A Seat at the 

Table With

OLU ALEGE

Olu Alege is a walking soapbox. He’ll sound off on anything: from Supreme’s anomalous business model and gentrification to AOC’s twitter storms. He does so with unfiltered yet astute candor. Curiosity fuels his creative agency, No Noise, where “in a world inundated with noise, {he} provides the silence.” Our generation lives, works, and socializes through screens. 3 am digital rabbit holes, homogenous clickbait, and toxic people are all “noise.” It’s all unending misinformation in the “Age of Information.”

That infamous day when IG crashed, we collectively freaked out and then reconnected with one another – that’s No Noise. It’s the heart of the comparative syndrome and burnout culture we meme about ad nauseam. Olu feels the only hope is in human connection, giving others the mic and speaking your truth. Authenticity isn’t merely a buzzword for him; it’s his entire ethos.

Born and bred in the Bronx, his network was built on foot and not by click. Daily Soho sojourns, an hour-long commute felt “ritualistic.” He poured blood, sweat, and curated playlists into the process. “Giving my time and prepping to be out in the streets all day gave me my friends, business partners, insight, and culture. I’m a part of something bigger than me.” That grassroots approach of learning people’s stories firsthand guides his consultancy, where he inspires brands to invest in marginalized cultures and not just commodify them. For him, people run the world, and street-level research is his way of bridging the gap between capitalism and the community. “You gotta have cash to move the needle in this country, but at least I can bring the cultural capital from the source and give back to the communities.” 

Read our interview with Olu for his thoughts on culture copping, the controversy of corporate inclusivity, and his DGAF definition of success: 

How did No Noise come to life? 

I started in a lot of collectives vibing with homies, but eventually, they all broke up. I worked in different agencies and didn’t like the system. There, they had no connection to the communities they were pulling ideas from. They listen to people they’re comfortable around who misinform them—they’re not going outside, or to the clubs, they’re not going to the streets to the spaces of the culture. Why create strategy off of misinformation? The way they talked about culture in these spaces, the fact that they took credit for shit, made me sick. I created No Noise to bridge that gap.

People just want to speak and be respected. Don’t just have me in the room, so you feel inclusive but not listen to me. It’s not just about art and fashion—let’s talk about shit that matters like education and the arenas that impact people’s lives. If you’re really talking about community and culture, you gotta raise the standards, so people have a better chance of surviving. How do we actually affect change? That’s No Noise.

How do you get companies to care beyond profitability? 

Being a great strategist is like being a great politician. You gotta know how to appeal to the masses, how to have a POV that relates to people, you have to understand and empathize with your audience. Nike doesn’t sell coffee, but they could. Look what they do with their marketing. Products don’t sell, stories do.

You see, these politicians talking about budgets, and I don’t relate to that. But if you break it down and change the way the subway runs, the fares, the frequency, and the cleanliness—now I care because I take that shit every day, and now you’ve got my attention. I live that story. You have to market in a way people can relate to each other.

And your street-level approach teaches brands how to market with this relatability? 

I always try to tell brands – if you’re ever going to do something in a community, give back to that community. If you throw an event, leave things for kids – create a community center. Impact their lives for the positive. Don’t just handshake and keep it moving. Make it real. These people line up for your shit. Connect to them in an authentic way; don’t just hijack their culture. 

I can bang on the wall or IG, “Yo fuck this brand, they stealin’ our culture, etc.,” but they’re not gonna hear me. They might for one second, and then they’ll forget. But if I’m in these spaces with these brand and marketing directors, I can hold them accountable. You can’t just build and cop culture without caring about it or giving back to it. With social media, people see all these images and experiences and don’t acknowledge the process behind them. Think about disenfranchised people who create something out of nothing, they put everything they have into it—and brands come and take that something they created. Corporations have a duty to help the community they operate in and steal from. 

And what do you think about this transactional culture where one’s value is based on convertibility rather than their character?

It’s bigger than me. It’s about these kids. They didn’t have a life without the internet, so they think social media is everything. We’re the last generation that grew up without it, so we’ll figure it out, but they need to see the world outside the screens. If they’re not hot on the internet, they’re like, “What’s the point? If you’re not an influencer, then you ain’t shit.”

Our society is too fixated on success. We have to redefine it, so people aren’t only given opportunities based on education and privilege, but by passion, natural talent, the ability to learn and network. Kids DM me all the time to share their ideas. I’ll send ’em sample decks and give them advice. I don’t see it as a competition. The more people we help, the better the world is. The more information people have, the better choices they can make. But if they don’t have the information, they can’t make choices. Misinformation doesn’t enable you to achieve your best self. I want the world to be a better place because I was here, and I want to help everyone arrive at their dreams.

These people-to-people impressions even translate to No Noise’s social media. Most brands pour all their money into social media inflation and influencers. You barely post and don’t promote your rather impressive client list.

It’s not about my client list. I’m not trying to sell my community. I never want to show all the faces of the people and clients I can offer you. That’s a game these brands play. Scan your site and visualize your worth, rather than having a conversation with you and connecting at a higher level.

I wanna change the way we do research and strategy – you don’t always have to take take take. I want brands to approach communities and say, “Hey, here’s what we’re doing, we’re doing research about people like you, and we need you to tell us what’s happening – but we’re gonna help you with what you wanna do. We’re gonna show you how to be an entrepreneur, how to do your taxes, what actually happens in these businesses.”  My community needs education and intel. There’s no school for that. Don’t just sell a tagline. On glowing up and trusting the process, teach people how to start their own shit.

What’s your advice to emerging creatives on starting their own shit?

Our country runs like a company. Everything starts with the right intention, but the cycle of capitalism changes it into something scalable, viable, and sellable. I admire what Supreme does because they’re global as hell but keep it low key.

How can you own your narrative if you don’t own your business? Run your business on your terms. If you’re a designer, who says you gotta follow the calendar? You’re an artist, who says you gotta sell your shit at Sotheby’s? Your message and story change as soon as you put a price on it and let other people buy into it. 

And how are you running yours? 

People who make it aren’t the dopest or most creative; they’re the people who put in the fucking work and the time. I’m only one year in. I’ve got a 10-year plan; I’m on a Supreme model. However, I’m not trying to go viral. I’m working for steady growth and more lives to be impacted by the positive. I want the ability to do more things to bring people together. I want to do more shit for people.

Happy place in the city? 

Best advice you ever got? 

From my uncle: “Don’t let anyone steal your confidence or self-worth. They can take your money or your phones but if you lose your confidence, you’re done.”

How do you brand yourself without playing the game? 

Let people speak their truth. Invest in people,  invest in their ideas, and let them grow.