I’m surviving just like everyone else. Having some great days and not so great ones, trying to just live well and get a better handle on everything day by day.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Israfil”?
Israfil is one of the more conventional sounding tracks that I have on the album. It’s more of a “hip-hop” song in the sense that the beat I made isn’t too crazy and off-kilter like some of my other stuff. Even lyrically speaking I was really direct in just iterating my thoughts and feelings as per my personal life and frustrations with reality. I think it sounds even more interesting within the context of the album due to its placement, but don’t want to spoil anything in regards to the track list and such. Plus, I’m more of an album person, so I only really dropped this single out of necessity in order to build a little bit of buzz around the full project Ilah. I actually disliked a lot of songs that I heard as singles off of some of my favourite albums, but then once I heard the songs within the album I kind of understood it and appreciated more.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
A multitude of events that I touch on a bit throughout the course of the album. Growing up in a single parent home, not having a wealthy or rich family, dealing with depression, being a person of African descent in a racist and classist ass world. So on and so forth. All of my music is a culmination of these things. Even the more braggadocio elements. Nothing can be expressed without being taken in. What makes art interesting is how differently people express and react to the same world based on their particular context and experiences.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
For Israfil it’s a huge maybe, so I can’t say yet, but I definitely have a few things in store that will be out very very soon.
The single comes off your new album Illah – what’s the story behind the title?
To put it frankly the word Ilah means “god” in Arabic. A lot of people are also aware that the word Allah is also used to refer to God in Arabic. What makes the term Ilah really interesting from an Islamic perspective is that it refers to lesser gods that humans might wrongly believe in and/or worship and serve. I come from a fairly religious Muslim family, so I use and reinterpret a lot of Islamic/Arabic terminology through some of the song titles to express my reality. I explore the notions of objectivity and subjectivity a lot given that I’m attempting to understand the world throughout the album and in my actual life as many of us are. Also the notions of belief and desire are there as well. I started working on the project when I was struggling a lot to understand religion as a whole (not just Islam), but the album ended up being less about religion and more about things that are even bigger than it, but are of course intertwined with it. One thing I want to make clear is that regardless of what my beliefs may or may not be, I don’t think that a person’s religion determines who they are. Some of the most progressive people I know are religious, and some of the most conservative are non-believers, and vice versa. With that said though I know that a lack of education and such might cause a person to be a little more superstitious and etc, but a lot of the most intelligent people in the world have also believed in a God or adhered to a religion, so I would never knock anybody for their personal spiritual beliefs.
How was the recording and writing process?
It was fun and also grueling. It takes a lot of mental energy at times to feel like I’ve adequately expressed myself. Not to mention the technical side of things also. Sometimes I’m trying to work on something but I have to jump through a thousand hurdles of technical problems with computer software or hardware before I can even work on something. On the positive side I learned a ton from working on this project from a production and lyrical standpoint. I feel like my writing and rapping ability have improved a lot since my last full length project so I’m really happy about that. I also recorded my vocals in multiple places but luckily with the same kind of mic, so I learned a lot about maintaining some continuity in my mixes for the album. It was also interesting because I’ve been working on this album since 2012 after I released my first full length project Adam, but took a break to work on and release my Sinner, Songwriter EP in 2014. I’m really happy I took that break because I took a lot away from that project on the rap side of things.
What role does your beliefs play in your music?
I think it defines all of my music, period. It’s interesting because from a political perspective I’m a socialist/communist, but wasn’t necessarily when I started working on the album. Although in a certain sense I was already one for most of my life, I didn’t have the language or terminology to explain my ideas and sentiments whereas now I think I do. Whether I like it or not, my beliefs will always play a part in my music. Pablo Picasso was a communist, and Tupac was part of the Young Communist League when he was still in high school, but a lot of people don’t know these things. When you take a good look at their art though it’s all there. Even with the contradictions that were present. At the end of the day we’re all human so we’re bound to contradict and make mistakes, so it’s only right that it shows in everything we do. With that said though I try to veer away from being a preachy artist in my music because I’m not a person that likes being lectured whatsoever. I prefer to take things in and express things in a more “natural” way for lack of a better word. If you catch my drift.
Any plans to hit the road?
Will probably start with a little tour in Canada before anything else, but if I was to blow up or something I’ll go wherever to do a show haha.
What else is happening next in Emay’s world?
I have a handful of ideas for projects that I want to do in the near future, so on the music side that’s that. Some involve other artists I want to collaborate with and others are solo projects. Instrumental projects, rapping over another producers beats, I want to do it all pretty much. It’s all fun to me and that’s why I enjoy doing it so much regardless of what’s happening in my life in general.