What does it take to be a creative platform that stands out nowadays? Well three things, 'individuality, inclusivity and collaboration' as David Dabieh, one half of the self proclaimed '100% independent' artistic creative platform, 'Cloud X', put it ever so effortlessly. Alongside fellow founder Ben Cross, the duo have created a niche online outlet aimed at all creative individuals with the aims to culturally connect with their audience on a 'personal and societal level'.
Photo Credit: Vicky Grout
Progressively changing the narrative of youth culture, especially those of colour, by speaking to their audience about what they want instead of telling them what they should do, Cloud X provide a much needed breath of fresh air and insightful perspective on what's needed to push those boundaries in the creative space and are coming up with solutions to problems by following through with a plan of action.
Focused on leading their own journey rather than worrying about competitors in the industry, the unique platform believe it's essential to create engaging content that is interesting enough to capture people’s attention. That is the key and what separates them from the rest, the intent behind the idea. With everything they do deriving from their values and passions as a team, their integrity, creativity, and work-rate is more than enough to offer the world at present, as they continuously evolve but stay relevant and true to their original aim, creating active change.
Photo Credit: Vicky Grout
Off the back of making waves in the creative space, CLOUD X have recently announced the official lineup of their new CLOUD X FESTIVAL on August 8th, 2021, with a plethora of the most in-demand artists in the UK right now. The lineup includes, A2, AMA, Etta Bond, Sainte and much more! The brand-new all-day festival taking place in South-east London
is set to be the spotlight of the summer calendar this year. The festivals identity stays rooted in celebrating community, creativity and inclusion. With a pioneering 50/50 gender lineup, they are committed to platforming people of colour, and is run by a totally inclusive team in terms of race, gender and sexuality. From the same minds that brought you the iconic Cookout series that featured the likes of Dave, Bree Runway, AJ Tracey, Lancey Foux, Idris Elba, Miraa May and more, Cloud X Festival remains a culturally progressive and food-centric festival that celebrates artists across R&B, alternative hip-hop and melodic beats.
New Wave caught up with the dynamic duo to discuss how they came up with their creative home Cloud X, what we can expect from the festival, why inclusivity is so important to them and much more.
Photo Credit: Vicky Grout
New Wave: As an emerging creative platform, what do you think are some of the key aspects your brand possesses that ensures you connect to your audience, and do you have a specific audience you want to tap in to?
Ben Cross: In some ways I feel this is a question best answered by our audience haha! We do things that we find interesting & that we think are important culturally, and I guess the hope is that if we find what we do meaningful – on a personal & a societal level - then hopefully there’s other people who feel the same way. In terms of an audience, I want to speak to not necessarily young people but youth culture – people interested in pushing boundaries creatively & artistically, those who are interested in re-creating society in a way that is progressive.
David Dabieh: Well I never really see us as a brand that attempts to “connect” but I suppose that’s what it's become for some people. For me, Cloud X has always been a mindset itself - one that encourages individuality, inclusivity, collaboration and the pursuit of creating inimitable artefacts. People being able to tell stories that they alone can tell is just a really fulfilling space to create.
NW: How did you both come up with the concept for the ‘creative home’ Cloud X, did you feel there was a gap in the creative industry that needed to be filled, how do you hope to be successful?
Ben: Well, Cloud X was the name of a day-party we did in London a few years ago. It was a party for a culture and a community of creatives, so it laterally made sense for Cloud X to be not just the name of our parties but an umbrella for everything else we do: our shows, our label, our photography, our fashion house. For us, the X part of Cloud X has a few meanings: X like in Malcolm X, which speaks to a deliberately marginalised and therefore lost heritage, X like latinX, which speaks to a gender neutrality/non-binary approach to language. Oh, and X marks the spot, like on a treasure map hah. The Cloud was about being omnipresent, about being able to shift shape but remain consistent. And it was a bit of a joke because we both come from London, and it’s always cloudy here.
David: “Pareidolia” is the phenomenon where people look at the same clouds and see different shapes. I might look up and see them drawing out an arrow. My friend might look at the same clouds and see a shoe. I like the fact that for some people Cloud X is a label, for others it’s a destination for memorable parties, for some it's a curated space for art, for some a work place - for me it's all these things and more. In this way, the Cloud represents multiplicity, evolution. The X, the unknown. We don’t know where we’re going, but we’ll be certain to move meaningfully and innovate endlessly. Maybe that doesn’t really answer your question haha, but I think my point is that we didn’t come up with the idea of a “creative home”. It invented itself.
NW: So you have officially announced the line-up of your first festival ‘CLOUD X FESTIVAL’ this is a new/different route for a creative house to take nowadays. What can we expect from this festival and how will it be different to other well-known festivals?
Ben: We want to re-invent what a contemporary festival looks like in the UK. Obviously we do that by curating who’s playing - we’ve taken a stance of only booking cult & emerging artists that we really admire, and ensuring we have a 50/50 gender split lineup – but also everything outside that. I don’t want to give too much away but recently I saw that Coachella did this amazing thing a few years ago. They ran a competition for local artists to design their own bins for the festival, and the winners had their bins physically made and installed in the festival. In that one idea Coachella made a platform for local artists, a series of internet viral moments – both during and after the festival - and a free & fun way to make their festival more ecological. That really inspired our approach to this year’s festival.
David: Cloud X Festival will feel like a house party. Good friends, good people. As long as everyone can feel free, inspired and leave with memories of just feeling happy, well frankly I’m not too interested in how it fares against other festivals. I think you can expect really amazing music, mouthwatering food from Ghana, Guadeloupe & Jamaica.
NW: The line-up consists of a plethora of the hottest emerging talent in the UK, seemingly all with a neo-soul sound. Why did you choose these artists to headline your first festival?
David: The U.K. has traditionally not supported the R&B, soul and alternative hip-hop space. A&R’s and label executives lazily say it sounds “Americanised”, and so it's under platformed despite the incredible British talent around. At the core, R&B is about incredible voices and writing that have the ability to make people FEEL and MOVE. Rhythm and Blues. The artists we’ve chosen all have these abilities, from the grittiness of Scuti, the mesmerizing vocals of JGrrey, to the rockstar energy of Santino Le Saint.
Ben: I wouldn’t say all the artists have a neo-soul sound to be honest, but there is definitely a musical mood & cultural positioning that ties them together. Ultimately though, we picked them because we think they are some of the future stars of the UK.
NW: As a collective, what do you think makes you stand out amongst your competitors in the creative industry?
David: For me, I don’t think anyone is currently doing what we’re doing, how we’re doing, in the space we’re doing it. We are 1 of 1. There’s no competition - it may sound a tad corny but everybody can win if they just be the best versions of themselves. My hope is that we inspire more people to take ownership of their own narratives.
Ben: Yeah I agree with that. It’s not about having competitors in the creative industry - not only because we are unique, but because the idea of “having competitors in the creative industry” is a misunderstanding of how the world works nowadays. Over the last year in the pandemic, people have been engaging with entertainment of all different varieties through the medium of screens - primarily mobiles, primarily through social media. And so If you’re competing for anything, it’s not a competition between people who exist in the same world as you within the creative industry, it’s a competition to create things that are interesting enough to capture people’s attention whilst scrolling through social media on their phones.
Everything we do derives from our values as a team & a cultural entity - our integrity, our creativity, our beliefs and our work-rate. That’s what makes us who we are & what we offer to the world.
NW: You stay rooted in celebrating community, creativity and inclusion. Why are these three things important to you both as individuals and to your brand?
David: Community. Hmmm, I don’t know if there’s anything more important than genuine human connection, and I believe we find that in bringing people together and looking after each other. Personally, I’m from a big Ghanaian family and grew up on an estate in Elephant & Castle where that was valued highly. I suppose when you build something organic, it's an extension of yourself and your values.
Creativity - To be honest, I’ve always liked making and re-imagining things. 1 of 1 artefacts, memories. Nothing is new under the sun, but we can find alternative ways to look at what we’re presented with. Without creativity, the ability to think uniquely, we would simply accept what we are given, and I personally can’t live in a world like that.
Inclusion - First off, all white walls are good for IKEA, but they get boring real quick. You get me? I’m tryna learn from others who have had completely different experiences, and not just via news articles and books, but genuine conversation and by creating shared experiences. To see the world through another persons eye’s is important to me, it fosters empathy.
Ben: Well, David’s smashed it there so...
Photo Credit: Vicky Grout
NW: Your festival is probably one of the only line-ups I’ve seen that has an equal 50/50 balance of female and male artists. Very refreshing to see. Why do you think previous festivals have failed to amplify female musicians in the past, are they less marketable?
Ben: No, they’re definitely not less marketable! In my opinion, it’s more to do with promoting being an archaic, male-dominated space, where frankly powerful bookers don’t think it’s very important to run 50/50 balanced lineups. And this in itself is obviously a consequence of the music industry more generally being a male dominated space, as is true of many industries and western society generally.
David: Agree with Ben. It’s all starts with what happens in the backend. Let's note that we are two men saying this, but our team is also balanced and we ensure everybody is heard. I have to mention Taomina Miller & Aisha Kemp who were absolutely crucial in putting bringing the festival together with us. Aisha has also curated our Summer club residency at Prince of Wales which features some amazing collaborators such as Bossy Ldn, Henrie, Tailor Jae and more. Outside of the Cloud X team, there are some amazing leaders helping to change the live game - Alex Ampofo, Raven Twigg, Raye Cosbert, The Blues Project to name a few.
NW: CLOUD X is run by a totally inclusive team and committed to platforming people of colour. Do you think it’s problematic that some media outlets and creative brands utilise black culture without paying homage?
David: Yes. Let’s fix it.
NW: A lot of brands also have an all-white panel/director/editors but use black artists t