by Jamillia Kamara
“How can you own your image, cultural pride, and history if someone else is telling your story? We need fresh voices to keep the legacy alive. Make your mark and create your own creative space. I run on PASSION.” -- Lyrispect
We chose Nina Ball—known by her popular stage name “Lyrispect”—as a print edition feature artist due to her demonstrated commitment to community empowerment, artistic expression, and taking proactive measures to fulfill her life goals. Look out for her work with The African American Film Festival Releasing Movement, The Philadelphia Arts Museum, Black Girls Rock! and a personal album release in the coming year.
You coined your stage name, Lyrispect, from a foiled attempt at starting a program in Baltimore. What advice do you have for people experiencing challenges while attempting to carve out a creative space?
“Make a plan to put aside a consistent amount of time each week. For example, if you can’t put aside one day during your weekend, commit to spreading out 6 hours towards your creative goals each week. Goal setting and planning will be your most effective tool. Decide what you want and create a strong product. You do this by enlisting the advice of people whose opinion you respect. Once you have a strong product, you've won half the battle. Next you have to work on your networking and your pitch!”
We spoke briefly about the possibility of hearing hip-hop/alternative music from you in the future. Can you tell us how you are navigating that journey and when we can expect to hear it all?
“Yes! I am really excited to be exploring my creative voice through Hip-Hop! The journey has been slow but steady. I am fortunate that there is a quality handful of people that want to work with me in realizing my potential in this arena. I have done a couple of [collaborations] but I am still finding my stride in working with others. I am a perfectionist when it comes to the official writing that I release.
When it comes to my musical influences, most of them aren't Hip-Hop. That’s why I think my body of work will ultimately sound like a mash up of a wide range of influence. I like indie, jazz, folk, Afrobeat, gritty trap, rock and R&B. I feel like you can find and ride the flow of any well-composed piece of music.”
The music and poetry scene in Philly can seem intimidating to outsiders. How do you suggest new poets and musicians break in, gain a following, and stay relevant?
“The best piece of advice I can give is [to] show up, talk to people, stick around and stay consistent. It can take people a while to connect the dots that you are here to stay and not just passing through. Express your passion about your art and talk to and support other artists. We have a community here and we all rotate through different spaces at different times. If you give up too soon, there are some people that you will never meet. If you truly do it for the love of expression, people will respect the purity of your intentions and embrace that.”
We've seen you work with numerous groups across the spectrum, from AFFRM to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Black Girls Rock! How do you decide who to collaborate with, and what types of programs should we expect you to be involved in for the rest of 2014?
“I have three primary stipulations: [the work] has to be something I am already deeply passionate about, aligned with my aesthetic and level of integrity, and it has to be attempting to change the world in some way.
My work with Black Girls Rock! gets to the core of how I believe we can all change the world, as mentors. We cultivate the most promising young leaders that we have access to and we seek to make them better humans and responsible citizens and leaders in their field of choice. I have been a Director for Black Girls Rock Queens Camp for Leadership and Excellence since its inaugural year in 2011. We are now in our 4th year and we have seen our graduating classes go on to prestigious colleges and make their mark in media and within their individual communities.
The work I do as National Volunteer Coordinator for the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) fulfills my desire to elevate and be a part of the promotion of more realistic images of Blacks across the Diaspora as told by US. It’s a lot of hard work getting the word out and translating social media interest to real-life attendance and support. Our core of volunteers is our backbone in helping our reach to go viral. I want my little nieces and nephews to continue to see accurate reflections of themselves, untainted by underlying racist themes, caricatures and cultural misconceptions… I want to be a part of changing the landscape of media offerings as both a champion of Black film and a writer, director and facilitator of art and the Black Aesthetic.
It [was] an honor to be contacted to work with the historic Philadelphia Museum of Art to produce a series of events through Art After 5. I was very lucky that Sara Moyn gave me a lot of artistic freedom in choosing the artist lineup and themes of the night. I started off doing a free event called “Pay What You Wish Wednesdays”. It brought record numbers to that particular gallery and I was subsequently offered 3 “Art After 5” slots over the course of several months. I feel I have an eye for quality and there are so many artists that I still want to get on to that big stage in the Grand Stair, so that all the [locals and] tourists from around the world can see just how much diversity Philadelphia-based artists have to offer. I love bringing people together to enjoy transformative art.
This year, I am doing a lot of writing. I have been studying more and taking notes in a few different areas and I a just about ready to pull the trigger. You can expect to see my work surface in a myriad of ways because I have so much input in various artistic arenas. I got some simple yet great advice from Debbie Allen recently, who is known to have achieved greatness as a dancer, choreographer, actress, producer and director. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, “You can only do one thing at a time. When I’m directing, everything else has to take a back seat, and so on and so forth.” That really struck me because her body of work resonates with me and I know if she is giving it to me straight like that, then I best listen and pick my first lane to own and master.”
I am so excited, I have a new book coming out! Its called "The PreCursor", early and signature works by Lyrispect. Its the first of a series of creative projects (literature, audio, film) I'm releasing under the umbrella "Spectrum of a Supernova". This book is my baby! I compiled it and self-published so it’s raw and vulnerable...but I wanted it to be that way. I write about love, revolution, social change, magic, and futurism. It contains most of my signature poems and some of my strongest written work to date. Its really affordable. It will be available in the U.S. then Canada, and then an international release is scheduled this fall! It will be available for order through my website. www.lyrispect.com
The cover art is original and its ballpoint pen on wood... a dope artist found my pic online and rendered it. I woke up one morning tagged by one of my friends to the pic on Swizz Beat's Instagram page with over 7,000 likes! After I got over the initial shock, I knew this had to be the cover for one of my creative projects. The artist agreed! The PreCursor was the perfect fit!
Feel free to tell us anything else you find relevant!
“I work for myself and by the grace of God [I] haven’t had to look for jobs or commissions since I left my salaried job in 2011.”
People always see what you have and they want a shortcut to success, or they start to treat you differently. But they never really know how hard you have worked, what you have sacrificed, and what you have experienced to get there. I’m talking about changing your personal work hours to match a headquarters in a time zone that is 3 hours behind you. I stay up late into the night meeting deadlines and wake up early in the morning to get a swim or a workout in and do it all again the next day. My creativity and my intelligence fuel my income. It takes a lot of energy to be “on” so much, but I am pacing myself. I can see myself founding a company or taking an Executive Director role in an arts organization. I have a structured intellectual need that has to be filled alongside my creativity. My goal is to stay humble and to soar beyond my wildest imagination!”
To learn more about Lyrispect visit her website www.lyrispect.com/