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Kriticos on spreading social consciousness: “Think for yourself, be mentally free”

East-African influencer Kriticos details the diverse and creative ways in which he uses his social media to raise awareness about mental health in the music industry and among the Black community in Belgium, especially during the lockdown. He also explains how he reconciled himself with his identity as Bemba (Zambian) and Chagga (Tanzanian) and how he has dealt with his role as a musician to convey an uplifting message.

Direction & Photography : Helena Verheye // Interview & Video Edit: Paul-Henri Yuma // Main shot: Loïc Meulenberg // Assistance shot: Jean-Michel Yuma // Chief editor Tim Vanhaecke

Born in Zambia and raised in Belgium since 2004, Kriticos is an artist, social justice activist and mental health advocate. He’s also the founder of the independent and international music label Big Daddy Records. He co-hosted the first Black Lives Matter rally in 2016 in Belgium and was also involved in the organisation of the 2020 BLM protest in Brussels, which gathered 10,000 people. Last year, he released his first EP called Bemba Chagga, in which he explores not only his Eastern African roots but also his fight for mental freedom. His title track gained the attention of Hip-Hop emcee Sampha The Great. She considered Kriticos as one of her favorite Zambian artists of the moment.

Kriticos wants to use his multi-layered platform to go beyond the stereotypical standards of a black rapper, bragging about drinking, smoking and popping pills.

“Before you get into a position of power, you have to be at peace with yourself, or else you're gonna be corrupted,” he told Chase Music during the interview. “If (rappers) had that centre of gravity within themselves, I think a lot of things would change. Especially the message that you’re hearing in music.”

Kriticos interviewed at BARA 142 © 2020 Helena Verheye.

His role in his music and on his social media platform is to tell his journey and inspire people to become mentally free:

“What I’m tryna say is, firstly, you’re gonna die. That’s the only promise in life. Secondly, you're gonna think for yourself. Otherwise, people are gonna tell you what to think.”

He explored that train of thoughts in his recent single No Ego Freestyle:

♪ Fear, an illusion of what has been put into me ♪

♪ Open your eyes you will see ♪

♪ Better get rid of the message from the enemy ♪

♪ Get set on your journey be free ♪

“That’s what I’m also talking about on my EP Bemba Chagga: detach yourself from this idea that has been made up for you. What are you truly? What’s your essence? Who are you before the world told you who you were?”

Kriticos interviewed at BARA 142 © 2020 Helena Verheye.

This exclusive video is part of a series of five interviews with artists, activists and influencers using their social media to raise awareness about social topics. All of the interviews were done with respect to the governmental measures against the spread of the corona virus. This video was recorded at the temporary occupation BARA 142 (Toestand).

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