Wonderland.

KAI THE BLACK ANGEL

As angelic as they come, Kafiq Baynes is set to fly sky-high.

(LEFT) Jacket and trousers ISSEY MIYAKE, shirt MSGM, sunglasses stylist’s own, shoes BRANDBLACK.
(RIGHT) Jacket ISSEY MYAKE, jacket worn underneath and trousers MISBHV, shirt and sunglasses stylist’s own.

Jacket and trousers ISSEY MIYAKE, shirt MSGM, sunglasses stylist’s own, shoes BRANDBLACK.
Jacket ISSEY MYAKE, jacket worn underneath and trousers MISBHV, shirt and sunglasses stylist’s own.

In August this year, Dev Hynes released his fourth album as Blood Orange, Negro Swan. As always with Hynes, it’s a sensitive, striking record, deeply personal and wholly beautiful; the same can be said not only for his music, but his visuals too. The video for “Jewelry” is something special – a group of men jump banded together in unbridled ecstasy, followed by a teenager — Kafiq Baynes — dressed as an inner-city angel, leaning out from a car window, statuesquely angled. Ana Kraš, Hynes’ girlfriend, happened to be taking photographs on set and a serene snapshot of the cherubic Baynes was selected to become the artwork for Negro Swan, immortalising the young creative as his Instagram handle, @kaitheblackangel.

First connecting on the social media platform, Hynes had reached out to Baynes to collaborate years before the stars aligned for “Jewelry”; his profile is a curated exhibition of his artwork and a showcase for his evolving look, often accessorised with his namesake angel wings. The Parsons Fine Art student is a photographer, artist, DJ and sometimes-model, captured on the front of NYC niche mags and zines, already known in the city’s creative circles without the much deserved wider public glow-up from Hynes. Between making lit party mixes and going to class, he holds down a nine-to-five at Starbucks, balancing three different worlds on the regular. Kindly, between his already hectic schedule, the polymath let Wonderland get to know him a little better.

(LEFT) Shirt and vest MARNI, trousers OFF WHITE, tie MSGM.
(RIGHT) All clothing LINDER.

Shirt and vest MARNI, trousers OFF WHITE, tie MSGM.
All clothing LINDER.

So you moved to NYC to get a degree in Fine Arts. Is the city living up to your expectations?

Yeah, this city is really inspiring and you are exposed to a lot, and meet a lot of characters. I love this city!

What’s your medium at the moment? What do you find your art is most often about?

In this period it’s been sound art. Most of what I do is wrapped around my interpretation of what’s hyper-real. I’m really interested in hyper-realism. I realised that after I tripped acid. Also, of course my sexuality and fluidity.

What’s the best thing about being a young person in NYC? And the hardest thing?

Well, if you go about it right (being young in New York) it can expose you to things at a young age but also it’s really easy to lose sight of what you actually started doing this for. You gotta have heart!

When do you think you first knew you were going to go into a creative industry? What inspired you while you were living in Philadelphia?

I didn’t actually realise I had something going on ‘til like my sophomore year of high school. Once I saw the responses and people would ask me to make their album covers, I was like “Oh, people actually like what I’m doing… okay cute.” I dove into it, got into different mediums and I fell in love with it and wanted to continue forever. What inspired me was my family and other things visually but on some real shit, I want to get my family out of Philly. I “made” it out and looking back I just see things differently and I don’t want that for my siblings/family. They are my gems.

By the sounds of it you’re very much within the creative scene, throwing parties and vogueing – what makes a good party?

Music! If the music is right. Your party is going to be cute. But also you need wallflowers and you need the dancers, every component of a party is important. But don’t forget the ganja burns and thot juices.

Noted! Where’s the best place to go to a ball in NYC?

If you know, then you know! *winks*

Exclusive! You’ve said you’re looking to release an EP, what’s it going to sound like? Who do you listen to most often? (I’m listening to your mixes right now!)

Yes, it’s going to be a mix of house music, vogue beats, rap and liquid drum and bass music. I’m leaning towards experimental sounds. On the regular I’m listening to Pink Friday, that entire album is a gem. SHUG, Jersey Club Music, Baltimore Club Music, City Girls, Mike Jones and of course Negro Swan, which was a beautiful project! I’m listening to a lot especially at the moment while I’m collecting music for gigs that are coming up.

(LEFT) Vest MSGM, trousers CALVIN LUO, shoes OFF WHITE.
(RIGHT) Jacket DSQUARED2, shirt DIOR HOMME, trousers NUMBER No21.

Vest MSGM, trousers CALVIN LUO, shoes OFF WHITE.
Jacket DSQUARED2, shirt DIOR HOMME, trousers NUMBER No21.

Talk to me about Eartha Kitt… What do you love about her? She sparked your aesthetic theme as a black angel, right?

I just think she’s so wise and precious, she gives me a feeling. I feel her on a deeper level and she’s talented as hell. What’s not to love about her? She definitely sparked it. She mentioned that there are hardly any black angels in churches. So I took it upon myself to fill that gap. I believe I embody an angel. I don’t need to wear wings. No shade.

Can you describe to me what it’s like going from being a fan of an artist to becoming their artwork?

It all still feels unreal. I don’t think people really understand. I’m so grateful. Also, it helped me realise how powerful I am. I literally manifested that moment, not being on the cover but somehow working with him and meeting him.

What did you first like about Dev when you discovered him and his work?

It was a GAP commercial. Dev simply looked soft but still very manly and he’s a beautiful person with a unique sound. He made music I felt.

What was the actual shoot day like? I imagine you’ve gotta have some pretty good core muscles to hang out of a car all day…

The actual shooting day was actually really cool and simple well at least my part, definitely an experience.

What do you hope people will relate to/identify with in your own art?

That it’s authentic and it’s coming from me. I’m claiming my space.

Your Instagram is divine! There’s so many images of you looking so different and expressing yourself in so many different ways, what you like about being able to change up your look?

Thank you! I like that you get to be a different character. That’s exciting.

You’ve got a few magazine covers under your belt already too. Do you see yourself as a tastemaker?

I do see myself as a tastemaker/ influencer. I definitely realised my impact and influence. It’s only the beginning though.

What do you wanna be when you graduate? What are you working towards?

I’m going to put this in the best way I can… I want to create and get paid for it. I want to do what I love and get paid for it.

Taken from the Autumn 2018 issue; out now and available to buy here.

(LEFT) All clothing CALVIN LUO.
(RIGHT) Jacket and shirt OFF WHITE, trousers LINDER, shoes BRANDBLACK.

All clothing CALVIN LUO.
Jacket and shirt OFF WHITE, trousers LINDER, shoes BRANDBLACK.
Photography
James J Robinson
Fashion
Scott Shapiro
Words
Lily Walker
Photography Assistant
Angie Pai
Fashion Assistants
Jasmine Fontaina and Bryson Pen
KAI THE BLACK ANGEL
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