Imagine you had traveled through the rural villages, banana plantations and paramilitary camps of Central America by bike; walked across hot coals and chanted with a shaman; learned the secrets of Rastafarianism in the hills of Jamaica and called both Montreal and Marrakesch, home.
How would you condense all of that into a 3-minute dancehall-based, radio-friendly pop anthem with a message? "I'm the daughter of a scientist," says Montreal's Female Hip Hop Artist of the Year, Empire Isis, née Miriam Moufide, which definitely explains the alchemy involved in building her career.
That strategic implementation of science and magic could explain how Isis is as comfortable talking shop in a room of environmentalists as she was on stage at last year's Black Arts Festival in Senegal. Her grit-pop girl power soundtracks everything from Cover Girl commercials to "Khloe and Lamar."
The Welsh-Moroccan 6-footer is a former aspiring documentary filmmaker, linguist (she speaks French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Wolof), traveler, performer, songwriter, music exec, environmentalist and certified globalist. She's also, full disclosure, one of my best friends on earth.
I caught up with Isis on Skype to talk travel, race and the road that's lead her here, to the release of her fourth album, "Crack the Code."
Tell me about your new album, "Crack the Code."
I've always talked about power and strength, but I realized after the last album that people wanted to know how I love, how I feel. Me on an emotional level or me in a not winning scenario. I've shared alot of that on this album and it was haunting, in a way, to do and now to hear it ... it's cemented forever. My favorite songs on "Crack the Code" are [haunting, bouncing, piano confessional] "Permanent Stranger" and "SOS to Freedom." I wrote "SOS to Freedom" for the anti-human trafficking campaign. I'm going to be shooting a short film for campaign soon.
What's behind the name of the album?
Crack the code is how I live; it's how I move everywhere. Everywhere you go there's a different way, a different vibe. People are programmed culturally, linguistically, religiously ... so you might not always know the elements of a culture, but you can crack that code and connect regardless. More than anything, it's understanding that we live in this global village. We're all affecting each other and yet we still have this totally individualistic way of looking at ourselves. We think that we're not interdependent and as all these natural disasters show us, tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns and polar ice cap melts, we are. You know, look at Bolivia, where [President Evo] Morales just gave Mother Nature the same rights as human beings.