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Ivorian Doll on Balancing Introspection and Entertainment

The Hackney artist speaks on her roots, transitioning from YouTube creator to fully-fledged rap icon, and what it takes to be a ‘Boss.’

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It was a cold January afternoon when I sat down on a Zoom call to talk with Hackney rapper Ivorian Doll about her journey in music and plans for 2022. When speaking to Ivorian Doll, a sense of hopefulness and determination immediately radiate from her voice. She’s seamlessly transitioned from a popping career on YouTube to making flamboyant music and inspiring a legion of fans she refers to as ‘Dolls.’

I had come across Ivorian Doll in the beginning of her career and although there have been difficult moments such as issues with contracts and trademarks, IVD always manages to position herself back to the root of why she began making music—because it makes her happy. So far, Ivorian Doll has accumulated millions of views with her breakout drill hit ‘Rumours’ and performed on stages at some of the UK’s biggest festivals such as Wireless and Reading. She’s been nominated for a MOBO award and collaborated with huge UK artists such as Yxng Bane, Digga D and even Duran Duran. 

During our conversation, Ivorian Doll speaks with a warm energy that’s infectious. Although we had never spoken before, she managed to set a very easygoing tone for the interview, speaking on her first release of 2022 and her eventful journey in music so far.

Talk to me about your first single of 2022 ‘Boss.’ How is the reception making you feel?
I feel like ‘Boss’ is doing really well, it’s on so many playlists. It makes me feel like people are still supporting me because they are reposting it and sharing. It feels good to get back to releasing again because ‘Boss’ is a single I really love and I wanted to share it with the world and show people what is coming.

You previously discussed label issues on Twitter and barriers you’ve faced with music releases. Have things changed for you?
Yeah, things are way better for me now, I’m very grateful. I feel like every artist goes through issues, I’ve seen it happen to many artists, but I always see them pull through and do well, so I’m just happy to be one of them and get back to releasing. 

I hear you, so has music always been your first love? Did you expect to be an artist?
I always loved music but being an artist was not the first thing on my mind. I wanted to get into makeup but when I fell into music because I started [my career] on YouTube, it just made sense because I’m doing well, and I like it. So, I just continued making music. 

That makes sense, how would you describe Ivorian Doll compared to Vanessa beyond the music you create?
I get asked this question a lot and I would say as a brand Ivorian Doll is here to inspire and show people you can really do what you put your mind to. Ivorian Doll is very confident and empowering, and you can tell by the lyrics. In general, I feel like I have a big bubbly personality and a nonchalant, carefree attitude. But separating the two, I feel like Vanessa is very calm and relaxed.

To discuss that further, what kind of narrative do you want to paint with your music? As you said, you’re trying to empower, what else do you think you want your listeners to gain from you?
I also want people to realise that with all the new music coming that there are different layers to me and I feel like through my music I want other people to find out what I’m like. There’s more to me than just the surface, you know? I want my music to make people feel like no matter what you go through, you can be successful. I want to also make people think about their lives and what things they are comfortable with and what they are not comfortable with. I am a sensitive person, but I want my music to make people feel good and outspoken. Certain songs I’m about to put out, obviously will be fun and bubbly, but I do speak about things that I’ve been through.

Talk to me about all the collaborations you’ve been doing. How do you feel about those features you have done?
I feel like last year was just a year of collabs and I’m very grateful for the collaborations because I feel like they were very intentional. I did a collab with Tanya and the song is called ‘WTF’ — it did really well, and I was introduced to a new fan base. I also did a collab with Saucy Santana who’s doing amazing right now and I’m very happy that he wanted me to be a part of his project. All the collabs I’ve done have brought a different side out of me, I have a collab with Duran Duran and they are completely different to me in terms of genre and I am very grateful that I was able to do that collab and also to test myself to see, what I can do with that sort of sound. I really love that sort of sound, I might incorporate it in my own music. 

You’ve been making music for a minute, let’s talk about some of the positive experiences that you’ve had as an artist. What are your favourite things about making music?
My favourite thing about being an artist is that I’m still able to do things that I used to do. I mean, for example before music I would travel six, seven times in a year. But now I get paid to travel. I’ve got all these shows and festivals. I’m still doing what I love but now I’m getting benefits from it. I love the fact that I’m able to meet other artists that I didn’t even think I could be in the same room as. It just makes me happy to be in the position I’m in because I feel like I see another side to life, in terms of the business side of things. It’s teaching me self-discipline and how to be more organised. 

I think that is really nice to hear because you’re talking about all the things that you loved to do before and it’s not like you’ve left it behind because you’re an artist.
Exactly, and I was doing YouTube before so I feel like I’m still talking to an audience but on a bigger scale with music. I’m still talking to people, saying how I feel, I can do story times and stuff but just over a beat. Did I leave? No, I think it’s just the same thing.

 I definitely hear where you are coming from. Obviously, with the positives, also come the negatives. I wanted to know whether there are any problems you face and issues within the music industry you feel comfortable discussing?
I feel like the main problem that I faced was not being able to put out the music that I wanted to. But I just feel like as an artist, you’re always gonna come across difficult situations. Something I’ve realised that is also difficult is sometimes you may not be in the mood to do things like performing, but as soon as you go out [on stage] you have to pretend like you’re happy and stuff, but you could not be happy that day but fans just want you to perform. So, you just have to deal with that. And then you know, you have to deal with other people’s attitudes as well, because being around so many people every day is a lot sometimes. But then again, you have to know what you signed up for. So everything that you do is not going to be positive, you’re going to have some negatives, but you need to focus on the positives. 

Thank you for that transparency for real, it is not easy to talk about difficulties, so I appreciate it. I wanted to talk to you about something exciting as well. I went to see Digga D at the o2 in Kentish Town and you came out to perform your viral song ‘Grey Tracky’. How did that feel?
You know what? I got an email from his team, and they were like to me IVD would you come out for the show? I said yes and obviously thanked him. I remember he was like to me, make sure that you turn up and I was like you don’t have to worry about me. At first, I was thinking, am I gonna perform a song that’s not really out yet? I don’t know how it’s gonna do but I knew the song was kind of doing well. But obviously, when I got on stage everyone was singing the lyrics which really made me happy. It’s a great track too.

The song went viral on TikTok so it’s no surprise everyone knew the lyrics. Talk to me about your experience so far on TikTok, you are so funny on that app and show off your personality a bit more.
I’ve only started to become really active lately. The main reason I went on it wasn’t even for music purposes. I feel like I’m very funny and I wanted to show people that side to me.  I love TikTok and I feel like it shows artists being themselves when they’re not around the cameras. Lately, I’ve been very active and the views have been going up, but I just don’t use it for that. I just want to make people laugh.

I want to steer the conversation back to your catalogue. I was thinking about ‘Rumours’ and have always thought that is your signature hit. Did you expect it to have such a big impact?
You know what? I didn’t. I literally didn’t think it would have such a big impact because I was like you know what—let’s just address some things. I thought it was gonna be like a Twitter thing, like, you know, like a song that just goes off on Twitter but then I was seeing the views and stuff people were saying. I was thinking, this is a joke. But now when I go to perform, and people are singing the song back, it will stick with me forever. I’m starting to realise maybe this song really identifies me as an artist, because I didn’t expect it to be that big. 

Since we are talking about your viral songs on Twitter, I want to mention the ‘Big Bad IVD’ track that is on everyone’s lips. Will the people be receiving that anytime soon?
Don’t worry I’m shooting the video because I was like, you know what, let me just put this out because it’s becoming too viral now. So, I’m shooting the video. That’s my next song.

Every two weeks, someone would be like, you need to release this. I just really love the song. I love the sample and I love 50 Cent. We sent it over to him and his team was like you can use it. We love it. And I said what? So, I was really excited about that. But then, obviously, I went through a few things and I was like, You know what, let me just leave this song. But then it just, it just kept coming up, everyone kept talking about it and I was like okay, let me release a song. But that Triller that I did, I literally did it as a joke. I just wanted to get people’s feedback to see if they liked it or not. So now I know that they like it, I’m gonna work towards literally shooting that and putting that out ASAP. That needs to be my summer thing. 

What are your other plans for this year?
So, this year, it’s just constant dropping. I’m never going to be able to recreate a feeling, but the way ‘Rumours’ was, it was kind of like, wow, it’s so fun. Every next thing I’m about to do, I want it to be fun. I want to bring that fun side back with me again. And I feel like this year people are just gonna see fun music videos, fun lyrics, see me perform everywhere and I just want myself to be travelling and performing and literally just meeting up with different artists all over the world. I just want to do like a couple of singles, do my shows and stuff and then when I’m back properly, I will do the EP.

Follow Ivorian Doll here for more and stream her new track ‘Boss’ here.


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