Music is universal and Amaarae is certainly living that through her dreams and creative pieces on a daily basis. She was featured on Pitchfork’s 25 Next Roundtable (including other budding musicians) who are shaping the future of music.
The Ghanaian singer and producer threw light on being probably the only independent artiste from (in) Ghana, taking her sound to other parts of the world where it appreciate because back home in Ghana, you either do dance record and stay in business or be left to rot with your talent.
Read exerpts from the interview with Amaarae below:
Some of you are still unsigned, and the rest are on independent labels. Is anyone here skeptical about signing?
I’m really going back and forth with the whole label conversation. I’ve been independent for the last four years, and my team truly did this in the mud. The last thing that I want to do is go into a space where [the label] says, “We want to change this, we want to change that.” That’s my biggest fear. We’re having a lot of conversations with labels, and there’s money being thrown around, and I’m really like, “Bro, it’s not the money that’s going to convince me.” I have an issue with the way labels can mishandle artists sometimes. I think about artists that I love, like Kelis or Fefe Dobson: These are artists with really clear objectives or really great stories, but then they get into the space where it’s like, “You have to fit a mold in order for us to believe that we can push you.” And it’s crazy to me because Kelis was the mold for every alternative Black girl. Had artists like that really been given space and resources to grow, there’s no telling what could have been in terms of what certain people see themselves doing now.
How do you define success?
I agree with you 100 percent. Right now, coming out of Ghana, I’m probably the only independent artist that I ever see doing things so far outside of the community. Doing shows out here, playing Pitchfork, Governors Ball, being able to headline. I’m not seeing the kids back home doing it, and it’s because our community has been so restrictive on what kind of music you can make. Me being experimental, there’s not a voice given to it back home. Well, I think the world still needs to hear it. And then the world is receiving it. There’s so many kids that do what I do back home, that are DMing me, “How are you doing it?” How do I show them how I did this so that they don’t have to go through the pain of the rejection that comes from our community?
Back home in Ghana, if you don’t make a record that people can dance to, they’re like, “OK, you’re out of here.” You can’t play shows, you can’t sell music, nothing. Every year, you have to have a great sort of dance record, so that you can play shows so that you can make money. There’s like 1,000 kids who make experimental shit, and they’re all just stuck. Even though there’s the internet, they need resources, they need education. And my question every day is, “How do I provide those resources and how do I educate them?” Because really and truly, I started doing what I was doing with nothing, bro. And my gift was that my mom really insisted, “If you’re going to do music, go to college, do your four years when you’re in college, take a music business class, learn everything you can, and I will let you do music.” That’s the most important thing for artists of color: the education. We’re literally wasting our time if we can’t tell people, bar for bar, this is how I did this, take this information, tweak it, whatever—but it’s going to take you less time than it took me.
Looking ahead at the future of music, what makes you hopeful, and what makes you fearful?
I think the generation after us is just so radical and self-aware in a way that we’ve just started to learn. They’re fearless. There’s this girl I found on SoundCloud named Staysie Atoms, and she makes beats, records, and mixes her shit all on her phone. When I went to Nashville, I DMed her and we went to the studio. I was working with this multiple Grammy-winning producer Ian Fitchuk—he does Kacey Musgraves’ stuff—and she just takes complete ownership of the session. There’s a producer doing her vocals and she’s like, “I don’t like how you do it,” and then proceeded to do it herself. Most people would be intimidated, and she’s only like 21 or 22 and was like, “Nah, you gotta get my shit wet, this is how you get my shit wet.” I thought that was the coolest shit in the world.
I can’t say that I worry about our future in their hands. Because first and foremost, they respect themselves and their boundaries. And they understand the importance of their decision-making in the way that they go about it. But they wouldn’t be that way if we hadn’t been as radical as we are in our generation. We fought to have our voices heard and to unlearn a lot of our past traumas. And they’re completely from the reality that we just finished. It took us until now, but these kids are coming out of the womb with the heat.
Watch episodes of RIDE And CHAT below: