Words: Joseph Ryan-Hicks
Birmingham-born rapper James Indigo is leading the pack of upcoming British LGBTQ rappers - and it’s about time you paid attention to him. His unapologetic lyrics and off-the-wall visuals are unlike anyone else’s in the game right now, and today (6 November) marks the release of his debut EP, Married to the Game.
Having previously caused a stir with tracks such as 'Daddy’s Coming Home' and 'Cxntour', this new collection of songs builds on Indigo’s brand of empowering, sexy bops while elevating his artistry up an echelon.
Indigo speaks exclusively to Attitude to discuss the new tracks (seriously, 'D*ck Print' slaps), homophobia on the rap scene, and why he’s not apologising for his sexuality anymore...
Your new EP, Married to the Game, is a level-up on all fronts. What inspired the sonics and visuals for this collection of songs?
I'm a visual artist. When I write I automatically think about the music video and aesthetics. When I sat down to create my EP I was thinking about my life and my journey thus far. The first thing that came to my mind was that growing up I always felt like a doll. I felt broken and very misunderstood. Like I had to be “perfect” for everyone. For the artwork, I immediately envisioned myself as a broken doll with a missing head wearing a veil, so I stuck with it. Sonically, I'm really into up-tempo, dub, pop, and glitchy sounds right now. I like how music can take you on a journey. I wanted this project to take you on a crazy, messy journey.
Your lyrics are highly charged and sexually liberated. What role does sex play in your songwriting?
When I write I don't really have a set topic in mind. It's whatever comes naturally. However, sex is very important to me because I am now comfortable with my sexuality and comfortable talking about it. The topic of sex growing up was very scary - especially gay sex. It was never discussed in my household. Now I find it empowering talking openly about sex and owning my sexuality.
You make a point of infusing your music with visuals - and always serve, by the way. Was this always a part of your vision?
Thank you. Visuals are a big part of my artistic expression. Since I’ve started on this journey, I’ve been really involved in creating my videos, performances, and photoshoots, and I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing friends who work in those fields. I think it’s clear from my visuals that I am demanding we [as a society] break down gender stereotypes and mix up the masculine and feminine norms.
I feel obliged to ask, but are you on TikTok? Which track from your new EP do you think deserves the TikTok dance treatment?
I have actually recently downloaded TikTok and I do have a song in mind. I'm in talks with my close friend who is a talented choreographer, Joshua Base Pilmore, to create something truly iconic... And that’s all I'm going to say on that [winks].
Why do you think rap/hip-hop is so far behind in terms of LGBTQ representation, and acceptance of our community?
Rap music has a reputation for being hyper-masculine and homophobic. We also still live in a very homophobic world. Yes, things have improved somewhat since I was a kid, but we still have so far to go. People just still aren’t used to seeing openly gay musicians doing rap. I’ve been told that gay rappers 'can’t make it'. Even though I would say I’m a rapper that 'happens to be gay', I still refuse to silence my voice for this reason. We need more LGBTQ voices in the rap genre.
2020 has been… a lot. How was lockdown 1.0 for you?
I coped quite well, but I did have my down days. However, writing for me really helped. I like to keep busy. I don't think I could sit still even if I tried [laughs]. I came up with my cover art and the overall theme for the EP in lockdown. I actually wrote two of the songs too, 'Latex' and 'D*ck Print'.
Lockdown really made me think about life too. I'm a thinker, anyway, but this time I had no choice really to think. It was intense. I learned how thankful I am to be healthy and how precious life is. I also learned that taking time for myself and taking a break is needed. Everyone says I burn the candle at both ends because I can’t stop working/creating.
You’re a big Madonna fan. Favourite era?
I would have to say American Life. It's such an underrated album. The lyrical content [on the album] is incredible. 'Nothing Fails' and 'X-Static Process' changed my life - I even have those two songs tattooed on me!
Where does your inspiration come from lyrically?
There’s a billion movies and ideas constantly running through my head. My mind is like a hamster running on a wheel. Everything around me inspires me. I can see a funny-shaped tree, or like the sound of a word and it triggers something in me that inspires me to create. I can be in the studio and listen to a beat and I will start getting a flow. Or I can pick up my guitar or play the piano and lyrics will just come to me. Everything you hear, I write myself. Writing all my raps is very important to me.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Growing up, I looked up to figures and musicians that really pushed their art and sexuality, like Prince and Madonna. l love unapologetic, powerful artists that don’t give a f*ck. Queen Nicki [Minaj] or Madonna would be my dream collaborators. If Madonna or Nicki knew who I was, my life would be complete.
I'm also inspired by the upcoming talent that is emerging. I love rappers like Dai Burger, Karnage Kills, BabiBoi, and GodIsMikey. I also know these rappers personally. They push their pen, they make great music, they have confidence and they are just really nice people. So, I would say I'm inspired by them. We are all like one big family supporting each other, hustling and doing what we love to do. Shout out to them.
Last question. Have you played the new EP to your mum?
I have, yes! She is the first person I play my music and show my visuals to. She’s a big supporter of my art. That being said, I did play her the clean versions [laughs].
James Indigo’s debut EP, Married to the Game, is available now to stream.