Monstah Black and Manchildblack, the duo behind the Illustrious Blacks, are throwbacks to an older era of club culture and signposts of the zeitgeist. As multimedia artists-DJs-singers-dancers and bon vivants whose very presence signifies a party, their approach to nightlife harks back to the ’70s and ’80s. In fact, their style—best described as mutant-disco Afrofuturistic—suggests a kinship with fellow aliens from those eras like David Bowie, Prince, and George Clinton.
But as an ostentatiously gay couple whose shows directly address race and sexuality from perspectives of both righteous anger and purely owned joy, they belong to the future. If that sounds a bit too heady for you, the Blacks prioritize ass shaking at the same time they seek to expand your mind.
Monstah and Manchildblack are following up the release of their funky new single, “Revolutionary Love,” with a busy summer in Indonesia for the KU DE TA Forbidden Fruit Day Party in August and a return to Joe’s Pub in September. I intercepted the Blacks in the midst of their hectic schedule to ask them about Brooklyn nightlife, their upcoming album, and the politics of fashion.
What Should We Do?!: How would you describe your style?
Manchildblack: I like to mix retro-futurism, Afrocentrism, and Japanese minimalism. The events of the day and how I’m feeling dictate how I choose to emphasize the different aspects of those styles.
Monstah Black: My personal style has always been gender neutral. I try to pay homage to elements of punk rock, funk, skate punks, preps, shamans, griots, witch doctors, geishas, dominatrices, aliens, cybersluts, soccer stars, drag queens, gypsies, and jockeys.
WSWD: That’s a broad palette! Is there an underlying meaning?
Manchildblack: Fashion is about sharing your inner vision of your outward self to the world. Anytime you reveal your truth, it’s political.
Monstah: I completely agree. I grew up in a small town, and I used fashion as a tool to empower myself while making a statement about how I clashed with the conservative aesthetics and political views of those in my immediate surroundings at a very early age.
Fashion is about sharing your inner vision of your outward self to the world. Anytime you reveal your truth, it’s political.
WSWD: Afrofuturism, both as a style and a narrative, is experiencing something of a mainstream renaissance. What do you chalk that up to?
Monstah: It’s the natural visual and aural progression of what we lived through in the 1990s and early 2000s. There was a period, in black culture particularly, when everyone was trying to look and act like a rapper. Everything was about portraying the look and vibe of a life surviving in the streets of major cities. With Afrofuturism, we widen our perspective. It’s a filter that allows our collective creative imagination to run wild and gives us an avenue to address commentary on current sociopolitical issues that need to be brought to everyone’s attention.
WSWD: How did the two of you meet?
Manchildblack: Music brought us together. We connected on the dance floor of a nightclub in Washington, D.C., in the midst of a crowd of sexually ambiguous lovers of house music. We’ve been dancing together through life ever since.
WSWD: Is it difficult balancing your relationship as a romantic couple and artistic duo?
Monstah: Some times are more challenging than others, but because we both love what we do and share the same goals, we manage to teeter and totter through any complications. The key is agreeing to disagree and remaining willing to laugh off any unnecessary, ego-driven drama.
WSWD: How would you assess the state of modern NYC nightlife?
Manchildblack: Right now, especially in Brooklyn, it’s lit! It is particularly great to see queer-owned spaces like C’mon Everybody and Sutherland doing so well, but you can also look to Output, Elsewhere, and House of Yes to find amazing events and incredible DJs in their nightly lineups.
WSWD: Anything you think that could be done better?
Manchildblack: I suppose it’s more about what I’d like to see changed in the audience than in the venues. It would be great to see people be more open to music that is new to them instead of expecting DJs to spin sounds that you can easily find on any iPhone. Also, and you can put this in capital letters, please: PUT YOUR FUCKING PHONE AWAY AND DANCE, BITCH!
WSWD: Now that you’ve established yourself on the scene, what would you like to do next?
Monstah: A dream project for us would be collaborating with a few of our favorite producers, vocalists, filmmakers, choreographers, and fashion designers to create a musical feature film. It would be a mythological fantasy that would include representations of people from all over the world, all shapes, sizes, genders, and the genderless…our neo-Afrofuturistic-psychedelic-surrealistic-disco fantasia!
We wanted to create something that was an unapologetic ode to our love: black love, queer love, and self-love.
WSWD: Is your new single, “Revolutionary Love,” setting the table for that project?
Manchildblack: It’s a bit more modest than that, but the intent is the same. We wanted to create something that was an unapologetic ode to our love: black love, queer love, and self-love. Our songs up until this point have been more about our politics, but it was important to us to have the first single from the forthcoming album come from a place of love.
WSWD: What would be your perfect New York day?
Monstah: I’d start with breakfast: avocado toast and mimosas on a yacht circling Manhattan at sunrise.
Manchildblack: From there, we would take a private helicopter ride around the city on our way to Gucci on Wooster Street to pick out something to wear for the night. Once we addressed wardrobe, we would meet up with our good friends Bey and Jay at Mr. Chow for an early dinner and drinks. After dessert, we would leave the restaurant and meet our other good friend Rihanna at the Battle Hymn party and dance the rest of the night away. After that, the two of us would head to our penthouse suite at the top of the Standard Hotel and have our second dessert.
But if that is unavailable, the perfect day for us is lounging around at home all day with Netflix and pizza.