Imbi The Girl has burst onto the Australian music scene really quickly and with a massive impact.
Her single Acidic brought together bright soul melodies and raw vulnerable hip hop, her brutal honesty and natural presence is what makes an artist like Imbi such a breath of fresh air in Aussie rap.
LunchBox sat down with the Sydney local to break down the conversation of drugs, sexuality and why artists need more education on the industry in which they work.
The conversation opened on Acidic – how does a person so young come by such a deep and moving exploration of drugs? Imbi was open and honest; for her it seems that in her experimentation with acid and hallucinogens there are some parts of her mind that just hadn’t been explored.
“Acidic came about after I made some poor choices, took advantage of something that I believe should be more sacred and that is hallucinogenic drugs in general. After the last trip that I had, it was not a negative experience, it was just a very difficult trip. It didn’t really give me what I was hoping for, and I was by myself and I felt like I needed something and I’d tripped by myself very recently before that.
“I was at home and I felt perfectly safe, but it manipulates everything so sometimes it shows you things that you’re not ready to see and I think that’s what happened to me. I just saw more of my mind than I thought I had, so it sent me into a bit of a meltdown and I lost myself in all of that mind that I had just discovered.
“It was really scary because when I came out of it, I didn’t really know who I was anymore. I had to rebuild myself and Acidic came from that experience. At the time I thought it was such a negative experience and I was so upset when it left me feeling totally lost, when I was hoping for it to be the opposite. But upon reflection, I wouldn’t be here without it.”
Imbi The Girl has, in Acidic, created a dialogue for safe drug use, and in a conversation so saturated with stigma, there are risks that come with diving so directly into its murky waters.
“Initially I was really afraid to call Acidic what it is. I mean it’s in the first line – ‘I think it was the acid.’
“I’m a person who usually keeps my personal private habits to myself, because of the public sphere and the taboo around drug taking and all of that. Even though I think that’s a big load of bullshit. Yes, drugs aren’t for everyone but they have so many unbelievable properties in them, that if you take them in a safe space and in a positive space then the possibilities are endless.
“If I can be a person that pushes the conversation for drugs in the public space then yes, I will do it. We’re progressing so far in so many social spheres, why should drugs be any different?”
A song such as Acidic is a difficult one to follow, where does an artist go when they have stripped back to the most vulnerable corners of their mind? Imbi was adamant that her music has to be multi-faceted and her intention is to traverse the many folds of her experience, and so her most recent release, V.I.P, takes us down a very different road.
Female sexuality and naivety is a gripping and mysterious subject matter, deeply personal and intimate, it can be a bit like walking on eggshells when revealing these stories to an audience. “This new song is really really personal, I love it so much.
“I’m actually very inexperienced in romance; I’ve never been in a relationship, the whole realm of intimacy is very foreign to me and I’m working through that in my own way. But this song is really important to be to declare myself as a sexual person who has sexual energies and a libido and it’s not something to be embarrassed about.
“You should be in charge of your sexuality and you should be proud of it, like this was a declaration of myself as a sexual person and that’s okay.” With V.I.P and Acidic, Imbi The Girl is using high-octane hip hop and fierce defiance to speak to the female experience, and for the complicated nature of youth in the most honest way possible.
During our conversation, Imbi was frank, without a hint of self consciousness, and in her mind it seems that to give yourself to your music and in turn your audience is the most natural way toward catharsis.
So how long does an artist like Imbi stay independent? The conversation is buzzing around the pros and cons of major labels and whether being signed to one is in fact the best way forward. I was interested to know where Imbi saw herself when it came to working with labels and what exactly would make her consider heading in that direction.
As it turned out, our heads were in the same place, as a recent event in Sydney opened her eyes to the ramifications of working with big brands. “It’s really hard, my manager and I went to this hip hop showcase at Oxford Art Factory and it was run by Nike. Afterwards in the car ride home he was talking to be about how these artists would have made so much money and how it’s a really great opportunity to do a really well paid gig that doesn’t take much time, and you get free sneakers.
“And he asked me whether if I was offered that would I take it. And I was like ‘Listen, I want to say yes, but I also feel really strongly about not supporting massive corporations’ and so especially like a company like Nike, who has such a history of abusing human rights in their sweatshops, I don’t know if I would be able to take that.
“So when it comes to signing and big labels like that, I honestly have no idea. I think it would have to depend on the way it was presented to me. It’s kind of scary to acknowledge that if someone makes me feel like it’s a moral decision, firstly it can’t impede upon my creative individuality and my creative project.”
This story isn’t unfamiliar. As Imbi attested, there are so many gaps in new artists understanding of the industry, she fears that without the right guidance she would be completely lost in the dark, along with many of her peers.
“There are so many up and coming artist that I know where their management just takes advantage of them and there is no communication. I came into this knowing nothing about the music industry except ideas in my head and when my manager started communicating with me and being like ‘You need to learn these things.’
“[I realised] there is so much bureaucracy behind it all that I had no idea about. If I didn’t have my manager by my side I would be pretty fucking helpless in this whole industry. There is a huge gap in artists engagement and artist education.
“I’m not going to go to uni, I made that decision. But I still want to go to conferences and things like that, there should festivals like BIGSOUND just for artists to get educated. It’s scary to be a young up and coming artist, and as someone who knows a little bit more now, to look at these artists who really have no idea and see that they are going into such a big pond when they are a such little fish and I am concerned for them.”
As we wrapped up our chat, I was convinced that not only was I speaking with one of the most promising new talents in Australian music, but one of the most switched on. Imbi The Girl is humble, courageous and refreshingly honest, rather than pretending she has it all figured out, her music and her sense of adventure are what is guiding her through.
When I asked whether there was a plan B, she kindly shut me down, insisting “From the moment I decided that music was something that I wanted to pursue, from that first egg hatch in my brain and my manager was there for that. We knew, this was our future and Imbi The Girl is going to be successful, there isn’t an option at this point. It’s my soul and it’s my passion it’s my being I will but 500% into it regardless. If I don’t succeed, I can’t even see that as an option in my head.” Amen.