IAA SPOTLIGHT: GET TO KNOW – I$$A – PORTLAND’S HOTTEST STAR!

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Some people look at I$$A and assume he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Try a wooden spoon.

Though his father is an engineer and his mother is a pharmacist – prestigious professions that would guarantee them upper-middle class status in America – I$$A’s parents were not born in America.   They’re from Senegal — a country smaller than South Dakota where the average citizen earns less than $2000 a year.

I$$A grew up in Dakar – the nation’s capital which is also unique for being the westernmost point in all of Africa. Even though his parents were considered well-to-do by Senegalese standards, they both grew up dirt poor so they encouraged Issa and his five brothers and sisters to excel in school, steering them into practical, high earning vocations like computer science and engineering. All of the kids followed the plan. Except I$$A.

I$$A loved the arts, loved music, which didn’t exactly sit well with his parents since the only people who made a living singing in Senegal were beggars. But the vision I$$A had for himself was bigger than Dakar, bigger than Senegal, bigger even than West Africa. I$$A saw himself as a man of the world, making a living singing in such exotic locations as Europe and the United States. Since he was a little boy, his dream was to come to America to seek his fortune.

As a boy, Issa used to tell his grandmother – a colorful, oral storyteller — about his dreams of coming to America and she would encourage him, asking him to remember to buy her a cell phone and to bring her to America to visit so she could know first hand what the “land of opportunity” looked like up close.

But I$$A had no hope of ever coming to America. His folks just didn’t have the money. The one hope poor West Africans have of coming to America is through a miracle network called the Diversity Visa Lottery. You submit and application and if your name is picked, you win free entry to America. Once you get there, you’re on your own but, bottom line, you’re in America. I$$A’s four brothers and sisters had tried every year to win one of the coveted Diversity Lottery spots with no success.

In 2004, on his very first attempt, Issa applied to the Diversity Visa Lottery… and won. But before he could begin making his dreams come true, his parents had to sell everything they owned to raise enough money for his plane faire.

Since landing in the United States, I$$A managed to earn a degree in Marketing from the Portland State University, perform with the likes of Akon, Kesha and Fabolous, and is now pursuing his passion – music. That is what makes his new album, “Wake Up The Bea(s)t”, so special. It is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of blood, sweat and tears that crosses two oceans and continents. His songs are about pursuing your dream, about love, identity, acceptance and achieving the type of success every young person dreams of.

I$$A dedicates the album to his late grandmother, Coumba Sy, for teaching him the value of storytelling; and to his parents, Mbarkeck and Maimouna Diop, for teaching him discipline and helping him to pursue his dream.

– Michael Ajakwe, Jr. .

 

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: What city and state are you from?

I$$A: I was born and raised in Senegal, West Africa which is home to fellow countryman AKON. I moved to the USA 11 years ago and pursued my passion for music. I currently reside in Portland, OR. Although it is a smaller market, Portland is a very artsy place. I have been able to develop my talent and hone my craft creating my own artistic direction.

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: What is your music background?

 

I$$A: Growing up in outside the USA, I was influenced by so many cultures so my music background is very diverse. I was a fan of French Hip Hop, which was known for lyrical content. But with globalization and the exportation of American culture through movies and music, I was also a huge fan of Tupac, Biggie, Boyz II Men, Usher, Whitney Houston, Bone Thugs & Harmony and so many more. Even though I did not understand the lyrics because I grew up speaking French, I fell in love with the swagger. I am also very influenced by World music, Reggae and other “Island Sounds”. So just like America, my musical background is quite the melting pot. Therefore, for the longest time, the challenge for me was to create music that could fuse all my influences and ethnic backgrounds into the one mainstream sound I developed today. I am excited to be sharing this new sound with the rest of the world!

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: What are your songs about?

I$$A: My songs are about my life experiences with love, struggles, ambition, success and pretty much every emotion I feel going through my music journey. I am a songwriter, so I have the ability to write about anything as long as I can relate to it. I generally let the music speak to me first, write melodies and then place words on top on it. So, depending on the producer I may work with, the vibe of a production will generally emanate a certain mood for me.

