It’s Never Fake with Goapele, An Original Neo Soul Architect
Photos / Tyler Rowell @itstylerrowell
Styling / Quentin Fears @mrqfears @ @scoutcreatives
Makeup / Sir Tony @therealsirtony
Hair / Khalil Long @theunfadablekhalil
With the reemergence of Neo-Soul in top charts, we spoke to one of its founders, Goapele. We were first introduced to her in 2001 with your self released debut album Closer which peaked at #63 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album Charts. As an independent artist, she sold 5,000 copies, built a loyal fan base in the Oakland/Bay area and was later noticed by Columbia records. Goapele’s voice and musical style has inspired a new generation of Neo-Soul artists and has been sampled by Drake on his mixtape Comeback Season. We talk to Goapele about her longevity, influence, politics and staying true to self in an exploitive industry.
Your name is so special and unique. Can you tell us where it’s from and it’s meaning?
Goapele in the Setswana language means “to go forward or to proceed”. Another meaning is “to scream first”. I interpret that as being willing to be the first to speak up. My name comes from my grandmother. It was her surname.
Coming from a multicultural background, having an Anti-Apartheid South African father, a New York Israeli Jewish mother and being from the Bay area affected your music?
Yes- Where I come from and where my family comes from has affected my experiences and perspective and all of that bleeds into my music. It also influenced the wide range of musical influences I’ve had. My parents played Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Marley, as well as Mariam Makeba and many other South African Jazz & Soul Artists in our house. I grew up thinking that music is not only fun to dance to or cry to, but it is meant to truly reflect us and it can be a vehicle for change in this world. Growing up in The Bay also had me immersed in the Hip Hip community, where I made my first collaborations and it influenced the kind of production I use to this day.
Your newest Ep, DREAMSEEKER seems to have a political message with the song Stand. Why was it important for you to make this song?
I have always had a wide range of subject matter on my albums. Love will always be at the forefront, but we have to be willing to talk about other things that affect our lives too. And under our current administration, who can be comfortable being silent? We have to speak about injustice when it’s right in front of our faces.
You have found longevity within your music career, and I’m sure there have been times when the industry wanted you to be someone else to sell records? How do you handle maintaining your integrity and selling your music?
The only person I know how to be is me. It is really hard for me to be fake, even for entertainment sake. It may have been easier for me if I had more songs for the radio all this time, but the way I approach my music is if I can feel it when I’m writing or recording and performing, then other people will feel it too and hopefully it will stir their soul.
Where do you see your music and career going in the future?
Music is my first love so I’ll continue wherever this journey takes me, but I’ve also started expanding in other creative areas, which is very exciting for me. For example, after I put out my fifth project: DREAMSEEKER, I started a lifestyle brand under that name. Under that umbrella, I’m currently collaborating with rising clothing designer: MeYou, on eco-friendly athleisure wear. It’s coming out in February. It combines two things I love: fashion and purpose.
What new artist are you listening to and/or like to collaborate with?
There are countless artists that I’d love to collaborate with! I’m currently listening to Miguel, H.E.R, Davido, Nao, Daniel Cesar, SZA, Big Sean, Swae Lee, Tjava … I’m enjoying a lot of new music and then I always keep the classics in heavy rotation, Prince, Al Green and more.
There seems to be a wave of new artists like H.E.R., Daniel Caesar, SZA, Jhene Aiko and more who have probably been influenced by the Greats like you, Erykah Badu and that entire Neo-Soul movement. How does this make you feel and have you noticed a younger wave of followers because of it?
It makes me feel at home. It makes me realize that the music we were creating wasn’t so niche after all. It has longevity.
People seem to think of you as this graceful, bohemian new age cool chick. What do you think would surprise people most about you?
That I’m all those things, but I don’t just fit in that box. I’m a little more ‘round the way’ than some might assume.
What’s some musical artist that you listen to that would seemingly be unexpected?
Swae Lee, Migos, Dram… I love hard-hitting bass lines!
When can we expect new music?
I’m working on a new project as we speak.
Any new tours, festival, or an appearance at Afro-Punk?
Look out for me this Spring and Summer. You can find upcoming dates on my socials and my website!
Earrings: Model’s Own. Jacket: Line and Dot @thelineanddot. Pants: Charles & Ron @charlesandron
Denim Jacket: Charles & Ron @charlesandron. Orange Jumpsuit: S. Kanouni @s.kanouni
Hat: Adorna @adorna_official. Earrings: Lingua Nigra @linguanigra. Top: Sandra Daccache @sandradaccache
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