Meet FATi, the Queen of Afro-pop, whose music is on fire in Kenya, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast.
Born in Liberia, FATi’s family tree is deeply rooted in artistic expression. Her musical heritage includes jazz vocalist and songwriter, Senabella, The Bronzevilla Diva, a great-grandmother who was a celebrated jazz singer in the ’40s, a grandmother who is a published author in Africa, and an uncle, Robert Kool Bell of Kool and the Gang.
FATi’s sound blends elements of R&B, hip-hop, reggae, and soul with cool savors of Afro-pop into infectious concoctions of superbly delicious music. Her music video for “Queen” surges with potent dynamics, while her previous hit video, “L.O.V.E. Love,” simmers with sultry soul and R&B flavors.
Because of her superlative talent, her African dignity, and her support of amour-propre for all women, I sat down with FATi to discover the source of her unique sound and her majestic presence as a woman.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m very laid back. I enjoy a good laugh, good food, and spending quality time with the people I love.
What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
I didn’t get into a lot of trouble growing up. But I can recall a time when I was playing in my mother’s makeup. I saw her arching her eyebrows and I figure I could do my own eyebrows too. I waited until she left, and got in her makeup bag and shaved half of my left brow and shaved the entire right brow! I had to stay home until they grew back!
How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?
My uncle, Robert Kool Bell of the legendary group Kool and the Gang, and my father, saw the gift in me and started grooming me. But I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a singer and create music that can change people’s lives.
What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?
Any 90’s R&B song.
What singers/musicians influenced you the most?
I look up to Beyonce a lot because she has evolved over the years in her career. She’s been on top of the charts since she started. And she does what most are afraid to do. Her drive and work ethic are a boost and motivation for me.
How do your influences affect and shape your approach to music?
I get inspired when I hear the Afro-pop legends like Miriam Makeba, Angélique Kidjo and Fela Kutii. When I hear other artists who are on top of their game right now, like Twia Savage, Yemi Alade, Davido and others, that inspires me even more. With that old spiritual vibe, mixed with the new upbeat tempo — that inspires me to produce great music.
Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
My inspiration comes from life experiences, nature or whatever mood I might be feeling that day.
What inspired your new single/music video “Queen?”
My brother Wafeeq came up with the actual concept of the video. I wanted to make sure I carried out his vision along with adding elements that were important to me, such as showing different shapes and sizes of women. I wanted to show the youth that there are different styles of dancing. And I also I wanted the women in the video to wear their natural hair. As a woman of color it’s important that we embrace our natural beauty. More importantly I wanted to show all women, we were born QUEENS and we should carry ourselves as QUEENS.
“Queen” contains Afro-pop, R&B, and hip-hop, as well as hints of reggae. Yet it’s infectiously superb, almost intoxicating. How did you manage to blend all those ingredients into such a great song?
I listen to a variety of genres. That’s why you can hear all those different elements in my song. I allow myself to be free… I just went where the music took me, and “Queen” was the destination.
As your music evolves is it becoming more hip-hop flavored, or going in the direction of R&B and pop?
I’m an Afro-pop artist, and I’m very well versed in different genres of music. Being versatile is what gives my unique sound. As I evolve, I hope to create music that can relate to the world.
What’s the music scene in West Africa like?
The music scene in West Africa is all about moving and dancing that are Afro-beats and Afro-pop. They’re also connected to the hip-hop world. So it’s not foreign for you to hear any mainstream, hip-hop and R&B music on the radio or see any videos on TV.
Will you be touring?
I’m scheduled to tour with Kool and the Gang in September and I’m looking to add more dates.