Meet Cuban-born, Jamaican-raised, Arii Lopez, to kick start Clarks Originals’ 2021 year with a Clarks In Jamaica inspired story, highlighting trailblazing female artists making Island Pop.
On a mission to share the unique love affair between Jamaica, Clarks Originals’ latest campaign highlights four of the Caribbean’s emerging female artists – NAVY, Arii Lopez, BlvckHaze, and DWN, ready to revolutionize female empowerment and unity in music.
For the past six decades, Clarks Originals has been at the forefront of footwear in the Caribbean, and today nothing has changed. Becoming a monumental figure in Caribbean culture, Clarks Originals is the number one shoe amongst islanders, especially in Jamaica. Its loyalty has crossed over to several islands in the Caribbean including Barbados, Dominica, and Curaçao attaining cult status and remarkable notoriety.
Founded in 1825 in Somerset, England, the Clarks brand became a trend in Jamaica started back in the late 1960s when the emerging youth culture adopted the footwear as part of their school uniform. Becoming a prominent piece of attire in Jamaican street culture mostly for the ‘rude boy movement’, Clarks has resided in the hearts of islanders for almost 60 years and has no plans on stopping anytime soon.
Their latest campaign Clarks In Jamaica tells the unique connection between themselves and Jamaica but through the eyes of four amazing trailblazing female artists currently influencing the wave in Island Pop. All signed to Pretty Boy Worldwide – the first Island Pop label, Clarks Originals is destined to show in 2021 that the female lead story in the Caribbean is no longer going to get lost.
With artists like Jada Kingdom, Jadel and Sevana becoming worldwide stars, the Clarks In Jamaica campaign wants to showcase how important it is to find the next wave of women and support their story growth in music. Catching up with the Cuban born singer-songwriter via Zoom, we sat down and discussed her Latin roots and being inspired by Celia Cruz, visibility in music, and her creative process during the pandemic, and much more.
Born in Santiago De Cuba, Cuba Arii Lopez is no stranger to turning heads with her charming vibe and alluring personality. Standing undeniably solid as an artist, rewriting the rules on her terms, taking pride in experimenting with many sounds and looks. Becoming the standout island pop star of 2020 with a creative visionary and bold aesthetic, Arii has kept us entertained since the release of her single “Mop It Up” back in 2017. Raised across the street from the Cuban National House of Music, La Trova, Arii developed an early obsession with Latin music and learning the ins and outs of music; she’s mastered how to mix it with the sounds from her Cuban father’s now-home of Jamaica. Her music style is a unique blend of Dancehall, Latin, and Pop Fusions with Hip-Hop touches set to make waves.
No stranger to delivering a fearlessly majestic project, she represents the new generation of female artists from the Caribbean looking to shake the table and revolutionize what it means to break down barriers. Using her platform and her music to reach her fans regionally and internationally, Arii makes it her mission to change the narrative. Describing her sound as ‘island pop’, she contrasts the many imperfect realities of life, relationship, love, and heartbreak in her music, cementing her ranking in the Caribbean as one of the best to do it.
Currently living in Barbados, Arii is making moves. “I was born in Cuba and raised in Jamaica, so I’m well-versed on the Clarks culture in Jamaica and how we uplifted it, especially in entertainment mainly because of people like Vybz Kartel and Popcaan. It’s such a well-loved family-oriented company that welcomes all and makes you feel like you are a part of their family, so it’s an honour to be a part of the campaign that wants to capture us in the right light”. Joining her Pretty Boy Worldwide label mates Navy, BlvckHaze, and DWN for the campaign, she tells us the importance behind having her story told through in Clarks In Jamaica and what being a part of the next wave of women leading music in the Caribbean means to her.
“For me, the most important part is the visibility. I’m very proud of my Jamaican side but the fact that in my generation, particularly the Cuban girls that look like me, sound like me, have the same attitude and vibe like me, we haven’t been able to get the platforms that other females have gotten. In Cuba, not everybody has the internet because they were more secluded from the rest of the world than people think. So I must push my Cuban side forward and make other Cuban girls that have left home at a young age and now live in different countries feel included”.
