- Words Shakeena Johnson
- Photography Ashley Verse
- Hair Tamika Johnson
Get to know Blvckhaze, the Barbados-based artist wowing the world with her vibrant, bold sound and aesthetic as Clarks Originals continues to highlight emerging 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.
Rooted in the richness, grace and bold rhapsodic confidence that has uplifted the fashion sense of Jamaicans globally for the past 60 years, Clarks Originals has been the leading footwear in the Caribbean for the last 60 years. Holding a special place in islanders’ hearts everywhere, Clarks has become the number one shoe in Jamaica, gaining cult status and phenomenal popularity. From being referenced in songs and movies to even being a hardcover book, Clarks has an undeniable connection with those from the islands.
- Outfit Cambria x Pretty Boy
Established in 1825 in Somerset, England, the Clarks Originals 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 Originals has remained in the hearts of islanders for almost 60 years and has no plans on stopping anytime soon.
With Clarks Originals no longer being limited to Jamaica, the footwear has crossed over to several islands including Barbados, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago. This year, their new campaign is all about telling their astonishing connection through the eyes of four women signed to the Pretty Boy Worldwide – the first Island Pop label. In 2021, Clarks Originals want to show that the female lead story in the Caribbean is no longer going to get lost. With established female acts from the Caribbean like Shenseea, Spice and Jada Kingdom becoming household names, showcasing that women in Caribbean music are here to stay and slay, 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.
- Outfit Cambria x Pretty Boy
Becoming an international act from the islands is a dream many don’t get to accomplish, but for Blvckhaze it’s one she manifested into existence. Her vibrant, bold sound and aesthetic have caught the eyes and ears of many, landing her on the Music Week’s Urban Club Chart at #6 for four weeks and lots more media love. Joining me over Zoom from Barbados, I caught up with singer, songwriter and multilingual multi-instrumentalist Blvckhaze as we discussed how island culture influenced her sound, reshaping the women’s narrative in music, what her creative process has been like during the pandemic and her up-and-coming EP which is set for release this year.
Complementing her label mates Navy, Arii Lopez and DWN from Pretty Boy Worldwide in the campaign, Blvckhaze is proud to represent her island roots and be one of the faces behind a movement that puts the story of women first. “It’s an honour to be included in the campaign alongside such amazing women. I love how different and unique Clarks shoes are and how deeply connected to the Caribbean they are. What excites me most is how we get to tell our stories and be an inspiration for young women from the Caribbean and look up to us and believe that they can make it. My main message is not to give up and persevere; you’ve got this. Growing up, I looked up to Rihanna and was like ‘Oh, she’s an island girl making it big out there, that’s what I hope to do someday, not just for me but for others like me”.
Born Meghan Thijn on the Dutch island of Curaçao, Blvckhaze’s first introduction to music came courtesy of her mother, who would spend her days cleaning the house singing along to the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, Sade and more. Citing them and Patra, Lady Saw and Tanya Stephens as her main inspirations, she tells us how they helped mould her growth as an artist. “They each mean something special to me for different reasons. With Sade, my Capricorn twin, it’s her smooth and raspy voice, with Earth, Wind & Fire, it was their stage presence and how they captivated the audience. There are many female artists that I look up to performance-wise, from Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, Patra, Lady Saw, and Tanya Stephens. They so perfectly combined dancing and singing while remaining sexy and owning the stage was amazing to me. It wasn’t just watching them perform; it was also their style of writing and how they would arrange their songs”.
- Outfit Cambria Designs
After joining the church choir and finding her voice at 15, Blvckhaze her journey and evolution be becoming one of the most-talked-about female artists from the Caribbean last year. Using the love of her hometown and all that it brings to perfect her artistry, she tells us about how her homeland and its island culture influenced her sound and played a significant part in the birthing of her career. “Curaçao is a beautiful place. We speak many languages – from Papiamentu to Dutch to English and even a bit of Spanish. My culture and the languages I speak have influenced my music a lot, and you can hear it in my songs because sometimes I’ll sing in Papiamentu. Also, because of how close Curaçao is to Venezuela and Colombia, we have many Latin influences so you could go to a bar and hear salsa, bachata, merengue, reggaeton and then on the other side of the scale hear our music of Tumba and Tambú. We also have Dembow, which is somewhat reminiscent of reggaeton and dancehall music, but with our language on it. The influence of lots of different genres that I grew up with has helped shape the artist I am today”.
Visually, Blvckhaze is the epitome of excellence, wearing her countries cultural style of modesty mixed with bright colours to express herself not just as a person but as an artist. “Growing up, my fashion inspiration was Aaliyah. I loved all the oversized t-shirts and pants she used to wear. I’m from the Caribbean, so we wear many bright colours, so I try to mix the two. Fashion is essential to me because I believe that’s how we bring visions to life with things like photoshoots and music videos”.
Much like her label mates, breaking down barriers as a female artist in the music industry and showcasing that they deserve to be seen and heard is vital. She tells us, “If I can have some influence in the way people see, treat and respect women, then my job is complete. As women, we are not equal yet, not in the music industry or in the world, and I would like to change that and make a difference for the better. What I also want is to be a second example because I want to be taken seriously and I want other women with the same aspirations and hopes as me to be taken seriously too”.
- Outfit Cambria Designs
Asking what her creative process been like this year throughout the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and whether it has changed her approach to creating, she reveals, “The pandemic has been hard for everybody, some days have been harder than most but for me, especially creatively, it been a blessing. I lived with my producers and artists over lockdown, and we would go into the studio together and write songs. Whenever I felt sad or angry or upset about something or the pandemic, I would write about it, and then we’d record it and hear the result together. The whole process just made me happy because I know that many people don’t have that same access during this time and just being able to make music still and use my creative skills means a lot to me. We made a lot of songs during this COVID period, and they’re all going to be on my EP”.
Since joining Pretty Boy Worldwide, Blvckhaze has reached many milestones in her career, including opening for Social House and Dolapo in London 2019. “That was one of the best nights ever, I would say. The crowd was on fire; their fans were so supportive. They were very loud and energetic whilst I was on stage, and when I came off, I got to meet many of the people that were there supporting me whilst I was doing my thing. Once this pandemic is over, I’m excited to go back to London and perform live again”. With her soon-to-be-released EP ‘Libre’ (which means ‘free’ in Spanish) on the way telling us the trials and tribulations of a toxic relationship which started great and ended up sour, Blvckhaze is ready to put her past behind her and focus on manifesting greatness as she continues her journey of excellence in 2021. “My career is so important to me, and I can’t wait to get back to normality and meet my fans all over the world. This campaign is helping me find my voice and hopefully help other women who aspire to be artists find their voice also”.