Lila Iké– Reggae’s New Sound and Star

Lila Iké | In episode 83 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks with rising star singer/songwriter Lila Iké who is part of a movement of women from Jamaica leading reggae music’s next wave

Lila Iké rocks to her own melody, a fusion of contemporary reggae with elements of soul, hip hop, and dance hall. We talk about her producer/mentor Protoje, the enduring legacy of Lauryn Hill and how she and fellow women recording artists like Koffee, Sevana and Jaz Elise are changing the game.

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Q&A

 

Over this year of the pandemic, I’ve been expanding my musical horizons, knowing that sometimes you have to dig deeper than what’s readily available to find something you truly love. I’ve been a fan of KEXP, the listener supported radio station out of Seattle for a while. But recently, I got hooked on Positive Vibrations with Kid Hops, a weekly program dedicated to reggae. I’ve been a big fan of reggae and its dub ska and dance hall antecedents, but what I heard was something new. That’s where I first encountered the music of Lili Ike, my guest today. Initially, it was the voice that grabbed me. Sweet but not innocent, smooth but expressive. Then came the lyrics, personal yet universal, real and inspirational. Then of course came the soul, a sense that here was someone talking to you who was wise beyond her years. Fusing contemporary reggae with elements of soul, hip hop, and dance hall, I’d found a new contemporary sound that moved me, body and soul, emotionally as well as musically. Continuing my investigation, I realized that Lila was not alone as a woman in the notoriously male-dominated world of reggae. That there are other women coming up and that we have perhaps arrived at a reggae revival moment, a time for reggae to reinvent itself to once again become a force for inclusivity, carving out a lane for women in the global dialogue for social justice. Her debut EP, The ExPerience, is out now, and her first full-length album is expected soon. So welcome Lila Ike.

 

Lila: [00:01:56] 

Hey, thanks so much for having me. Thanks for saying all of those really nice stuff. I appreciate it.

 

David: [00:02:02] 

Well, you know, it’s easy to do when it’s- when you’re telling the truth sometimes, right? So let’s start with the voice. I mean, when did you realize that you had a voice? Did you sing around the house, was this something that was a family thing as well?

 

Lila: [00:02:16] 

Yeah, I would definitely be singing around the house. My mom is really into music, so she’s the one that would be playing the records and she’d often ask us to sing along. My other sisters, I have three other sisters, they wouldn’t necessarily always be into the music that my mom was playing, she loves really old reggae music, you know. They more into pop. So I’d be the one that’s there singing with her. I guess that’s around the age of like five or six. And as I got older, I realized, you know, I’m really into this music. So I started doing my own research and continued singing.

 

David: [00:02:58] 

So you had it in mind at some point in those years, when you were still living at home that you wanted to be a singer and write songs and be an artist?

 

Lila: [00:03:13] 

You know, it was kind of like a childish fantasy, to be honest. When I really felt I would like to be an artist, I remember watching, Michael Jackson perform. And I don’t know what it is about Michael, but, you just see him and just, wow, you know, that must be really cool to be able to be onstage, and so many people are just so into his music. And it was just something to see, you know? I didn’t necessarily make up my mind then, okay, this is what I really want to do with my life. But I thought about it and thought, “You know, this would be cool if I was like a superstar.” [laughs]

 

David: [00:03:54] 

[laughs] It had to be a super star, right?

 

Lila: [00:04:00] 

Yeah. For sure.

 

David: [00:04:01] 

So as I dug deeper into, this new music that was coming up, that was interesting to me, that I wanted to learn more about, I found out about this In.Digg.Nation Collective company of Grammy nominated reggae star Protoje, where you were more or less became one of his singers. He signed you to the independent label, a management company, and he also has these other artists that I really like too. So it was amazing that not only did I find out you were there, but also Savannah and Jaz Elise as well are part of this whole collective group. So what’s going on over there? Tell me a little bit about that.

