2016 was quite the year for British singer Basheba. The ethereal R&B artist dropped two EPs, Axiom Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, and even got her own record label going. Via email, I spoke with the lovely soul songstress about what inspired all of that, and also got her thoughts on the racist state of the world, who she’d like to work with, and why she’s obsessed with all things gold…
HB: Sum up your sound in three words for the unfortunate souls who haven’t heard your music yet.
Soulful, smooth and emotional…
HB: You’ve had significant media support from noted outlets like Nylon, Clash, Complex, and BBC Radio 1. What do you think that says about the impact of your music on those who hear it?
It’s nice to get appreciation from media outlets such as the ones you mentioned. I’m not about hype but it’s reaffirming when someone hears your music for the first time and loves it enough to support it.
HB: You’re releasing music as an independent artist via your own record label, Y.O.B Records. Slay queen! How hard did you find it to make that happen, and do you have any tips for other young dreamers?
I didn’t find it hard starting my label, I was lucky because I had a lot of help and support from my distributors. Having my own label was the best thing I ever did. There is nothing more powerful than an artist who has to answer to no one and holds all the power! For the young dreamers my tip would be don’t wait for anyone and do it for yourself.
HB: Would you ever go with a major label instead?
Never say never… it would completely depend on the situation. Labels have their place, as long as they aren’t run by suits!
HB: I feel like you’re obsessed with precious metals. You look super gold on the artwork for both of the Axiom EPs, and then there are the lyrics for your latest single “Platinum & Gold” (#AvailableOnItunes). Where does this love of all things metal come from?
I think it’s my slight obsession with Egyptology. Gold was seen as strength and power, especially in women. I try to emulate that. You can’t go wrong with a splash of gold.
HB: You have quite an organic sound. What and/or who influences that?
Marvin Gaye was my main inspiration growing up. I love his lyrics and of course his voice. He is my king. He rebelled against the industry and then created the best album of all time (in my opinion) What’s Going On?. The album still relates to situations we are seeing now.
HB: Fellow North Londoner here btw! How did you find growing up in North London?
Nice! North London was fine haha. I actually spent most of my time in West London. I went to school in Hammersmith. But of course I’m proud of my North Weezy roots.
HB: Which musicians made a mark on you growing up?
Apart from Marvin Gaye, I would have to say Nina Simone. Absolute queen. Also George Michael and Aretha Franklin. I was a real soul baby.
HB: What songs have you got on repeat at the moment?
I’ve actually got Gallant’s album on repeat. That boy can sing!
HB: “Fighting For”, from Axiom Pt. 2, feels like a retaliation to the racist murders of black people by cops, especially with lyrics like “flatlines on the pavements, cries from the neighbours, pray for them and pray for me too”. How does it feel to be an artist creating material during a time like this?
Out of all of my tracks on this EP “Fighting For” means the most to me. I wrote that song because I felt it was the only avenue for me to speak out and have an opinion without throwing it on social media. It’s 2017 and black people are still scared to walk down the same street they’ve probably lived on for years. I’m saddened we are still having to confront these problems. I’m just grateful I live in England.
HB: You are known for being a visually-fueled musician. What would a Basheba, Live at Wembley Arena show look like?
Well there would definitely be a lot of gold! Maybe some glitter as well? Why not treat myself.
HB: Speaking of visual artists, are you familiar with the work of Dawn Richard? She’s another indie girl known for her visuals, and she’s doing big things. Can you work together please?
I’ve actually not! I’ll have to check her out. Haha, well I love a collab!
HB: Scenario: somebody slides into your DMs, asking you to collaborate with them. Who do you want it to be?
Oooh. Probably would be Gallant.
HB: You have some touching breakup anthems, like “Never Be the Same”. What do you think is the best way to get over somebody and move on?
This song is actually about a good friend of mine and how everything she knew or thought she knew wasn’t true. It was horrible seeing my friend hurt by someone and watching her grieve the future she imagined. My advice for her was IGNORE. Cut the person in question out and put all the energy you put into them into yourself.
HB: Finally, which came first – the chicken, or the egg?
Listen to Basheba’s EPs, Axiom Pt.1 and Axiom Pt. 2, on Spotify right now: