Ian Isiah is the singer, Hood By Air consultant and New York feature who of recent has been causing a stir with his super sexy RnB music and provocative androgynous music videos of which we’ve previously explored and enjoyed on Sang Bleu. Ian visited London last week while Hood By Air gave their fantastic SS14 menswear fashion week presentation. Meeting in SHOWstudio we discussed his hope to create a genderless future, re-inforcing sexy music and how he wants to influence his lifestyle for future generations. Sam Bayliss Ibram and Jayson Hindley shot the editorial and Helen Barr filmed the photo shoot and dubbed in Ian’s latest single BLINDFOLDED especially for Sang Bleu
When did you start making music?
I’d say when I was about three years old. I grew up in church so music has always been around me. My grandmother is an amazing singer. I used to listen to her sing a bunch of old ass hymns in the most beautiful way around the house growing up. I also remember being told that I would always try to accompany her by playing the pots and pans in the kitchen … making my own percussions. By the time I was able to speak, immediately I was in the choir at Church and at School. Non Stop Music. It felt only natural to perform, I started doing a lot of solos in the choir as well. I was ready. Music has always been my safety zone because i always felt that nothing else other than music felt right, I never felt a pull towards being anything else. I wanted to use what I’ve got!
Did you grow up in New York?
I sure did . Brooklyn to be exact. Taught me how to be tough .. gentle .. spiritual.. and powerful .. all in one place.
Was it through night clubbing that you started to develop your own music?
Not really actually. Although The Club will always be a reference of mine, Since I can remember I’ve been singing everywhere I go . And writing and singing about anything and everything.
What music really inspired you when you were growing up?
Oh My God There are too many to name! All Sexy Soul Artist of the 90’s like D’Angelo, Erykah Badu , Aaliyah . Hip Hop Artists like Killa Cam , Juelz Santana , Jim Jones, Vado .. Fuck it All of Dipset . Also all my music homies that I grew up with are complete inspirations to me.
How did the ideas around your first single and video for M1NDFVCK come about?
I knew when I started my music career I would be starting my new sexual freedom within my career too, so that’s exactly how M1NDFCVK came about. When I sat down with Mitch Moore (the video director) I said to him; I have this beautiful friend (boychild) that I want to make babies with… on camera!
How did you feel about the controversy that the video amassed?
I was banned from YouTube within the first twenty minutes of uploading it, it was my first video! I felt like some sort of Future Internet Leader! But the Vimeo staff tweeted me thanking me for hosting it on there, which I thought was major.
What was it that you think people found so offensive about it?
I think it was the titties. My titties were out but they weren’t offended about that. Maybe tits , fashion, and genderless people are just too much for youtube. Im sure they’ll catch up in 5 years.
The video was incredibly sexual too, I think a lot of people possibly couldn’t understand what it was that they were watching. Was this supposed to be sex? foreplay? friendship?
It was weird trying to act with my friend in a sexual way but it brought us closer together!
How important is it to you to create music in a gender unspecific way? Do you think that it is very inherent to what you are trying to do?
I’m trying to bring genderless music to the top 40 pop world. I just don’t want gays or genderless people always having to be conceptual and only be available online. Gays should be free on the radio just as the hetero people are.
It can be quite easy to forget about how segregated things still are.
2013 should not be about that, we’re going to move way forward, fast forward!
In New York did you naturally congregate towards the gay and lesbian scene? Or was it something that you didn’t even think about?
Actually most of my friends are straight, my lifestyle in New York isn’t really a “gay lifestyle,” I’m not separated from the gays or anything like that. Even my OG Gangsta Homies in the Hood Respects me for who I am!
No one should have to separate themselves.
That in a way is more powerful and realistic, by creating and existing as if those boundaries don’t exist, how do your straight friends react to what your doing?
They realize they can’t live without me !
It seems like evolving around not having this sexual boundary is important to you.
I do not believe in boundaries, I believe in freedom in all the senses possible. You should be able to do what you want so you can create your own future. People 100 years before us created the path for what we now consider freedom and I want to be able to do the same thing.
What kind of people like that inspire you?
Honest People. Real will always recognize real. However if I had to name someone it would be Michael Jackson, I mean he was genderless.
It’s strange how people don’t really address Michael Jackson sexlessness. Do you like Prince too?
I love Prince so so much! But I probably love Michael Jackson way more. His idea of creative direction is something that I’ve been thinking about practically my whole life.
Lets talk about your role for Hood by Air, how do you collaborate with them?
I’m a consultant for Hood by Air, I’ve been working with Shayne for so long, he’s my best friend. Hood by Air is not just a luxury streetwear brand , it’s actually my lifestyle.
All fashion stems from what people wear by rejecting or manipulating the mainstream culture and that’s clearly what you and Hood by Air are doing. Did you have vivid ideas about changing your body image from a young age? Was it a feeling that you always had?
It feels great to know that our personal styles and the way we are can be translated straight to the runway . I still gag how amazing the brand is doing these days. Its so exciting.
How does it feel taking Hood By Air overseas?
It feels like Heaven On Earth :)
What do you think is next for Hood by Air?
To take it higher, higher, and more higher and gain the respect of the full Fashion World.. Not just streetwear ! As Everyone , We want to take it to the next level, redefining menswear in the pop element.
But Hood By Air isn’t just for men, women can wear it too.
That is how we can all progress, you welcome people in, you offer them different choices which they can identify with in their own ways.
Yes exactly you create for all types so everyone can reflect on it.
It must inspire people a lot. It’s powerful thing that you are all trying to do. It is also strong, having that bravery to subvert your own body image, to feel comfortable in your own body which is not expected by the mass both in your music and image.
Oh completely, and I try to do that with my music too, I try to write as genderless as possible. Even if I don’t release a song I can always give it to a straight friend to release because love is a genderless thing. We’re all experiencing so many different emotions at all times I want to try to always convey that.
How important is your own creative identity to you and the ways in which you style yourself?
I think a lot about it. Our own personal styles are the only referencing to how we design for Hood by Air. The Classics pieces by HBA are always my favourite pieces to converse about.. It’s easy, its me, its genderless.
Can you tell us about your tattoos?
I’m really into ghetto and jailhouse style tattoos. I have cherubs, I have roses, I have scriptures and diamonds
Do you get tattooed in New York?
Yes, only in New York by my homie Tyrell, he is a great tattooist I can’t wait to get back to him. I’m actually thinking about getting a neck piece.
What do you want to get?
I’m not too sure yet. I need to really sit down and think about that one.
When are you next releasing new music?
I’m in the process right now of releasing my first R&B Project which is going to change the game. This Summer .. I’m so excited
I was going to ask you about how important this notion of performance is to you in the many different outlets that you take? I feel like you are interested in having this kind of presence.
I’m now starting to realize that I can kind of sing and dance at the same time, I want to incorporate all of those things. When I go out to see people play I hate to see a stale performance in any situation. I want some life in something! When artists say that they generate their energy from a crowd I really, really believe in that.
Would you be interested in getting dancers to dance with you?
Absolutely, I’m actually looking into that now. My dream set up would be to be bear foot with candles all around me, backing singers behind me with all my friends around me smoking weed and drinking whiskey. Future cabaret!
Can you tell me about the hashtag you created # babyoilmusic ?
So if were going to create new genderless music lets create new genres too! # babyoilmusic its just a funny little attribute because you know baby oil is super sexy. When I was putting my music up on soundcloud I was looking through all the genres and none of them captured what I was doing. Everyone’s been freaking out over it!
When are your next shows?
I’m playing a few shows while I’m in Paris .. Then I’m coming back to London on the 30th of June to play with SSION at Birthdays. It’s so great that people are interested in me serenading them. I usually start my sets with a sweet opening cover.
What covers do you do?
India Arie, or maybe some Beyoncé. I like to do what ever gets the crowd going.
Fantastic and finally, what do you want us you know about you now?
I’m a simple dude. I love God, Music, People and Weed.
The Pleasure Has Totally Been All Mines <3
VIDEO directed by Helen Barr with music by Ian Isiah: Blindfolded
EDITORIAL: Shot by Sam Bayliss Ibram, styled by Jayson Hindley and make-up by Thom Walker
INTERVIEW: Reba Maybury
IMAGE 1 – JACKET – ARTIST’S OWN