 

Lila: [00:04:44] 

Yeah, It’s a really special, um, team to be a part of. I met Protoje when I move, from my hometown in Christiana almost six or seven years now. It was a time when I had my most freedom, like I could do whatever I wanted to do, I could go anywhere. Cause while I was living with my mom, I didn’t have access to much. And back in the country, there wasn’t a lot of platforms to sing and perform, even if I was allowed to go. So I moved to Kingston after like two and a half years of university, in order to do a job, because I had to stop going to school. While living here, that’s when I started meeting a bunch of other creatives, and they start bringing me to different spaces. At the time, however, my really good friend from high school was already working with Protoje, she was an intern for him and, you know, she’d always be telling me, “Yo, you need to listen to his music.” I was still pretty much into just old reggae music. I have a disc of Jaz Elise and Chronixx. And I actually started listening, and I was like, “You know, this is really cool music.” So I moved here, she invited me to his album launch that he was having for Ancient Future. I met him there, we had a really brief conversation with me saying, “Hopefully one day, you know, you can hear my music.” And, I think a year and a half later, he reached out to me on social media to say, you know, he did in fact hear something and heard about me performing at different jam sessions and everybody saying, you know, “This girl is really talented.” And so he’d love to meet up and discuss what my plans were, as it relates to my career. And so I connected with him, one evening at his home studio, and that’s actually when I wrote my first two singles. So that’s how that link with Protoje came about, I had heard Savanna’s music before. Actually, I heard a cover that she did of Amy Winehouse and thought it was so cool. Eventually I got signed to the label and recently signed another singer called Jaz Elise. And it’s just a really comfortable space to create from. Protoje is very chill, very laidback, he encourages us to just do our own thing, you know? Rock to our own melody. There’s no rules and regulations. He’s just there to guide with his wealth of knowledge, being in the music industry so long and being there when reggae music began to take a turn where a lot of young people were getting involved in the sounds and all of that, with different influences such as rap and R&B and everything. It’s just a really good person to have as a guiding light through all of this. And then also having other Millennials, you know, my girls to talk about different stuff, different struggles that we as women will face and face in the industry. It’s a really comfortable space to work from.

 

David: [00:07:58] 

It was great that you were able to find a place like that. A year and a half you said you waited, that’s a lot of time in some people’s lives, isn’t it? Weren’t you like, “Oh my god, sign me.” You didn’t ry to make the connection Were you singing on the side while this year and a half was going on?

 

Lila: [00:08:20] 

Yeah. What it was is that I was- I was so busy with doing a lot of stuff while I was here. Music wasn’t initially my central, like my main focus, cause I was working, I was going back to school. My main thing was I need to finish this degree. I told my mom I was gonna move out and get a job, and get this school thing done. That’s what I was really focused on. Music was the part of me that I really couldn’t ignore, wherever it is that there is a jam session after work, I’m leaving, I’m going. Also I just don’t like pressuring people or like being too up front. I’d much rather let the work speak. Which is exactly what happened, you know? I’m pretty sure after just inviting me to his studio a couple times, which is a conversation I’ve had with him since me being signed and us becoming really good friends, he’s like, “One of the main things that I respected about you was that even though, you know, I was linking you and you had access to me, you weren’t immediately ready to just stop everything that you were doing and say, ‘Hey, Protoje seems interested in me and my craft.’ You were still going to work, you were still going to school.” The first time me and him ever did anything together musically, he has a song called Flight Plans, and I actually recorded my part of that song, cause he had invited me to studio to come and do some ad libs. It was a very hectic time for me with school. I had a lot of deadlines that I had to meet. So while at the studio, I was doing an assignment and I fell asleep. So he walked me up to do my part, cause I had to wait until he was- was working on a whole project, his royalty free project. And so I had to wait until he went through, you know, what he was doing with the songs. I took the time to kind of finish up my work, and I feel asleep. And I remember him waking me up to say, “Hey, you still wa- do the- the ad libs for me? Are you still gonna do the ad libs for me?” And I even said no at one point, cause I was like, “Oh my god, what’s happening?” I was so out of it when I woke up. And a friend of mine that was there with us, he was like, “Yo, Protoje just asked you to be a part of a song with him and you’re telling him no? You better get in there and get it done.” So I was really just focused on whatever it is that was going on for me at the time, cause I was living here by myself, I had to be paying my own bills. My mom was back home expecting me to come home with that degree. I really had a lot going on. So for me the time that I wasn’t immediately thrown into being an artist and getting signed. I developed patience and just understanding that the music business don’t necessarily work like that. Because even after getting signed, I didn’t immediately become the biggest thing. We still had to do a lot of work and a lot of development and all the jamming that I was doing, and the karaokes, I was eventually training my voice for it to be where it is at right now. Cause I’ve never been in a choir or anything. Never got any formal- formal training. So everything kind of worked out.

