LA Artist Aryeh-Or Shares His Latest Project and Other Black Creators to Watch
The multi-hyphenate talks "STAND + DELIVER" and the fellow creatives who inspire him
You’d be hard-pressed to find a harder working creative than L.A.’s Aryeh-Or. An actor, musician, activist, visual artist, spiritualist, writer and spoken word performer (among other things), he’s the sort of polymath who moves freely through various artistic circles, creating as he goes and collaborating with everyone from Antoine Fuqua to Clint Eastwood to Vintage Trouble’s Ty Taylor.
His latest work, a re-tooling of a track/video recorded in collaboration with Taylor entitled “STAND + DELIVER,” was originally conceived as a response to the 2016 presidential election, but has come back ‘round for a second life in light of recent events.
“The song was actually written in the days immediately following Donald Trump’s election,” Aryeh-Or says. “His win was a septic shock and slap in the face to all marginalized and minority groups in the U.S.A. In an attempt to detangle and transmute my myriad feelings, I did what I do best: I made art about it. Within a week I was in the studio and recording it and by a twist of fate, Ty happened to just drop by. [We] started unpacking our feelings in a very similar convo to those that I’d had over the previous days with most of my closest Black friends. We got angry, we actually cried, then my dear friend and producer David Michael pressed play. Ty heard what we were working on and jumped right into the booth and onto the track. We pretty much finished the bulk of recording that night.”
Four years later, as America faces its most major racial reckoning since the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter movement has surged to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness, Aryeh-Or decided to revisit the work and update it to reflect the current state of affairs.
“I knew I had to bring it back,” he says. “There were some aspects of the audio production that didn’t hit as hard as I would have liked, so we went back in and actually changed quite a bit. We found some really great new dynamics and once the track had all the power it deserved, I knew I had to retool the visual component. I pulled out all the stops and took the gloves off.”
“As much as the lyrics of the song are rife with feelings of deep grief, anger and legitimate discontent, there’s an underpinning of faith and an affirmation of hope for our potential to live up to the ideals that our nation espouses to be founded upon. I really wanted to capture that dichotomy visually. I chose to use archival and found footage to show the transgressions of our country and hold up a mirror to some of our deeper shadows with no sugarcoating. It’s definitely uncomfortable to watch, but that’s what we need. We’ve all been feigning ignorance and languishing in a plasticine comfort for too long, and it’s time for us lean into that which we’ve shied away from. It’s time to have the tough conversations and take even tougher courses of action. It’s time for us to stand and deliver.”
It’s powerful work, and notable in that it is reflective of Aryeh-Or’s manifold artistic and political passions as well as his intensely collaborative nature. As an artist who has been, in his words, “blessed to move through many circles, creative, spiritual, activist and otherwise,” Aryeh-Or was also kind enough to share some of his favorite Black voices that he believes are forwarding the conversation in a meaningful and thought-provoking way.
“Xiana (Siana Ọrun-Walker): One of my nearest and dearest, Xiana is a self-described Shamanistic Songstress/Mediumistic Artist who blends ancient chants, sounds and universal frequencies that are scientifically proven to open up neural pathways and heal cells on a molecular level. Xiana has studied the Yoruba Spiritual System known as Ifá and is an initiated Iyanifa and Olorisha/Osun Priestess. One of Xiana’s greatest gifts is the ability to create powerful containers and experiences for deeply transformational growth that stretch you into the ethereal while still keeping grounded.”
“Mustafa Shakir: Actor, rapper, poet, philosopher and then some. There are very few humans I know that wear as many hats as I do (literally and metaphorically, we’ve both got one helluva hat collection). Mustafa is a consummate student of life and has poured himself into the study of psychology, anthropology, astrology, and multiple indigenous traditions, to name a few disciplines on the docket.. What makes Mu’s voice particularly effective is his mastery of characters and his ability to artfully pour you a cup from his deep well of knowledge in tones and tongues that range from hood to hermeticist.”
“Gladys Nyoth is an African indigenous chef and actress advocating for the ancient voices of the world. She harmonizes her culinary and artistic background to create immersive dinners to beautify the narratives of indigenous cultures. She is currently working towards opening an Indigenous social Club in L.A. that’s a matchmaking bridge builder between the communities affected by systematic oppression and the corporate elite looking to optimize resources via equity and authentic solidarity.”
“Mehcad Brooks is another truly prolific polymath who I’ve been blessed to call both friend and collaborator for nearly a decade. Much like Mustafa and myself, Mehcad is best known for his acting career but is also a powerful musician, writer, activist, spiritual practitioner and agent for change. Over the past few months Mehcasd had shifted into high gear to bring awareness and heart centered action to the current fight against systemic racism. He recently came up with a “21 day anti-racism challenge” which he launched via IG that is designed to help you develop a mindset of awareness beyond your comfort zone by working through a series of short exercises that aim to heal you and the collective consciousness each day.”
“James Bland and I first met over a decade ago when he’d just moved to L.A., and he’s proven to be one of the hardest working creatives I know. A versatile writer/director/actor, James successfully created and spearheaded his own digital series GIANTS, which has earned him multiple awards, including two personal nominations for daytime Emmys as well as two Emmy wins for his cast. As a series, GIANTS firmly gripped onto and grappled with many subjects that are normally considered taboo in Black culture, including mental health and homosexuality. James’s fearless voice as a filmmaker is definitely one to pay attention to as he shines his light into corners where many don’t dare to look.”
“Alua Arthur is a death doula and trainer, recovering attorney and the founder of Going With Grace, an end-of-life planning and training organization that exists to support people as they answer the question, ‘What must I do to be at peace with myself so that I may live presently and die gracefully?’ As we are presently faced with such pervasive conflict and death at every turn, I think Alua’s area of practice and expertise is one we should all pay a bit more attention to. Though most may shy away from conversations surrounding death, we are all experiencing the process of grieving in one way or another. Alua brings a perspective of deep truth and vibrant light into arenas we usually associate with darkness.”
“Jean-Philippe Boucicaut: The name kind of rings a bell doesn’t it? Well, that’s because you definitely know his cousin, Jean-Michel. That said, JP is his own man and artist. I was blessed to meet JP when I cut my tribute single to late, great Nipsey Hussle and used one of his paintings for my album art. A brilliant multimedia artist — painter, photographer and digital creator. He’s got a unique style that makes you lean in and look deeper.”