At just 17 years old, Kai Imani is further off in the beginning stages of her career than most. The musician/singer/producer (according to her Instagram bio @kai.imani) is on the rise, and her passion for music shows through with her fun and approachable attitude. Although Multi is based on the east coast, I was lucky enough to secure a brief FaceTime interview with Kai:
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A: My name is Kai. My stage name, or artist name, is Kai Imani. I’m 17; I go to high school in Long Beach. I live in LA.
Q: What does a typical day in your life look like?
A: Typically, I wake up at around 5 o’clock, and it’s kind of a drive from my house to my school; it’s about 20 minutes. The day is normal, you know, with classes, but I guess I try to fit as much of my music and my music career into my schedule as I possibly can. I’m taking a guitar class; that’s my first period. There, we’ll practice songs that are assigned, but after, I’ll stay a little bit and try to make my own stuff, or just get in extra time [for] practicing.
At break, I’ll go into my guitar teacher’s class, and he teaches me piano, so I’ve been doing that. At lunch, sometimes I’ll go in the band room and I don’t know if you saw my videos on Instagram, but the people who are playing for me in the background are part of my school band. I met all of them at school, and I’ll practice with them, or we’ll come up with stuff, or I’ll just sit in there and listen. And then I’ll go home. I get home pretty late, so sometimes I’ll try to practice producing or playing guitar. I first started producing on GarageBand, and so I have [the app] on my phone. Throughout the day, I’ll try to dedicate some time to that, too, when I have breaks.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music? For now, do you see yourself continuing down that path?
A: Yes, definitely. I always loved to sing because my mom sings, and I just grew up around music. I used to do talent shows and stuff like that, but I think when I really decided that I wanted to do music was at the end of my tenth grade year, [when] I went to a Willow Smith show, actually. It was free, and it was in Pasadena. I went with my friend, and I guess just seeing them have fun and do what they love [and get] support [as a result of that] just inspired me. I think that’s what started it all off because I made so many connections from going to that show.
Q: Do you consider yourself creative, and if so, in what ways?
A: Yeah, I think so. I consider myself creative. I don’t just limit it to music; I do a lot of other stuff. I do photography, art—like, painting and stuff… I like clothing; I like fashion. In those ways I’m creative. I try to incorporate creativity in everything. I think growing up in LA and in Long Beach and seeing the different types of people… I guess it’s urban culture, my aesthetic. Also, nature. I have a whole bunch of crystals [on] my [windowsill]. I don’t know, stuff like that.
Q: In what ways does it affect you, your work, your sources of inspiration, or your role as a creative person to be a POC?
A: I guess [that] being a person of color, music-wise, there are certain things that people tend to stereotype people of color [as] drawn to. Most of the time, African Americans don’t like rock or alternative [music], but we’ve grown so much, as a society, from that, so I think that just seeing people like Willow Smith and people in that kind of genre, and seeing Afropunk— I think that it inspires me a lot [to] see people do what they love, despite the norms.
Q: In what ways do you keep yourself motivated, interested, and excited about your work?
A: I think by being patient. I was just talking to my mom about that, actually. Being patient about my work and just continuing to try new things. I listen to a lot of different types of music, so I think that also helps. I listen to a lot of alternative and electronic music. I listen to a lot of jazz; I listen to rap.
Q: To whom or to what do you look up to? What influences you?
A: I think my mom is the one that I look up to. Like I said earlier, she sings too, and she used to want to make music as her career, but you know, things happen. She’s always pushing me, and I always see her doing what she loves to do, despite all the busyness in her schedule.
Q: What do you love and fear the most?
A: I think my family—I love them the most. I don’t really have a lot of fears like drowning and stuff like that. I guess not being able to do what I love—yeah, that’s definitely it. If I wasn’t able to [have] a career that I loved, and I had to sit in a cubicle all day for work—that’s one of my biggest fears.
Q: Where can we find your stuff?
A: Probably on my SoundCloud, but first on my Instagram. That’s probably where it’ll be until I build up.