The Edge of Ladyspace: Ladi6 and the Political Limits of Self-Branding
Musicians connected through online and offline networks make use of a personal brand to represent themselves and their work. This self-‐branding must be recognisable, repetitive, and ‘fresh’ if it is to cut through the deluge of contemporary media content. The brands of politically engaged performers—referred to as ‘conscious’ performers—often revolve around political critique, ‘oneness’, and personal and spiritual uplift. These notions are often placed in opposition to the apparent commodification of performers through practices of personal branding. The circulation and consumption of personal brands may not necessarily however, preclude the impact of apparent political critique. This article will explore how the Samoan Aotearoa-‐New Zealander vocalist Ladi6 plays with the role of ‘lady’ in her brand as a politically engaged strategy. Ladi6 draws on genre resources from conscious hip-‐hop, soul, reggae, and electronic music. Her assertion of female presence, or creation of a ‘ladyspace’, is both ambiguous and reflexive. While the production of her personal brand—found in videos, lyrics, photos, online presence, merchandise, and live performances—operates according to the logics of global capitalism; the consumption of this brand can provide an alternative ‘conscious’ mode of engagement with the Ladi6 musical commodity.
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