As a child, moving to a different town can be daunting, life altering, even. To move to a different continent entirely can shape you in ways that border on the elemental.
Mapei grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, enjoying a childhood littered with long summers and the golden era of hip-hop. Then, her family decided to move to Sweden, plunging her into an extremely different environment.
“I’ve always had a melancholic vein in me,” she sighs. “Due to living in the dark in Sweden, chilling with my girls, being immigrants, listening to Tupac, crying when Tupac died, going to America in the summertime, watching the boys play football where hip-hop was everywhere.”
Using music as a release, Mapei was able to focus on these images, these feelings, and use them to craft something uplifting, something which aimed to transgress her background.
“It’s important for me to be positive because the more negative, cynical and angry that I am the more my life will be like that,” she says. “Now I want to sing more, I want to be more feminine, I want to do fashion. I lived a very rough life, y’know. I want to get out of that and mentally be positive.”
Working with Scandinavian pop producer Magnus Lidehäll, the Stockholm-based artist began experimenting with her voice, crafting a gently seductive blend of soulful pop with a melancholic edge.
“I don’t want it to be corny pop. It’s pop, but new. It seems like the hip-hop that came out [in the ’90s] was like a machine; everything was so perfect. They had perfect videos, perfect album covers. To strive after that perfection is definitely something I have been trying to do.”
In part prompted by her immersion in painting, Mapei’s vivid, deeply visual debut album aims to be as broad as possible.
“I just want my world to be represented,” she says. “I want it to feel real, I want to get as many influences in there as possible so that it’s genre-less. International kid. The future!”
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Where: Stockholm, Sweden.
What: Soulful melancholia draped in vivid R&B
Get 3 Songs: ‘Don’t Wait’ (above), ‘Bebe’s Kids’, ‘Change’
Fact: Mapei used to be Lykke Li’s flatmate.
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Words: Robin Murray
Photo: Dom Smith