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How I Learned To Stand For Myself As A Black Woman In Music
Black British superstar Yola shares her path to finding agency as a musical artist and the personal realizations she discovered on her journey creating her critically acclaimed new album Stand For Myself. Her new album celebrates her belief in the possibility of a paradigm shift beyond tokenism and bigotry, which have deeply impacted her personal life and professional career as a fast-rising genre-fluid vocalist, songwriter, musician, and actress who has, landed four Grammy nominations on her debut record.
It was the fall of 2013 when I started writing music again. Riding my motorcycle back from my mother’s funeral in tears, I had an epiphany that changed the course of my career.
Prior to that point, I’d been in a rut — one caused by the kind of control freaks that strangle all of the inspiration out of you and render you a participant rather than master of your own life. I was told my sound was too different and advised to skew my voice. Rather than being encouraged to blossom as an individual, once my potential was realized, others attempted to live out their dreams vicariously through me. That meant that from a young age I had to defend my ideas, my agency, my path, even my particular brand of Blackness, all of which seemed to influence what people thought I should and shouldn’t be doing musically.