Musical counterpart to the male rapper, “the gangstress” aka Empire Isis lives by thesimilar codes of business with her own spin. It’s all about empowerment. Empire Isis considers any strong woman that is busting her butt and staying on top of her business a gangstress. “People get the wrong impression,” she said in a phone interview. “As a woman and an outsider in this business, I had to fight for my place, to get what I want and to become who I am.”
The British Moroccan songstress scrapped to get quite a lot since she pioneered in 2002, and she’s still on her grind. Growing up on 4 continents, she was exposed to and influenced by various types of music from Arabic to Caribbean to Latin American to Hip Hop. Her objective from the beginning was to harmonize her multiple cultural influences to produce her own, unique “mash up” style with reggaeton swag, and her formula has worked well, winning her numerous music awards including “Best new artist” and “Best international artist” from her latest album Brand New Styles.
Her international appeal is indicative of her heritage and upbringing. She’s mastered the “art and science” of synchronizing world, urban and pop music with socially conscious lyrics so that everyone can relate, from the homies in Venezuela to the homegirls in Kingston to all the ganstresses in Atlanta. “All these people have to feel represented in my music,” she says.
The American music industry lacked “real” international artists before she stepped on the scene, according to Isis. “A lot of artists try to seem international or worldly but most of the time those same artists only speak English.” True international artists can go to various countries and speak to the people on the radio or on TV in their native language. Unlike most so-called international artists, she claims: “I can go into a country and have one gig and can transform that into ten gigs, because I network with people in their own vernacular.”
Along with the perks, her diverse cultural background and musical versatility comes with a price. The international sensation touched on the impediments of being such an outsider in the music business. “Executives are allergic to the words reggae and dancehall. They have had bad experiences finding acts from Shabba Ranks to Patra. Then someone like me comes along, who is light-skinned with dreads and fluent in many languages, and they don’t know what to do with me or what genre to put me in because I don’t fit in a single box; I do reggae, hip hop, dancehall and more. I sincerely, deeply meditate the music business and where I fit in. I had to learn the rules of hip hop, the rules of dancehall, the rules of world, and I had to prove that this alternative way I was going about doing music and doing business was worth investing in.”
Apparently that investment has had promising returns because she is now working on her fourth album, or rather “anti-album,” Crack the Code, due to be released September 7 under Monumental Records distributed by DEP/Universal Music Group.