XHOSA is a genre-bending artist and producer equally at home in the art and music worlds. Her fusion of hip hop, post-punk, R&B, and a kaleidoscopic aesthetic draws equally from Sade and Yayoi Kusama, Lauryn Hill and Andy Warhol. This New York City bred multi-instrumentalist and beat maker’s previous EP Heavy Psyche found her rapping over psychedelic samples (Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” has never been repurposed so well), and her new, single “Feel Real” takes her sound to breezy new heights. We caught up with XHOSA to chat about her influences, politics, and process.
Your new single, “Feel Real,” is dropping today. The lyrics seem like a sort of mantra of empowerment. What the story behind this track?
The funny thing about this track is that I wrote it when I was 15 about my first experiences smoking weed. The first few times were so intense it felt like I was entering a new reality. At the same time I felt more alive than ever. It was surreal and I had to write about it.
What’s the origin of your project name, XHOSA?
XHOSA is a South African language and tribe of people. It is also my middle name.
You work seems to easily traverse both the art and music worlds. Listening to Heavy Psyche, for example, which morphs psychedelic samples into hip hop beats, I was struck how much it’s like a sound collage as much as it is music, and your videos aren’t just music videos, they are very much video art, too. What appeals to you about the art world v. the music scene, and vice versa? What are the constraints making work in each — do you even see a separation between the two?
I view myself as an all around artist but music has always been a special medium for me. I feel like it comes the most naturally to me and is the most rewarding thing to create. But as a music artist, I’m definitely interested in creating a whole world around what I do and injecting my vision into more than just the sound. I also approach certain songs I create like art projects where I start with the concept first and then figure out how to express it musically. Heavy Psyche is an example of that as well as my Venus project. Venus is an all around multimedia performance piece and in live performance, the pitch of my vocals shift the projections made by Hattie Ball due to a program I built on MAX/MSP/JITTER. It is fun intertwining all of these different mediums I’m fascinated by, but I think my goal is definitely to be a straightforward pop artist who can bring more than just that to the table.
Who are three visual artists and three musicians who have inspired your work?
I like to take inspiration from so many sources that narrowing it down is really hard for me. This is my best attempt.
Marcus Burrowes (My Dad)
You contributed music to Katie Cercone’s film SOLARA Saturnalia and have collaborated with Go! Push Pops before. How did you end up creating in that circle?
I actually met Katie and Elisa through other friends of mine who I also collaborate with pretty frequently (Prince Harvey and Greem Jellyfish). We were/are friends first, but we all share a similar ethos and goals as artists to highlight the power and importance of feminine energy.
Is there a piece of gear you can’t live without?
I’m not really much of a gear head. I’m going to have to say my laptop because it is currently where I make all my music.
How did growing up in New York City influence your growth as an artist? Does the city still inspire (or challenge you) today?
New York City has definitely helped me develop into the artist that I am today. I was lucky enough to grow up with artists and around artists of all mediums, backgrounds, ages, and etc. Being exposed to so much has encouraged me to pursue my art seriously starting from a very early age. I also feel like living here has kinda forced me to refine and constantly try to outdo myself to really stand out as an artist.
How do your personal politics inform your lyrics. What issues matter to you right now?
My personal politics remain pretty unwavering and consistent. I will always advocate for truth, balance, self-acceptance, love, bravery, and growth because these are universal concepts. I want to inspire and contribute to the betterment of this world, so I lace these messages in my lyrical content. I think revolution will only be successful if we all undergo personal evolutions. Empowered people empower people.
What’s your next project for XHOSA? Any upcoming shows, releases, etc?
My next big project is an EP entitled MISSLEADING. It’s a 5 track EP all self-produced and recorded. The title is a play on words. “Misleading” as in I am way more than what I appear to be. And “Ms. Leading” as in I am a leader. This single “Feel Real” will be featured on the project.
My next show will be at Leftfield on the 16th.