Music’s self-proclaimed ‘warrior princess’ Amaarae has just released her new album, The Angel You Don’t Know, a series of unapologetic tracks which showcase a unique mass fusion of musical styles, from J-pop to Afro-fusion. Her experience of being raised between Ghana and the United States exposed her to a wide variety of cross-cultural influences, and as a singer-songwriter, producer and engineer, Amaarae used this to shape her own distinctive experimental sound. Here, we discuss how conflicting genres and styles infiltrate the tracks in her new album, as well as delving into the necessity of showcasing yourself authentically through music.
How did your experience of living cross-culturally between Ghana and the United States influence your experimentation with different genres and styles?
I think living in so many different and culturally rich cities taught me that I could adapt any style and energy I wanted. White girls in Mount Olive, New Jersey, put me on Britney Spears, Metro Station, Fall Out Boy and The Outfield. Spanish kids in Smyrna, Georgia, taught me about Tego Calderón, Aventura, and Daddy Yankee. When I was fresh from West Africa, kids in Paulding County, Georgia, taught me about Lil Jon, Bone Crusher, Lil Flip, Young Jeezy, T.I., Lil Scrappy Crime Mob Crew…
I was on VH1 Soul listening to Kelis, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and Slum Village. I was watching MTV Jams losing my mind when Slim Thug, Paul Wall and Mike Jones linked up with DJ Watts to drop Still Tippin’. And then, my uncle is playing me Portishead and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nirvana, or The Meat Puppets. All throughout my childhood, I’m taking in these different artists and experiences and learning how to adapt styles.
With the kind of exposure I’ve had, it was inevitable for me to just try on all these different styles. In a way, it’s me trying to keep my childhood alive. My songs now are just me reliving and recreating the feelings attached to certain memories.
You’ve said that growing up in Ghana, you were inspired by the DIY culture of those around you. Can you elaborate on how and where you witnessed this attitude, and how has it influenced your own work ethic?
Everywhere. Not just in Ghana but in Nigeria and most of West Africa. The youth wanted to be creative and express themselves. Nobody was going to come and just give us these opportunities for free, so we had to start learning skills. As it stands, I can sound engineer, I can DJ, I have some light graphic design skills (lol), creative direction skills, and film directing skills. I didn't go to school for any of this. But they're skills myself and many other West African artists have had to pick up along the way out of necessity.
You wrote your first song at age 13, which was a riff on Usher’s Same Girl titled Same Shanga. Do you have any memories of writing this first song? How do you feel reflecting on it from where you stand as an artist now?
Lool, Same Shanga is not a proud moment at all. But just in terms of that being the first song I wrote and where I’m at now… I couldn't have imagined at that time that I was actually going to pursue music, so I’m happy to see the growth.
Your new tracks from The Angel You Don’t Know present a fusion between a vast variety of musical styles. For example, you described the song 3AM as a “hybrid of progressive house, Afrobeats and psychedelic disco.” What drives you to create music that rejects singularity, and instead intertwines a multitude of styles?
I love too much music, I want to make all the types of music that have influenced me. The best way to do that is to create fusions and worlds within worlds through those sounds.
Can you give us an example of a song from the new project that visibly presents this mixing of styles, and describe how this fusion reveals itself?
Hellz Angel is a big one. It samples a Japanese club pop record called Boku de Aritai by Hi-Posi, and we set the sample over trap drums. I bought this record called Sushi 4004 six or seven years ago, and it was just a bunch of Japanese club pop records, and Hi-Posi featured heavily on it, so that’s how I got into Hi-Posi. Miho Moribayashi and I have very similar vocal tones, and Miho’s delivery on Boku de Aritai really inspired my vocal performance. But then, I also emulate Young Thug as well just in how sharp and piercing the high pitched voice is. That’s how I create my fusions – little parts of songs and artists that inspire me and I just reimagine them in my own style and voice.
Do you draw your lyrics from your own personal experiences? How did you draw inspiration for the headstrong lyrics from your new project?
All the ballsy shit like Trust Fund Baby, Hellz Angel, Fancy – that was just me getting my bag, man. I wanted to get into arrogant rapper mode but in my own style. 
Your new project, The Angel You Don’t Know, possesses an unapologetic confidence, and you’ve described it as your form of gospel. Would you say this project is a showcase of your own self-acceptance? How do you hope this unapologetic confidence will influence or affect the listener?
Absolutely! I do consider it a showcase of my own self-acceptance. One of the first things I said about this project was that it is non-stop affirmation and incantations for bad bitches. I’m preaching sha – the listeners should take all the bad ass energy and apply it to their daily lives. It should make them feel like they can achieve!
Your music and music videos can be said to reject gender binaries, encouraging fluidity in gender expression. Do you believe that gender expression can be viewed as fluid, and unrestricted by the typical binary norms?
Yeah, absolutely. I believe that we should all be what we wanna be. If you’re a dude and you wanna rock some air force 1s with a fresh fade but have your nails painted neon pink, you have every fucking right to do that. If you’re a girl and you wanna hop out ass naked with nipple pasties, baggy jeans and a durag, switch it up bitch! Fuck it up bitch! You have every right to do and be whatever the fuck you want to be as long as you’re not hurting anyone else.
Do you view music purely as a form of self-expression, or do you believe it is better used as a tool to represent those from all walks of life, rather than being solely representative of the artist themselves?
I believe it's both. You speak your truth, but you're also finding ways to make sure you're speaking for those who can't speak for themselves.
The Afro-fusion elements of your music bring West African music to whole new audiences by combining it with more universal pop and punk styles. Why is it important for you to maintain these elements and introduce new people to West African music, and by extension culture?
I got my culture through music. Essentially, I’m just doing what other artists have done for me when I was young; I'm just passing down new information, man, and showing people new ways to think, dress and create.
With your new project out now, can we expect any other exciting surprises from you alongside its release?
I’m taking over the world baby, remember I said this! Love you guys! Thank you for the awesome questions and your time.
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