NATIVE Exclusive: Namibian rapper Lioness is currently undergoing a full circle moment

‘I needed to be in hot water to evolve as an artist’

Latoya Lucile Mwoombola, fka Lioness is currently undergoing a full-circle moment as she sets out to release her third album ‘Wish You Were Here’ tomorrow. The Namibian rapper has been working on her career for a minute, and now we are finally witnessing the result; a 12-tape collection of powerful snapshots of her current state of mind.

The journey to stardom didn’t happen overnight for her; in fact, a direct and meticulous series of events have led the rapper to be where she is today. A young Lioness began her music career unknowingly when she was enrolled in music lessons. ‘My mum created the monster’ she tells me with a laugh. ‘I played the piano and my sister played the violin. She was really more of the musical one growing up, and I was the academic child. When we got older, she got a computer and had the Fruity Loops app where she would make different beats’. Watching her sister create intricate beat patterns is what inspired Lioness to start singing and writing down lyrics, and also develop her singing voice to the level it needed to be at. 

 

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My late mother was always supportive of my sister and I,  but she still expected us to have degrees. She was like “your reality is that you’re an African woman, you are black and you live in Africa, the chances of you becoming a superstar right now is not impossible but always have a backup plan right now”.

Regardless of the fact that she knew the music was her passion, after signing up for different cyphers and a deeply introspective period dedicated to growing in the field, Lioness still had to secure her medical degree before anything else. At the moment she has currently begun her medical career full time as the ‘Rona hits countries around the world. Although her asthma limits how hands-on she can be at the moment, she tells me there are still so many other ailments to treat in spite of everything else. ‘My job is so demanding, it doesn’t really ever stop just because there’s a pandemic. I guess it’s a whole lot of wave of paranoia as well.  A common cold will have everybody freaking out now so our job is a little bit harder than it normally would’.

When she’s not on duty at the hospital, she’s working round-the-clock on the 24hour helpline and scribbling down lyrics when the inspiration hits. It’s this work ethic and impressive balance of her two worlds that got her a performance slot alongside Kenya’s Nazizi at the 2018 Coke Studio Africa and a top 10 slot at Mr Eazi’s emPAWA Africa imprint.

On the eve of her album release, the Namibian doctor and artist sat with us to talk the new album ‘Wish You Were Here’, her involvement with Mr Eazi’s emPAWA Africa, her personal growth as an artist and what it means to stay true to yourself.

NATIVE: There weren’t female rappers in Africa when we were growing up. Who did you draw inspiration from when you were younger and who inspires you the most now?

LIONESS: I was as ignorant as the layperson would be in terms of female rappers in Africa. I remember Nazizi in Kenya, but only faintly. Even though we are friends now, I remember hearing of her but I didn’t follow her. I was more into entertainment in the sense that I was into pop in Africa. But I loved Brenda Fassie and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

Brenda Fassie especially because she was just a whole lot of woman – she was like fierce and she was just doing her own thing. She was just snorting her coke, she didn’t care. From that point of view, I loved that. Not the drugs or whatever, I loved how she really defied the odds and any definition. Especially that time in history where SA & Namibia were really connected. That was the next best thing for us, I admired the dancing, singing, and energy.

Internationally, I also loved Left Eye of TLC, Lil Kim, and Foxy Brown. The fearless embrace of their sexiness and femininity while still spitting hard bars won me over and really endeared them to me. Oh and I’m a Barbs for life!

NATIVE:  How did it feel going from one of the top 100 in Mr Eazi’s emPAWA programme to being one of the top ten finalists?

LIONESS: I met Mr Eazi at Coke Studio actually, and he told me about emPAWA, and then I sent him a couple of stuff which he really liked. He’s also straightforward so he would have told me if it was trash. Then I was chosen to be part of the top 100 out of thousands of entries and then I landed the top 20 list. But then some people had visa problems, so he was like you know what just come, you’re really hardworking’. So then I went there, it was intimidating at first but I needed to be there to evolve. 

NATIVE: How would you say that programme helped you evolve as an artist?

LIONESS: I needed to be in hot water to evolve as an artist. I learnt so much from them, and I made life long friends. The goal was just to be better and make each other better. It was not so really so much of the competition but really moving as a unit. I learnt so much from the mentors like Diplo, Mr Eazi, Juls and others. I met people I used to look at on my phone, like there they were in front of me, it was crazy. 

Mr Eazi is great, he didn’t want to make us famous through himself, because they would be like oh you have a feature with Mr Eazi so let’s only pay attention to that. He wanted it to be like he was the one featured on the song, not the main attraction. He really tried to focus on establishing us as individual artists and not making us live off his hype. We focused on making features with each other. 

NATIVE: Tell us about your 2018 Coke Studio Africa experience?

LIONESS: This actually came at a time when I needed this push with the international recognition. I was very intentional with my music and meticulous with all of the details. It really built me up to understand how things worked outside Namibia, because I had no clue. Just seeing the levels of expectations internationally and seeing where I was, I could sort of now open my eyes and be open that I had a lot of work that I had to put in. 

It takes a lot of work especially when you are doing things right. I really appreciated it because I’ve learnt lessons that I’ll never ever forget. I didn’t think I could sing, then I started singing and it worked out really good so it was definitely one of the milestones in my career.

 

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NATIVE: Let’s talk about the new album, Wish You Were Here, what is the inspiration behind the project?

LIONESS: I realised that my followers and listeners really connected with me more when I was my most authentic self, especially my Namibian people. The first song I wrote was actually a love song, ‘Wish You Were Here’. Because at that time, I was in a relationship and I wanted to write about something everybody has experienced or wanted to experience. When you are sitting down with another woman and things are awkward, and your man is annoying you and she’s like girl tell me about it, it’s relatable.

I wanted the people listening to me to see me as a friend and somebody who experiences things as they do. I think that love is so broad because you can express yourself in so many ways. I wanted to show them a bit about my story and love was the main thing so I carried it through the whole album. I’m still in love, currently I am. I thought I was before until I met the person that I’m with now.

NATIVE: How different is this from your previous album ‘Pride of Cliq‘?

LIONESS: Pride of Cliq was a very amateur and sophomore album, and I was really in a confused state then cause I was like do I rap rap or do I sing rap. I was confused about my sound. I think it’s a good album to compare to, and also witness the growth that I have experienced as an artist. It wasn’t a terrible album but I have learned a lot about doing things properly. Albums are really expensive and I’ve learnt to really take my time with it from choosing producers to the mix and mastering. Before I was really fixated on doing things myself because I’m an independent artist so I thought that I am just going do it by myself. 

I really tried to do things right this time, and not rush it. Because the last one was rushed, I was like okay now I have this little bit of hype I need to put something out, it was a lot of pressure. But this album it took time, it took a lot of critiquing and taking a lot off and putting stuff in; it was very extensive and very intentional. With the previous album, I didn’t necessarily have a theme and it’s not because you always need to, but I think that albums tell a story and it needs to be a collective piece. It needs to have the WOW factor.

NATIVE: What was the selection process like for the features that made the cut?

LIONESS: The people that featured on the album, were just people that made so much sense to the beat and the feel. So I don’t really know how to explain it, but I really meticulously picked artists based on the vision I had of how I wanted the songs to be like. So it was a bit of intuition and also the chemistry I had with the person on the song – it really came naturally. I thought at the end that I didn’t have any women and was sad about that, but I thought at the end that that’s okay cause it’s also my experience of love. It just happened to be like that made sense.

NATIVE: On the album, you have a mix of singing and rapping on what inspired that?

LIONESS: During our emPAWA Africa masterclass, I had a lot of one-on-one sessions with Mr. Eazi; and he encouraged me to sing and explore how much further I could take my artistry. I really took that seriously and had an honest conversation with myself where I made the decision to unapologetically try new things. I’ve seen that it worked out and it made me realise that I have different talents which make me multi-faceted. Especially after I lost my mother, I went through a very big change in my life and I had to sit down and decide a lot of things and in that process, I really just matured and decided to live life to the fullest and not ever compromise. That masterclass really made me think about how I want to be as an artist and how much more I want to dig into myself. 

NATIVE: What advice do you have for young female rappers looking to make it in the industry?

LIONESS: I think women are at liberty to do what they want now, it’s not like 10 years ago where we weren’t really allowed in the room. People just want to see greatness and who is worth their money. If you understand where you want to go, I don’t think there’s anything that is going to hinder it and we all have a purpose in life and if it’s music, you just just have to run with it. It takes time, progression and consistency and for me, my biggest motto is consistency.

Keep proving yourself to yourself. Don’t care about other people’s opinions unless you find it to be constructive, cause a lot of time a lot of women are like “I think you need to be more this or that”.  I was told once that I need to be sexier and I was like “no I don’t, it’s you that thinks I need to be sexier”. My talent speaks for itself, ride it out and see how far it goes. 

Stream ‘Wish You Were Here’ below.

Featured image credits/Lioness


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