Gyasi Williams-Kirtley is NOT your typical young adult. She is a 20 year old free-spirited and ultra-motivated artist from Brooklyn, NY (Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and Flatbush, to be exact) who has written for major publications and prefers talking about music and politics over getting her nails done and gossiping. She has lots of experience in various art fields, and she currently pursues Music Journalism. Gyasi is knowledgeable in almost all genres of music (classic hip hop, soul, reggae, jazz, and Brazilian music just to name a few), and her artistic parents have been her inspiration ever since she was a little girl. At such a young age, she has accomplished a lot in the Music Journalism industry, and has decided to share some of her accomplishments and advice in a lengthy, detailed interview with Brooklyn Buzz.
Check out the interview below!
Pia: You write for both AfroPunk and Mass Appeal. How did you get those opportunities and what do you like most about both?
Gyasi: I don’t “write” for AfroPunk. I’ve written for AfroPunk. I’ve written for a lot of publications actually. Most of my opportunities I get from just research and asking. Nothing is ever presented to me. I have just as much chance as the next person, or a person that has more experience than I do, but that person doesn’t have the same level of drive. That I know for certain. I’m very passionate and that reads in my work. I pay attention to detail. Everything I’ve ever achieved I’ve achieved because I thought I would die if I didn’t get what I wanted. I was head over heels in love with J.Cole‘s music. I just wanted to make a t-shirt with a photo of him on it. I went through the web and found his first magazine cover this magazine called BRM shot. I went on the website to download the photo and I saw a post about internships. In my 16 year old mind, I quickly devised a plan to meet J.Cole though writing. I applied and got the internship. I had a very lengthy resume for my age. I was a playwright, involved in the non-profit organization Black Girls Rock, I was well connected for a teenager. Even now I think back on all the things I could have done back then and think, ‘Wow, I was the sh*t’.
My first interview was with Mac Miller. Think about that. A 16 year old black girl from Brooklyn interviewing the now famous Pittsburgh rapper just off the passion of wanting to make a J.Cole t-shirt. I’m a nobody, but I made that happen. In the years following I traveled to Rock The Bells, SXSW and a tons of other more local concert festivals all on my own. No one taught me how to do anything and I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’m really glad I’m learning this way opposed to traditional ways. You see kids coming out of universities with Journalism degrees who don’t even know how to generate a open-ended question. They don’t know anything past what they were forced to memorize for final exams. When I was at St. John’s University I had a class with students older than me who would ask me questions upon questions on how I was flying out to Cali to conduct interviews and cover concerts, baffled as to what steps to take to achieve the same goals. I don’t know how I reached this platform, but it’s not a high one. It’s not a low one either. It’s figuring things out, making mistakes and asking really stupid questions with so much confidence that no one knows you have no idea what your doing. I don’t remember who told me in high school to ‘fake it till you make it,’ but I swear I heard those words and turned into Marion Jones with them.
P: How long have you been into Journalism? Did you get to interview any of your musical heroes yet? If so, who and how was it?
G: I’ve been writing all my life, but I would say I’ve been a “writer” for 5 years. I never was “into” Journalism. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to be Aaliyah so f**king bad. My parents will tell you. I used to put on shows at 8 years old. I was always Beyonce when me and my cousins played “girl group.” I was the shyest outspoken little girl. I was really weird. When you know you’re good, you don’t want other people to know because you don’t want the attention. Well, I didn’t. Attention never helped me in my life. Attention got me in trouble a lot so I kept all my talents to myself. If you knew me, you knew I was a triple threat, but if you didn’t you would have never guessed this nerdy little girl with locks and a Shaq jersey could moonwalker over your whole existence. I used to write music in school and people would ask me to write songs for them and I did. I was just always writing. I had the greatest English scores in every school I ever attended. I broke school records. I never really thought of it as my career, I just knew I was good at it. I haven’t interviewed any of my idols. All my idols are either dead or unreachable at this point in time. One day I’ll take a road trip with Prince, Andre 3000 and Kanye on acid and write a book about it. I can die after that.
“I’m very passionate and that reads in my work. I pay attention to detail. Everything I’ve ever achieved I’ve achieved because I thought I would die if I didn’t get what I wanted.”
*Gyasi interviewing rapper Casey Veggies*
P: You’ve mentioned to me in a previous conversation that you want to leave NYC and move to California. What kind of journalism are you looking to do in California?
G: I want to move to Cali because that’s where my family is. I love NYC. It’s my home. I think there is a lot for me in Cali and I want to experience a different pace. Meet different people. Most of all I want to be around my elders. I’ve always loved it out there. It’s my escape. Everything about Cali is wonderful to me. I want to explore it on my own. I don’t have just one route I want to go on. I mostly write about music because I love music. I’m well versed in music culture, but I want to venture out to more “cultural” things. I want to spend time with certain people or certain groups of people to understand them more. Very “Nat Geo.” I want to go to a tribe in Melanesia and see how they react to NWA you know? That kinda thing. I hope no one goes out and does that before me. Haha. Cali is only one place I want to live. I plan on living in a new place every 5 years maybe. France, Brazil, Ghana, Japan. I want to learn language by living in places. I have to learn hands on.
