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‘He was an ocean of the most beautiful things’ — a tribute to Virgil Abloh by Kai Isaiah-Jamal

·2-min read
‘He made dreams come true’: Kai-Isaiah Jamal, left, with Virgil Abloh (ES)
‘He made dreams come true’: Kai-Isaiah Jamal, left, with Virgil Abloh (ES)

The thing with Virgil was there wasn’t a thing about him; there are endless things. He was an ocean of the most beautiful things. He made any single thing possible: literally anything.

After the last show, the early hours were creeping in but we were focused in a studio in Paris. The pressure was on to push further than we did the previous show — cos that’s another thing about Virgil, he broke every glass roof that was over the heads of him and his. He was limitless. After the first recording Virgil grabbed me, lifted me from the floor and said, ‘You did it again, you provided us with the missing puzzle piece,’ and never before and I doubt ever again will I feel so invincible, worthy and understood. Virgil understood. And when he didn’t he listened deeply and researched intently.

I guess what I’m trying to say is he is a list of promises, a catalogue of courage and resistance, and one of the most kind and gentle souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of connecting with. Nostalgia, Common and Quest, running out of time, inner children, footwork, saying f*** a box, creating a whole new box, kufi caps and community were all frequently shared across little green bubbles that transcended countries and time zones and possibilities. Virgil taught me the power of his voice, the power of mine and just what would happen if the two fused together. He put me in bronze, reminded me that everything they had ever said I couldn’t do was just another reason to make work they couldn’t even comprehend. He made dreams come true before we even acknowledged they were dreams.

‘Samples are just secrets worth protecting’: that’s our bar. Virgil is just a genius worth protecting and that’s what we will do, forever. In his name and in his legacy. There are few people you will meet that will actually ‘change your life’ but I’m so glad he was one of mine. I’m so glad I had the honour to be part of his home-grown lineage and his everlasting legacy. I never used to have icons or anyone I was willing to put on a pedestal because how could you be sure to know they wouldn’t let you down? That your idea may be of too much magnitude to selfishly put into a mere mortal? I don’t think he’ll ever be remembered as anything but an icon. I don’t think there’s a pedestal high enough. Thank you for seeing what I didn’t, for showing them what I couldn’t. Thank you for changing the world with a symphony of smiles and an unreplicable style — the kind that don’t care for a label, just a pure soul. I love you V — hope you knew that.

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