Global Vision, Local Approach: An Interview with I$$A Before First Thursday's The Thesis

Vortex Music Magazine

Set to rock Kelly's Olympian on First Thursday as part of this month's stacked bill of local hip-hop talent, do not miss his set of world music-influenced but Portland-made hip-hop alongside Karma Rivera, DMarx and Verbz on the ones and twos.

I$$A at Peter's Room in December 2015—click to see more photos by Tojo AndrianarivoI$$A at Peter's Room in December 2015—click to see more photos by Tojo AndrianarivoAll of us involved with The Thesis are looking forward to bringing you a great show this First Thursday, November 3 as always. DMarx will be promoting his latest release, Easel, and Karma Rivera returns to the Kelly's stage after absolutely slaying a headlining performance at a Rontoms Sunday Sessions last month.

What separates The Thesis from other hip-hop shows around town is that we constantly strive to bring you the most eclectic lineups possible. It's that desire to bring something fresh and new to the table that makes me most excited to see I$$A this month. We've hosted so many great talents on our stage but we've never really represented the world music-influenced pocket of the Portland hip-hop scene.

Why are you excited to perform at The Thesis this month?

I have performed many shows over the past few years. Some international performances opening for Akon, some local. So I can say that I have experienced a wide spectrum as an upcoming artist. While I don't get nervous anymore stepping on stage, I am always excited to perform in front of a quality audience and leave my heart on stage. Out of all the recurring events I have seen in Portland, I consider The Thesis to be one of the most honest showcases of local talent in the city of Portland. You can tell that the people are passionate about music and are able to connect with the artist.

Generally speaking, different shows obviously have different vibes. Some shows feel manufactured, leaving you unsatisfied; some shows have soul, making you wonder how you found this gem and leaving you wanting more. This is how I felt when I attended The Thesis. My first time attending The Thesis, I actually scored some free tickets to go watch a famous hip-hop artist at one of Portland's most prestigious venues or pay $5 to attend The Thesis. I decided to go to both and I can honestly say that I felt more stimulated as a fan of music by The Thesis. I have watched other artists get on stage and do their thing. Now I am excited to have the opportunity to connect with the audience at The Thesis, maybe try something new and take risks.

For those uninitiated, what should people expect from your live set?

I$$A opening for Young Thug at the Roseland Theater in October 2015—click to see more photos by Nathan HarrisI$$A opening for Young Thug at the Roseland Theater in October 2015—click to see more photos by Nathan HarrisThe thing about my music is that I have a very wide range because I was born in Senegal, West Africa, speaking four languages by the age of 18. In fact, I had to create my own sound this year, which I named "TropicHop" because what I do is not just hip-hop, trap, R&B, pop or dancehall. I had to truly connect with myself, my origins, what made me who I am today, what inspires me in the present, and my vision for the future. My music has global appeal with a local approach. Therefore, depending on the event, I can draw inspiration from all the different musical genres that influenced my "TropicHop" sound while keeping a recognizable energy and staying true to the I$$A sound. I will definitely perform my most popular song to date: "Sleep On You" featuring Tory Lanez [listen below].

Who in the Portland hip-hop scene do you look to for inspiration?

I really respect the homie Cool Nutz. He is one of the few people in the music scene who has accomplished so much for Portland and still took the time to support me, watch me grow and give me advice along the way. When it comes down to inspiration, I stay focused on myself and I let my dreams and potential reach inspire me. My vision and approach is different than most people you would consider "local." I want to become a musical bridge between continents. This is why I keep a global vision while maintaining a local approach.

Who's your favorite DJ in town?

It is impossible to choose only one because I attribute my success to the DJs in town who support me and play my songs in the clubs even when I am not present. I appreciate all the DJs but here are some of my favorites: Mello Cee, Problem Solver, Jack Garibay, Danny Mercury, Easy Egg, Jupiter William, Diesel, Evil One, Gigahurtz, A-Trane, Quaz, Kwame, Nature, Rappy, Playtime, Pr11mus, Solo, RoboPat, Gangsigns, Rockwell, TJ, Jenkins, OSO Fresh, Mez, Sugar.

Best place in town to grab a drink?

I don't drink much, but you can catch me every weekend at Shake Bar, Fortune, Tube, Black Book, Bar XV, Saucebox, Century, White Owl, Jackknife or Fifth Avenue Lounge.

Next month, The Thesis will be bringing you a pair of shows to celebrate our two-year anniversary. Up first is the Kelly's show you've come to expect on First Thursday, December 1, and the second will be an all-ages affair on Friday, December 2. Until then, First Thursday, November 3 is your chance to see Karma Rivera, I$$A, DMarx and Verbz for just $5.

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