Zezi Ifore

14 Feb 2017

A Facebook message pops up from Molly King the night after she meets Zezi Ifore at a party in London. It's a link to a podcast called Don't Cry Don't Beg - two best friends' 'real talk' inspired by a questionable reality TV show. We both spend the next week or so binge-listening to the entire archive - and using Molly King as a medium, we cry and beg for an interview with Zezi. The next week, over tea in London, Molly asks her all about her brilliant shows on Know Wave Radio NTS, her opinion on ''Kanye or Kendrick?''; and her 'COPPE des FUÇK ON' attitude to everything from ''Fingers in the bootyass'' to genderqueer pronouns.

So tell us about your show

At NTS the slogan is ''Don't Assume''. The guy who set it up, Femi, he's a real music-lover, real visionary, but a humble dude. He's a total G and he's amassed this incredible family of over 200 DJs - including my very good self. So it started off as kind of like a 'youth club' for all Femi's friends. He'd badgered me for years saying he was gonna start a station and I was like, hair flick like,‘’yeah whatever babe, when it's like, up and running come and talk to me''

All the people selected are pretty much given free reign with what we wanna do. So he was like ''whatever you want''. And I thought about it for a bit..and on a commercial station I would have had a specialist show and that's easy - you just do what you want, make your own lane and you'll stand out. But NTS is a station full of specialists - major tastemakers, people like Cherrystones. Like "you think you’ve got a remix? - this is the remix of the remix, that the remixer's dad made; that was literally only pressed on the back of a shoe'' . So I was like ''Shit like, I don't wanna just do a show based on my selection of fantastic taste..I'm not special here''. So I thought like ''What am I interested in that's slightly more specific to me?''

And I had started this like...members club for Nigerians. It was called 'Palm Wine Club' and it was kind of based on mum when she came to London from Nigeria at a really young age. She had no family here so she tapped into the Nigerian community.  They have these things called ‘meetings’ - just like community groups. And there's different ones different tribes, it was a cool club. I grew up going to those with her. So I was like ''I want to do a younger version that's relevant to me and my friends''. Like let's have our own little club and chat about our heritage and everything. So that was the genesis  - a very long winded genesis - of Palm Wine Club.  And we said, ''okay we’ll put this on the radio and we can like tell stories from our upbringing''. It kinda started off just playing afrobeats and we did fabulous parties to go with it. Now the show has evolved into like a current affairs and culture programme. 

And tell me a bit about Don’t Cry Don’t Beg.

So Don't Cry Don't Beg is me and my best friend Irene - shoutout to Irene - ‘'hi babe’'. And it’s a show of just us chatting shit essentially. It must be the same with you and your Irish friends, there's a level of jokes you can do with your Irish friends that no one else can understand, it's just quick like. 

And basically the show started because Know Wave is like a New York station. It's an extension of this gallery - The Moran Bondaroff Gallery - started by this dude 'A-ron - The Downtown Don' and he was this sort of streetwear legend, New York downtown legend; he worked with Supreme in the early days. You know, he's like one of those guys that's really finessed a lifestyle into a living. ''Finesse the jist!'' - so that's the thing about the show it's like listening in to a transmission from another planet. Me and Irene just have our own vocabulary. So the show was like okay cool we're at this different stage in life, you know we've kinda got our careers together, kinda getting to grips with who we are. Dating is BIG question mark - 'cause it's something we talk about a lot on the show and it wasn't really intended to be a relationships show. But's it's the thing that piques everyone's interest. (Molly laughing). What is so funny? Tell me.

I just laughed so much. It was the episode after..remember the whole Kanye finger -

- Oh my God, yeah ''Fingers in the bootyass Bitch, Nigga'' yeah. See often me and Irene will have quite differing views. So she will be like ''that's gay!''. Like, ''why would a guy do that?''. Actually she didn't say that about that one, but she might be like ''oh I don't know about that''. And I'll be like ''Well, you know, it might not be something I like but I can understand where that's coming from''. And we can kinda work it out together. What's cool is that like, I think it gives space to differing opinions. Some of those podcasts can be really kind of like, you know, 'socially conscious and correct'. And it can be very dry and worthy; and not really realistic. 

We've all got problematic friends. I mean I'm sure you've got friends who say, like low-key-off things about gay girls, or gay guys. And they don't mean it, but it's kind of off-key. And thats your fucking friends! And that's just real life. So I think, thats what I enjoy about the show. That it's not so pious and - you know how Tumblr is like, everything is ''problematic'' and ''triggering''. And not to disregard those people's opinions, but there's a point where everything just becomes a bit joyless! And like''Alright! Can I just listen to this Azealia Banks mixtape and like not be responsible for homophobia in 2016!''. Can I just enjoy Gwen Steffani? Like let me live! And let me let her live! Like, yeah she's doing something wrong and appropriating Native Indian culture. Like we can smack her on the wrist, but I'm still gonna play hollaback girl!

