Interview By Lissa Alicia
Keturah Caesar is a filmmaker, photographer, activist, and ex b-girl. Caesar effortlessly combines her work with an overarching Hip Hop aesthetic. In this interview Ceasar talks about fashion, breakdancing and her love for Hip Hop culture.
You recently celebrated a birthday. So, I must start by wishing you a HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, of course. What did you do on your special day?
Thank you. I celebrated my birthday with my wonderful family, friends and loved ones. My present to myself was to pray for protection and growth.
I have known you for a few years now and have met some of your family. For those who don’t know you, can you tell them a little bit about your background.
West Philadelphia is where I was born and raised. My family is my foundation and I’m grateful to have come from a family of entrepreneurs, artists, leaders and blue printers. We’ve always been ambitious, hard workers and unique in our endeavors. My family is a reflection of who I am as a believer in God, dancer, filmmaker, revolutionary and cook.
You are truly a Hip Hop head in every sense of the word. When did you first fall in love with the craft?
Thank you. Most of my love for Hip Hop culture was first introduced to me as a young girl. My step father often played Chubb Rock and Public Enemy when I was eight years old. At that time I wasn’t fully aware of Hip Hop music/culture until I started dancing at block parties and youth clubs. Soul, Funk and Hip Hop music surrounded my brothers, my best friend and myself. In fact, DJ Statik of Illvibe Collective used to bring turn tables over my house and play 90’s Hip Hop and party music. So, I was always around the culture. However, I started to truly fall in love with Hip Hop from my older brother Amani Olu. I like to refer to him as the man with the master plan. He was the one who introduced us to raw dancing, b-boying/b-girling, break beats, Hip Hop literature and swag.
Who are a few of your favorite Hip Hop acts?
Versus, a female rap duo between Nicole "Victoruous" Harris and Gray Logik, now known as Ethel Cee. They were two female emcees who had strong content, style, and creativity. They stood out from men and women. I believe I’ll never come across two women who were as fly as Nikkie and Kamillah. Other favorite acts of mine are Ai_que, Ghost Ghang, Dance Champions, Hannibal, Macca and Mouse. All their talents are superb!
We all know that music is a powerful tool. What impact do you believe Hip Hop has had on youth?
Hip Hop is a raw culture that is rebellious against mainstream America. It was inspired out of political and social ills in the late 70’s and early 80’s after the fall of the Black Panther Party. In fact, Hip Hop first started in the neighborhoods by young people who were influenced by Jazz, Funk and Soul. If not all, most music and dance cultures are created by youth in urban communities (Blues, Jazz and Funk). With that being said, Hip Hop's impact on youth is them bringing something new, fresh and innovative to society. Hip Hop allows youth and young adults to sometimes freely and creatively express their talents in a unique and dynamic way. More importantly, you learn about culture, history and life in Hip Hop. It’s a world renowned phenomenon that brought unity to society like no other genre. Thanks to the youth.
Who is Krazzy K and what happened to her?
Krazzy K is myself, this name was given to me when I used to breakdance and organize Hip Hop shows, One of my fellow old heads gave me that name because of my passion for b-boying at that time. Plus, my style is Krazzy lol. Krazzy K was so much a part of me in every way. My youth, passion, mannerism and ambition. Once I re-joined activist political organizations, I became Ms.K. to now just K.
When did you begin breakdancing?
At 15 years old and stopped at 25. My brother Amani Olu and Raphael Xavier incited b-boying/b-girling in me and my peers. In fact, Amani played a pivotal role in Philly b-boying culture and history. He started break dance practices at Temple University which revolutionized giving b-boys a place to dance outside of paid studio time and community centers. During that time, b-boying wasn’t respected as a professional dance in the world of ballet and modern jazz. However, it soon quickly spread to Drexel and Penn Universities. Then studio dancers such as ballerinas started taking break dance workshops and classes. I must say it helped merged the gap between Hip Hop dance, jazz and ballet. In terms of me, Top Rocking was always my strongest and favorite component of b-girling. My flavor of dance was always simply Raw Talent.
I have never seen you breakdance. Is there any chance that this can change?
(Laughs) If you weren’t around at the time I was doing it, then probably not. I don’t breakdance anymore. It's too much on my body these days. However, you will see me dance in Afre’Hop: Gang of La Femelle cinematic film. Afre’Hop is a leg dance that I’m introducing that was inspired out of b-boying, Top Rocking, Tap and South African dance cultures.
Tell me about Philly Stand Up and Hip To Know and how both movements got started?
