Most independent artists don’t possess IMAN’s poise; then again most independent artists don’t have tracks hit third on the UK urban charts—ahead of Rihanna.
IMAN, however, has fire in her belly. The London-born, London-loving musician ran away from home at 16 in order to pursue her music dreams. She writes, directs and edits her own stuff. And occasionally performs for magazines in pubs.
Disorder: Tell us about yourself.
IMAN: I’m a London-based music artist. I write my own music and sometimes I direct and edit my own music videos. I’m independent and have been spending my time developing my craft, finding out what works for me, what doesn’t, and trying to create a fan base.
D: What are you working on right now?
I: The release of my single Wishing under my own label Shopfrontrecords. It’s no. 3 in the UK urban charts, which is huge because I’m the only independent artist in the whole of that chart. It’s actually above Rihanna. That’s amazing for me because it’s not easy to get support from radio DJs.
D: What people or places do you find inspiring?
I: London inspires me massively – I’m a London girl. I just love the grittiness of it. I like that UK music is very raw, unpolished. A lot of UK artists don’t really follow rules, they go with whatever sounds right; in other territories artists are very formulaic. But UK music is very rough. You can hear that a lot in things like Kano, Adele, Amy Winehouse, and Disclosure. It really inspires me to stay grounded with my music and not make it “poptastic”.
D: So those are the kinds of artists you look up to?
I: Yeah, I mean I love Tracey Chapman, Cat Stevens, Dr Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Drake… but, for me, UK artists is where it’s at.
D: How did you get started?
I: I come from a background that didn’t really support music. Every time I’d bring up the subject of wanting to go to stage school or sing around the house I was shut down. My parents came here [from Sudan and Yemen] at a time when music was synonymous with sex, drugs, busking, being broke… so I think [my interest in music] was scary for them, having given up everything they wanted in order for their kids to have something better. I’m the only creative person in my family, so the whole concept is very alien to them.
I ran away from home to pursue my music. (One of the songs I’ll be releasing this year, For You, is about that). I just always had this inner drive, inner fire, inner strength to follow this music thing. Sometimes I wish I’d listened to them [laughs]. But it’s a purpose, it’s something you just have to do, and I’m glad that I followed it.
D: Who was your first crush?
I: A boy in primary school. I used to watch him play football and, for some reason, the ball would always end up hitting me. He didn’t crush back on me, but the ball always seemed to crush my face!
D: Which fictional character do you most relate to?
I: Catwoman. She’s a boss-bitch.
D: Where do you feel most yourself?
I: In London. I’m a London girl. My dad’s from Sudan, my mum’s from Yemen, they met here and had us here, so I was born in Chiswick. Whenever I go to Sweden for writing trips or LA – not that I often jet off to LA – but when I have been out of London, I always miss it. I love the energy.
D: What’s your worst trait?
I: I’m impatient and sometimes a bit bossy, but I’ve learnt to turn it down.
D: You’re quite driven though; do you think sometimes that can be misread?
I: Yeah, I think it comes from the fact that I feel like I’ve got a lot to prove. I’ve set out on this journey and so I’ve got to make it work. I guess that’s where it comes from.
D: What do you hate most in the world?
I: Cruelty to vulnerable people. I don’t like injustice; I don’t like seeing people exploited.
D: What talent do you wish you had?
I: I wish I could draw. Really go in sketching.
D: What’s your dominant characteristic?
I: I’m very persistent. To the point I can’t accept no for an answer. It really annoys people. But the way I see it – you just haven’t found the way to do it. Someone will be like “No, it’s not happening”, and in my head it won’t even register. I’ll say, “Okay, cool, so we’re doing it this day.” And they’ll say, “We just said it can’t be done.” And I’ll say, “Okay, cool, so we’re doing it this day.” Eventually we always end up finding a way. I think that’s why I’ve gotten as far as I have without a label.
D: Are you looking for a label?
I: Yeah. I love being an artist that writes what I want to write and the music sounds how I want it to sound. But the reality is releasing records independently is incredibly costly. A label has a certain amount of clout that can open up an infrastructure, budget, doors. So at some point I want a team behind me. You can get far as an independent artist these days, but your body of work can go further with a team.
D: What do you appreciate most in your friends and coworkers?
I: That they support me. I have a really close-knit group of people around me. Being around people who can uplift you, and tell you to keep going, and tell you when your stuff is good, or even when it’s not. That’s been pivotal.
D: Unpaid endorsement: What can you recommend?
I: Hook LDN sunglasses. They’re a London brand!
D: What’s your idea of happiness?
I: Feeling at peace with who you are and where you are in life.
Thanks to The Astronomer, E1 (Instagram @the-astronomer)
SUN 25 JUNE
Acklam Village MarketLondon, UK
TUE 8 AUGUST
The BedfordLondon, UK