BLACKMAU is the moniker of the collaboration between Kamau “DJ KamauMau” Grantham and Stacey “Blackstar” Robinson. Both faculty members of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Grantham and Robinson’s collaboration began in 2019. BLACKMAU engages heavily with the speculative project of Afrofuturism, a cultural movement in arts, literature, and music that seeks to imagine Black life in the future as a means to pose visions of liberation and to shed light on the present. Grantham, a clinical services counselor, has been deejaying since 1988. After living in New York City for nineteen years, with its diversity of club life and drawn to the power of sound systems to create cultural spaces in which communities can come together, Grantham sought to recreate the feeling of the City’s music culture in Illinois. Robinson, in his artistic work, is interested not just in singular pieces but in creating exhibitions that “transform the gallery into temporary ‘utopias.’” Often playing with and off the medium of comics, Robinson creates art that explores the fantastic and the superhuman as commentary on the way racism forces Black people to contend with an exaggerated, cartoonish view of Black life that requires veritable superhumanity to transcend. Together, BLACKMAU’s work draws on house music, fragments of photographs, animation, and collage to engage in what they call “unperfected experimentation.”
Their work has been featured in Curating the End of the World, a virtual exhibition hosted by Google Arts and Culture, New York Live Arts, and Black Speculative Arts Movement, as well as Merwin Gallery, Illinois Wesley University, Bloomington; Murphy Gallery, YMCA, Champaign; and a mural at the Cunningham Township Supervisor’s Office.