 

David: [00:11:40] 

As you mentioned, these other women that was a part of this collective, let’s call it, a lot of times there’s a lot of competition with the women in popular culture, right? In music, you hear, whatever, Cardi B and, Rhianna or Megan the Stallion, whoever. Beefing, going back and forth. You don’t know much is true and how much is just part of the game, it’s just a vibe that’s out there. And it doesn’t seem to be something that you’re interested in doing.

 

Lila: [00:12:22] 

Yeah, for sure. For sure. Definitely. The thing about the women that are coming up now, or the women that I am familiar with and really close with in music, Savannah, Naomi Cowan, Jaz Elise, we all understand what it is like to be where we all are at. We understand the work that it takes to get there, we all had our own personal struggles with dealing with parents and everything else. So it’s kind of like everybody’s just really happy for everybody, and everybody wants everybody to all be there because then we’ll all be there together. Everybody’s just genuinely happy for everybody. I listen to- to Jaz Elise’s project ever since it was coming out. My two favorite songs on it, I’m walking around the house, I’m singing it. We link up, we chat, we part. It’s not even always about music with us, because we’re genuinely just really good friends with each other. So I feel like developing a relationship like that, and also realizing that we are also each other’s safe space in music. We can vent about stuff. I can go to a studio and it’s not just all men who are usually so opinionated you can’t get your voice in. You know, with the whole movement right now with what’s happening with so many women breaking at the same time, and everybody having their own style and their own sound, instead of being jealous or- or envious, you can be inspired. When I first saw Savannah perform, I was blown away, I’m like, “Okay, I need to start working on my vocals. I need to start delving deeper into actually learning how to sing.” You know, when I saw Naomi, I just thought, “This girl’s style is so cool.” You know? Like I met Jaz Elise and immediately I was blown away the same way. So it’s like everybody is working together to build everybody, because, as I said, we all want to be there wherever there is, we want to be there together. Cause it’s fun, it’s comfortable. And I don’t know, I just feel like the competitive environment is extremely toxic. And music business is already a toxic space to work in, so why add to that?

 

David: [00:14:45] 

Do you find that, in Kingston, giving it’s heritage of music, creativity is so much part of the brand of Kingston in Jamaica, and music. It’s been part of people’s lives, probably everybody that’s alive today probably, heard some of that music even if they’ve never been there. Is that a unique thing to Kingston? I feel like there’s music coming out of every wall, behind every window. There’s a community of musicians that work together and play together, and just sort of live together. Is that accurate do you think?

