211GIRLS are a young duo from London, keen to make waves in the thriving underground scene currently unfolding. 211GIRLS focuses on both music and fashion, with Sandra Omari handling the music, and Safiya Yekwai taking the lead with the fashion side.
Earlier this month we had a chat with Sandra Omari to find out a bit more info on what 211GIRLS is all about...
Tell us about your background?
I always knew I wanted to be in music, so I did a lot of internships growing up to gain knowledge of the industry. My most memorable internship was working for the Manager of Songwriter Wayne Hector (who wrote ‘Starships’ for Nicki Minaj!). Roughly, 2 years ago I bought my decks, started getting into DJ-ing and it just took off from there! I’m having so much fun, whilst learning and growing every day. Also, growing up with Safiya, the other half of 211GIRLS, was obviously very important. She’s a stylist who’s done some amazing things - styling Cassie, Labrynth, Kojey Radical and also Stormzy, for his video for Big For Your Boots. I basically went towards the music side of things and Safiya went towards the fashion side of things, so we thought why shouldn't we just make something of it. We’ve both had our separate successes, so let’s get together and build something cool.
What was the concept behind 211GIRLS when you first started?
The concept was basically that we were just two everyday black girls from London, like that was what the whole blog was based around, just stuff we got up to, things we liked and what we were influenced by. We’re 90’s kids, so we grew up listening to Aaliyah, Brandy, people like that so that obviously influenced a kind of 90’s vibe from an English point of view on the blog too. We combined our 90's R&B childhood with our UK Grime obsessed adolescence and there you have 211 girls whole kind of vibe. We wanted the blog to remain relatable, not to get too pretentious or become something that we weren’t, I think that’s really important in what the blog’s all about.
How has this changed?
The main concept has stayed pretty much the same with me doing the music side of things and Safiya doing the fashion. We now have a readership of 4,000 hits a month and we feature more artist interviews and events with original images only taken by a professional photographer for all our images we have on our website, Amber Grace- Dixon, who's amazing- so that’s a great thing for us now being able to say all of our material on the website is original. It’s also great how we have built cool relationships with the artists featured on our blog.
Considering the massive rise of the underground scene worldwide, how important do you think it is to have strong, black, female voices being a part of this?
Yeah I mean all over the world black women’s achievements are often overlooked and swept aside. It’s great to see black women in the industry starting to get the recognition they deserve- it’s very uplifting. The black female DJ scene is really growing and it’s so great to see females like Born N Bread, Shayna Marie, Fiona Hall, A.G, etc. shutting down raves and radio. Overall, the females are popping at the moment! Like most of my favourite dj’s are female right now e.g GCDJ (Girls Can’t DJ), Emily Rawson, Rock The Belles crew (A female Hip Hop DJ collective established by Emily Rawson, that I am now a part of), Lily Mercer, Darkstepper, Jamz Supernova, there’s so many! To be honest, the female DJ scene has grown in such a way that we’re not even competing with the boys, we’re doing it for ourselves, on our own terms. It's sick to see how positive all the girls in the industry are as well, everyone I have come across is so positive and supportive, so yeah I think it’s amazing to see the progression.
What’s your general take on the evolution of underground music in recent years, especially in London?
London has been overlooked for so long, not even just London the whole of the UK in general. The world is starting to really appreciate music from the UK underground scene and it is long overdue. We have some of the best artists in the world coming out of the UK underground. People never thought of a gritty, underground scene in London, where people deal with the a lot of same things as people in the ghettos of America, there’s real hardship and poverty here, I see it everyday living in an urban area and it’s important for that to be represented and for people to see different perspectives of reality. The underground music scene is so important for that. It’s always important to get two sides, for example in Dalston you have the upmarket side and you have the urban, poorer side. The poorer side is being swept under the carpet but it’s important to have that voice heard too. It’s important that the ‘underdogs’ can tell their story, so people know what is really going on. The underground music scene is for the people.
What are your thoughts on the link between music and fashion, and what’s next for 211GIRLS?
I think there will always be a strong link between different art forms, like with hip-hop you had the music, the clothes, breakdancing and the graffiti. And in London, we’ve got grime music and tracksuits and trainers, every subculture has a link between fashion and music, that's why it was such a natural decision to combine the two for 211GIRLS. We’ve got merch coming out soon which is exciting, more artists to interview, etc. yeah just kind of maintaining our concept but expanding within the music and fashion sides of things. We also have more DJ mixes to drop that reflect the concept and influences behind 211 Girls- mixing the old school with the new school. I just made a grime remix of Destiny’s Childs ‘say my name’- a mash up with a Shift K3y track. Its featured on a mix I have done and I premiered it in a Covent garden venue a few weeks ago- crowd loved it. Grime/Trap and Destiny’s child- says it all really.
Words by Oscar Ralf