In Conversation with Imani Basquiat

Imani Basquiat, an Alternative Hip-Hop artist from Pretoria who has gained traction through the release of his debut EP titled Hooptie Music which he has followed up with his most recent EP titled Internet Girl. His latest release is a memoir of soul sounds from the early 2000’s and 2010’s era layered with crisp lyricism.

I had the opportunity to have a chat with the promising artist and below is how the conversation unfolded:

Imani Basquiat

Isn’t this an interesting turn of events, seven years ago I would have never thought that we would be sitting here talking about your music…

…I know right [laughs], I was not even thinking about making music seven years ago.

So when did the music bug bite you then?

I’d say I fell in love with music in general around 2015/16; and then around late 2016/17 I started messing around with friends in studios. They would be recording their projects and I would be jamming there. Then once in a while they would ask me if I wanted to jump on the track and I would but it was all play-play back then. It wasn’t until 2019 when I decided to lock in with Feziekk that I fell in love with making music and started taking it seriously.

How did you meet Feziekk, did he approach you or did you approach him?

When I decided to start taking music seriously, I cycled through two or three producers and all of them couldn’t get the sound I was trying to create. It was only after things went bust with the third producer I had been working with that I remembered that there’s this guy I used to go to school with who is passionate about music and I decided to reach out to Feziekk. I searched him up on IG and saw that he was actually studying music production at the time so I hala’d at him via DM. He was keen on linking up and working together so we arranged our first session, recorded the first song, and the rest is history.

What was the name of that first song you recorded with Feziekk?

The song didn’t have a name but the beat had a name. The beat was called old vibe. So inherently the song was called old vibe. The song was reflective of what I wanted to do at the time which was a make a move in this music thing.

Then came your first-ever EP titled Hooptie Music, when did you start working on that?

I started recording that in late 2021 when I met my current producer, Baitu Manong. He’s the guy behind the production of every EP I’ve released thus far. Most of the music you are hearing right now is music that was recording between August 2021 and early this year, around January/February.

Cover of Hooptie Music

You have released two EPs within 4 months of each other, do you have loads of music stored in your arsenal that gives you room to release material this frequently?

Pretty much. I don’t like to admit it but there is a vault of music, which I hate because we’re sitting on a lot of good music which could or could not see the light of day because we keep creating and improving our production daily.

Why not touch up the existing music with the improved techniques that you have now and release it?

That’s always the conversation right but it is easier said than done when you are always creating new music. As you create new music, new ideas come to mind and your perspective and creativity take on a different form and so you start falling out love with what you first created.

As the listeners we want to hear those songs that you may have outgrown.

I know and hopefully I can release a vast majority, if not all, of the music in my vault.

When you released Hooptie Music in March, did you already know that you would be releasing Internet Girl in August?

Yes I did, it was all part of the plan. At the beginning of the year, Baitu and I sat down and mapped out what we would like to achieve with the music this year. We initially wanted to release an album but instead decided on releasing Eps which serve as introductory music so the audience can get acquainted with me and my sound. The EPs are designed and engineered to set the scene for the album that I will release sometime in the near future.

How has the reception for Internet Girl been thus far?

The reception has been really good. My team and I are surprised at how well the EP has done thus far; people are catching onto it and it’s growing by the day. I receive messages every other day from people complimenting my work and that has been heartwarming.

What do you think is contributing to the good reception and growth of Internet Girl?

Well, apart from it being good music, I feel it has a lot to do with the network that my team and I have built thus far. The connections we’ve made since the drop of Hooptie Music have aided us in the roll out of Internet Girl. With this EP we were better informed in terms of who to contact to get the word out there and that has made a big difference in the size of the audience we are able to reach.

Your EPs are notably different from one another. What feel, vision, or experience(s) inspired the compilation of both projects?

The concept for Hooptie Music was to create music that you could sit in your old rundown car and listen to. We wanted to capture a nostalgia feeling, replicating the feel/scene of you sitting in a car flipping through different radio stations trying to catch a vibe. That’s why when you listen to Hooptie Music there is a cohesiveness in sound however, everything is different in that not one song is the same or similar to the next.

