High Dosage Of Honesty: Lil Halima Is The Voice We Wish We Had

High Dosage Of Honesty: Lil Halima Is The Voice We Wish We Had

“I feel like I am from the world, and that shows through in my music...”

Lil Halima is a unicorn. At 21 years old, she has already garnered many career-defining moments, such as signing to Def Jam Norway and featuring on COLORS. But beyond this, she has overcome identity challenges as a Norwegian-Kenyan girl in the 4,000 population town of Bardu, Norway.

Speaking from quarantine at her family home, Lil Halima is endearing and candid: “I’m this calm person with a very calm energy, and I’d like to think it’s because I’ve spent so much time by myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have found this part of myself until later on in life.” It’s this self-awareness of issues overcome, accompanied with an inner peace, that characterises this artist.

As a teengar, the internet was her portal to the world, and she’s been widening it ever since: “I didn’t have anyone to look up to until I found the internet...I was miserable as a teenager when I didn’t know my place.” It’s clear that Lil Halima wants to repay the favour: “When I get messages from young girls who like my music and say it does good things for them, it’s incredible because I want to be that person, who was that person to me.” This karmic outlook likely keeps any ego at bay.

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Perhaps the best example of Lil Halima’s spirit is the tattoo she has across the front of her neck, which in block capitals reads, “Love always wins.” One of many tattoos, some of which she inked herself, this is by far the most prominent, “I thought about it for a year, it’s never going to change. I wanted it for me and for people that I meet.” Although she doesn’t see it on herself anymore, knowing that those who read it are receiving an “inspirational quote for the day” is good enough.

Unlike other artist journeys, it was not in Lil Halima’s plans to sign to a major label: “My intentions were never to grow a career within any field...I don’t only want to do music in my life, and it makes me stressed when it takes up too much time, because I don’t want to forget about all the other things.” ‘All the other things’ being her many creative talents, such as makeup and painting: “Until I was 17 years old, I only painted White people. That’s when I started painting more Black, curvy women, Asian people, angels and defining beauty as not standard beauty.” Seeing Lil Halima’s artwork now, you wouldn’t think she had only recognised these attributes a few years ago.

Lil Halima is far from ungrateful for her contract, but she is conscious of how her world has changed, from relationships to her lifestyle, “When I’m here [Bardu] I want to be somewhere else, and when I’m there [Oslo] I want to be here.” At 18 years old, Lil Halima was travelling by herself often, having never done so before, and it’s changed her perspective of what home means: “Now I could never live back here, it doesn’t make sense to me anymore. But I also need to come home, because it’s just a bubble. It reminds me about all of the things I had to go through to like myself.”

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A self-confessed perfectionist who started the piano and writing from a young age, Lil Halima’s approach to music is much the same. However, she’s had to get used to the industry, especially as a woman. “It took one session for me to change how I function.” She turned this session with two male producers who undermined her, into a learning experience, specifically two tips for avoiding similar scenarios, “First of all, I’m going to have a fucking chair. I’m not sitting on the couch in the back of the room. Second tip...as soon as you reach for their computer, it’s like you’ve touched their toxic masculinity.”

This experience focused the mind, “Now I’m sticking to the same people who respect me, and don’t think about the fact that I’m a woman.” Amongst her “encouraging team” and manager, there is Canto, the co-producer and co-writer of ‘Brown Girl Diary’. This EP focuses on Lil Halima’s journey to self-acceptance, through her soulful, upbeat sound. After a chance session, Lil Halima and him “really clicked”, “He teaches me what he would teach a male. He feels like my big brother.” This gender indifference is clearly precious.

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Her latest single, Glue, is ironically about wanting time alone: “I wrote this because I’m very introverted, I need time by myself. I came to terms with the fact that there is nobody in this world who is going to change that.”

Lil Halima wrote this sweet-sounding track in a new relationship, where she felt “intensely scared” that her boyfriend would want to be around all the time. Her words express frustrations of the stigma around needing space, particularly through the hook: “If you could choose I bet you would glue my body to yours / Glue your body to mine / Glue our bodies together.”

Even now when her boyfriend is across the closed border in Sweden, Lil Halima remains resolute: “It’s going to sound so incredibly mean, but I said, ‘I would deal better being quarantined alone in my house than being quarantined with you’.”

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Filmed sporadically in 2019, Lil Halima has just released a documentary showing us the contrast between her hometown and new life. Unlike comparable projects, this is not heavily polished, nor is it meant to shock. It’s simply about getting to know the artist, “I’m kind of insecure about it actually, because it’s the most real thing that I would have put out. It’s very close to home.”

Lil Halima is as aware of her critics as she is of her fans, “I wanted to hold back so many things. I knew I had to say yes because the reasons I wanted to not approve were that I didn’t feel like it was romanticised enough. I had to say yes because it’s something I’m encouraging other people to do.”

Inspired by a 2016 Fader documentary on Princess Nokia (“What if she didn’t approve it?”) Lil Halima has demonstrated to herself and others that she is capable of progress and wants to galvanize that energy for others.

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Focusing on the next wave, Lil Halima is optimistic that her story will inspire others in Bardu, “especially now that there’s a lot more third culture kids.” Outside of her hometown, she impacts fans all over the world, most of which fit a ‘type’: “It’s a lot of cute and sweet girls, and they always message me about how the music makes them feel better when they’re anxious.”

Using this downtime to express herself through several creative outlets, including clay sculpture making and nail art, Lil Halima is content in her bubble: “I feel like most artists are introverts who then have to become extroverts to make a living. I never did music to be social.”

The potential of this vibrant and kind-hearted artist has only just been cracked open. Lil Halima represents what it means to be a young woman today, who found herself through strangers (now friends) online, and is making this safe space for others. Her talent goes far beyond her art; it’s centred on being a vulnerable human being, who expresses herself to make others feel better, and in the process, herself: “When I’m in a place that I’m happy, I’m successful.”

Lil Halima is a refreshing breeze of confidence in a time of acute uncertainty.

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Words: Nicola Davies
Photography: Ida Bjorvik

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