 

Lila: [00:15:26] 

Yeah. Definitely. I feel like the thing about Kingston is that it’s not that it’s the only space in Jamaica where creativity and- and talent is- is being bred from, but it usually has the most at one time. So when it was Bob Marley and The Wailers with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, and Studio One, all of these spaces were in Kingston. That’s where everybody had to go and record. And that’s where the music was breaking from, you know? Then came the Mavados, the Vybz Kartel, Beeny Bounty, again, Kingstonians, even the dancehall culture with Boogle? And all the dancers coming out to Kingston it has always just been that very vibrant spot for creativity and art. It’s like the scene. When you watch a lot of the old movies, most of it is usually centered around Kingston. And I just feel like the whole energy from that has definitely continued through generations. Like if I go back home and I meet other creatives down by where I’m from, they’re like, “You cannot really bust from the country.” But it’s just the same with Kingston, there’s so many- it’s just a very vibrant city to be in as an artist and as a creative. But trust me, there is definitely a lot going on. As you can see with Skillibeng and all those artists from the east side, you know, from Bull Bay and Saint Thomas, in Popcaan, there’s an uprising from that area also. In the country, there’s like Montego Bay, there’s a lot of artists from there that’re also doing really well. But the thing too is that when the artists, when they come up and they create and they begin to shine their light out in the world, they’re all coming to Kingston, you know? The creativity and the art is actually also usually moving and gathering in this space.

 

David: [00:17:32] 

And this new sound that you’re a part of and that I identify, and I feel like a lot of it is female-driven, for a time reggae was kind of in a rut, I might say. The great old sounds was really what people were listening to, and it was really hard for anybody new to break through, to compare with greats of the past. But having this new spin on it, where you embrace music, all music, really, and incorporate it as part of the reggae experience seems to be something that’s very new. And maybe because it’s women-driven, cause to me that seems to be other element that’s new, that’s gonna make it break out again in a way that hasn’t been since the good old days.

 

Lila: [00:18:28] 

Yeah, definitely. For sure. Women being on the frontline right now, leading exceptionally if we should zoom in and take a look especially with what Koffee has achieved, in such a short period of time in our career, definitely begun to, one, shed a lot of light on Jamaican music in a much deeper realm. Like people are not just seeing, “Oh yeah, that’s a reggae artist from Jamaica, or that’s a dancehall artist from Jamaica.” They’re zoning in. Labels want to come and sign artists, produce us from all around, different artists want to come to Jamaica and work with Jamaican writers. So it has definitely ignited a light again for Jamaican music and Jamaican culture. And then when you come in and you realize that, “Oh, it’s not just Koffee, there’s like so many other cool, talented, exceptional women down there doing their thing.” It’s a beautiful thing to see, seeing that women usually have always been the underdogs in Jamaican musical history. I think with the new sounds now, back again to the whole Koffee thing, when Toast became a thing, people didn’t necessarily know what genre to put it under, you know. This doesn’t really sound like a reggae song, it’s not purely a dancehall song, what is it? And so I feel that kind of opened up people’s taste in music from the whole rigid aspect of Jamaica’s reggae and dancehall. But if you look at it it’s something that we’ve been working on for years now. When Protoje and Chronixx and all them begun to do music, I personally could hear the heavy influence of hip hop and rap in their music. You know, it’s almost like they were rapping over reggae intrumentals, you know? 

 

David: [00:20:31] 

Mhm. And Drake and others, yeah.

 

Lila: [00:20:32] 

Yeah. I feel like people just got a bit more open right now to the sounds, which eventually gave a little bit more confidence to creatives who were not trying to do reggae or dancehall, that were just in the grey area and wanted to be heard and seen. And it’s a beautiful thing to experience.

 

David: [00:20:52] 

Yeah, and remember, it’s International Women’s Day or month, right? So it’s a good subject to be talking about as well.

 

Lila: [00:20:57] 

Right.

 

David: [00:20:59] 

Your first single, Biggest Fan, in 2017, which was a tribute to your mother, I guess, right? Is that fair to say? 

 

Lila: [00:21:09] 

Yes, definitely.

 

David: [00:21:11] 

And I know that was a complicated relationship. You mentioned earlier that you had to leave home, your mother wasn’t really into you performing, going in that direction. So given all of that, why would your first record be about her?

