meet the skaters, actors, and musicians of l.a.’s new generation

Los Angeles is abuzz with a new wave of activists, actors, and rhymers. Dexter Navy travels to the heart of LA to celebrate the kids making the city their own.

This article originally appeared in i-D's The Acting Up Issue, no. 349, Fall 2017

Fig Abner
"Venice Beach is currently being gentrified by baristas, which I guess was inevitable since it has a rich history and culture, and it's by the ocean. Nonetheless, it's becoming harder to afford rent and mortgages because property values continue to increase as the population is becoming more and more Caucasian. This saddens me because I know that my children won't know Venice the way my friends and I did." Though she may despair at the transformation of her surroundings, Venice Beach local Fig Abner at least has an artistic outlet to express herself. Fig will be seen sometime next year in Jonah Hill's directorial debut Mid-90s, but acting isn't her only strength; musically, she's a powerhouse too. While it's still really early days for young Fig, she's ready to use her platform — on and offline — for change. "I have used social media to touch on hot topics such as cultural appropriation and systemic racism and poverty," she says. "However, I usually keep my cyber activism to a minimum because I think it's important to walk the walk rather than rant about what's wrong with our country on Instagram while laying in bed." Text Hattie Collins

GAZI GHOST
There's nothing spooky about GAZI GHOST. The frequent A.CHAL collaborator operates on the same blissed-out plane as the Peruvian-born singer. The pair's "Gazi" collective serves as a place, a state of mind, an all-encompassing worldview (being a "Latin beach boy in Malibu," as CHAL once put it). So far that has seen him expanding into clothing (@ropagaz), developing the GAZI aesthetic (@cityofgaz) and popping up in a campaign for GUESS Originals x A$AP Rocky. With all that going on what's left to change about the planet? "Today is all about money and power," he says. "I would take both of those things out of the spectrum." Welcome to GAZI – it's a brave new world. Text Matthew Whitehouse

Steve Lacy
18-year-old Steve Lacy doesn't need much in life: an iPhone 7, an iRig, a microphone, a little funk, a touch of jazz and he's good to go. Teaming new-gen tech with old-fashioned talent, Lacy has already racked up an impressive CV. There's his own 13-minute Soundcloud debut, Steve Lacy's Demo. For Kendrick's DAMN., he created the spectral "PRIDE," and in 2014, he joined The Internet for their third album Ego Death and promptly helped the LA collective grab a Grammy nomination. From joining the school jazz band at 14 to (nearly) winning prestigious awards at 17, Steve's effortlessly esoteric soulful sounds are a thing of both wonder and joy. We can only guess to what heights the clearly capable Lacy will soon soar. Text Hattie Collins

Vince Staples
Vincent Jamal Staples never wanted to be much of anything. As a kid growing up in Long Beach, California, he thought about basketball, maybe. But a professional rapper with two critically acclaimed albums under his belt? Forget about it. "I just had a lot more on my mind than I needed to at that age." Today, the 24-year-old is happy being who he is, his latest, greatest full-length, Big Fish Theory, featuring collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Ty Dolla $ign, and A$AP Rocky, and making a sizeable dent in the Billboard top 20 back in June. "I think I'm doing a pretty good job at this moment. I could be a lot worse off. I'm in the best place I could be, while still remaining true to myself." For Vince that means staying "pretty regular" while navigating the challenges of being "a person that creates music, creates art, whatever you want to call it". Not that it feels like a challenge, that is. "It's just songs at the end of the day, it's not life or death, you know?" he shrugs. "I feel like that lifts a lot of weight off my shoulders. Just knowing that no matter what happens, it's very likely that you'll be alive tomorrow. So it's like, hey, fuck it, let's just make music." Text Matthew Whitehouse

