes it’s hard for me to rap because it’s so competitive and you have to be really good at it. But I need to do it to say what I want to say. I just think more chicks should express themselves. We’re so underestimated.
So if you blow up and become this huge pop star, are there any pop stars that you like? Where do you see yourself fitting into that?
I think I’m something new. I think I’m like Lady Gaga meets Bob Dylan. I want to still say what I want to say. Like Erykah Badu says “keep on singing those hymns.” There’s modern day slavery now—I sing hymns. I come from pain. I want to continue to bring that. I’m not going to fabricate anything.
If it’s true what they say, that the freaks come out at night, then New York photographer Zak Krevitt and his coterie of creative friends live in permanent darkness.
Ever since Paul Walker’s tragic death over the weekend, tributes from his peers in the entertainment industry have been pouring in, mostly in the form of tweets and instagrams. Wu-Tang headmaster RZA went the extra mile and wrote a song for the actor, whom he met on the set of their upcoming action movie, Brick Mansion. The song, called “Destiny Bends,” is not what you’d expect, meaning there’s no rapping in it, or even a beat. Instead, it’s a solemn ballad performed by Will Wells. The song is accompanied by a note from RZA that sheds light on his relationship with the fallen star.
This song, entitled “Destiny Bends” was written last night after hearing the tragic news of the loss of a good man named Paul Walker. I met Paul on the set of the film Brick Mansion, where we talked, laughed, and exchanged ideas of life and fatherhood. I only knew him personally for less than a year, but we knew each other through our work and art. We saw in each other a kindred spirit of men coming from unlikely circumstances, and rising to be the light and beacon of our family and loved ones. Men who learned the joy and pains of love in life, and success, while coming to realize that nothing is more important than family, friendship, and the brotherhood of humanity. Millions of people get to know an artist or movie star through their work, but few are allowed to cross each others’ paths and see through the veil of stardom and find the common denominator that we share. As all physical things will decay and wither away, film, art, and music remain longer than the vessel that delivered them. In this vein, the one thing we can’t take away or give back is time. So, thus, time is the most precious gift. I dedicated my time to compose this song with my two sons and new friend Will Wells, who was kind enough to sing and perform it for me. We dedicate it to Paul Walker. A good man. We had plans to continue working with each other in the future. It seemed destined, but “destiny bends”. *Note* This song is not for criticism, it’s just a sketch demo. Please enjoy and reflect.
Your comrade in the struggle,
With White Reindeer, director Zach Clark has crafted a twisted take on the familiar home-for-the-holidays formula. In the dark comedy, Suzanne (Anna Margaret Hollyman) has to somehow cope the with her husband’s murder right around Christmas, imbuing a macabre fog over what’s normally a festive, heartwarming genre. The movie , Clark’s third feature, struck gold with critics at last year’s SXSW and opens this Friday at the IFC Center in New York, with expansions across the country the following two weeks. Clark is a Virginia native who edits and writes all of his features, and makes the kind of movies that he wants to make. We asked Clark to let us in on his secret blueprint for getting a movie made, which is a very hard thing to do.
1. Tell everyone you know that you are going to make a movie and when you are going to start making it. Impose as many arbitrary external pressures on yourself as possible.
2. Steal as much as possible from real life. Reveal deep personal secrets about yourself. Borrow freely from the lives of your friends and loved ones.
3. But change it all around so people think you made it up.
4. Think of things that you can point a camera at that are free for you, but add a lot of production value to the movie. Beautiful places, seasonal decorations, cool road signs, whatever. Write them into the script so you don’t forget about them, so they take on a larger significance.
5. Exhaust all available resources, call in all favors, and be constantly appreciative of every single person who is going out of their way to help you. They do not have to do this.
6. Work with people who are nice and fun to be around. One jerk can ruin a whole set. Don’t forget that you have lots of amazing, talented friends. Directing a movie is essentially about establishing a tone on set wherein the cast and crew can do their best work.
7. Feed everyone really, really well. Ask people what they like to eat beforehand. After you’ve shot for a week, ask people what they liked and didn’t like and bring back the popular dishes.
8. Wrap on time as much as possible. It’s better to shoot all the scenes than to spend way too much time focusing on one set-up, scene, etc and losing time, missing things you wanted.
9. Be ready to totally throw the script out the window if it isn’t working on set. But also don’t forget what you really love about what you wrote and be as true to it as possible.
10. The scene you think sums up the entire point of movie, the scene you poured your heart into the most, that you can’t fathom the movie existing without, will probably get cut out. This is good. If you’ve done your job well enough, you won’t need to spell anything out.
Whether you care to admit it or not, the holidays are barrelling towards us like a runaway freight train decked with boughs of holly (fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la). After Thanksgiving, the pressure will be on to show your loved ones how much they mean to you by lavishing them with that perfect present. That’s why we created the essential holiday gift guide to help streamline this normally torturous process.
Here’s how it works: Along with a team of scientists from the Yale School of Blowing Cash on Shit No One Really Needs, we applied a cutting-edge combination of ancient arithmetic and intricate algorithms to categorize every single person you know into 8 different genera. There’s your workaholic Wall Street dad, your Tumblr-obsessed seapunk daughter, your nerdy ass bro, and a bunch of others you’ll have to click HERE if you want to see. Happy Holidays, friends!
We live and die by one rule here at BULLETT: Whenever Sky Ferreira releases a new music video, we have to write about it. Hence this: Today the singer released the video for “Night Time, My Time,” the title track off her totally excellent new album. The gloomy, doomy, and hookless track is an odd choice for a second single off a record that’s almost front-to-back filled with catchy pop, but Ferreira is notorious for doing things her way—or at least claiming to want to—so the unorthodox choice, which won’t do her any favors when it comes to record sales, fits.
The clip itself, directed by Ferreira’s close friend Grant Singer (who also directed her in last year’s short, IRL), is a Lynchian fever dream that features Ferreira decked out in various wigs and lingerie, riding a coin-operated horse, slo-mo walking down a motel hallway, writhing around in a bed, and sitting in the backseat of a car—all signifiers that the night time, is in fact, her time.
UPDATE: Pitchfork is doing this annoying thing where you can only watch the video on their site until tomorrow. Conniving bastards
Actress Pom Klementieff has led a life studded with sadness. She shares it readily, breezing by the suicide, schizophrenia, and death that shrouded her childhood. It’s a frankness rarely heard from the mouth of an American actor, but Klementieff is French and tends not to give a fuck. Tomorrow, American audiences will get their first look at the rising star in Oldboy, Spike Lee’s remake of the twisty South Korean revenge classic. Klementieff, who graduated from the same French drama school as Marion Cotillard, plays a small but pivotal role in the story of a man (Josh Brolin) who, after being mysteriously imprisoned for two decades, seeks answers and vengeance. Here, she recounts Spike Lee’s gruelling audition process that finally led to her casting.
What can you tell me about your role in Oldboy?
I just can tell you that I’m never really far from the villain. It’s a mysterious part. Spike says I’m one of the leads, but I don’t agree. It’s a key role for the main character, but at the same time it’s not. I don’t think people are gonna say, “Oh my god did you see her, she’s amazing.”
I think you’re being more negative than you should be.
I’m not negative. I’m French! [Laughs]
What was the audition process like? Spike Lee is known to be a rigorous director.
A month before the actual audition I was obsessed with this role. I knew I would have to be tough for the role, so I trained boxing with a coach and stunt coordinators in Paris. After the first audition, they asked me back later that day. I was waiting for an hour freaking out when finally, I was led into the room and Spike was there. He asked me to do my reading, and after the martial arts movements, but it wasn’t really good. I’m so much better now.
I had known Spike was a huge sports fan. So he said, Okay, I know you did some boxing, but I can’t really see it. He started testing me. He said, Do you want the part? And I said, Of course I want the part. He said, Show me. And so I was kicking and boxing in the air. I was shadow boxing. And he screamed, Stronger! Give me some kicks! I started losing my breath, turning red. If he said do that for two hours, I’d do it. He finally said, Stop and started asking me about my life. Where do you come from? What’s your story? So I answered all his questions. My family story was pretty complicated. A lot of people died. There’s schizophrenia, and my brother committed suicide. He had died a few months before, but I was just answering his questions. I was smiling like a weirdo.
So he said, We asked you to come with a training outfit to audition for the martial arts scene, but the role has to be feminine and sexy, so I’d like to see you in another outfit. Please go home and change your outfit, make-up, and hair, and come back. He could have said, please go to France and come back instantly and I’d be like, Of course! Yeah!
Was that its own epic trek?
Definitely. When I called my roommate for apartment keys, I got her voicemail. So I said, Okay, I’m going to buy some shoes and some makeup. I don’t care how much this costs. I have to do this as fast as possible. Spike Lee is waiting for me. The casting director gave me high heels in her trunk. So I wore really LA girl shoes, black and funky. I got a dress from a store in Larchmont. When I walked in there I said, I need a dress—too sexy with cleavage, short, tight, black. Not the kind of dress I could wear in the day time.
When I walked back into the room Spike said, Oh, you look like a different person. And I said thank you, I look like a whore. He got my humor. I did the audition again, and then the it was over. The next day Spike called me back and asked me to meet him for tea to talk about a lot of different things, about the movie, and New Orleans, where the movie was shot.
It was weird because he didn’t say Okay, you have the part or not. I was becoming less and less confident. At the end he walked me to the Walk of Fame and I left. He sent me a text later that said, Thank you, it was great to meet you. And I thought maybe he told me I had the part, but I didn’t hear it because I was so worked up. But I flew back to Paris without an offer and one week later, I got an email from the casting director saying I got the part.
How do you manage all that vulnerability?
Sometimes an audition is so bad I think maybe I should stop. But then there’s something magical like this, where something starts happening in the audition room and goes through the making of the film that I remember why I do the job and why I will keep going.
What were you thinking the first day on set?
I was really happy to be part of the adventure, but really stressed out too because I wanted Spike to be really proud of his choice. I had to train martial arts three hours a day every day for two months. It’s not just about being strong and a badass. It’s about being in control and not hurting the people you have to work with.
When did you know that you wanted to act?
I started taking theater classes when I was 19. But it really connected with my story and family story, because I didn’t have a father anymore. My father died when I was 5 and my mother’s schizophrenic. My aunt and uncle raised me and I had a beautiful childhood in the countryside, one hour away from Paris. Then my uncle who was my second father died on my 18th birthday. And it was hard and really symbolic, because when you’re 18 in France you become an adult. It was weird, but at the same time I knew everyone could die, and life is short, and I should do whatever I wanted to do. No one could say you shouldn’t do that.
Photo by Gilles Toucas.
I just made the mistake of watching the trailer for Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac at the New York Public Library. This thing is not safe for work with a capital NSFW. Remember that earlier clip from the movie of Shia LaBeouf boning? That looks like something from ABC Family compared to what you’re about to watch. Nymphomaniac drops Christmas day.
Head over to his homepage and click play, and you’ll see that New Orleans producer and DJ Jim-E Stack has a prrrreeetty good idea of what a makes a sick beat. And why wouldn’t he? He’s been making them for years, including this translucent remix of Sky Ferriera’s smash, “Everything Is Embarrassing,” or his latest single, the serene banger, “Is It Me.” We wanted to know what songs he couldn’t live without, so here they are.
Since exiting the porn industry in 2011, Sasha Grey has dabbled in movies, television, music, and photography. Now, the newly minted author—her debut novel, The Juliette Society, was released last month—can add advice columnist to her already robust resume.
Dear Sasha, I’ve been with my girlfriend for three years. We’re so close that whenever I see her naked, it feels like I’m looking at my sister. What does this mean and what should I do about it?
Try harder! Start dressing up for fun, verbalize your desires, and don’t just keep them to yourself. Go shopping for sexy outfits so she can dress up for you. Don’t leave that up to her, or she will feel that she doesn’t excite you anymore. Outside of the bedroom when you two go out, even if it’s just a simple dinner and a movie, you should both dress up, so when you come home, you’re even more excited to destroy each other.
Dear Sasha, I know you just wrote a book. I would also like to write a book, but I keep getting distracted by pretty much everything. Does this mean I’m not a writer? How do I become one?
Become by doing. A lot of great writers started with simple exercises, like writing immediately when you wake up in the morning. My mentor Anthony D’Juan writes everyday. It doesn’t matter how shitty his day was, how much time he spent socializing, how little sleep he got—he always finds time to write.
Dear Sasha, Lately, I’ve developed an affinity for a type of porn that some people might consider “violent.” Should I be concerned? Where does one draw the line?
The Marquis de Sade wanted to get rid of the way we categorize sexuality, to stop labeling our sexual preferences as good or bad. I almost agree with that. I think sex between consenting adults is either consensual, or it isn’t. So if someone didn’t consent to sex, or in the context of your question, being a submissive partner, or vice versa, then that’s where I draw the line. In The Juliette Society, my character Catherine is just discovering new aspects of her sexuality, of other people’s sexuality, and she’s intimidated by it, but she tries to be as self-aware as possible
Dear Sasha, I have like ten million frequent flyer miles. Which city should I visit and which bar should I hit up when I get there?
Paris! Go to Café de Flore, drink an overpriced cappuccino, have a great tarte Tatin, and at least you’ll feel more creative sitting in the same digs where Hemingway frequented. But in all seriousness, at least they still have classy servers.
Dear Sasha, What’s the best way to tell my girl her feet smell?
Bah! Just get it over with already and tell her!
Dear Sasha, Besides your own, what is one book that I simply have to read and why?
Wetlands! It’s a no-holds-barred one week journey of a young woman who has no shame in having a hysterectomy at 18, just as she has no qualms about making an avocado pit her sex toy and child. The novel’s protagonist, Helen (or antagonist, if you’re a complete prude) will either turn you off or draw you in with the opening sentence alone. Helen digs into the disgusting surface thoughts we all have, but wonder why we do, and instead of hiding them she shares them with the world.
Dear Sasha, Is there ever a right time to fake an orgasm?
If you even have to ask this, I’d seriously question how satisfied you are.
Dear Sasha, When someone asks me what my favorite movie is, what should I tell them to sound cool?
John Carpenter’s The Thing, and you must preface it with his name.
Dear Sasha, I’m on a hunt for the best sandwich in America. Where do I find it?
Cosmi’s in Philly, or Beach Hut Deli in Sacramento.
Dear Sasha, What is the secret to eternal life?
Ask the jellyfish!