Hard work and perfecting your talent is one way to build a name for yourself, but building a foundation that is composed of a unique sound, and an unconvetional message is exactly what Ian Isiah is doing. With the upcoming release of his EP 'Love Champion', R&B's last hope will be at the forefront of music's new wave.
I don't even need to ask, you were born and raised in New York City.
Yeah. Been here all my life. My father's side of the family is Trinidadian and my mom’s side is from here. They all started in the South—Alabama, real country folk. Now my whole family is in New York. It’s my town.
And you are a singer?
I am a singer, songwriter, musician, whatever you need that involves music.
That's awesome, because New York is a city that breeds a lot of notable rappers, and R&B singers. Do you have roots in music?
It definitely comes from my past as I did grow up in the church. Actually most of my family is in the church so music was always like, either you got the talent or you'd find the talent. Thankfully I was brewed in talent. I started off playing the drums and I thought I was pretty good. I mean, a lot of other people thought I was really good but I actually wasn’t good at all. It was a total trial and error and still to this day I be trying to tell drummers that I got it and they be like, "Ian, just stick to singing." But I did get tempo out of that whole thing. But singing and writing, those are my things.
You make blatantly genderless music, which is great because it's funny when girls are singing a song a dude is singing. For you, it's all about the lyrics or the visuals, right? Your single for "M1NDFVCK" was exactly that. Boychild usually plays a more masculine role, but in the video she was playing a more submissive role. How did people respond to the visual because that was the biggest message there?
People really, really love that video. Which was really, really a weird thing. It was a good time because we’re really good friends so our chemistry was natural. I want people to understand the sound and then be ready for the visual that comes after it because it’s the sound that I feel I should keep very dear, very pure. The visual can always change and will always change. It’s the sound that I’m trying to make genderless. I feel like when you listen to music, you have to be genderless about love because love is genderless. I don’t want just gay fans. It's not about straight or gay.
And your latest single 'Sweat" which is produced by Brenmar, it's the exact opposite. It's got a direct message—shake your ass on the dancefloor until you sweat.
Yes. Sweat is for the girls. Sweat is for anybody that got ass in the club who needs to get down and tear it up because they had a long day at work and they’re really cheap and simple and they need to like...let loose and TEAR IT!
With a fanbase that is rapidly growing, how does social media play a part in that? Is it via Twitter, or more of an Instagram thing?
Well I think the people on Instagram get me. I think it’s just really cool that things that I was raised on or raised surrounded by is so big right now in art and culture, so I reflect that in the things I share on instagram and in how I dress. When Lil' Kim and Diddy were my idols, and they were so fresh and young, they didn't have social media to help them, but they became icons off music and image. Now with the help of social media you can be an influencer just by posting shit, random pictures. I like the idea that I can share my talent, and my every day with people and just interact with people.
How was Montreal? Saw that you were out there performing, and shooting with Ssense, which is one of our favorite stores at Complex.
Yo, Montreal is popping. I went out there to perform at Pop Montreal, which is one of the craziest music festivals ever. Montreal really gets it in, and while I was out there I did a shoot with Ssense. They have a way with supporting the up-and-coming music artists before they pop off. They have a good ear and eye. I was just honored they asked me. It was a really cool shoot, it was very different from anything I have ever done.
So let’s talk about your style. I know it’s not the most important thing to you now but it's becoming a big part of the business.
I think style is...it’s definitely leading the pack and not following but observing.
I saw you, shutting down a Williamsburg performance with that fresh off the runway Givenchy look.
Oh you were there?!?
No I wasn't there, but I follow you on Instagram. So what would you say are some brands you really associate with?
It’s really less of the brand and more of the style with me. I’m very that. Shayne [Oliver of Hood By Air] is my best friend so he’s one of my favorite designers. Then it’s Rick [Owens, whom Ian has spent time with at his home in Paris]. Old Margiela when Margiela was there. Also Telfar. I’m more of a fabric lover than a brand lover.
I think people are starting to dress with more freedom, and being really creative. Especially the guys, which is something you and guys like Shayne have been doing for years. Would you agree?
I mean it’s all culture. The way you dress, the people you hang around, the music you listen to, it's what makes up our culture today. Guys dressing a little reckless and less traditional is because times have changed, and it's a great thing. It’s a new era, a new fresh world. Diversity is an amazing thing that we should embrace.