Back in 2005, I became best friends with a young man named Abdu Eaton Jr. He was the Will to my Grace. He always exuded vibrancy, excitement and style but it was always packaged in sophistication and realness. He was the guy that could walk around with the neon blue shoes, the thrifty leather jacket and somebody’s great grandfather’s patterned printed bow-tie, yet he could still give handshakes to the most thuggish of them all. Don’t forget, all of this was in high school.
Fast-forward to 2013, and Abdu is still that guy. The only difference is now he’s a vogue dipping, print dress wearing, over the top musical entertainer screaming, “I’m special. I’m so fucking special!” More than that, he is a “banjee” extraordinaire.
What is “Banjee”, you ask? According to Mr. Ali himself, “Banjee is really more of a lifestyle and persona of being street yet sophisticated and intelligent. It’s like a new wave dandy.” This definition is very Abdu.
This rising cult-classic is not just sitting around waiting for his dreams to come true. He is a brilliant millennial using new media to push his true essence and self-product. Only a year after realizing he wanted to perform he released his first EP, Invictos. He combines his passion, his higher education, his street knowledge and his creative way of life to organically shape the Abdu Ali empire. Whether it’s through an energetic performance in a boutique-sized venue or through a trippy music video plastered on Youtube, you can witness Abdu’s vision. The very vibrancy, excitement and style that was always so attractive in high school still makes up the Abdu recipe today.
“Banjee is really more of a lifestyle and persona of being street yet sophisticated and intelligent. It’s like a new wave dandy.” – Abdu Ali
Abdu is the product of a generation that understands that traditional jobs are not always waiting on their doorsteps. This generation also knows that “happiness” does exist. They have internalized the fact that the internet is pretty much their best friend in this fast-paced world. They also understand they can create what they want at any time of the day. Fashion publications, online web-shows and music movements are running faster than Olympic sprinters.
These young people don’t need business school to lay down the foundation of their personal entities. They Google it, they conceptualize it and they do it. Pass or fail. They will make it work.
The older crowd seems to say these kids of the social media-age are “entitled”, but Abdu and his fellow creators call it “self-branding”. Like Abdu, those who make up this Twitter generation see themselves as small entities that, through the web, can become international beings over night. What’s wrong with that idea? We must not sleep on the era of “self-branding” because it only screams confidence, entrepreneurial thinking and pride in oneself and business-all beautiful things.
Abdu’s representation of this go-getter attitude made him my first pick for my new online series, “The Say Series”. “The Say Series” is a collection of conversation pieces that documents and explores contemporary people and ideas. I spent a Friday night with Abdu at his home and captured the true essence of this artist. He was raw, he was funny, he was himself.
In the video piece, Abdu leaves us with this and I wouldn’t mind passing this on: “To all the m****f***ing little queens in the small towns across America: KEEP DOING YOU!”
The Queen has spoken.
For information on Abdu Ali: Abdu Ali.com
*video contains some strong language*