P: What kind of journalism do you want to pursue in the future?
G: I just want to write. I don’t have any real idea of what I want to do. I always tell people I want to be like La La from TRL. She was that B**CH. My mom put me on to this old school chick from MTV called DownTown Julie Brown. She’s fire. I wanna be like her. I don’t like the term “personality” too much, but in a nut shell, that’s what I want to do. Report what I want to report and just hang out with the great minds of the world. I have crazy ideas that no one can even fathom, but you have to be on a certain level to do that. I don’t look up to any writers either. I like Hemingway, Alice Walker, Salinger. Only person I really f**k with is Toure. He’s very aware, but still down you know? He’s political and has pride in his race and his people. I don’t know what I wanna do, but I just want to make sure I represent something my family and my sisters can look up to.
P: You also mentioned being bullied as a young child. How did bullying effect you as an artistic person?
G: My story about bullying is so f**king long. I was picked on from 2nd grade ’till 9th grade. My feelings on it are different now. Success is the greatest revenge. I had girls want to fight me because their boyfriends liked me. I didn’t even know anyone. I had very little friends. I had my ugly phase and was being picked on for being ugly and quiet. I got hit and pushed down stairs. Punched. Food thrown at me. Spit on. No reason other than being poor, not having Jordan’s and being a “ugly” girl with f**ked up teeth. I was smart, but never spoke in class. Teachers would make me take off my hood when my mom didn’t do my hair just to make an example out of me. I went through a lot of f**ked up sh*t no one should ever have to deal with. Attention was not my friend. When I got out of my ugly phase I was being called a hoe before I even had my first boyfriend. I never even kissed anyone and I had groups of girls chasing me for blocks threatening to kill me because their boyfriends said they slept with me. I switched schools 3 times. Most people have an idea of me based on how I look and not on who I am. I’m glad I was able to survive all that I did. Trust me. I wanted to die a lot of times, but I knew I was special. It’s weird. God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. I try to remember that when things get bad. Bullying didn’t really effect my art in a bad way. I knew I was better than everyone no matter how I looked. I could out sing, out draw, or dance ANYONE. People knew that and I was respected in that sense. I still feel that way. That’s why I’m so low key now.
“I knew I was special. It’s weird. God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. I try to remember that when things get bad.”
*Gyasi and Nardwuar the Human Serviette*
P: What is your view on college as a person that was into the arts at a very early age?
G: Sometimes I’m on my “Kill people , burn sh*t, f**k school” tip (OFWGKTA song reference). Other times, I’m a huge advocate for education. There is a huge difference between schooling and education. The school system in America is as good as a broken umbrella in a tsunami. Yeah, I have this fancy a** degree I paid a arm, leg and kidney for, but does it help me get a job? Does it protect me from the realities of life? How does it benefit me? Can I eat today with it? Can I pay my bills? I’m still in school because I need foundation. Discipline. I can’t speak for everyone. It’s all about your drive. The world is really who you know, not what you know, BUT what you know dictates where you go. People only go to Harvard for the connections. If you want an education you have free access to everything via the library, the internet and your elders. It’s about the individuals wanting knowledge or not. This generation, the last 20 years. We are all stupid and lazy. I’m lazy as hell. That’s a whole different conversation though. Hahaha. School isn’t for anyone. School prepares you for the work force. Education is for everyone. Education prepares you for life.
P: What advice would you give to young people that are interested in pursuing journalism and any artistic career in general?
G: Advice? One: Don’t take no for an answer. Two: Everyone is just as clueless as you. Three: Be confident. Four: Love what you do, and love HARD in all that you do. Stay honest, and stay true. All you have is yourself at the end of the day. You always get better. Five: Document everything. I have notebooks from 6th grade that I read like ‘ wow I was f**king stupid as hell,’ but it grounds me. Six: If you think it’s a good idea, stand by it. No one will support something you don’t support. Seven: Listen. Silence is only awkward if you make it awkward. Eight: Don’t beat yourself up over anything. Ever. Realy…..don’t. Nine: If you make a mistake, laugh and keep going. Ten: F**k sh*t up yo. You got one life. I don’t care what people think about me. Figure out what you like and do whatever you want to do. No one is gonna teach you anything. Watch Kung Foo movies… you’ll understand.
Check out Gyasi’s articles on Mass Appeal and Afro Punk below, and follow her on Twitter! (@TheDominusG)
Mass Appeal Articles Here
Afro Punk Articles Below: