Hip-hop artist Sophiegrophy likes to follow her own rules. In her music, she does just that. Hailing from Nigeria, she grew up in New Zealand and is currently based in Australia, so she has definitely followed her own unique path. Her versatility is reflected in her new EP, BOLD, which premiered this May. Fans of Bazzi, Glass Animals, and Cardi B will vibe with her EP (I said she was versatile!), which makes the perfect carefree soundtrack for hanging by the pool or cruising around town.
On Sophiegrophy’s six-song EP, each song represents a different genre and music style. Her first single, “Shake,” is all about “loosening, turning up, because sometimes life can be so serious that we forget to have fun. Even if it’s by yourself, even if it’s with your friends, as long as you’re turning up that’s all that matters.” Now that’s a mantra we can all get behind, am I right? “Shake” has already been featured on radio personality Ebro’s show on Beats, and Sophiegrophy can also be found on the future-forward tracks “My Own Thang” by Walker and Royce and “Bounce Back” by J. Worra & Codes, as well as Spotify’s “Starting Point” and “A1 Live” playlists.
On her EP, Sophiegrophy showcases her dedication to doing her own thing as she mixes hip-hop and R&B with a splash of electronic beats. She opened up to Betches about how she stays confident and ~bold~, telling us “Our decisions must be executed with confidence and we must always have faith in ourselves while not giving energy to the naysayers” (full interview below).
We chatted with Sophiegrophy about her diverse background, musical influences, mental health, and more below.
How does your Nigerian background & growing up in New Zealand influence your music and style?
My Nigerian background influences my music by allowing me into a world full of culture where music is the driving force for jubilance, dance, and unity. This background has really helped me with exploring afro beats, which are a part of my “BOLD” EP, and were really something that came naturally when I was writing. As a Nigerian we have a saying that “Naija no dey carry last,” which means we are always in the frontline. My style represents my background because I dress to be comfortable even if it means doing the most, and as a Nigerian we are known to go far and beyond when it comes to style because we love to look good and we love to stand out. I spent my late childhood and teenage years in New Zealand, where I discovered my identity and my sense of belonging that have made me the person I am today. All that I have discovered and learnt during my developmental stages has really helped me with writing and telling my story. New Zealand was where I realised I was different due to many bullying experiences I encountered, and it didn’t change me for the worse nor did it make me change who I was.
Who are some of your musical influences?
My musical influences are Lucky Dube & Jon Bellion.
Who are some of your inspirations right now? (Musical and otherwise)
My biggest inspiration is my mother. She inspires me to strive to be my best and to keep persevering. Everything she has encountered in her life gives me motivation to keep working hard, because she is where she is today because she never gave up and never stopped trying. No matter how hard it got, she made sure she finished what she started and she never left things halfway. This has motivated me a lot, because life is a roller coaster and there are going to be a lot of good and bad days. We tend to only appreciate the good days and give up when the bad days knock on our door. Every negative thing is a catalyst for something positive.
What’s keeping you upbeat right now?
Music and writing. I’ve been spending a lot of late nights with music, exploring what my next song or EP would be. Music brings a lot of happiness out of me and that’s really what’s kept me upbeat.
What’s your go-to pump-up song/album?
My go-to pump-up song and album would be “PMW” by A$AP Rocky/SchoolboyQ and Fan of a Fan by Chris Brown & Tyga. These choices are songs that bring back a lot of wonderful nostalgia of a night out with friends.
Your EP is called “BOLD.” Can you tell us why?
My EP BOLD signifies standing out and being as vibrant as possible. Each song on my EP is distinctively different because they each represent different genres and styles. I wanted to showcase my diversity when it comes to music—I don’t discriminate and I don’t like to place myself in a box. I love expanding myself as an artist and pushing the boundaries. I don’t want to do something because that’s what the majority are doing, I want to do things because I want to do it, even if it means being the odd one out.
What’s your advice to other women to be bold?
My advice to other women to be bold is to remember that as women we are dimes. Our aura is naturally bold, but to really exude it we must walk with confidence in ourselves. Our decisions must be executed with confidence and we must always have faith in ourselves while not giving energy to the naysayers.
Who would be your dream collab?
My dream collaboration would be Jon Bellion—he is absolutely amazing—or Skepta.
What are you up to in quarantine?
The first time we went into lockdown, I loved it because I had a lot of time to get things done, such as doing more writing, listening to old songs, and loving my space, so it was really a tranquil time for me. Now that we are back in lockdown once again for another six weeks, I really miss performing, being on a stage, and meeting different people along the way. So to keep myself busy, I’ve been trying to learn Spanish online which is a nice challenge, and I also have some videos coming up which is very exciting.
What are your goals, musically and otherwise?
One of my goals musically is to become very successful in my music while staying true to who I am, in regard to my style and personality. I really want to use my platform to start a mental health foundation that helps not only up-and-coming artists, but also young adults who are dealing with mental disorders but aren’t seeking help because of the stigma or because they are struggling to cope. I also want to help the young kids and families in Nigeria who are homeless and struggling to meet their daily needs. There’s so much I want to do, and that’s why I need to keep working hard.
It’s no secret that the music industry (like most industries) has historically been dominated by men. In our largely misogynistic and patriarchal society, it’s easy to completely overlook female musicians, or even worse—to compliment them with the tired old adage, “she’s good for a girl!” I personally have had enough of that bullsh*t. There are so many immensely talented instrumentalists who have inspired me that deserve recognition—not only as songwriters and artists, but as guitar players in their own right. So, here is my (admittedly hipster) insight into some sick female artists you should be listening to RIGHT NOW.
Annie Clark (St. Vincent)–Alternative Rock
St. Vincent (Annie Clark) is my personal hero. She is the first woman to design her own signature model of an electric guitar for the mass market. In terms of technical ability, she is nearly unmatched amongst her peers. St. Vincent just won the Grammy for Best Rock Song for “MASSEDUCTION,” the leading and eponymous single from her most recent album, co-written and co-produced by the sensational Jack Antonoff (who famously also co-writes and produces for Taylor Swift and Lorde.) This video is a really cool interview in which she explains the process of designing her signature guitar with the Ernie Ball / Music Man team, and touches on the marginalization she felt as a young guitar player.
Nai Palm (Hiatus Kaiyote)–Alternative/R&B
Nai Palm, from one of Australia’s hippest bands Hiatus Kaiyote, is one of my favorite technicians. She has an innate ability to effortlessly float over her guitar strings while simultaneously executing complex vocal melodies, especially in live performance. The first time I heard Hiatus Kaiyote’s 2015 album Choose Your Weapon, I spent nearly a month trying to learn all of the songs note for note. It’s a masterpiece. In this live and stripped down performance for Paste Magazine, Nai Palm’s guitar prowess really shines as she plays “Atari,” a trippy song inspired by the legendary video game. Nai Palm also recently graced the cover of She Shreds Magazine, a publication devoted to showcasing female instrumentalists.
Ah, Queen Mitski. If you’ve been sleeping on her, you better wake up fast… Mitski is one of the most lyrically prolific and sonically unique artists of the last few years. She is also a multi-instrumentalist and plays both bass and guitar on her records—though her live shows have evolved into very choreographed stage performances complete with manic pacing and disconcerting arm movements. Her most recent album, Be The Cowboy, is a highly stylized piece of art with songs that clock in under three minutes and feature esoteric titles such as “A Horse Named Cold Air.” In this video from 2016, Mitski and her band perform the song that put her on the map (thanks to mad love from NPR), “Your Best American Girl.”
The Japanese House–Indie Pop
The Japanese House, the indie/electronic solo project of English singer/songwriter Amber Bain, just released one of the coolest albums of 2019 – Good At Falling. Featuring her signature auto-tuned/vocoded vocals, clean guitar tones, and rhythmically complex percussion, listening to Good At Falling is like sinking in to 40 straight minutes of gut-wrenching pop bangers. “Nothing feels good, I can’t fix it, it’s not right.” The dichotomy in her use of both colloquial and obscure language adds a complexity to the album not often found in music by her contemporaries. This stripped down video, however, is from a live performance of her song “Still” for BBC Radio, in which Amber has the opportunity to showcase her solid guitar playing abilities.
Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes)–Rock/Blues
Brittany Howard is an absolute powerhouse. I remember seeing Alabama Shakes live for the first time at Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee back in 2015, and literally losing my mind while watching this woman shred on guitar. The authority with which she plays her instrument is like that of a stern school teacher—both loving and tender, but still cheekily disciplinary. Alabama Shakes’ debut album Sound + Color, produced by Blake Mills, won them a Grammy right off the bat. Brittany uses some nasty distortion and can solo with the best of them, which are elements I try to incorporate into my own music.
Brandi Carlile was the most nominated female artist at the 2019 Grammy Awards, and a three-time winner. She has been releasing music for over a decade, but is finally now receiving broader recognition for her art. Her playing isn’t flashy. However, in its understated nature, it is the perfect companion to her profound lyricism and vocal mastery. I also straddle the line between rock and folk, and as a songwriter, Brandi has been a huge inspiration to me. She is a powerfully soft force to be reckoned with. This video is from her recent performance of her nominated song, “The Joke,” at the 61st annual Grammy Awards.
Phoebe Bridgers–Indie Rock
The last eighteen months have been busy for industry sweetheart Phoebe Bridgers. She has toured all over the world in support of her 2017 LP Stranger in the Alps, she released an EP and toured with her trio boygenius (comprised of Phoebe and her two friends Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus,) and she most recently released a self-titled album as Better Oblivion Community Center with fellow indie rocker Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes,) for which they are currently on tour. Known for her confessional songwriting and understated production, Phoebe is quickly becoming a household name in the folk and indie rock spheres. This video is from a dope live session done on KEXP and features my favorite song from her record, “Motion Sickness.”
Liza Anne–Indie Rock
Fresh off of touring with Grammy Winner Kacey Musgraves, indie rocker Liza Anne is one of my favorite artists right now. Her 2018 album Fine But Dying was my soundtrack last summer, with gritty emo-bangers such as “Paranoia” and “I Love You, But I Need Another Year.” The whole album is drenched in distorted guitar tones and introspective lyrics. This video is from a live session recorded for Paste Magazine and features a lovely stripped down performance of one of my favorite songs by Liza, “Take It Back.”
Leah Capelle is a pop/rock singer-songwriter from Chicago and is currently based in Los Angeles pursuing a B.S. in Music Business at USC Thornton School of Music. Earlier this year, Capelle released a visual for “Settle Down,” a dauntless feminist ballad exploring identity, acceptance, and empowerment. Watch it below.