From True Laurels Issue 6
A good deal of your music revolves around love and feelings. Is that how you best deal with individual experiences or are you aiming to be a voice for others?
Petite Noir: It’s both really. That’s how I live out my feelings but I also want to be a voice for other people.
There’s this tug-and-pull element to the lyrics in “Chess” where it seems evident that things are at the point of no return but you still want this person around or you’re having a hard time breaking away. What do you think about relationships in general? Why do you think we tend to come to certain realizations when things are in crisis even though they’re usually evident from the beginning?
“Chess” came at a time of a relationship I was in where it wasn’t a full break up. We broke away but came back together and sometimes I think a lot of time when things like that happen, a lot has been bottled up over time. People don’t let it out or find a way to resolve the problem. But luckily art has a way of doing that.
I saw in a previous interview you said you didn’t feel the need to scream that you’re African. That’s interesting because with the attention that racial injustices has been getting over the past couple years, a lot of black artists in America have felt the need to speak out and let it be known where they stand. Do you feel like that’s detrimental to you, artistically?
The thing is, everyone knows where you’re from. You don’t have to prove it. Most times energy speaks louder than words so you don’t need to go around telling everyone that you’re African. Everyone can see it. Africa gets abused at times and people call it cheesy but everything you do as a black person is a representation of that.
In America it’s a different situation where black people have been removed from the land so they almost go in the opposite direction. It’s like finding yourself all over again. In places like South Africa where white people used hiding our identity as a weapon to keep you stupid your whole life, people are actually finding out what happened to them right now.
Are there aspects of racial oppression that are unique to South Africa in your experiences? I’m sure there are some parallels to America but I’ve never known the specifics. What are you learning?
I’ve been learning a lot. You don’t learn what it means to be South African in school. They teach you a lot of bullshit. Brainwashing, you know? A lot of history has been hidden from black people and we probably still don’t know 60% of what actually went down.
Probably not even that.
Exactly. People are still trying to find themselves. So I do understand all the overexpression of being of African descent. I just think, as a black person, you’re going to represent that anyway.
One of the biggest challenges for me as a black person is having trust of the world, period. I’ve been thinking about getting my genealogy test but even with that there’s this lingering skepticism of it being manipulated to hide the truth.
Even things like the UN; when white people came to Africa, it looked like they were here to help. So all these things are just helping kill Africa like donating $5 to help children. I don’t believe all that type of shit. How do we know? Why are people still living the way they do? They’ve been taking donations for years and it’s getting worse.
What is the musical landscape like in Johannesburg? Did you come out of a specific scene?
The music scene is still really small. It’s a handful of acts that get recognition. There’s still a very big American influence but it’s starting to find its own vibe now because we’re starting to look back to South African culture. Rappers used to use a lot of American slang and it just wasn’t natural. People are finding themselves now and blending influences, which is the best way to go.
You said that the music is you make is less about thought and more about what comes to you naturally. Do those natural impulses constantly change when you gain new experiences?
I never really go into music like, “Okay, I’m going to sound like this.” Whatever comes out is what comes out. It’s whatever makes sense to you personally. I just finished recording my album and the sound has definitely changed. It’s a bit angrier and a bit louder. I’d just be cheating if I continued to do the same thing. That’s boring.
How do you get through creative blocks?
I have them all the time but that’s just a part of the process. It’s like skating; if you want to skate, falling is a part of it. You have to accept it.
Throughout that process has there been anyone who has lended you helpful guidance?
I think it just comes down to being yourself. I know that sounds cliche but it’s one of the most important things. And I think a lot of people don’t know how to be themselves or they’re scared or they’re embarrassed. When you’re yourself that’s when insults come.
Do you ever think about your legacy? Like, how would you like to be remembered as Petite Noir?
My main thing is bringing black people together to break boundaries. Because right now--especially in the music industry--they try to keep black people on one side listening to one kind of music and anything that’s viewed as progressive is white. That’s what the industry is saying to people.