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News and updates from around the Ujima Ecosystem.

Rated E for Ethereal: A Conversation With Ethereal Visions

Through the cloud of the æther, a vision emerges… a youth-filled rap crew from Mattapan embraces legacy, and conquers all. 

Ethereal Visions, the aforementioned crew (led by Ajary Alexandre as CEO), commands attention and love with their wisened work and presence. With member ages spanning from 16 to 21, their youth belies their commitment to craft and care. From performing for causes and organizations (as they did for our April Mattapan Assembly), to blessing stages at theatrical performances and concerts alike, Ethereal Visions (or EV) continues to show up and show out as an integral part of Boston’s hip-hop community–and as a collective, they continue to explore healthy ways of coming together in brotherhood.

In this Black Music Month edition of the Ujima WIRE, editorial manager Alula Hunsen speaks with group members Ajary, Macky Ukiyo, Jassiel, and Rxot about solidarity and relationship-building as they grow into their shine.


I'll start with passing the mic to you, AJARY. 

Ajary Alexandre (artist name: AJARY): Live and in effect <laughs>, live and in effect. 

I’m curious about your vision for what Ethereal Visions could be, and how you are holding onto that vision–holding onto the dynamic thing as opposed to holding onto the still image, as you would say.  

AJARY: The vision that I have for EV is a vision that we all hold together–it's a vision of a collective future, and we hope to introduce collectivity and solidarity in a more approachable fashion for youth in Boston. I was introduced to both concepts via an Ujima meeting, and I thought they were very foundational to our own work–which is why we agreed to this interview. I honestly see [those concepts] as the future. It's important that we, the people, are looking at each other as the resource and the assets to place the trust in, place the funds in, so we can continue to keep on moving up together.  

How does collectivity work within EV? Are there collective decision-making processes?  

AJARY:  A big part of it is natural; folks do what they want and what they have capacity for. The remaining part, I sometimes call the spin cycle [as in laundry] because of the cyclical iteration: it goes through one step of conversation first, then we bring an idea up into the bigger group or take it down into a smaller group to build on it further. 

The interpersonal part of it is just being real with each other and understanding that we're all going to want things. We try to make sure that equity/fairness is always in the equation.  

Macky, how do you see it? 

Mckenley Theodat (artist name: Macky Ukiyo):    Kind of piggybacking off of what AJARY said about working in a semi-organized infrastructure: right now I’m focused on in-depth relation, and focused on us. We understand each other to an extent where it's like, we know what you’re eating up. We know what I’m eating up. So now we’re all eating good. We're very much fed creatively, you know?


Absolutely. Related to decision making: how do you all approach conflict?   

Jassiel Chalas (artist name: Jassiel):   If there's any disagreement, I just try to not get too emotionally invested in it. There's gonna be disagreements and there's gonna be lows; we never take things too personal, and I personally try to take accountability as much as I can. And apologize. And just make sure that it's known that I still have respect for the other person. 

What does solidarity mean to you all?  

Luis Garcia (artist name: Rxot):    What do you mean by solidarity? Could you expand a little bit? 

Hm. It can come up in a lot of contexts. A political example would be Algeria in the 1960s, fresh off of an anti-colonial struggle against the French, supporting Black Panthers in the United States–there’s a recognition of common struggle against white supremacy that fostered such a relationship. Solidarity in the business world can look like seeing a business that's similarly aligned, that shares the same values–maybe they pay their employees high wages, they care about the community–and choosing to partner or invest with them, so you can support those values together. Solidarity as artists could look like building an artist collective with people who are in the same area, who are around the same age, who have a vision for what this city's music scene could look like. 

So, given those examples, what does the concept of solidarity mean to Ethereal Visions? 

Macky:   I hope that we are truly the last generation of Black Bostonian musicians to feel helpless. I'm standing on that. You’ve gotta think about the state of hip hop here. We were getting f*cked with back in the eighties, you feel me? By a plethora of different factors. It's 2024 now.  

Anybody who's just jumping into music from here on out, understand that there's gonna be a pipeline of support and encouragement as well as tools to build your resources and to really stay afloat, and that we’re going to be a part of that.

Rxot:   To add on to that, solidarity for us is making sure we're all relying on each other; building that pipeline so everybody has support to make dreams come true. Not just in art, but in life. 

AJARY: To me, it’s unity in peace. Yeah. And unity as force. Solidarity is Haitian. Seriously. I'm a Zo.  

One of the models for the present-day solidarity economy is actually the principle/practice of susu or sol, borrowed from Haitian and West African collective savings traditions. 


AJARY:    Whoa. Can you explain that to me?  

Of course. It’s somewhat similar to tithing, but not necessarily religious, and it’s about pooling money in a rotating savings club to invest or spend on a community or common good. The money that gets put in that pot might get spent on building a community center, like the Cambridge Community Center. That idea is one of the foundational histories that undergirds the solidarity economy.  

AJARY:   Oh, that's beautiful. That's dope. History is Haitian. Do your research.  

What does brotherly love mean to Ethereal Visions?  

Rxot: I’m reminded of something that Ja (AJARY) said: “if you can't do it for yourself, do it for everyone else”. It’s really about that kind of accountability, making sure you're always pulling your own weight and trying your best for the sake of all of us. As long as you're trying, everyone's going to see you and push with you.  

AJARY, what does it mean to you to be a CEO amongst a band of brothers? How do you manage leadership while prioritizing everybody's needs and making sure that everyone feels supported?  

AJARY:  Managing leadership has been the greatest task of my year. Oh my God. <laughs>. It's been the greatest task of my life. I was born a leader. I'm just fitting the shoes now. My pants fit nice too. You feel me? I've learned that a lot of what I can do to help my brothers is with immediate needs. We have managers of course, but certain things, I'll just step in and support. It’s just me being a brother to them and them being a brother to me.


So you take the ‘executive’ part seriously– executive as in executing


AJARY:  Yeah, definitely.

How do y'all split money? What does the business model look like for EV? 

AJARY:    We don't split money–everything we make, we upcycle and invest back into the label, into projects and releases and promotion and venue deposits. I currently “own” the label, but I would love to see EV transition to co-ownership amongst all of us. I think co-ownership sets the stage for a healthy ecosystem–there just has to be solid conversation surrounding it. That's the vision for our future as well, but we’re still learning, and there’s still steps.

What's next for EV? What's coming up? What's coming down the pipeline?  

Rxot:    <laugh>. More albums. A lot of music. Sh*t you’ve never heard.  

Jassiel:    What's next for EV is millions of freaking dollars, dude. <laughs> What's next for me personally? Maturity. Growth.  

Do y'all have any last words that you would like to leave readers with?


Macky:    Stay on pivot, ladies and gentlemen. 'Cause it's not gonna get any easier. It's time to bob and weave a little bit. You know what I'm saying? I'm ready to show 'em how I'm really like a butterfly with the best wings you've ever seen, Goddamnit. 

Jassiel:    Just do right by your people. Do right by yourself. Because the way you treat yourself, the way you approach the relationship with yourself reflects on everything. Life is your projection. It's a projection of you. So yeah, just be on it with yourself and be on it with everything, but also enjoy all the fruits that life gives you. You feel me? 

AJARY:    Rest. Please. Message to the world. Take a breather, n*gga. I know you need it. There's a lot of serious things going on right now, and if you can take a second to not rush, you'll be better prepared to handle it all. Word up.


Alula Hunsen is an essayist, researcher, editor, and Editorial Manager at Boston Ujima Project. His specific intrigues lie in Black cultural production, planning creative spaces, and alternative economies that support self-determination.


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