Kali Uchis
Raised between Colombia and Virginia, Kali Uchis started making music in her bedroom at 19, moved to Los Angeles at 21, and, now, at 23, is about to release her debut album. "Everyone in L.A. is trying to be somebody and do something… sometimes you just wanna talk to a regular person that doesn't have an ulterior motive," she says of her new home. "I came from nowhere and knowing nobody. None of my family members have ever done anything music or art related." Her sound and style is laid back old school hip-hop with a generous helping of slinky late night Puerto Rican pop. While past collaborations include Snoop, Vince Staples, and Tyler, The Creator (she's on his new album Flower Boy too), her LP promises features from an eclectic collection of contemporaries and icons from funk legend Bootsy Collins, to Damon Albarn, Thundercat, Tame Impala, Steve Lacy, and Jorja Smith. Tyrant, the lead single with Jorja, is a post-apocalyptic love song at the forefront of an album about "learning to cope with all struggles in life, finding love, losing love, just everything." With her music as an open diary, she's honest, enchanting, and very, very fun. "I like to think that one day Quentin Tarantino will use my music for a movie," she shares, hitting the nail directly on the head. "Like, if he made a new Scarface." And with that, we vow not to rest until she's written the theme tune, sung the theme tune, and taken on Michelle Pfeiffer's Elvira "don't call me baby" Hancock. Text Frankie Dunn

Liana Perlich
Alicia Keys, tiny dogs, taking selfies, and her best friend Ama Elsesser are Liana's favorite things. She's given life by the LA angels around her who genuinely care about reducing inequality. In a culture where endorphins come from likes, Liana knows that it's important to stay real. "I want to make people have more interest in what goes on around them rather than what goes on when they're looking down at their phones," she says. "I think we should try to motivate others as much as we can through true words that come from the heart. I think it's appreciated when you can tell that the person is genuine about making a difference through social media, not for the attention or for any fake selfish reason!" Preach, Perlich. Text Frankie Dunn

Evan Clark
Car enthusiast Evan Clark first captured our hearts when his friend Frank Ocean featured him in his highly coveted 400-page zine Boys Don't Cry. As the guy who fixed up Ocean's trademark BMWs, the mechanic and boy racer also featured alongside Sage Elsesser, Nakel Smith, and Brahim Iriri as part of a static-y interview with Frank's brother, Ryan Breaux, at the end of Blond(e)'s Futura Free. Frank fans furiously picked apart both releases and began to catapult their contributors to fame. It's ironic then that the internet is one of the car enthusiast's biggest worries regarding the world. "Less internet, more picnics," are among Clark's ideas to make the planet a happier place, that, and for more people to "realize women are superheroes." Amen to that, Evan! Despite online acclaim, Clark keeps his Insta following low; he's less interested in fame of the level of his friend, Frank, and more about looking after his pals. "I just want to take care of those close to me." Text Hattie Collins

Ama Elsesser
Ama is an LA-based model, artist, activist, and incessant Instagram presence. It's a good sort of presence though, like a calming spirit felt in a beloved home or a pen friend that writes you an unprompted letter full of good advice right when you need it. She's full of it, you see, full of very 2017 words of wisdom like: "Instagram and the internet are like an ex-girlfriend. You keep feeding her personal information just for her to spill it. You can't expect more from her than fake compliments." Though concerned about peer pressure, she finds hope in food, family, children, and cannabis; and dreams of one day bringing together people of all races and financial situations, banishing all preconceptions of type and status – updates or otherwise. Text Frankie Dunn

Olan Prenatt
Growing up on Speedway in Venice, Olan Prenatt quickly turned his back on the sea and began skating when the board was still taller than him. You'll find the blond-haired, blue-eyed darling of Illegal Civilization — a group of friends who came up riding together in LA — either fucking up his fire red Jordans in Stoner Park or betraying a love of 90s sitcom Martin through his own brightly colored garms. Name-checking Vetements and Mr. Completely as his favorite brands — and fellow skater Braydon Szafranski as his style icon — Olan sees hope in the success that's happening to his friends, and is part of a new wave of skaters who view their careers as stepping stones into, well, absolutely anything they put their minds to. "I want to lead a change but I don't want to water down my platform so I just gotta start by being the change I want to see," he says. "Imma just keep on keepin' on." Text Matthew Whitehouse

Credits


Photography Dexter Navy