In the 21st century music is as influential to the mental development of young people as any other form of education or media. Every so often we hear a musician who brings traditional culture and pop culture together to influence young minds, and in 2018 that is none other than Senegalese born recording artist I$$A Diop.
After being raised in West Africa’s Senegal, I$$A traveled to the USA after high school, and studied business marketing at Portland State University in Oregon. He has lived there ever since.
“My childhood in Africa shaped who I am today.” says I$$A. ” My grandmother and her story telling especially. It made me fall in love with telling stories of my own.”
Now I$$A tells stories in the form of upbeat mixed cultured ballads of love and life, like his rising pop hit “Bambi” viewed over 100,000 times on YouTube.
“Being an African Millennial is kind of an oxymoron.” exclaims I$$A. ” In some ways we are just like other millennials in developed countries. In other ways, we still do not have access to all the technology advancements that other countries have. It presents an opportunity to learn and bring the tech to the ones who lack the access.” Like many sub-saharan Africans, I$$A has had to travel abroad to find the resources he needed to effectively start his career. A journey far too many young Africans are forced to make, some immigrating to European countries and others like I$$A, immigrating to the U.S. and even Canada.
But should it be necessary to leave your homeland in order to have basic opportunities? I$$A weighs in by saying ” I realized that my actions and projects impact many people around the world. I had to travel and physically be in remote places to see how much younger artists and fans looked up to me.”
But he hasn’t forgotten where he comes from and certainly understands his role in Africa’s development. “I want to change the way the world looks at Africa. Africa is rich with culture, resources and more. Africa Is The Future!” he says with confidence. “Africa will influence the rest of the world through culture, music and fashion by 2050. This will greatly impact its growth.”
Professionally, I$$A says he has faced challenges in being a “one man band” and also arriving late to the industry and having to learn as he goes but “so far so good” he says optimistically. Inspired by multi-platinum selling recording artist and producer Akon, I$$A says it was a meeting the two of them had in 2012 that helped him believe in himself.
Now as a rising voice in crossover music, I$$A plans for the future saying “I do not like missing opportunities…I plan on traveling more and network with artists around the globe.” He has huge goals in the industry as he works to make a name for himself globally. “I would like to work with Global brands like Adidas, Coca Cola and have opportunities to impact the culture on a global scale.” he said.
“I would like to build a music and entertainment empire that spreads through continents and provides support to young talent in places where they would not necessarily receive those opportunities.” says the West african musician. He also says he’s passionate about the global fight against Sickle Cell.
We asked I$$A what advice he had for youth in his community, he replied “Believe in yourself and finish school to prove to your parents that you can do it all.” In response to what makes him different from others in his genre, he expressed “Everyone is different, everyone is unique. I just try to stay true to my journey, where I am from, where I am, where I am heading and put it in the music.”
Well we couldn’t go without asking him our ongoing poll question “If Africa was one country, where would the capital be?” Dakar, Senegal was his answer.
Author: RJ Mahdi
African American repatriate to West Africa, founder of Made In Africa Project, pan-African activist as well as business and investment consultant broker. Follow me on social media @KingRJMahdi.