Ben Lefkowitz: I’ve read that you’re from Houston, Texas. How has the southern rap/hiphop scene influenced your musical style?
Imani Chyle: The rap from Texas hasn’t really influenced my style but the hip hop has rubbed off on me. I used to hang with artists such a UGK (Bun B & Pimp C) and a lot of other southern rappers. I was the only female so I had to learn to hold my own and come out fighting. Music has always been more of a “world” thing for me. My influences come from rock and roll and anything from Madonna to Cyndi Lauper to Marvin Gaye. Those were things that I grew up with.
BL: Now I may be wrong, but when I was listening to some of your songs I heard a hint of Outkast. Have they influenced you in sort of way?
Imani: (Laughs). Oh wow, you know what? I love Outkast but not at all. I love them, especially Andre 3000. I’d love to do a song with him because both of our brains are out of this world but as a group they really haven’t influenced me. (Laughs).
BL: When did you realize that you were set to make music?
Imani: When I was five or six years old my uncle had a very successful local group and whenever he performed I was there watching him and I thought to myself, “man my uncle can really blow!” He really had a big influence on me growing up. When I was around the age of 15, I tried working on my own stuff and surrounding myself with musical people. When I went to rap battles, I tried to stay along with the hottest male rappers out because that was the best way to get me in with all the other top acts at the time.
BL: Have you been in any bands or have you always done things solo?
Imani: When I got my first record deal, I was in a group with four other girls but the group was then narrowed down to two. We had several deals on the table and we wanted to be like the first hardcore female rap duo out. Eventually things didn’t go as planned and there were some management issues so I started to pursue my solo career.
BL: How do you feel about today’s female rappers?
Imani: First off, I respect all female rappers because of the struggles we have to go through but I feel that a lot of them don’t really have good lyrical content. The only female MC’s I’ve respected in this game are MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Eve, Lil’ Kim, and of course Lauryn Hill. Off the top of my head those are the ones I have utmost respect for. Oh and Salt-n-Pepa! They had their lil’ thing going on too. Now when we talk about today we have Nicki Minaj. I like the old Nicki. They new one is just way over the top. She needs to check up on some Lil’ Kim because she’s a real lyricist. Nicki was a lyricist until she formed herself to what society wanted to see. We need real music right now. If you look at when Lauryn Hill was winning awards it was because the industry was hungry for something new and real. This time I hope the industry is hungry for me.
BL: Actually there’s one group I’ve been listening to for a few years, Yo Majesty. Have you heard of them?
Imani: No I haven’t but I’ll definitely check them out.
BL: If you could do a collaboration with any artist who would it be?
Imani: Eminem. Hands down. I would love to do a collabo with him. I would love to do something with Mary J. Blige, Lil’ Kim, and Da Brat. I forgot to give Da Brat her props earlier. I respect what’s she’s doing. The last few names I can think of right now are Busta Rhymes and Kanye West. (Laughs).
BL: How do you go about your songwriting? Is there a certain process?
Imani: The process starts once I get the music. What comes to my spirit first is what I try to go with. The music takes my mind where it wants to go. My melody always comes first. There’s never words though. The first edits of my music are always hums and sounds. (Laughs) To me that’s my foundation, my starting point. From there, the words slowly start to flow. I have a lot to talk about so I don’t plan on stopping for a long time.
BL: Do you have a certain producer that you prefer? Or is there studio that you always record in?
Imani: I’ve worked with some influential people. Gerald Jackson, who played with the late Isaac Hayes has been really helpful with my musical growth. Recently I’ve been doing stuff with Lovechild productions. They’re like my Jimmy Jam and Teddy Riley. Lovechild allows me to just be me. They don’t question why I’m doing what I do or why that I’m weird. We just mesh and they guide me where I need to go. I just recorded my entire album with Lovechild in Atlanta.
BL: What has been your favorite performance so far?
Imani: The Key Club on this past December 30th. I rocked it. I rock every show. I go on every stage to burn it up you know. This time, despite the fact that we had a smaller stage, we killed it. We had 48 hours to prepare and we had a few songs rehearsed. But the majority of the show was freestyled and it worked! Everyone after the show came and bowed down to me like the queen that I am (Laughs). It was an all rock and roll show. I did my thing.
BL: What artists are you into right now?
Imani: Hmm. Good question. Let me think real fast. I don’t listen to the radio a lot but I really like Drake’s new songs Headlines and The Motto. I like Reggae but there’s nothing really catching my ear right now. Another person that I love is Pink. I would LOVE to do a song with her (Laughs). I like Raise You Glass in particular because she so strong and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
BL: What can fans expect from you in 2012?
Imani: They can expect me to bring good music back, music with substance. I’m gonna give fans music that will move them in ways that they’ve never been moved before. To me, it’s not about who’s going to change the game. It’s all about feel good music with substance.