 

Lila: [00:21:29] 

Well for that exact reason, you know? That was kind of like an open letter to my mom, to be honest. Because moving to Kingston, I didn’t tell her what I was doing. She was under the impression that I’m just going to school, coming home, going to work. I remember when I first moved, about like the first six months of me being here, she would call me every single day. There are times I’d be in the studio and have to step outside and pretend like I was at home in bed. Cause I just didn’t want her worrying or anything like that. So for me it was like if I’m going to take on this music thing and become an artist, I was already blessed with the resources and that space and a mentor to create with. The next step is to just make a really, really great song. And I feel like the first song that the world should be introduced to Lila Ike, it definitely should be a song where my mom was also being, you know, personally introduced to me as an artist. I wanted her to feel safe, I wanted her to feel proud, and I just wanted her to understand that with everything that she’s done, I understand where it’s coming from. I understand why she had to be overprotective and anything. Me, not growing up with a dad, I really know why she was the way she was. And so this was kind of like a letter to say, “You know, I got it.” [laughs]

 

David: [00:22:52] 

I got this.

 

Lila: [00:22:52] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:22:52] 

What was her reaction?

 

Lila: [00:22:56] 

What happened is that I remember her calling me the first time she heard anything about this song. It was playing on the radio, but she hasn’t heard it yet. I didn’t send it to her. She was saying, “Oh, you know, everybody in the community’s saying that her daughter has a song and how come she hadn’t heard it or anything.” And I’m like, “Yeah, mah, don’t worry yourself. You’ll soon hear it.” Cause I always wanted the first time with her hearing the song, shouldn’t be me sending it to her. I wanted the experience of her hearing it on the radio. So I didn’t send it to her or anything. And I remember the day when she heard it, and she called me. The song was playing in the background, you hear her screaming, crying [laughter], and, you know, so it was a very beautiful, emotional thing.

 

David: [00:23:39] 

Sweet. Yeah, that worked out well it sounds like. In the beginning, you toured Europe, right, with Protoje? You performed on his shows as part of his bill. Was that your first time leaving the country of Jamaica at that time?

 

Lila: [00:23:57] 

Yeah. The first time I left Jamaica was when I joined him on tour in London. I was there before though. I kind of went on a trip and then we met up. That’s the first time I ever touched the stage. And yeah, it was the first time I was leaving Jamaica.

 

David: [00:24:15] 

So how was your reaction? You know, starting to get an idea of what’s going on? London and, I know, Switzerland. I mean, you did a European tour, you did some US touring as well.

 

Lila: [00:24:26] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:24:27] 

So did that have an impact on you, in terms of how you saw your future, whether creatively or just, as a professional?

 

Lila: [00:24:38] 

Creatively, definitely. I feel like getting out into the world, coming out of Jamaica, seeing other places, seeing other people. Cause I’m definitely inspired by everything. I’m inspired by everything I see, feel, taste, touch, whatever it is. So experiencing different cultures and seeing different people go about their life in a different space immediately the whole world just felt way much bigger than I thought it was. I’m walking up and down on a street where nobody knows who I am, I’m just chilling, like people are just going about their lifestyle. It definitely impacted my creativity for sure. It created a kind of somber vibe for me to look at life from. As it relates to my experience with being there and what I thought it would be, it was definitely different. I actually thought a tour bus- was like way bigger. [laughter]

 

David: [00:25:35] 

Everybody suddenly, “Hey, it’s a little too close in here.” Right?

 

Lila: [00:25:39] 

I’m like, “How do they fit so much stuff in these?” You know? The bunkbed experience, I want to say that’s probably one of the best sleeps I’ve had. When you’re driving in that thing and you’re sleeping, it’s really a lovely experience. What I also realized was that being on tour is a lot more work than it is for fun and games, you know? It’s like every other night, it’s show after show, you wake up, you have the first half of the day and then it’s sound check time, before you know it you have to start getting ready, before you know it it’s show. And I mean, I love performing and everything. I- I’ve been very blessed to be able to do that around the world. I was just saying, you know, I really- I don’t know why I thought it was, “Oh, I’m out here in Switzerland having a drink on the beach.” [laughs] You know? “Then I’m gonna hit this stage.” It’s definitely not like that.

