With addictive smooth beats and sultry soul lyrics with an empowering message, we’re hitting repeat to Sydney based musician Imbi the Girl on our playlists. A non-binary, body positive, self-loving hip-hop and R&B vocalist, Imbi the Girl’s outspoken voice resonates to us for more reasons than one. Proudly confident about their sexuality, and ready to share their views with the world, Imbi the Girl is leading a new wave of musicians who are expressive and unafraid to speak their truths. Their latest track ‘Swell’ takes us on a journey through a range of emotions, exploring the difficulty in expressive this one unknown feeling. Check out the clip for ‘V.I.P’ below that gives us a refreshingly raw insight into Imbi the Girl’s home environment and friendship circle.
Where did the name ‘Imbi the Girl’ come from?
‘imbi’ has been my nickname for as long as I can remember. As far as including ‘the girl’, I have many reasons. I believe there needs to be more ‘femme’ representation in the industry. I also think there are a lot of misconceptions about non-binary folx and the categories they need to fill but it’s all bogus. I can identify as non-binary AND identify as a girl. Your idea of what being a ‘girl’ entails might be packed with societal conditioning and if my stage name causes you to re-evaluate those ideas, I’m chuffed, honoured and hoping to be that catalyst. I hope to contribute to the deconstruction of these gendered societal norms for my own sake and that of the other beautiful enby/trans/girly folx out there. As well as that, despite being non-binary and very much having ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ energies within me, my ‘femininity’ is incredible sacred and a vital part of who I am, it should be amplified and recognised by all.
Your latest single ‘Swell’ is beautifully heartfelt; addictive beats complete with fresh lyrics that explore a wide spectrum of emotions. Can you tell us what inspired you on this track?
Thank you so much! I sometimes get totally swept up in this one feeling and I can’t put a name to it. It’s whack because I consider myself a very emotionally in touch and aware person. I actively work on observing my emotions and riding them out in the healthiest ways possible (healthy ways are not always possible and that’s OK too), but this one particular feeling I cannot identify. It feels like a culmination of every emotion I’ve known and it just sits in my chest as this building pressure. One night, it got to be too much so I walked down to the beach in the middle of the night and wrote out this entire track. The song’s given me a bunch of relief and some temporary closure but feelings are fluid so it comes back in all different shapes and sizes from time to time.
You’re quite outspoken about your experiences with drugs, particularly acid as explored on ‘Acidic’. How important do you think it is to be honest and open about experimenting with drugs in today’s media?
I think it’s beyond important. There are people seeking out drugs for one reason or another and regardless of how much our government tries to discourage it, people are still having these experiences. If instead of focussing on isolating and ostracising drug-use, people put that energy into positive education and teaching safe usage, there could be a whole lot less negative experiences and perhaps we could save some lives. Don’t get me wrong, drugs are NOT for everyone, they can be dangerous and leave a person devastated BUT if we negated the current taboo and allowed people to ask the necessary questions in safe spaces, provided legal drug-testing, and encouraged positive discourse perhaps we could reduce that danger. Not to mention, the discourse surrounding particular drugs especially marijuana, is frustrating and aggravating due to the incredible good it could do for a variety of otherwise untreatable conditions, and a lot of that shit stems from America demonising the drug as a form of racial oppression back in the 30’s.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I admire and am consequently inspired by so many musicians. I could talk about each of them for ages but I figure I should just pump through as many of them as I can as quickly as I can (for all of our sakes): Sampa The Great, Kaiit, Miss Blanks, HABITS, Ah-Mer-Ah-Su, Arno Faraji, Noname, B Wise, Chance The Rapper, Little Simz, Genesis Owusu, Syd, Macy Gray, Odette, Sampha and OKENYO, just to name a few.
everyone/anyone on that previous list~~~
You’ve described your track ‘V.I.P’ as “an ode to the human body in all its imperfectly delicious glory”. Is being a spokesperson for body positivity and self-love a vital part of your music?
Self-love, in general, is vital to my life and so of course, it naturally bleeds into my music. I believe self-love should be a recognised as a basic need and methods of practising self-love should be taught in schools. Of course, that’s a bit idealistic for this day and age so I will continue to spread the message in the best ways I can, in conversations and through my music.
What difficulties have you faced as a non-binary and queer person in today’s mainstream music industry?
The constant misgendering is probably what gets me down the most. It’s especially tricky as I have such a strongly gendered term in my stage name. I was aware that it’d make things more difficult but it’s been very different to what I expected. I think people in the industry are being forced to check themselves, their vernacular, their awareness on social issues and their privilege which is awesome to watch and makes a huge difference in navigating the industry in general, but it’s not reaching everywhere and there are still many close-minded folx who just can’t wrap their heads around a person’s right to be who they are. The more I experience the more I realise it’s just a microcosm of wider society. It’s a constantly terrifying terrain, I don’t know who I can openly speak to about my identity and discrimination I’ve faced, but it does help weed out the not-so-great folk so I can avoid working with them in the future.
Having strong role models within the queer community is crucial for youth to look up to.
I couldn’t agree more. I definitely wouldn’t be so comfortable in my own skin if it weren’t for the iconic, beautiful, revolutionary, trail-blazing queers who came/came out before me.
Do you have any words to share with queer youth who may be struggling to come to terms with their identity?
We must remember, queer folx are the future. We are magic, we are strong, we are intersectional, we are power. Together we will shape the world into a better place. And also, in those dark times, just know you are seen, you are valid, you are worthy, you are exceptional and I LOVE YOU.
Tell us about any upcoming performances that we can catch you at.
I’ll be singing my lil’ heart out across the country for this years’ Listen Out tour in September. I’m on the whole national tour so please come say hi when I’m in a city near you!!
Interview by Sara Nicolette, images by Emily Contador-Kelsall