NATIVE Exclusive: Aurora Anthony is proud of his Nigerian heritage
A masterclass in fashion and music
A masterclass in fashion and music
As an epicentre of deep culture and heritage, New York City is also heralded as one of the fashion and music capitals of the world as a notable amount of successful musicians and designers were birthed and raised from the larger than life city. American-Nigerian singer, Aurora Anthony is among this talented spate of stars putting his city on the map, one release at a time. Originally from the city’s Lower East Side, the rapper and style enthusiast is pushing to make a change and raise a voice for the music and fashion scene in his community.
While he’s more than happy to champion the city that raised him, Anthony is also immensely proud of his Nigerian heritage which he constantly attempts to inculcate in all his music and fashion endeavours. Already, the New York-based artist has caught the attention of big brands such as Diesel, Jordans and more to represent and put on his city and roots in a unique way.
Over the past few years, his lifestyle company 100 WOLVES has made it on Beyoncé’s 2020 list of Top Black-Owned Brands to follow. He has also been part of catwalks in fashion week and Billboards for brands such as GUESS. The rapper has also tapped into his modelling side with spreads in magazines such as Vanity Fair, Financial Times and Elle magazine. It’s clear that Aurora Anthony is steadily delivering a masterclass in the intersections between fashion and music.
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Anthony continues to craddle this intersection, putting his own unique spin on each endeavour he pursues while staying true to his Nigerian and African roots. It’s no surprise that the rapper is already creating a loyal following, who all cling to his every move as he makes his way up the upper echelons of music and fashion. Over the years, he’s become known as a trusty tastemaker in both industries, even going as far as taking on his own graffiti work across New York’s busiest boroughs which he has been nurturing since he was a young boy.
Anthony also makes plush toys and 3D- printed chrome sculptures, which inevitably caught the eyes of sports behemoth, Nike who recently tapped him to collaborate on an exclusive Air Force One Family and Friends shoe, inspired by his recently released debut album titled ‘TUNDE’. The white shoe not only reflects his Nigerian heritage and personal style but also, his identity as one who has become a trusty voice in fashion. The limited-edition shoes also come with a black sole, green suede “swoosh” and the album title, ‘TUNDE’ stitched on its heels.
Ahead of the release of ‘TUNDE’ and the imminent Nike drop, we get to chop it up with Anthony on what’s to come, the music scene in the Lower East Side, his passion for fashion and more. Here, he talks candidly about his aim to introduce himself to the music scene in both New York and Nigeria and to become a beacon of hope from the places he is from. He loves his city and believes that there should be a need to not copy or rely on other areas like Bronx or Harlem but rather bring their own native voices to the community and worldwide.
Our conversation which follows below has been lightly edited for clarity.
NATIVE: Hey Anthony! Nice to meet you, tell us a little bit about yourself and how your musical journey began?
ANTHONY: I’m from the Lower East Side but I’m a music and a graffiti artist first. I basically make music and art. I started when I was 12 or 13 years old. I was inspired by the fact that no one from my neighbourhood had a voice and all these other neighbourhoods had a distinct voice such as the Bronx and Harlem. I felt like no one was speaking on behalf of my area. My area was treated like a town, a place that people would cross through but there weren’t native people to it. That inspired me to go ahead and make music so people from my area would have a voice and would feel championed and not have to go chase other peoples trends and lingos.
NATIVE: What’s the music scene like on the lower east side?
ANTHONY: The music scene is almost non-existent. No natives from the lower east side are really doing anything. There aren’t too many. So it would be cool to make a scene as the scene is getting created.
NATIVE: Where did the name ‘Aurora’ come from?
ANTHONY: It’s actually inspired by a nickname I had since I was young. Just me being dramatic as a youngster and it just stuck ever since.
NATIVE: What inspired the album name TUNDE?
ANTHONY: My name is Anthony and my middle name is Babatunde. I wanted to make it a part of my heritage and introduce myself to the music community. I wanted to introduce myself and the first thing you do when you introduce yourself is tell them your name. I just wanted to give that but not only that. I could have named it Aurora but Wanted to show the side of me people really don’t know.
NATIVE: Has growing up from a traditional Nigerian household held you back in any way?
ANTHONY: No! My parents are pretty progressive. They were cool but always tried to pivot it to school. There were times where it would be like school or this but I was like I’m gonna Make my parents upset and do this but they’re happy now.
NATIVE: How did you go about selecting the features on this album?
ANTHONY: I have 2 features and that goes back to introducing people to my world. That’s why I didn’t really work with any other artists. I wanted it to be more about me and things I like to do and people I know. I wanted to put those things in the forefront and not worry about what others are doing or have. That’s why I wanted to leave the album with minimal features and if there is, it’s someone I know personally.
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NATIVE: The “WOLF” visuals are only in black and white, why is that?
ANTHONY: I just wanted to introduce people to my world and the absence of colour in a visual way sets the tone of the music and I didn’t wanna add colour. Adding colour would sway people away from actually listening to the music and that’s why I did like a film noir.
NATIVE: Your album is great but which songs meant the most to you?
ANTHONY: “Lil Wolfy” or “Tulips”. “Lil Wolfy” is a reflection and reminder of my past, who I was, what I was doing and where I came from. It’s me venting and letting that piece of me finally go and get over it. “Tulips” is an ode to my father. He is getting old and I want to be able to retire him. It’s just a song for and to let him know where my heart is.
NATIVE: Is there any other way in the album you resonated with Nigeria or the culture aside from the title?
ANTHONY: No! that was the first way and I did that strategically. I didn’t wanna give it all away cause when you introduce yourself, you don’t do that all at once. It’s like speed dating, you gotta wait a little bit. I don’t want people to treat my music like speed dating. I actually wanted people to see the person first and see the vibe then now I wanna go in-depth. So I’ll leave that stuff for the other projects.
NATIVE: Has music impacted your fashion or vice versa?
ANTHONY: Yes! fashion does play a part. One hand watches the other. Maybe an outfit that inspired a verse or I could be in a certain type of garment that makes me feel a certain way. They go hand in hand. Do you ever wake up and feel amazing because of the way you’re dressed? It’s the same thing for music, it can inspire me to make a song that I wasn’t thinking of, for example, “Cartier”, I was thinking about Cartier and how it has been an important part of fashion as of recent. It made me wanna make a song about that.
NATIVE: Who were your fashion and music inspirations while growing up?
ANTHONY: Pharrell really. I was a skateboarder and a graffiti artist as a kid so he was like “this type of clothing that you’re wearing, it’s cool. Look at me in doing it.” He was the first artist to make it feel cool to be into streetwear fashion. He could be in a video with HOV in a regular BBC ice cream T-shirt and he’ll look cooler than his contemporaries. I’m always gonna champion him as one of those dudes that helped me get into fashion and style and have the confidence to put on some clothes and I don’t feel like I have to go get some True Religions
NATIVE: What’s the thought process behind the design of the Nike Air Force drop?
ANTHONY: I love white shoes and I feel like everyone loves white shoes but with shoes they get dirty, so how do we preserve them? That’s how I arrived at including a black sole. You can wear it anyway without scuffing it and you still have white shoes. I didn’t wanna be corny and make just green and white and say “this represents Nigeria”. I inverted it and made the inner tack in the shoes and the lock-up green with suede to show the luxury of where I’m coming from. I want everyone to have an all-white shoe and feel comfortable owning an all-white shoe without having the problems of wearing an all-white shoe.
NATIVE: You’ve worked with a couple of well-known brands over the years. What’s been the most notable brand and which are you looking forward to working with in the future?
ANTHONY: I’ve worked with almost every brand I’ve wanted to work with as a kid – Nike, Jordan etc. Definitely, Puma, Adidas, New Balance, I’d definitely work with them. I wanna create a world so anywhere that lets me create a world, that’s where I wanna be.
Stream ‘TUNDE’ below.
Featured image credits/NATIVE