The conceptual background of Internet Girl is internet love. It’s about how you can meet someone on the internet and fall in love with them over a short period of time. It also includes snippets of a relationship I was in from late last year which is why in Outro ’23 you hear a voice message from the person I was in a relationship with, to tie the concept of the EP together.

You’re very conceptional and aesthetics person and it is evident in the visual roll outs of your EPs. Are you the sole mastermind of these visual representations and interpretations of your music?

I am not the sole mastermind, Baitu contributes significantly in the planning of the visual roll outs. We sit and think about how we can get people engaged with the music and have them following our train of thought and that’s how we decide on what videos to shoot and how to shoot them; so that when the music comes out, the audience can engage it with ease because the foundation has been laid with the visuals. I have this black book wherein I storyboard. From thereon we think about all the humans senses and how we can incorporate them into the project.

Oh so that’s why your image changes with each release; because in your Hooptie Music days, you were very retro and now with Internet Girl you’re more of the guy next door.  Is your style going to continue to change/evolve based on the music you are putting out?

Most definitely.  My music is very conceptual and so I do take on the aesthetic of whichever character I need to portray for the roll-out of my music. In Hooptie Music I was going for the retro feel whereas with Internet Girl, the idea was to give the look and feel of someone who had been cooped up indoors for an extended period of time.

Below are illustrations from Imani’s black book where he storyboards the visual representation of his music’s roll out.

Forgotten Soul, is that your record label?

Yes, Forgotten Soul is a label I co-own with Baitu.

Why the name Forgotten Soul?

The name stems from the sound we are working on. It’s very different and from the EPs we can exhibit that it gives the feeling of something familiar albeit reinvented in some sense. We love the soulful musical elements/sound from the 90’s – the early 00’ and so we took that and ran with it.

What has been the hardest thing about being an independent artist?

Being the label, meaning you have to deal with all the logistics and project management that comes with it, such as arranging studio time, distribution, and the likes, which you have to fund. Then comes the challenge of creating the necessary connections to get your music onto the platforms you want it to be on and generally appealing to your targeted audience. The first break is genuinely the most difficult because no brand or platform wants to be the first onboard but without the first co-sign, the second is pretty much a pipedream.

What do you wish people knew about the music industry?

The music industry, actually the industry in general, is based on personal relationship. It has a lot to do with who you know and who knows you and I think that’s an element many people overlook. You have to be intentional about creating connections and growing your network with the relevant people because at the end of the day a person may know of you but they will never be really sold until they know you.

Who would you still like to work with?

Local or international?

Both. And to make it interesting, you can list 3 artists in each category.

Man that’s a tough one because there are so many talented artists that I would love to collaborate with. But since I’m limited to 3 I’d say Andre 3000, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. Locally, definitely A-Reece, Blxckie and lordkez.

How is Imani the artist different from Imani the guy?

There is nothing different. I am the same throughout. Now granted there is a demeanour that I must have when I’m performing but my character remains the same. I am still the same guy who’s goofy and likes making jokes.

Imani Basquiat

What are you chasing?


What does that look like?

Freedom looks like not having to worry about anything.
Not having to worry about anything means that I am going to have to work extremely hard to live like a 3-year-old again because that’s the only time I was carefree because everything was taken care of. In order for me to replicate that feeling again I would have to replicate that environment of having my every need catered for and the only way to do that is to hustle hard.
If anything, I just want to sit back and enjoy life and make music.

Lastly, what culture are you cultivating as Imani Basquiat?

I would like to cultivate a culture where there is no gatekeeping.

I think the one hinderance to the advancement of the culture in South Africa is the gatekeeping. You basically have to kiss someone’s arse to get to where you want to get to and I want to eliminate that holistically.

I don’t think you need to kiss someone’s arse to get your video played on television or have your song played on radio. Any quality project should be able to get airplay based on merit. And so I want to cultivate a culture of collaboration with little to no gatekeeping.

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