 

David: [00:26:29] 

No.

 

Lila: [00:26:29] 

So it definitely encouraged me to, “Okay, this- this stage after stage, each night performing, definitely I need to work on my fitness. Definitely need to work on singing techniques and everything.”

 

David: [00:26:43] 

And did you have a chance to go out into the clubs and see what that was like as well in these various places?

 

Lila: [00:26:50] 

In relation to performing or just in general?

 

David: [00:26:54] 

In general. Like when you weren’t performing.

 

Lila: [00:26:57] 

I did. I did. Because usually after I perform, I usually go in the club and hang out with our merch person. And I would get to stand from behind the crowd and experience people experiencing the show. I was very nervous the first time that I had to perform. I can’t remember exactly where, but their main language wasn’t English, and I’m like, “How are these people gonna understand what I’m saying?” Cause my earliest songs, most of it usually in the Jamaican dialect, cause I write the way I speak, you know? So I was like, “Oh my god, they’re not gonna get what I’m saying.” But it was such good vibes performing and everything. It’s a pretty interesting thing. Different than Jamaica, but interesting.

 

David: [00:27:48] 

Were you interested in new kinds of music that you might hear there, or different kind of beats people were using there compared to what you were seeing or listening to?

 

Lila: [00:28:00] 

For sure. For sure. When I went to London that was the first time I was experiencing grime music. And that kind of created my love for one of my favorite artists to this day, Dave Santan from London. I remember there was this song that was really big at the time, it was him and J Hus, and I was like, “This guy is exceptional.” And I started going deep into grime, and for like the whole time I’m back in Jamaica, Protoje was like, “Okay, are you able to become a grime artist? [laughter] Because this is all you’re listening to.”

 

David: [00:28:38] 

He’s gotta keep you at home. Don’t let her out of the house.

 

Lila: [00:28:41] 

[laughs] I definitely tapped into what was going on over there, for sure.

 

David: [00:28:49] 

Now you’ve came out with a remix of your single, Thy Will, featuring Skillibeng. A very spiritual song. Does it only refer to God’s power, Thy Will, or is there something more that you’re trying to get across there?

 

Lila: [00:29:06] 

I haven’t actually thought about it outside of that concept of God. But for me, it was just observing a lot of things and even looking at my life personally and seeing, just how things would change over time and not matter what, not matter how I’d feel about something, I remember writing where I’m coming from, and it was a whole back and forth with me and Protoje, cause I was like, “This song is just not it. People are not gonna get it.” I remember having a conversation with him, and he’s like, “Why did you write this song? What were you feeling? You know, why did you sing that song?” I sat with him and we spoke about it, and he’s like, “Okay, well, you know, I remember the first time you wrote this song. I remember how excited you were about it. I remember how emotional you got. It’s gonna do it’s thing. Maybe it’s not gonna be the biggest song in the world, but it is what it is, and it is what you wanted it to be.” You know? And so I think the whole idea behind that, well especially growing up in a household where my mom was a very religious person. She really was into Christianity and us having to pray all the time. I feel like that aspect of divinity, I keep it in my music throughout in honor of her and also just for me personally, I’m a spiritual person. I may not say, “Okay, then I pray to Jesus or Buddha or Haile Selassie.” But I do believe that there is a creator of all things, and no matter what we are going on with down here, what will be will be, you know? And that’s kind of the idea I wanted to express through that song, while highlighting, a lot of just negativity that was happening in the world.

 

David: [00:30:53] 

All these songs that you mentioned, Where I’m Coming From, Forget Me, Thy Will, they’re very personal songs. They’re also general in the sense that you don’t have to have had exactly your experience.

