Based in LA, Somali-Canadian singer IDMAN is unapologetically themselves. Their music, which is influenced by a melting pot of genres and perspectives, draws you in through its captivating vocal performances and engaging, sometimes politically charged, lyrics with videos full of stylish visual artistry. IDMAN has recently revealed their latest tracks ‘Polytics’ and ‘Down For It’ from their upcoming EP ‘Risk’ which is arriving later this year. ASBO caught up with IDMAN to discuss their recent releases, journey and future plans.

How would you describe what you do for people who haven’t heard your music before?

I would describe my music as someone figuring it all out. It’s an experimental thing where you meet me exactly where I am in life through the topics in my songs. Every song has its own energy, all I’m trying to do is be honest, I’d definitely describe my music as awkwardly honest.

What are some of your first memories relating to finding an interest in listening to and making music?

Some of my first memories to do with  music are thanks to my parents. My Mom used to work a lot with the Royal African band, she was a wedding planner and would be the person who would book concerts and weddings for older Somali artists. There were always musicians in and out of my house. It was very normal to have people jamming in my living room every weekend. We would always stay up listening to these bands jamming.

‘Down for it’ the first single from your forthcoming EP is a smooth R&B-laced banger, what was the creative process for making this track like? 

Honestly, as funny as it sounds, it was one of the most embarrassing songs for me to make.  Usually, I’m super up for sharing my emotions when I’m writing but I was embarrassed about how personal the lyrics were so I did hide it a bit and not say what I was going to sing about. It was one of the quickest songs to write, and it was all sorted after the first takes, we didn’t really touch the song up afterwards. I think it’s because I like how nervous I sound. I like how self-conscious I sound.

The creation of the track took a lot of me just saying to my producers trust me on this, with me not telling them what I was about to sing about because it was so personal and I was embarrassed. But  I’m super happy to entertain people with my own embarrassment, my own self-loathing.

What inspires you as an artist? 

I’m inspired by the element of fear associated with making your own music. As someone diagnosed with social anxiety it’s inspiring knowing that this terrifies me so much. I can feel the blood pumping in my veins and it makes me feel alive. The element of fear whilst knowing I’m getting better and still finding my footing through the uncomfortableness inspires me.

I read that you were quite involved in activism before delving into music. How did you find yourself involved in activism?

There are a lot of ways I could answer how I got into social justice, organizing and working in the movement towards collective liberation.  During my time living in Maine, which is one of the top three whitest states in the country, I had just come from Toronto which is one of the most diverse cities in the world, then living in Kenya for high school, everyone looked like me.

I think that when you go somewhere where you’re the only one that has your specific lived experiences, it kind of forces you to figure out who you are before people can tell you who you are. That was when I came to huge understandings around like my own relationships my own identity, racially and  gender-wise, a lot of things came to came to be there.

I think I had a restrictive understanding of what movement work could look like. I said no to music for years because I thought the only way to be impactful was by being on the front lines and doing direct action work. But after a while I realised you can do both.

So, you graduated from ‘The Remix Project’ in Canada, which helps people from disadvantaged backgrounds get into creative fields. What was that experience like and what would you say is the most important thing you learnt whilst there?

I would say the Remix Project changed my life.  Everything that is going on in my life right now with music would not be happening without the remix project. It’s a creative incubator where they bring a bunch of kids from different types of fields. There’s a Business Arts Academy, a Creative Arts Academy for photographers, graphic designers. There are singers, engineers and producers they give everyone access to the resources that they need. I had free studio time, lessons with Titans in the music industry, I had no music out, which was super different for a lot of the participants, I was someone that they took a chance on.

I’m so grateful because it taught me a lot about community. It taught me a lot about the fact that there’s no way to do this alone, you have to have a good tribe around you. That’s where I found the majority of my tribe, one of my managers, our creative director, our label head over in Canada, the executive producer of my project, so I’m still really grateful to be reaping the fruits of being able to be a part of a really cool programme. 

What has been the most challenging thing about being an artist in today’s climate, and what has been the most rewarding?

I think the positive and negative are the same thing, it’s just the internet and the way it is so fast evolving, it can be hard to keep up with how to best communicate your ideas, to communicate with your audience. But I also think that it opens up so much cool space for different ways to think about connecting with people around the world.

Your new single ‘Polytics’ is an engaging track, lyrically it delves into dating in the modern day and the struggles around modern dating. What made you want to tackle this topic and what is it about modern dating which you find unconventional?

I wanted to make music that was reflective of what I was going through and what a lot of folks my age are going through and figuring out. There’s really no blueprint to dating.. I was learning a lot about non-traditional relationship styles and non monogamy and was finding myself hitting a lot of walls. I think I have a way better understanding of ethical non monogamy now and I really wanted to put what I’d learnt into a song. I had never heard a song about polyamory and I was trying to figure it out for myself. 

Your debut EP ‘Risk’ is out this year, what can fans expect thematically and sonically from the album?

The cool thing about the universe that we’re creating this EP in is all the songs sonically sound so different and can exist on different projects. I think that’s a testament to just how new I am in music. I’m still figuring it out. There’s a big mix of sounds on the project, some synth dark stuff, emo pop stuff and even some R&B sounding stuff. 

What is one of your  biggest goals for your music career?

I want to be destructive, I want to make it sexy to destroy shit. I want to be committed to my authenticity and keep my integrity as I move through this industry.

Words: David Pratt