Much like her female label mates, Arii understands the hardship of being a music industry woman. “My aesthetic is important to me. Being myself is important to me. No matter what situation or room or place I’m in, I want to show that I am always me. To be proud of being a woman and the struggles that we go through and all the things that we’ve been brainwashed by society to be quiet about, I am a big believer in the power of what we can do as women and how we get it done”.
Her sense of style is a way for her to express her creativity, using her mother as a major trendsetter and inspiration. “My mum went to the School of Design in Santiago, Cuba and studied shoe design and would make clothes for me whilst she worked another job at a sandal factory in Cuba. We barely had any resources, but she always made it work and dressed nice, changed her hair colour all the time, and that inspired me to do the same”.
Praising her involvement in the famous Jamaican festival Cream of the Crop and opening for Major Lazer and Beres Hammond as her most significant achievement to date, Arii tells us that she has her eyes set on several international festivals and arenas including Glastonbury and Madison Square Garden. “I have big dreams when it comes to performance, those are the things that I want to do. Be on those stages killing it and showing women everywhere that we can do it too”.
Since last year, the world has been suffering together with the rise of COVID-19. Altering the entertainment industry and how art is created and distributed currently, we asked Arii what its been like making music during the pandemic and how it affected her work and the creative process as we advance. “It made me more creative, I think. I’m here trapped between four walls trying to figure out how to let my imagination let loose in this space. The making of “Culture” was effortless because I wanted to pay homage to women, and I did that sampling Vybz Kartel. I wanted to show that masculine energy mixed with that feminine swagger. It was easy to create something because we have our producers in camp with us and are part of Pretty Boy. So whenever we have an idea, we call each other and express the ideas we came up with and how we can turn them into songs. We all have different styles, and everybody hears different things when a beat is being played, so it’s a lot of fun to fuse together”.
“The hardest part was that feeling of isolation. Being apart from your family and being friends and not seeing and doing the things I loved was hard. I’m currently based in Barbados, and my mother is in Jamaica so it was hard knowing that I couldn’t get to travel to her or see her because I wasn’t allowed and because I was scared that she would have gotten sick, so it was hard. Isolation itself is hard, but knowing that others are feeling what you’re feeling hits different”. She continues, “But I think the biggest lesson we all learned was about ourselves. We’ve all spent this time working and focusing on ourselves, trying to remain positive and not negative, and do that by being creative and using all those skills that we’ve had to relax for a while. For me, not being able to perform was hard. I love being on stage; it’s a form of therapy for me. But luckily for me, I’m back in Barbados, and we have been out of lockdown since September last year”.
Having worked alongside Leftside and Pedro Cazanova, her style and delivery are merely unmatched, unparalleled and incomparable. Enumerating Madonna, La Lupe, Lady Saw, Spice and El General as a few of her musical influences, Arii has mastered Island Pop’s sounds that combines her raw emotion and thought-provoking concepts with an unapologetic aesthetic. Talking to us about her main inspiration Celia Cruz, she tells how Celia influenced her growing up, effectively moulding her into the artist she’s become today.
“She’s my idol. From her vocals to the way she performs, there’s a certain carelessness that comes with her. Many great Cuban female artists have that natural, authentic feeling that you know that what you see on stage is who they are. Authenticity is what I’m attracted to when it comes to artists across the board, when you look at an artist you can tell what it is that person is about, how they think, how they feel and that their music and art is what they live and breathe. That’s how I want people to see me”.
With elevated support from Pretty Boy Worldwide, Arii Lopez continues her mission of proving everyone who doubted her wrong. Setting the tone with last single “Culture”, she had marked the culmination of a phase in her talent trajectory that has been a personal milestone for her – landing herself a spot on the UK’s number one crossover R&B playlist on Spotify This Is How We Do It. Her creative vision and formula is simple – work hard, play harder.
“Right now, I’m finishing off my EP. I’ve taken my sweet time doing it because it’s going to be the first project; my first project to the world as Arii Lopez and that’s a big deal for me, and I want to get it right. We have a couple of other singles that are dropping very soon. I’m touching on my Latin roots with the new music, so I have a Spanish song that I just finished. I’m constantly working and do what feels right, especially in terms of pushing my culture a bit more, inspiring women and spreading the love”.
Keep your eyes on Clarks Originals in April 2021 when the Clarks In Jamaica story will set to be officially launched.