Inayah may not be a name you’re familiar with in the U.K., but she’s already making waves over here, as well as across the Atlantic. Having blown up thanks to a remake of Ella Mai’s ‘Boo’d Up,’ she has released plenty of honest and impactful music on her life including the recent ‘Insecure.’
Now, Inayah is here in the U.K. for the first time, promoting her recent sold-out show at The Jazz Cafe. We sat down and had a chat about what inspired her new music and how social media can be a help and a hindrance to an artist.
‘Insecure‘ your latest EP is a very raw and personal project. Was this a result of experiences in life or just you feeling like you can tell your story in a more raw and emotional way?
I love the way you put that. A little bit of both. It’s the story of the aftermath of my journey of postpartum, after having a baby ten years ago. I’d never had to go through postpartum. I didn’t know what it was, I never knew anything about it and how heavy it could feel. ‘Insecure‘ is that story of me trying to find who I was before the baby and get back to the artist Inayah. In the middle of all that I still had to breastfeed, cater to another child, still be a girlfriend and take care of (the) home. It’s all of those emotions and still trying to keep my brain and myself intact while dealing with that.
You worked on the project with Dixson who is acclaimed in the field of producing and songwriting. What skills and attributes did he bring to the table to help you make this project?
Dixson is so special. I don’t say this because I love him dearly, he is one of those truly special, one-of-a-kind artists that you don’t come by, and when you do you have to cherish them. His songwriting ability, the way he taps into an artist’s personal situation and can directly relate, whether he (has) been through it or not, just blows my mind. He’s also a producer, he plays instruments for real. He’s just such a prize to have in the studio. There were times when I just felt stuck and he would just remind me of who I was, what I was there to do, and that the story was not just there for me. He contributed in so many ways and I’m just honoured to be in the same studio with such an amazing and incredible mind.
Clearly, you have a not just good musical relationship, but a personal relationship with him as well. Do you think that helped make things easier that you got on with him as a person as well as a musician?
Yeah, but (with) his creative process whether I would have known him or not, the music would have still come out fire. He is that good, that creative. Whether we would have been friends or not, I still think because of the type of creator he is and I am, when you put those two in a room together, you just can’t lose. There were even times when some of the instrument selections, he would match them with the specific emotion I had at the time. It matters when you hear an acoustic guitar to a song like ‘Always Something.’ If you can’t feel it then the artist didn’t do something right.
Having been around gospel, blues, R’n’B, and even hip-hop from an early age, do you think this has allowed you to have a more varied approach when it comes to instrumentals you choose to either sing or rap over?
Absolutely. I always compare my variety to a pot of Gumbo. (laughs) You got the Crab, the Chicken, the Sausage, the Okra. I don’t see myself as a rapper, a lot of people say I am and I see that as a compliment. My background is blues and gospel, it is real singing. But I think, mixing all of that into one is what helps make me unique in a sense. The rap-singer title just fits so perfectly with my style and delivery. I think it contributes in a major way to my artistry.
Like you said, you might not see yourself as a rapper but there are people who sing who rap, people who rap who sing. To have that extra bit of salt to sprinkle on the meal pushes you out there.
Absolutely. It’s a challenge but it is a sweet one.
Having been elevated to success partially by your remake of Ella Mai’s ‘Boo’d Up,’ is there anyone else in the U.K. scene who you are inspired by or who you really enjoy?
Yeah, I’m a huge Amy Winehouse fan. She was another one of those special ones that when you get the pleasure of having such treasures in the music industry, you want to put them in this little box and protect them. I love Amy Winehouse. She too like myself was a storyteller and I connect with that more than anything. No disrespect to anybody that chooses a current bop or what’s hot at the moment. I prefer the music that is going to stick around and still be here in 15 years and Amy Winehouse was that type of writer.
You have your sold-out show at The Jazz Cafe. How are you feeling about that?
I’m still trying to register it in my mind, I am still trying to believe it. I have never been here before, it is my first time. I’ve never even promoted anything here before. I was actually in Jamaica over the holidays when I got the news that the show had sold out. This was a month before the actual show date. I was floored when I found out about it and I didn’t know I had a dedicated fanbase over here. I’m just happy to be in the city, happy to be loved by London and the U.K.
