Somewhere between the bleeding edge of modern R&B and the anti-establishment spirit of classic indie pop exists the music of Serena Isioma.
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Isioma is a well-traveled 20-year-old, Chicago-based musician. She is also a first-generation Nigerian-American whose sound is embedded into today’s alternative R&B scene. It seamlessly combines hip-hop, indie, and modern lo-fi pop elements that wouldn’t seem out of place on the next installment of the Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse film franchise. After releasing her first songs onto SoundCloud–namely the Erykah Badu-esque “Valentina” and the woozy “Heartbreak Club”–in 2019, Isioma kicked off 2020 with her career altering debut EP Sensitive.
Across the course of this COVID year, Sensitive has received widespread acclaim, showcasing an air of energy and creative thought that rightly places her in the same conversation with the likes of Frank Ocean, Solange Knowles and Janelle Monae. Moving onto her new project The Leo Sun Sets, Isioma continues to push the boundaries of her distinct style into more expansive, experimental soundscapes.
Isioma’s latest single “King” indeed reveals a trajectory of growth for this supremely talented young musician. It asserts her position about the importance of one’s own inner strength and value.
“‘King’” is about remembering your worth,” states Isioma. “I used to have a lot of rich friends. I would do anything to please them so they would let me live their lifestyles. After cutting those friends off then going through a period of isolation, I saw history repeating itself when I got in a new entanglement.”
Isioma also attributes the evolution of her collaborative relationship with producer Saint Lewis on the outcome of “King” and the significant shift in the music they were working on in the sessions for The Leo Sun Sets.
“The songs we were making that day were trash, they just weren’t it,” Isioma explains. “Then he plays this guitar riff, and I’m like, ‘Dude make this two minutes long,’ and I immediately just started writing. Then he began playing that crazy bassline that’s on the song, and I was like, ‘This sounds great.’”
When American Songwriter asked Isioma about her favorite song lyric, she cites a line from “Where This Flower Blooms,” one of the highlights from Tyler, The Creator’s 2016 LP Flower Boy that rightfully sums up the theme of “King”: “Tell these black kids they could be who they are.” American Songwriter is proud to bring it to you today.