''Can I just listen to this Azealia Banks mixtape and like not be responsible for homophobia in 2016!''

Like Beyonce.

Yeah right! Like Beyonce's a mess. But then, she's also great! And that's life. All of us are like that. So we all have our own like social justice things that we can tap into. Like it might be being a woman, it might be being poor,  it might be being gay, might be being disabled. And those things might intersect. But everyone has their entry point into this idea of social justice and inequality and whatever. Like I don't have the monopoly on that. I don't know about anti-semitism, I don't know about ableism, personally speaking. I can try to learn, and think about, but I'm gonna put my foot in it now and then. Or the trans issue, I'm gonna put my foot in it cause it's not direct for me. 

But there's lots of things, if I wanted to I could walk around with my truncheon being like and be ''THAT'S RACIST!''. And sometimes if its like RACIST racist I will. But if it's just like ''No you've just used a problematic or a questionable turn of phrase''. Like come on guys! It's kind of like we've all had a drink. 

So the show is just like our portal to talk about adulthood. We'll often veer into relationships, we'll often veer into sex. Just cause it's interesting! Also like. There's so many things that are talking about like ''Career'' and like ''How to get ahead'' and like ''bleugh!''. All this sort of self-development stuff is like..the trope of our times, it's just everywhere. Every minute. It's like  ''How to start your creative business in like 4 seconds!''. How to be like, vegan. And gluten free. And you know, like ''How to like, build a creative community, of like, like-minded like ONE EASY STEP!!''. Ugh Enough!

That's why I don't like looking at Instagram. Cause for me, it really takes the joy out of like, the present moment. Like you've not even got out of bed, but like, fucking hell! I've literally been thinking about brushing my teeth for twenty minutes and this bitch has like been to like seven galleries; had brunch; a Bellini; walked her dogs; and like babysat her nephews - In the time its taken for me to like..think about brushing my teeth!

''Every minute. It's like ''How to start your creative business in like 4 seconds!''. How to be like, vegan. And gluten free. And you know, like ''How to like, build a creative community, of like, like-minded like ONE EASY STEP!!''. Ugh Enough!''

So on the show, you say 'Don't Cry Don't Beg' all the time. And you also never refer to each other by your actual names. You call each other Jackie?

So. The name of the show comes from..there's this series called 'Cheaters' - like a cross between 'Catfished' and 'Cops'. Like you suspect your partner of being unfaithful, this guy kind of surveils them, figures out what they're doing. And you sit with him in the surveillance van and like - bust them in the act! Like Punk'd for love rats.

So there's an episode with a Nigerian man on it and it's just known as ‘’The Nigerian episode of Cheaters’’. His wife suspects him of cheating and he gets caught with a younger girl who he's been entertaining and doing things with and hooking up with. So they bust him coming out of this store with her and he's like ''Wha's de meanin of all dis Jackie!?''. And he's got the thickest accent, obviously his wife is called Jackie. And then he's just like ''It's all ova Jackie, is all ova - don't cry, don't beg!''. And it's like..the audacity of someone who's been caught cheating saying to his spouse that's it's all over! Telling HER not to cry or beg! HE should be begging forgiveness! So we took the name from that. Cause it's just like ''woah''. It is like, actually, how we wanna live our lives - in terms of being THAT level of unapologetic. Like you've really flipped that situation around! We primarily chose it cause its hysterical. And just living life on your own terms, being unapologetic. So we call each other Jackie. ''It's all ova Jackie!''.

It's just about real life and it's about being an inclusive, accessible way to discuss lots of different things. You know, that's not pompous and doesn't take itself seriously but it does touch on serious stuff. I think it also gives permission for people to explore and talk about things that they might not do otherwise, even if it's just by virtue of eavesdropping. Just like listening in on our shit. But we try and make sure that we give space to different kinds of opinions, so we'll both be like ''This is just what we think and what we know'' and there's all sorts of different types of normal. Because I think there's so many things in culture and in media that make you feel shut out and feel excluded and unheard. And if you're not reflected back you think that things that concern you are stupid stuff. And there's no such thing as stupid stuff. Your experience is valid, even if you're bigoted sometimes. I can understand it, you're entitled to get it wrong. 

I remember when like Caitlyn Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner. And during the show I was thinking ''Ohmygod - Don't say he. Like don't say he''. Cause literally a week before it was Bruce. Cause you know that's the kinda thing Tumblr would go mad now cause that's how they work. But it's just like, there is such a thing as a genuine mistake! And it's a learning process..I'm really new to all this stuff. Like okay I know about transgender. But there's all this stuff about like ''genderqueer''  where it's like, that person might not think they're like..not a girl; Or the pronoun is they. Or they like identify as a girl but they're saying the pronoun is they. You're just like ''Cooool..I'm okay with that'' but like, bear with me. And I'm not saying that you have to like..tolerate me offending you. But I'm just saying, let me try and get up to speed. Let me get my iTunes update downloaded! Okay I'm coming, I'm trying my best.