 

Lila: [00:31:04] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:31:05] 

But it’s something everyone can relate to. So that seems to be a lane that you’re carving out for yourself as well. To be able to write about personal things and make them general for everyone to be able to experience. Which is a very powerful thing. It- it reminds me of, you know, let’s go talk about Bob Marley for a minute. You know, the sort of the roots of reggae.

 

Lila: [00:31:28] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:31:30] 

Where that was his huge power. To be able to do that, to move people with his music, whether it’s through action or to feel or to care, you to be a human being. Is that how you kind of look at your mission as well in your music?

 

Lila: [00:31:49] 

One hundred percent. For sure, cause for me it’s like even if I should just look at how I create music, I’m not one to, “Okay, Lila, I can hear this rhythm, write a song.” For me, it- it all starts from me feeling something. I’d be walking down the road and somebody says something, and I was just like, “Woah, that’s an extremely remarkable statement.” And it brings me back to a moment that I had, and then the whole song is kind of created that way. I hardly even write lyrics down physically. I’m more of a I’m gonna sing this song into perfection. Sing it into where I want it to be. So definitely for me it’s deep, it’s personal, I’m trying to go much deeper, cause, you know, the same breath is like I also have a problem with being completely open, which is why I write these songs and I don’t go as deep. I go deep enough for people to feel, and still be able to understand. For example, when I sang Life of a Queen and a concrete jungle, and where I’m coming from, I could have gone so much deeper into why I would refer to where I’m at as a concrete jungle. I could have gone so much deeper into my experiences. A lot of really, really horrible stuff, you know? But I just decided, I don’t want to put negativity out there. I don’t want to contribute to the negative word song, I just like to encourage people that no matter what it is that you’re going through, just remember that you’re strong. You know? So for me, it’s definitely a personal journey. I’m basically just writing my life story as I go along. Maybe there’ll be other tracks that are about someone else’s experience, but I try to keep it as real as possible cause when I’m performing those songs and it’s time for me to sing it, I don’t want it to be this imaginary story that I made up, because I want to ensure that the energy that I’m able to deliver with when I’m delivering the songs is one that somebody who’s listening or standing in the crowd, you don’t feel like you just paid your money to come and see this superstar. You paid your money to come and experience something and feel like, “Okay, I’m not the only one in the world.” Because if this great person is going through that and made it through it, then I can too. You know?

 

David: [00:34:14] 

That’s a very important skill to have. I think of Lauryn Hill, or Sade, or even Billie Holiday, people who were able to transform their lives into a bigger story that moves, so many more people. Are those people that I mentioned, do you feel connected to them in any way?

 

Lila: [00:34:37] 

For sure. Lauryn Hill is my heart and soul in music. She’s definitely my teacher as it relates to just being vulnerable and alone with the music to just become one with it and deliver to people the real. She’s definitely somebody I grew up listening to, still listen to, and, just in awe of her work. Billie Holiday, I- I feel the power is in the voice with that particular artist. Just the sound you get when you listen to that, when you listen to her music, it’s like, “Wow, this is exceptional.” So for sure, like those are definitely people I look up to in music.

 

David: [00:35:19] 

And with Lauryn Hill, you know, there’s also tragedy there, as well.

 

Lila: [00:35:24] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:35:24] 

She had to stop singing, so much happened to her in her life. So it’s a cautionary tale as well.

 

Lila; [00:35:33] 

Exactly.

 

Lila: [00:35:35] 

For sure. For sure. I always say I need her to write a book.

 

David: [00:35:38] 

[laughs] Yeah. That would be fantastic.