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: What is your favorite song to perform and why?

I$$A: I don’t perform a lot of covers, so right now my favorite song to perform is called “All About You”. It is a song I wrote, which happens to be the first single from my upcoming album “Wake Up The Bea(s)t”. This song is special to me because it really depicts who I am and why I do music. The first sentence to the song says: “It’s not about the money, it’s all about you baby”. Money is great to have but it is only a mean to get what you want out of life. I believe our true purpose is to reach happiness and someone to share your happiness with.

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: What has surprised you the most in the pursuit of a career in music?

I$$A: I think I have surprised myself the most in the pursuit of a career in music. I could have never dreamed of leaving my small town in Dakar, Senegal to live in the USA; let alone having the opportunity to grace the stage with Superstars like AKON, Jay Sean, Fabolous, Kesha, LMFAO etc… I keep surprising myself by pushing the boundaries on my mind and telling myself that I can truly be anything I put my mind to, as long as I am willing to work for it. One thing is for sure, tomorrow is not written yet so anything can happen.

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: Who are your musical influences?

I$$A: It would take a small book to cite all my musical influences, but over the years I could say that I have been influenced by the Great Michael Jackson, Usher, Akon, The Dream, Trey Songz, Ne-Yo, Tupac, Jay Z, Pharell Williams, Will.I.Am and the Black Eyed Peas, Sean Kingston, Sean Paul and so many more. I even get influenced by artists of the past like Jimmy Cliff or Marvin Gaye.

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: How would you describe your music to people?

I$$A: My music is a crossover between RnB, Hip Hop, Pop with a dose of ethnic sounds ranging from Reggae to Zouk. My vision is to be a bridge between cultures through music. The best way I know to reach that goal is to be diverse.

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: What makes you stand out from other artists?

I$$A: My background and versatility really makes me stand out from other artists. I can speak 4 languages (French, English, Spanish and Wolof), so if you think of a musician like you would a painter, I have access to more tools and types of paint to put on a canvas and express myself. I can rap and sing, produce and write, and I love trying new things and being creative with my music.

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: What would you like to see changed in today’s music industry?

I$$A: The music industry went through some traumatic changes. A lot of people are still trying to figure out how to make money in today’s industry. While there are many services out there designed to be the answer to restoring stability to the industry, we are still not there yet. This has made record labels very skittish to invest in artist development. It is now the artist’s responsibility to wear all the hats and still manage to create great music. That can be a real challenge!

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: What are some upcoming projects that you are currently working on?

I$$A: I am currently recording my first album called “Wake Up The Bea(s)t”. It is about releasing your inner potential and facing all your fears. I have so many bangers on this album! My goal is to release as much video content as possible and create audio visual art with this album. The first single called “All About You” just came out on January 31st 2015 and the public response has been amazing. I am planning on shooting the video within the next 2-3 weeks.

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I$$A: When I think about myself as an artist, I really strive to become more than just a singer or rapper. I want to build an empire. This is why my idols are people like Jay Z, Akon, Diddy, or Russell Simmons or 50 Cent. I want to build something that will last forever and have the opportunity to pass the torch or discover dreamers like me. So in 10 years, I hope to accomplish that level of success and continue to build my label and brand Mr. Supernova, LLC.

IAA INDUSTRY NEWS: How can your fans access your music and contact you?

I$$A: Fans can access my music online first through my website: http://mrsupernova.com/.

My first single “All About You” is available on iTunes (http://itunes.apple.com/album/id960388519). I have a mailing list and update my fans monthly, so they can subscribe to that to get a monthly report on my evolution with the album and more. I am also very active on social media as well. Here are my social links:

https://www.facebook.com/issamusik

https://soundcloud.com/issamusik

https://twitter.com/MRSUPNOVA

http://youtube.com/issamusic

 

 

 

 

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