(By K Alshanetsky ’17)
Brooklyn rapper Latasha Alcindor ’10, also informally known as LA, is following up the release of her debut album B(LA)K. with her newest project, Teen Nite at Empire. The project is named for the Empire Rolling Skating Center, a former nightlife venue in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, which closed its doors in 2007 due to increasing gentrification in the area. As described on her Bandcamp––where audiences can listen to and purchase the album––it is dedicated to “the around the way ones, 2 for $5 bootlegs and realizing freedom.” Having grown up frequenting and coming of age at Empire’s regularly hosted Teen Night, Alcindor uses music as a platform to remember and resurrect the culture that has been pushed out.
In a recent interview with Noisey, Alcindor discusses the significance of Empire to her experiences as a Caribbean-American teenager coming up in ’90s Brooklyn:
I had a lot of shootouts around my hood … so going to Empire was like my first time like having some sort of freedom. I couldn’t go to parties so that was my party . . . But you know it was different than a regular skating rink. You go to skating rinks down in Atlanta and everybody’s actually skating. At Empire, nobody was skating. Everybody was just dancing on each other. It was like having like a prom every other Friday.
She goes on to address the fact that now, as gentrification displaces localized communities in New York and in cities across the states, much of this Brooklyn is gone:
I go to Flatbush now . . . There’s so many things that are so different but obviously there’s a lot still the same. My last project was called B(LA)K. It was telling my story about growing up in Brooklyn and Teen Night was like an excursion. I deal with the dilemma of wanting things to progress but also wanting things to still have a legacy. I think that’s the biggest problem I and a lot of my homies are facing . . . If you’re a white person and you live in a building where you see people getting pushed out, figure out how to help them if you have some resources to help them.
Teen Nite aims to bring listeners (back) into the experience of Empire, but LA’s biggest goal is to provide a voice for young women of color who are growing up in inner cities as these cities become unrecognizable:
I would hope what this does for young girls is definitely to make them feel like they have someone to rely on, to speak to, or hear from. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of women telling their story in their music . . . I would love if this project just captivated a lot more people in the sense of like, just understanding who women of color are in those kinds of spaces. I feel like we forget those stories. That’s really what this … is about: transcending.