Like many younger Black ladies raised within the UK, Alicai Harley longed to see herself represented within the books and toys round her. Moving from Kingston, Jamaica to Peckham when she was simply 5 years previous, Alicai felt extensively unseen — till she discovered the kids’s image ebook Amazing Grace. Nineteen years later, Alicai celebrates this second with an homage to the ebook’s illustration on the quilt of her debut EP.
Blazing onto the UK music scene along with her single “Gold” in 2017, Alicai Harley has thrived within the rising British Dancehall area. Almost 3 million streams and a number of other incandescent songs later, the 24-year-old has launched her first full physique of labor; Red Room Intro (Yard Gyal Inna Britain), an EP within the making since 2018. With star-studded options similar to Stefflon Don on “No Drama” and South London MC Nadia Rose and Nigerian Afrobeats star Moelogo on “No Rampin,” the long-awaited EP affords an fulfilling take heed to quench her followers’ thirst.
Speaking to BuzzFeed, Alicai recollects the second she determined to pay homage to Amazing Grace with the EP’s cowl, laughing that she “just remembered the book out of nowhere.”
“I always wanted my first EP cover to mean something,” she explains. “I didn’t just want the EP to be me sonically, but all over. Amazing Grace was my favourite book, and the first I saw with a Black girl on it. Maybe there were others, but I definitely didn’t see them.”
Alicai emphasises that it wasn’t nearly seeing herself bodily mirrored in Amazing Grace, however reasonably the empowering story exhibiting Black ladies can attain any heights they want to that was essential.
One of the primary main UK-based tales specializing in a non-white little one, Mary Hoffman’s 1991 novel has been exalted, and holds a particular place within the reminiscences of ’90s children. The ebook follows Grace, a younger Black woman in love with the artwork of storytelling. From The Jungle Book’s Mowgli to Anansi the Spider, readers study of Grace’s limitless aspirations as she confidently emulates well-known protagonists, no matter whether or not their identities match hers. It was from Grace’s tales, Alicai says, that she learnt to consider in herself, “even when others attempted to persuade her otherwise.”
“In the book, Grace wants to be Peter Pan and is told she can’t because she’s a Black girl,” Alicai tells BuzzFeed. “But she doesn’t care. Then with the added reassurance from her mum and grandma, she does it anyway!”
Discussing her upbringing within the UK, Alicai spoke of her battle to navigate cultural variations when she first moved from Jamaica. “I remember being in year 2 and feeling really different,” she says. “I still had my accent and I made this joke — it was a Jamaican joke — and this other little girl accused me of bullying her, like she didn’t get it or understand me.”
“The book gave Jamaican vibes, especially Grace’s relationship with her grandma,” Alicai recollects of Amazing Grace. “It made me feel accepted too.”
Alicai’s pleasure in her roots is mirrored within the EP’s subtitle, Yard Gyal Inna Britain. “It’s an EP full of bangers,” Alicai says of the challenge, outlining how house impressed her melodic selections. “By the end of the album you definitely feel like you’ve been to Jamaica.”
With an Ashanti sample and an infectious vigour to remind us of after we might nonetheless hit up Shoreditch, the 10-track challenge is filled with nostalgic blasts from the previous which echo higher days. “I’m really glad it came out now, with the pandemic and everything,” Alicai provides. “It’s so joyful, and just has great energy.”
As for her recommendation to different little ladies with huge goals, Alicai says the will to pursue these goals is vital.
“You wouldn’t have the desire for it if you couldn’t do it,” she says. “So do it!”
Red Room Intro (Yard Gyal Inna Britain) is now accessible throughout all streaming platforms.