RECORDING ARTIST / DESIGNER
"I believe what makes you unique as an artist is your ability to fuse all your experience to tell a story no one else can tell"
I$$$A is a planetary artist. The Senegal born artist speaks four languages, has traveled and lived internationally. A true citizen of the world. Currently based in Portland, the recording artist is a man of many talents and now you can also call him Designer. This week is Sneaker Week (@sneakerweekpdx) in Nike's home town, where I$$$A will showcase his new design. But the work doesn't end there, he is also dropping a new album called "Kiss From A Rose." So when I got to sit down with I$$$A and look at the world through his eyes, I dove in. His energy is totally singular and rare; you can't help but feel inspired, light, and free in his presence. He communicates respect and a deep understanding of life, but also, just plain dope fun. We sat down with the multidimensional artists and asked about his path and passions.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLIEST RAP MEMORY?
I started rapping when I was just a young boy in Senegal, West Africa. I would watch music videos of my favorite international artists like Tupac, MC Solaar, IAM and try to emulate what they were doing. I quickly fell in love with the way they would express themselves and how free they looked on camera. I started rapping in French at first because French is my first language. But eventually, I got the unique opportunity to go study abroad in the USA. That quickly opened Pandora’s box as I moved away from the scrutiny and supervision of my traditional culture, into a new world without borders, or parental supervision. I took a deep dive into music, producing and songwriting and began perfecting my craft as an artist.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO FASHION DESIGN? WHY THE TOES FIRST?
I have always been attracted to fashion! I believe that fashion is a way to express yourself. I am naturally introverted so I use fashion as an icebreaker. I can be as loud as I can be in as few of words as I need or want to use. I love color theory and putting things together in a way that feels unexpected and new while still telling a story about me as an artist.
As far as the shoes first, I have been working on several concepts for my fashion line. Based on my resources and living in one of the sneaker capitals of the world (Portland, Oregon), it made perfect sense for my brand. I also wanted to design something that would help me shed a bright light on this new album “Kiss From A Rose” that I have been producing for the past year. I wanted to do something that most artists would not dare thinking about. Therefore, I accepted that challenge and decided to carve this unique double lane of music and fashion.
What MAKES YOU UNIQUE?
Every artist is talented in their own right. I believe what makes you unique as an artist is your ability to fuse all your experience to tell a story no one else can tell. What makes me unique is that I am a musical bridge between continents. I was born and grew up in Africa speaking French and Wolof, and spent the other half of my life in America learning Spanish and English. Therefore, love means something different to me. Friendship has a deeper meaning. The music I discovered and enjoyed may range from traditional African rhythms to Euro Pop, to American Gangsta Rap. My sense of joy might be simpler because of My African upbringing. The real challenge was to not get overwhelmed by these experiences and put them together in a package that fits. Welcome to ISSAWORLD!
EXPLAIN YOUR PASSION FOR FASHION?
There are very few things cooler than walking into a room and sensing your telepathic brain waves hearing people thinking: “who the f%ck is that?”. People often ask me: “what are you going to wear this day, that day?”. The truth is I never know. Fashion is an extension of how you feel. So if i feel blue on Monday, i might find the perfect outfit to level my energy up. The other thing with fashion is that it almost never dies. A hidden trend from the 50’s may come back and become the biggest thing in the world if marketed right. That sense of freedom is what I look for and enjoy in all my creative endeavors. That’s why I love fashion!
WHAT IS THE FEELING YOU HOPE PEOPLE FELL WHEN LISTENING TO YOUR MUSIC?
Music is meant to be free. Therefore, as a creator I simply put all the feels in the track and put absolutely no constraint on how they wish to consume it. I obviously hope they enjoy it, but music is so subjective that it used to drive me crazy predicting how people should feel until I realized that no one should tell me how to feel. The right song, melody and combination of lyrics may trigger a special memory. So as long as I made you feel something, I am happy!
WHO/WHAT INSPIRED YOUR LATEST ALBUM?
My new album is called “Kiss From A Rose”. It’s a story a love, disappointment, challenges, depression, ups and downs and so much more. I decided to be more open and honest with my music in order to connect better with my audience and grow as an artist.
Portland Oregon is known as the City of Roses so it puts a geographical pin on the soundtrack. However, a Rose can also either be beautiful and soft or hurt you with its thorns. I really connected with that beautiful analogy to be able to tell my true story!
Becoming a musical bridge between continents is no easy task. I will slowly introduce my full fashion line, perform around the world, solidify my record label, discover new talent globally, inspire kids to follow their dreams, sign partnership deals, and continue to spread positivity around the globe. You can watch my every steps by following my Instagram: @issaworld :)
Makeup and Hair: @zoe_della_rocca
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