Philly Stand Up! started from brother Tommy and myself out of the Hip Hop Party for the People in 2011. At the time I was the national coordinator and co-founded/produced it with him. We both worked closely with youth in activism, culture and art. It was inspired out of the flash mob phenomenon to give youth and young adults a voice about education, employment and access to programs that would keep them active and safe. Especially at a time when school funding for resources and programs were downsized because of budget cuts. Philly Stand Up is an annual youth parade from Love Park to Broad and Erie to encourage youth leadership and advocacy. PSU's first year was titled: Be The Change and the second year titled: The Take Over. Now Philly Stand Up Collective, a collaboration of various community organizations, has creatively advanced by introducing our third theme: Bands That Make Them Dance! We are back at it next year!
Hip 2 Know was a campaign project to raise awareness of sexually transmitted infection (Chlamydia syphilis, gonorrhea, and H.I.V)) rates in youth and to promote the personal and community benefits of getting tested. Jacqui Bowman, a long time friend, supporter and director of the Mutter Museum College of Physicians programs brought me into this project as youth coordinator. We've done all types of events to get the word out. Such as: Hip Hop shows, photoshoots, health and wellness forums, free giveaways, public service announcements videos and blogging. In fact, we partnered with The Gathering, Philadelphia’s longest running Hip Hop event, to spread the word to West Philly youth as one of our main testing sites. Local sponsors supported H2K such as, Poppyn, Youth Multi-media Network, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Sneaker Villa, just to name a few. It was fun and educational! Teens willingly got tested, encouraged their peers to get tested and educated themselves about the high risk of STD’s and H.I.V. We graciously ended this campaign out this past June with a celebration for National H.I.V day.
You recently enrolled in film school. Could you tell me why you chose it as your major?
In 2008, I starting producing and directing my first film, Raw Talent: A Philadelphia Hip Hop Dance Documentary. Shortly after, Nicole "Victorious" Harris became the co-producer and co- director of Raw Talent. Raw Talent film is a story showcasing our style, vocabulary and history of Philadelphia’s dance culture from the late 70’s to present day. The sole purpose of producing the Raw Talent Documentary was to BRING UNITY between the older and younger generations of Hip Hoppers. The older generation always discredited the talent and skills of the younger generation because they didn’t come from the golden era of Hip Hop. And the younger generation had very little knowledge of the golden era of Hip Hop. So, the history wasn’t relevant in their young minds. Our mission was to encourage both older and younger generations to “Get Involved” as a way to bring unity. We were fortunate enough to meet legends and pioneers such as Lady B, Too Tuff from the Tuff Crew, Skeme Richards, Rennie Harris and many more. It was a wonderful experience exploring Hip Hop history of Philadelphia. Events, photo shoots and of course filming took place around this motion picture. However, as time progressed I realized I lacked the expertise in the technical side of filmmaking such as editing, camera formatting, audio, lighting and script writing. With that being said, I enrolled in The Art Institute of Philadelphia for those particular reasons. It’s been great and very refreshing. Now with my newfound knowledge about the process of filmmaking, Raw Talent is a film collective of photographers, camera operators, editors, screen and script writers, journalist, audio technicians, directors, producers and visual artists that all work on Raw Talent Film Productions. We are art and culture based and we welcome professional creative filmmakers to be a part of the collective. In addition, prior to 2008, Raw Talent production, I studied communications at William Penn High School and was awarded two trophies: Best Comcast Video Production of the year and best senior project of the year in 2002. It’s always been part of my interest. Now, I've decided to take it further.
Who are some of your favorite black filmmakers?
Spike Lee and the original production team from the Raw Talent Documentay such as Adachi Pimentel, Meredith Eldrow and Bryan Green. I’ve always been inspired by their photography and film work.
One of the first things I notice about most people is also one of my favorite things about you: your style of dress. Your ensembles are always very eclectic and colorful. Can you describe your style and how you choose what you are going to wear for the day?
Thank you! I like to think of my style of dress as random. I’ll put random pieces of clothes together and make an outfit. However, I am a fan of vintage or dunaree skinny leg jeans and dresses. Dresses happen to be my favorite thing to wear. Colors come natural to me and it has always added dynamism to my personality and style of dress. My way of picking an outfit for the day is solely around the weather and what shoes I want to wear to determine my outfit. It’s all about the shoe and my current hairstyle for me ;).
Can we talk about your love of heels tho?
(Smiles) My family are fashionable dressers especially with shoes. So, they schooled me. But, I really have to say I get it from my sister Rachel Amala Caesar. She inspires my vintage style of shoes. Her catalogue of pumps are everything from size of heel, style, color and brand. I especially enjoy shoes of bold colors and patterns. They add flare and spunk to denim in which happens to be my favorite type of cloth. The boys love them and I do too ;). Shoes are fun and can be dressed up with any outfit!
Melissa "Lissa Alicia" Simpson is a 23-year-old freelance journalist, media & marketing specialist, event curator and amateur model. Her interests include binge watching Dr. Who, writing creative nonfiction and street art. Find out more about Lissa at lissalicia.com.