I am a little bit nervous to be honest because I’ve never been here. (laughs) Obviously, with a sold-out show, that means they love me for everything they have already seen. So, I just going to do what I normally do. We are going to have a hell of a time, I’m going to give them a show!
Who is someone you would like to duet on stage with to either one of your songs or someone else’s music?
I’m a huge Giveon fan, I would love to perform with Giveon. Lucky Daye also and Beyoncé, who doesn’t? What true artist doesn’t have a dream of getting in the studio with Beyoncé? Right now, urgently, those are some of my top picks.
Is there a particular song by one of those artists or one of your own that you think would work best as a duet?
Lucky Daye has this song called ‘Love You Too Much.’ I’m a die-hard fan of that song. If we could do a male-female spin on that joint, I would absolutely kill it. (laughs) I’m speaking it into existence.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming artists to make a name for themselves in the industry?
For me, it was social media. I used it as an outlet. But, I wouldn’t even say the goal was to go viral or to become a signed artist from being discovered off Instagram. I will say use it as a tool because it’s just the way of the world now. However, don’t let it pressure you, and don’t let it define you as an artist. It’s so easy to feel like you have to keep up with certain trends and things that are happening on social media. It can make you feel like you are less than (others) or that you are not doing something right or how did that artist get signed before me (when) I’ve been working this long and she made one song, and now she’s a hit.
Don’t let that pressure you because there are so many popcorn artists out here, that is what I call them. (laughs) They’ll have one song and you won’t hear from them again. But, the music that has substance, real structure, and stories; focus on the things that people can directly relate to. If they can’t relate to it then they can’t feel it and it is not going to be here in two years. I can guarantee you that. Try not to let the pressures of social media derail you from what the true end goal is in your desire to become an artist.
That is some good advice. I think social media is a very powerful and important tool, but you need to find that balance. You don’t want to burn yourself out from doing loads of TikToks or something like that.
It can be poisonous and it can trick your mind into thinking that you don’t have it. Just because you’re not making a song that is going viral on TikTok. I want to speak to whoever’s manager came up with the idea of having to make a song go viral on TikTok to make yourself known. There are plenty of worthy singers and real artists that ain’t never been on TikTok. I hardly use TikTok and I think I’m doing pretty damn good for myself. Somewhere along the line, relevancy got caught up in social media and that sucks and it can discourage artists. I try not to let it get to me.
You can’t and at the end of the day, everyone has their different path. I think with TikTok a lot of artists found a way to get past the usual way where they’d get found by a record label. On there (TikTok), they could put it out there and get known without a label. That’s what changed things, but now the labels have caught on to that. They’re are like ‘this is what we need to do.’ But, give it a few years, it will be something else and trends change all the time.
That’s right, popcorn. (laughs)
Yeah. I personally don’t use TikTok, but I think some good artists have popularity on there that wouldn’t before. But, there are a lot of artists who will have the one big song on there and you’ll never hear from them again. For me, longevity should be your goal, rather than just having a few hits and then disappearing.
Yeah, because what are you really doing it for if that’s not your goal? It doesn’t make it fair to the people who really want to come into this thing and make a difference and change lives, contribute to someone who is going through a harsh breakup, losing a loved one, losing a job, or feeling depressed. Stevie Wonder said ‘music is a world within itself with a language we all understand.’ With that much responsibility as an artist, you should want to make a difference with your music. Logically, I would think that’s what the artist’s goal is, but sadly not everybody doesn’t think that way.
What are your goals for 2023?
I have a tour, it’s started already. After this, I have thirteen more cities and then I am back in the studio working on my next project. Travel (is another one), I’ll be relocating soon. I’m actually in TV and Film now, I guess I am an actress now. (laughs) 2023 I am nicknaming twenty-twenty-free because for this year I have let go of all of the things that scare me. I’m letting go of all of (the) things that don’t benefit me in any positive way or that aren’t contributing genuinely to my purpose. This year is a me year for real and there’s a lot in store. I am excited about 2023.