Reparations Rock: FUPU brings joy and power to punk
“You can’t like FUPU if you aren’t physically doing something to make the world a place of access and equality for Black humans; femme humans; LGTBTQ humans; poor humans,” says Uhuru Moor. “People are
[neglecting] that we are demanding reparations for Black people right now, that we are demanding land, that we are demanding clean water, that we are demanding shelter, that we are demanding what has been stolen, raped, robbed, and pillaged, [and] that we want it right now, and we make this music for that.”
Moor, who goes by The Uhuruverse onstage, is one fourth of LA-based band Fuck U Pay Us (FUPU). Since forming a little over a year ago, FUPU, which also includes Jasmine Nyende (lead vocals), Ayotunde Osareme (bass), and Tianna Nicole (drums), has gained quickening traction and popularity. They’ve been written up by Afropunk and LA Weekly; have released a live album on bandcamp, and have toured throughout the west coast and Europe. The band is femme and fearless — but while their audience is passionate and growing, for some, listening to FUPU is their first introduction to the intersectional identities the band occupies.
“I usually describe FUPU as a Black femme punk band, but when people aren’t familiar with femme as a queering of gender binaries, I reluctantly say Black Girl punk band,” says Nyende. Osareme has a different approach. “Sometimes I say: ‘Four Black women, rocking out,’” she tells me. ” “Then, if people seem genuinely intrigued I’ll explain more, but I think it’s important for people to realize that labels are limiting, [and that] I can’t think of one genre to describe our sound and message. Ultimately, you just have to listen.”
Moor formed the band in 2016 when she was looking for a new punk project to dive into. Like her solo work, FUPU’s music broadly discusses the impact that worldly structures of power (hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism) have on Black folks. Songs like “Suck My Nappy Black Pussy” empower Black femmes like Moor to be vocal in their identities and sexuality, while “Board Up,” another stand-out on the group’s album, calls for the United States to own up to its violent history. “Foreclose the White House,” Nyende sings on “Board Up.” “They ain’t paid their dues.”
In general, “our music is the sound of freeing burdens from humanity,” says Moor. Nyende agrees that FUPU brings something new to the table. “FUPU is here to change the way we consider punk music as a political tool,” she says. “Our live shows blend performance art, protest, and music show.” That blend is electric onstage, inspiring constant movement, laughter, and cheers from the crowd. Musically, the group is deft and drilling, while Nyende’s expansive vocal performance leaves listeners engaged and on edge. Osareme’s bass riffs are particularly compelling; she plays in a way that is at once moving, mournful, and enraged. When a song is presented to her, Osareme says, “I tune in and allow a bassline I feel is in harmony with that message to flow through me.”
It’s worth remembering that the pain and joy FUPU brings to their performances isn’t fictional — it’s grounded in their lived realities. And while some have branded the band as “political” or “outspoken,” sharing their experiences shouldn’t be shocking. It isn’t political to say that people still bear the burden of the United States’ legacies of genocide and slavery, or that lives are claimed by white supremacy every day. That’s factual.
During their stop in London on the “Reparations Tour,” the band was attacked by a white man, leaving drummer Tianna Nicole’s nose broken. The band tells me that they leaned on support from their community during that time. “We have each other and a strong community of artists here in LA,” says Nicole. “There are constant reminders that we are all in this together — some people will reach out with whatever they can give, even if it’s a hug, or stating that they are there for you. It really means a lot, it’s fuel.”
Along with facilitating joy for Black femmes onstage, providing support for their community is a goal for Moor. She mentions wanting to start self-defense classes for women and femme folks in her community, and speaks of the support of the art collective she is part of, Snatch Power. But ultimately, Moor believes structural change is necessary. “If we can get the proper reparations we will have a safe world for Black femmes to live free from hate and oppression,” she says.
Above all, the band is a source of strength for its members. “Our band dynamic is one of mutual respect,” says Nyende. “We are all brilliant leaders that came together to learn from each other and create a new sound.”
“We are all connected on a bunch of planes,” Moor agrees. “Musically, in friendship, humanity, and in our community.”
Click through for a gallery of FUPU performing at The Universe Is Lit: A Black and Brown Punk Fest in Oakland last week. All photos by Kaiya Gordon.
Kaiya Gordon is a writer and poet from the SF peninsula. Kaiya believes that impact is more important than intent, and is not interested in listening to your normcore noise band. Follow them on twitter @ayobaio