Within our Black History Is Now series, Refinery29 is giving the floor to some of the most prominent black British men in the public eye. There's a prevalent conversation about black women not feeling valued within our own community as well as in wider society, so we've asked men to step forward and tell us about the women they're inspired by as part of our ongoing celebration of black British womanhood.
This time we hear from Casyo "Krept" Johnson, better known as one half of the MOBO and BET Award-winning rap duo Krept and Konan. Ahead, he tells us about the lasting legacy of an icon, the impact of one of music's rising stars, and what he wishes for the next generation of young black women. As told to Jazmin Kopotsha.
"Naomi Campbell. Firstly, she’s from Streatham. I'm from Crystal Palace/Gypsy Hill, which is five minutes down one road. To see the milestones that she's reached as a black woman in the industry that she's in is so inspirational.
She was the first black woman to be on French Vogue. You know, for a black woman to get on French Vogue? That is mad! That is such a big deal. And then even on British Vogue, I think there was a spell of about 20 years that they never had a black woman on British Vogue [Ed. note: No solo black model appeared on the cover between Naomi Campbell in 2002 and Jourdan Dunn in 2015]. I feel like people just look at her and say, Naomi Campbell, she’s that model, she's a star, she's a celebrity and are not actually looking at the fact of what industry she's in and what she's done as a black woman. We need people like her in those positions. She gave so many girls I knew hope. So many girls that I knew looked up to Naomi Campbell and I just feel like she needs to be celebrated for the queen that she is. I rate her so much and she's still going.
[With her legacy,] you're always going to refer to her. If you say to anyone Name a black supermodel right now, first it’s Naomi Campbell. When people mention the word supermodel, forget a black supermodel, the image I think people will assume you get is a white woman. That's this country especially. Whereas she's come and broken that barrier down and broken that mould. She's made it a thing where if you want to come up and be a supermodel, you know that is possible. For me growing up, she was a proper icon and it was so mad because a lot of the time when I was young I didn't know she was from Streatham. So, when I found out that she was from Streatham I was just like, This is so sick – she's literally from here... The sad part of it is that you're surprised that she's from Streatham.
I’ve never met her. I've seen her at events, but I would love to meet her, man. [I'd ask] what is your recipe for surviving in an industry of this kind for so long? Because our thing [as Krept & Konan] is longevity. We want to be here in years to come. We're not here trying to chase it fast, we're here to set a foundation and build an empire and something that could just keep coming in for years to come. And I feel like she’s done that. She built up such a brand. I would love to know what did she do to become that household name.
The [music] industry as a whole becoming so big that it's helped everyone in aspects, especially females, because I feel like it's usually just one at a time. There was when Ms Dynamite had hers. Then Shystie. Then in more recent times, Lady Leshurr. This is the first time when I've looked to my left, right, front and there are females killing it right now. I feel like this stage that the music game's in right now is amazing.
To see Ms Banks, Steff[lon Don], Ray [Blk], all at the same time, you know, performing at their award shows and that; I just think it’s so sick. They're opening a door for the next generation of young black women that want to come. I've seen so many other black MCs that have started and I’ve felt like there's a bit more confidence. Like, Yeah, we can see the ladies and they’re doing well and I can do it now. And I feel like that was lacking before, there was a gap. There was a stage where there were a few mixed-race girls... There was a period where it was just that. Whereas now it's not and that. It's the sickest thing now – we all can get there.
Ms Banks, she's killing it. She's making bangers and you can't deny it. She's making bangers and she's representing black females. I really, really have to big up Ms Banks. She's such a G and she's been grinding for time. And she's from the ends! She's from Walworth, southeast London. I’m proper proud of her and I’m happy to see her do so well.
You know what I don't want? Is for the next young black female to do well and for other black females to think, Oh, that's just a one-off. I want them all to feel like this is possible for all of us, to do this all at the same time, it's not about this or that. I want so many young black women to do well that it becomes normal and it's not a thing where people notice it. I just want to see where it becomes a thing where it's just like, they’re here and they're here to stay. Because it helps the black youth, to have black women in certain positions that understand what's going on and that really care about our culture, like, for real. It's not a case of wanting. We need black women to be in a certain position in this industry, if you want this industry to thrive, you know?"
Krept and Konan's new album 'Revenge Is Sweet' is out 1st November