A political activist, journalist, revolutionary, visual artist, and rapper, dynamic doesn’t even begin to cover it. The B-side spoke with AJ, the One about her community involvement, her unique perspectives as a young Black woman, and her artistic goals and passions which uncover that she’s so much more than a rapper.
AJ, the One, a 21 year old multimedia artist from Inglewood, California, is one of 8 members in BLK MGK, a hip-hop music collective based in New York City and the Bay Area. She is also the Chair of UC Berkeley’s Black Student Union and an Ambassador to Selfology, which is a program dedicated to teaching young Black women and girls to understand themselves more. In addition to that, she is a part of Global Girls Media, which is an organization dedicated to uplifting underrepresented female voices all around the world through journalism and media.
With her most recent single “P4Y,” the song and music video are presented as “a visual reclamation of our sexual identities” according to AJ who wrote and creatively directed the video. Empowering from beginning to end, one of AJ’s main passions with both this song and all her artistic endeavors is to represent womanhood in a frame that is unapologetic and multifaceted, breaking all barriers and disproving all preconceived notions of what Black womanhood is supposed to look like.
“Take pussy please academy / I told him he ain’t eat it right and now the n*gga mad at me? Mad at me? Honestly, fuck your masculinity” – “P4Y,” AJ the One
How would you describe your style and your music?
As far as clothing goes, I don’t limit myself to the binaries that clothing stores put forth for people. I shop in every section. The kitchen section, the costume section….
But as far as myself as an individual, I think I’m just a super chill person. Overall my style, I think that whatever other people think is not cool I try to just do it still. Because that’s limiting. Like double denim… people hate double denim. But I love double denim.
And my music is for women. Period. Everything that I have produced so far musically, has been to empower women in different ways.
Can you tell us more about your involvement in the collective BLK MGK?
We started off as a group of friends that created together and we decided to put a name to it and start branding ourselves. So that’s kind of how it started. Very naturally and organically.
I think I fit so well into the collective because I already have a natural inclination to want to empower women. So it’s just convenient for me to be in the space as the only woman-identifying person because I’m already a person that wants to liberate women with everything that I do. Black women especially.
I love all women, but Black women are my main concern.
How does your community involvement shape and affect you and your artistic projects?
I feel like every time I’ve entered a social justice space with Black people I’ve always gravitated towards the other artists in the room. We would just gather naturally.
I think that my community work is my artistry since so much of my art is inspired by my ancestors and the things that they used to do: Oscar Micheaux, Ida B. Wells, Eartha Kitt. These people were artists but they were also revolutionaries. Seeing how they had it much harder than I do as far as violence and systemic oppression goes. They hella inspire me to be the best artist I can be.
Is there a story behind the song “P4Y”?
The chorus came so organically. I was talking to my friend and I was hurt about something or another or someone was doing something to me. And you know I was venting to her and she’s just going back at me like “fuck these niggas this pussy don’t pop for them” and I was like “whoa what did you just say?” and she was like “this pussy don’t pop for them?” and I was like “I got a beat my nigga. Watch this.” The next week I had “P4Y” the song. So it came very organically; it wasn’t a specific situation. It was an overall conversation about how we’re being treated as women by men. It was a conversation that ended up as a really bold statement that turned into a song and an anthem.
What was the vibe on set while filming the video?
I invited 30 women to participate in this visual reclamation of our sexual identity and our womanhood. We had thick women, we had small women, we had tall women. We had disabled women, light skinned and dark skinned women. I wanted to give a holistic idea of womanhood and what it means to be a woman. It’s supposed to represent the dynamics of women and show how women can be multifaceted.
We used lots of art walls, colors, and high ceilings. We wanted our brown skin to stand out in that space.
If you could tell young black women everywhere one thing what would it be?
I would tell a young Black woman to look at her body, look at her face, look at everything, and understand that she is fucking beautiful. I think one of my downfalls in my youth was thinking that I was supposed to look a certain way. I want Black women and girls to know and realize that they don’t have to do any fucking thing that is not themselves.
Written by Shelby Mayes