 

Lila: [00:35:39] 

Before- I’m done with music, I would love her to write a book. Because not only musically, the amount of lives that she would be able to change, just coming forward and speaking about her experience. Not that she’s obligated to, because within her music you can hear a lot of the pain, you can hear a lot of what she has gone through if you listen and think about it. Like I remember listening to a song called Zion, and I just started crying. Like I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be so young, to be so talented, have the entire world just looking at you and expecting and expecting. And it’s like when you’re that great, people, they just want more, they just feel like, “Okay, everything you do from this point forward is going be judged, along your accomplishments thus far.” And- and I can’t imagine having a child and being in the situation, having- and having to think, “Okay, what am I gonna do with this unborn child within me, and for sure on the other end of it there was personal issues going on with her baby father and everything. It was just something that broke me down as a woman, you know?

 

David: [00:36:56] 

Yeah. 

 

Lila: [00:36:57] 

So for sure, you know, her life story and her music is definitely, I feel, one of the most special things that could ever happen within this lifetime, for me personally.

 

David: [00:37:09]  

Yeah, I know, I could hear it in your voice when you sing. That’s- that’s so sweet.

 

Lila: [00:37:14] 

Yeah, for sure.

 

David: [00:37:14] 

To change direction here for a minute. Reggae has always been identified with Rastafarianism, with cannabis as a sacrament, and at the same time, that has stigmatized reggae for people who associate, reggae with the kind of stoner mentality that they may not really want to identify with, even if they like the music. So the question is do you think the changing attitude towards cannabis, as it’s becoming recognized legally, internationally, have made it easier for reggae to reassert itself as a global music, political, and social force?

 

Lila: [00:38:02] 

I like to think so, for sure. I think- I think it’s actually… some sort of the other way around too. Like people’s whole energy and vibe towards marijuana right now is different. Like when I just moved to Kingston, and I used to smoke, I stopped smoking about a year and a half now, but the people that I would see at these dispensaries and all of these places that are, you know, created around, you know, commercializing marijuana, it’s like the same people that when I was just coming up in music and, I was just so excited about reggae and Rastafarian, you know, you get caught in the whole, okay, this is what’s reggae is, you’re supposed to be a Rasta and you’re supposed to smoke weed. Until you really start doing your research and allow yourself to feel what the people that will turn up their nose at me being, “What’s this little girl doing with that spliff in her hand?” It’s the same people that I’m seeing with their weed pen and everything. [laughter] So I feel- Both of them are kind of working for each other, right now in the whole upliftment and you know, the destigmatization, if that’s a word, of both.

 

David: [00:39:20] 

Yeah.

 

Lila: [00:39:22] 

So yeah. For sure.

 

David: [00:39:23] 

Yeah. So yeah, we’re waiting for the return of reggae, and I’m waiting for your LP. What’s the status of that now?

 

Lila: [00:39:34] 

Right now I’m just coming up with ideas, going to the studio, recording, bringing my musician friends here. You know, today I have a little jam session with my singer. So for me, it’s like it’s just experiencing life right now. With the pandemic it’s kind of wild. Some days, for days on end, I just don’t even want to hear music. And then sometimes I’m so inspired I just want to sing. And I’m trying to kind of gauge the music away from singing about how low I’m feeling and everything, because I feel like people need upliftment right now. I’m just kind of harvesting the ideas and bringing them into the studio and working them out. I don’t know what the- the- the LP’s gonna be about just yet. I just know I’m just working with whatever comes through.

 

David: [00:40:24] 

That sounds exciting to not know, I think is an exciting place for an artist to be.

 

Lila: [00:40:30] 

True.

 

David: [00:40:31] 

Well thank you very much, Lila Ike, for taking the time to speak with me today, with the Light Culture Podcast. Really learned a lot, speaking with you and, um, look forward to hearing more of your music.

 

Lila: [00:40:43] 

Thanks so much. I enjoyed this conversation for sure. Thanks for having me on your platform and for supporting the music from everybody. You know, be good yourself and thanks for everything.

 

David: [00:40:55] 

Alright. Peace.

 

Lila: [00:40:57] 

Alright. Take care. 

 

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