I feel like that's what I enjoy about the show. It gives space for that kinda stuff and it's not like heavy-handed like that. It's like, you know ''Some of my friends like a finger, some don't like a finger in the bum, some do!'' .

''It's a learning process. And I'm not saying that you have to tolerate me like offending you. But let me try and get up to speed. Let me get my iTunes update downloaded!''

What's really great about talking to you is..this thing we're doing Pussys - there's a lot of parallels. Like I didn't come out 'til I was in university but it was more like, I just didn't see..I didn't know any people - 

- Right! So, you didn't even know that was something you could be. Cause you didn't even have a model to just go to.

That idea never even occurred to me.

That there's different ways to live and that might be one for you. It's like McDonald's Secret Menu! 

If you don't see what you are reflected, you know in like magazines or on TV. Like I remember so clearly when there was a lesbian couple in Skins. And it had such a profound effect on me. One of the twins, Katie or Emily I can't remember, started seeing a girl called Naomi. And I remember seeing it and just being like *GASP*. Just because it was like, for the first time ever, I could see something I was relating to.

Yeah and in a contemporary setting, a setting that's relevant to you. Like young people doing stuff that everyone you know is doing. But it's that thing, when you're not the norm - you really grasp onto any representation of yourself. A similar thing would be like, when I was a kid, when like black people would be on the TV. Or like, working class black people. Like that, you'd like run to the telly and you might even call your friends. I remember there was a programme called Storm Damage on BBC..One! And it was a drama about like, these like inner city kids in children's home, or like a Youth Offenders Centre. And it was just like ''Wow! Like loads of black kids who like, listen to So Solid and talk like we talk!''. I'd never seen that before. Hearing the slang that you speak, on TV was so exciting. It's just that thing of feeling heard and seen. And I think what's great about what I've read and heard about Pussys. Just knowing there's so many different ways to do it. You might not wanna emulate any of them. But that variety hopefully will inspire you to create your own and let you know there is space to do that and you're all allowed. 

I think a lot of the struggle of adolescence, and even your twenties is like finding your crew. And I think what's hard when you're young is sometimes to find your like minds you sort of need to know your own mind. But like rest assured your tribe is out there. And it's just hard when you're young and you don't know that. And also like, you may be surrounded crews not like you but you really admire them. So you wanna contort be like them. Like you know that you're not like them, but you like them so much that you want to be like them. And cause you haven't seen that 'Secret Menu' you think that you have to. And it's like no you can admire them and still do your own thing. 

Like, my mum is such a defiant person that I always felt very ok being by myself, in fact I enjoyed it. But it's not easy and there will be times that you will be like ''ugh''. Even if you are really like lone wolf, master of my own desitiny, whatever! You will still sit down and be like ''Omg but I am like the only one though''. Like ''Is there something wrong with me? If everyone else is doing this and I'm not'', like there is a point where you just go ''Am I wrong though?''. 

Okay let's finish with a Quickfire?

Okay I love Quickfire. I hope you got a good editor for this - slice this shit to hell and back!

Gig or Club?

Ooh club. You know what though - Club PA - best of both. Love a club. And a lil sing song moment in The Cloob. 

Whitney or Mariah?

Ugh, obviously Mariah! Favourite of all favourites, the only. Most successful female artist of the 90s - just so you know.

Kanye or Kendrick?

Oooooooh, thats a really hard one.. 

You know what, I'm gonna pick Kanye. Kendrick is fantastic. Kendrick is like the top drawer opium - what he's saying is smart, it's nuanced, he's evolved as an artist. Just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. But as much as he's massive artist, he's just not as accessible as Kanye. He makes fantastic music, amazing lyricist. But the bottom line is Kanye is the gateway drug; and has been for over a decade. Regardless of his antics and his meltdowns; and all the shit and the histrionics that he does on the side, nobody can take that away from him, like nobody. All of his albums have contained super-empowering messages. Just also like beautiful pieces of music. He's really pushed the boundaries of what a rapper can be, pushed that rap as an art form. In terms of fully formed artist. Giving a shit about the aesthetics of your video, making a short film. Before Jay Z was screaming 'Picasso! Picasso!', he was really interested in art and brought that into the rap space. 

The problem with Kanye is that he toots his own trumpet so much that no one else can actually toot it for him. Cause if he hadn't have you would say Kanye is truly a renaissance man. But because he compares himself to Steve jobs already..and Jesus. There's kind of not really many places you can go from that. Thats the problem with being a pioneer. When he's bulldozing that door down he's using his own head to do it, so its gonna take some knocks on the way and it's not gonna be smooth. That's why its smooth for Kendrick. Because Kanye has done a lot of that legwork. And Tupac. So i would say Kanye for that reason. 

Love ya  Kanye, send me some Yeezys! I want the the black boot ones that Kris Jenner was wearings. 


Molly King