RUN-DMC with the Adidas. Pharrell with the Bapestas. Kanye West and that pink polo. Musicians have always been, and most likely will always be, some of the most important drivers of trends in mainstream and high-end fashion.
Regardless of whether or not you like their music or agree with their politics (looking at you, Kanye), these larger-than-life artists are a major part of the process that conditions us to deem certain trends “cool” and “hip.” A lot of these artists don’t necessarily even identify as designers or visual artists, but their influence is pervasive. We like music. We are drawn to the people making the music. We’re drawn to their look. And thus, musicians become an integral part of how we choose to present ourselves.
This week, I sat down with musician Kalanzi Kajubi PZ ’19. Kajubi is a member of the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) band Djembe Jones. He is a great example of the aforementioned musician-fashion symbiotic relationship. Kalanzi dresses well because of his connections to music, not necessarily because of a major conscious effort to be “fashionable.”
TSL: How did you become interested in fashion?
Kalanzi Kajubi: No one’s ever asked me this question before, so I’ve never answered this question before. But I’m gonna go ahead and give it a swing. Probably when I started liking music. So way back. Early 2000s. Like 2004, I would see my favorite rappers and say “Oh, that is cool.”
In fourth and fifth grade the phase was the BIG basketball jerseys with the Air Force 1s. I was in fourth grade, I had the all white Air Force 1s — low top — and the all white Air Force 1s, high top. The high tops I inherited from my brother. My teacher, Karen, I remember she said, “Kalanzi, I’ve never seen a child with such clean shoes in my whole life.” And, I just thought, shucks, thanks for recognizing me.
Anyways, I used to go to school with a basketball jersey and those shoes, because that’s what the rappers wore. I feel like my style is what I’m looking at on the internet. Because now I like Dark World so I just wear hoodies and all black. Whatever my favorite artists are wearing.
TSL: What are your favorite brands, and what inspires you?
KK: Shucks, when I first started actually kind of being intrigued in fashion more than just copying artists, I was on Blogspot in middle school. And there was this community of people I followed.
Are you hip to Run’s House? The MTV show about Rev Run. Well the son, Diggy Simmons was on Blogspot and he was always pushing his blog on the show. So I just saw him post all these lookbooks. YSL, Y-3, Dior Homme. That’s how I became hip to all of these things. And he was into Pharrell, so I really liked Ice Cream, Billionaire Boys Club. And my friends inspire me to dress cool too.
Also specifically, because now I like to be in the musician/artist scene, people who I know from the D.C. area. Or maybe that I don’t know know but I know from Twitter. Those people inspire me more than any random moe from the internet. And also, because I live in this country, I always need to be flexing my culture. I’m always thinking about how I can hit a little drop of Africa on them. That’s why I always have these bracelets on. Mostly my accessories. Bracelets, necklace, little beads in my hair. Oh, oh, oh also. So many things that I like, I like because of Kanye West.
TSL: What is your creative process like?
KK: For wearing clothes it goes like this. Sometimes I just think that would be a cool outfit. But most of the time I think like, “I haven’t worn that pair of shoes in a while.” So I just throw it on and then figure everything else out. My creative process for music is a similar thing. Sometimes I’ll be like, “Oh that’s a cool melody” and then I go in. Sometimes I’ll hear something cool and I’ll go in on that. It’s usually one small idea that I like and then I go with it.
TSL: How would you describe your personal style?
KK: Hmm, this is a tough one. I don’t know, how would you describe yours?
TSL: I’m tall and I wear big shirts.
KK: Ok. Here’s what I like: Mostly simple … with pops.
TSL: What are your favorite pieces?
KK: Oh here we go. The Nike tech boots. All black leather. They’re lit. My brother had three pairs of them and I had to take one off of his hands. I like them, one, because they’re super cool and they make me look kinda hard.
But they’re also sexy at the same time. And everyone’s on this boot phase right now. So I feel like these are kind of reminiscent of the cool hard boots that everyone tries to wear, but no one has seen these before. So everyone’s like, “Oh — what — Nike — tech — what the —,” but really for me, it’s just what all the metro workers in D.C. wear. So everyone in D.C. has the Nike boots.
It’s why my brother had three pairs. He had one for work, and one for activities, and one for when he wanted to look fresh. Wale got that song called “Nike Boots.” I like them because it’s like I’m repping. They’re dope, but I’m repping.
Now, my Maasai blanket. I like it because it’s big, and it’s a blanket that keeps me warm and comfy. But also, it’s super lit. And you can wear it as a shawl. It’s bright red and it pops. So most of the time I’ll be wearing all black and I’ll throw on the Maasai blanket and it’s lit.
TSL: Are you working on anything right now?
KK: Well, I’m in this band called Djembe Jones and we got these tee shirts. Kinda your classic, how you say, graphic tee. So we got plain colors. Black and maroon. And then we got this graphic that is an homage, if you will, to this childhood rec soccer league from Takoma Park.
I don’t even feel comfortable talking about this. I’m the only one in the band who didn’t play Takoma Park rec soccer. That’s crazy! It’s a rec soccer league that everyone else in the band played in. Everyone we know played. So it’s an homage to that shirt except instead of a silhouette of people playing soccer it’s a silhouette of us. And instead of saying “Takoma Park Soccer,” it says “Djembe Jones”.
So that’s fun because it looks dope and it’s also a fun play on something from our past. Making something new from something old. Kind of like sampling in music. And we also utilize this tactic, sampling, in the music we make. We’re working on an album. It’s called “Djoanin.” D-J-O-A-N-I-N. It’s dropping sometime in April. So watch out, it’s gonna be lit.
Make sure to check out @djembejonesband to stay up to date on the band’s music, style, and thriving personalities.