A wave of mourning swept across New Orleans and beyond in the days following September 19, when Imani Bass—YOKO—was killed in a tragic hit-and-run. YOKO was an immense creative force, constantly hustling across many disciplines: tattoo artist, DJ, model, jewelry maker, music producer, and more. ANTIGRAVITY was fortunate to have YOKO contribute a piece of writing to the September 2021 issue featuring a tribute to Hollise Murphy, a beloved musician and kindred spirit, which we are reprinting here in both their honors.
Growing up in New Orleans (late ‘90s, early 2000s), I was often ostracized for the music/things that I liked. Weird thing to say about NOLA, but because I’m Black, it’s just how it was. I still did whatever I wanted, but it didn’t come without nonsense and realizations of expectations when folks started calling me “white” for these things. I was a lil loner emo kid going through a lot. After 2005 and a lot of fucking moving over the span of a few years, we moved to the Northshore and as I got older, it was a talented, yet mess of an example of a music “community,” but I did make some good “We gotta get the fuck out of here” friends that I still have to this day. Any chance I could get to GTF, we would pile in a car and trek the causeway to get back to the (at the time) High Ground/THEE Cypress to catch literally anyfuckingthing we could. Once those venues were gone, though, we’d go to Siberia or OEJ which is where I first really saw Hollise and truly, the first time I saw someone that looked like me showing up like that. And on top of it, he wasn’t being ignored or had people making fun of him, he was dominating the pit, taking up all the space. I was always like, “Damn… hell yeah.” I just didn’t see any other Black folks doing this shit and I always felt like I never could belong ‘cos of what I experienced, so I was fine being in my own lil corner. But he didn’t give a shit, clearly! Every time I’d go out, I’d see him, and would be more and more comfortable. I was finally starting to get over the othering feelings I had and by the time I moved back here as an adult I really embraced punk as my favorite. I was going to almost any and every show I could. I’m not that old, 27 now, but I may have met Hollise for the first time when I was like 22. One day at some show at Siberia, we dapped off through mutual friends and smoked and talked about who was playing. Later on, the lot of us got into the pit and he crashed into me and I thought that was a wrap and that he was just a really fuckin’ cool dude. I was so grateful that he’d always be around and I would always catch him with a joint in my hand like, “Yo hit this” and we’d take three seconds to talk about the band (“Yo that shit was so fire, cuz,” “Who the fuck was that?” ‘cos he almost always knew OFC). Then I’d grab it, dap him off to go find my other friends and make my rounds, hang by myself on that stoop next door to finish it, and go right back in. But THEN??? I saw Fat Stupid Ugly People live and was mind-blown. There just weren’t any other local bands on my radar showing out like y’all did with a fuckin’ badass fat Black man up front. (I learned of others after, shoutout to Raccoon City Massacre and GLAND back in 2015 who were also important for me to see in their representation!). But there’s one instance that made me realize how much of a community-centered person he was that I always would think about. I remember seeing Death (Detroit punk) at their first ever New Orleans show at Siberia and OFC Hollise was there! So many people were, but I stayed right up front the entire time. I think they closed out with “Let The World Turn” and I was a fucking mess as they dedicated it to passed loved ones, and I was thinking heavy about a friend that passed earlier that year. As it ended, I ran into him by the merch table and was crying and freaking the fuck out and he was so there for listening to me explode with admiration for one of my favorite bands and how important they were to me. The merch guy was really sweet and suggested that we take a picture with the band, but when I went to get him in the pic he waved me off and said he’d take it and send it to me. Merch guy gave me a free Death shirt, I hugged all the bandmembers (who were all SO SWEET TO US), some other friends and Hollise, and it was an absolutely crucial sense of “you fuckin belong here” that I never really felt before. I’ve thought about that a lot and cry thinking about it now ‘cos seeing him, it was always like that! It’s what I really hope to perpetuate in these different creative communities. As I get older, I go to more shows and see more POC in the crowd every time. I can’t help but think that a lot of those folks felt comfortable seeing Hollise in the same way I did and showed up ‘cos he’s been steadily just always out here. I hope that part could be transferred somehow, that the younger POC folks who feel like they don’t belong in a pit or on a punk stage could learn of Hollise somehow, and start to not give a fuck like I did. The kids seem alright though ‘cos I fuckin see ‘em out here as more and more barriers get broken by similar powerhouses of color. Cool vibes and good times ahead for them. —YOKO