With a GRM Daily Duppy freestyle that just hit a million views in under a week, it’s hard to believe that Ivorian Doll never envisioned a successful music career for herself. Hailing from Hackney, the 23-year-old stepped in the booth two years ago and made the transition from Youtuber to one of the hottest rap girls in the game. Although Ivorian Doll never anticipated her career taking off this way, when speaking to her it becomes clear that she has dreams bigger than drill music.
Clash speaks to Ivorian Doll - real name Vanessa Mahi - via Zoom call. Even though we’re not face to face, her upbeat and bubbly energy shines through and Ivorian Doll’s sentences are punctuated with giggles. Ivorian Doll first started making music when she was in a duo with another female rapper – Abigail Asante. The duo performed under the name Ivorian Doll & Abigail and their first video ‘The Situation’ has gone on to amass more than a million views. When we ask the rapper if she had thoughts of becoming a musician before ‘The Situation’ she firmly replies "no". The success of ‘The Situation’ was truly unexpected, and she explains: "When it first happened, I wasn’t really thinking I was gonna be a superstar. I was just going with the flow."
Although Ivorian Doll started doing music without any big ambitions, she says the turning point for her career as a credible artist was her single ‘Rumours’, a track that afforded her space to candidly address her haters and the speculation about her sex life. Indeed, her sexually liberated lyrics were especially powerful on a drill beat, given that drill is such a male-dominated genre, and when women are referred to, they’re usually maligned to being passive sexual objects. Ivorian Doll says that after 'Rumours', she feels that people took her seriously and with the video currently on four million-plus YouTube views she’s probably right.
Ivorian Doll admits that she faced some challenges being a woman in drill. "At first, it was hard," she tells me. "They are always going to point out you’re a female. I struggled with it and now I’ve gotten used to it."
When it comes to dealing with the scrutiny of her burgeoning fame, Ivorian Doll looks toward her religion and leans on her friends. She tells Clash: "I pray a lot. I’m always praying. I’m strong in prayer and it’s good to have friends. My friends always reassure me. My friends visit me a lot and my parents support me."
Ivorian Doll’s legions of fans are called her Dollz and can be seen on Instagram pages defending their fave. Ivorian Doll’s message for her loyal supporters is: "Thank you for supporting me and defending me and never give up. I would tell them don’t be too angry and don’t be mean to people and I can’t wait to see them."
With the success of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s 'WAP', female rappers globally are increasingly at the forefront. When asked where the East London artist positions herself in this female rap revolution, she defiantly declares: "I don’t compete with anyone."
Although beef is common in hip-hop, female rappers are usually pitted against each other. Ivorian Doll is a believer in female unity and says: "I don’t believe in females going against each other, I believe every female is in their own lane."
When it comes to her musical influences, Ivorian Doll cites Foxy Brown, Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj as big inspirations. She gushes: "They are so pretty and when they rap it’s like, woah! They’re so strong and dominant." It’s clear to see the influence on IVD, as she too has a dolled-up face and feisty lyrics.
Appearance is also extremely important to Ivorian Doll, as when I’m talking to her she’s in the middle of getting her nails done. Ivorian Doll’s Instagram feed shows her in eye-catching outfits, rocking rainbow coloured wigs and elaborately designed nails. She enthuses: "I’ve always been about my hair and nails. I like looking after myself. When I don’t look good, I feel really depressed."
Ivorian Doll takes her artistry as seriously as her beauty treatments. The East Londoner says she rehearses every Wednesday and views the studio as her "sacred place". Ivorian Doll simply describes studio sessions as "work mode" and says she doesn’t allow anybody in there.
Ivorian Doll shares a few 2021 plans with Clash. "My next big project is coming out next year, it’s gonna be very different. It’s not just drill. It’s gonna show a variety of different styles that I can do."
Apart from wanting to branch out of drill music, IVD’s future aspirations also extend beyond being an artist. When asked where she sees herself in five years, she replies: "I see myself acting, having a business and being a brand." It’s easy to believe IVD will achieve her dreams after succeeding in turning a viral situation into a fully-fledged music career.
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Words: Ella Jukwey
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