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Style, innovation & equality

A straightforward declaration of war against gender norms and conventions

Rap artist Anfa Lashari releases her first solo single about being real and fake on Instagram after Vogue naming her and her sister as one of the most interesting artists in 2019.

Words: Stefanie Ravelli Photography: Isak Berglund Mattsson-Mårn Styling: Robin Douglas Westling

From having Silvana Imam as a mentor to Vogue naming them one of the most interesting artists in 2019 — the rap sisters Sabina and Anfa Lashari from Hulta outside Borås have in just a few years become a fresh and well-needed voice on the Swedish rap scene. Their explosive energy and straightforward declarations of war against gender norms and conventions have been embraced by both the establishment and underground scene. But now Anfa Lashari takes the stage herself, as a solo artist.

— Change can hit you so suddenly, says Anfa Lashari.

How does it feel to have played at the ­Grammys and be featured in Vogue?

— I’m so very grateful that I got to start my music career with my sister. I don’t feel as nervous anymore. I remember when I did my first gig with Silvana Imam... today I’m not nervous anymore and I feel comfortable on stage.

In the interview with Vogue, the writer begins with “To Thy Own Self Be True”, a quote from William Shakespeare. What does being true means to you?

— To give more context, we actually told the journalist that we’ve always understood who we’re and that we’re clear on how we want to be. That’s what got her thinking about Shakespeare. Honestly, it’s about accepting who you’re and how you want to be. Be your own best friend. Don’t think about how others want you to be. Who are you when no one else’s watching?

How come you’re going solo now?

— One constantly grows in different creative processes. I started making music with my sister when I was 15 years old and I learned a lot about music. I’ve a vision and feel ready to show it to the world.

How’s your solo project different from Lash?

— The biggest difference is that I rap in English. Lash will always be Lash, but this music comes from me and is from my perspective. I’ve been working on a new sound. My music still stands for something that’s genderless, but I’ve tried to go deep within myself to find something that I like.

The first song you released is about your relationship with social media. The lyrics goes: ”Everybody same shit / Getting money spend it / Louis Vuitton, Prada, Fendi same shit same shit / Got a match swipe it / Got a date like it / Had a girl fuck her / Met a girl fucked her / Fuck her / Take a picture fake it / Put a filter fade it / Hate it”.

— To be honest, it’s a love/hate relationship. I think a lot about social media; you want as many likes as possible but everyone looks exactly alike. I myself am part of this evil spiral. You can be so happy when you get confirmed on Instagram but really, who do you do it for?

You are obsessed with sounds.

— I sat in the studio for the first time when I was 15 years old with Nästa Nivå (music talent project), and before that I’ve always been doing music. I remember writing lyrics on dad’s old computer, doing my own remix on Windows, downloading my own free beats and kicking it. The bathroom has always been my main stage. There’s an echo in there that I like.

What do you think of the music industry in Scandinavia?

— It depends on how you look at it. Of course, everyone can make music, but only some become inclusive. If you look at the big companies, I think it’s only men who’re in decision-making positions. The music industry is dominated by men: producers, bookers, you name it. There’s a huge imbalance and we’ve a lot to work on.

Do you feel included?

— I’ve always been seen as breaching norms because I don’t stay within set boundaries. I’m a girl with shaved hair, say what’s on my mind, wear stereotypically masculine clothes. If you hear my music without seeing my face you might get a different experience of my music. I don’t know if it is because I don’t censor myself or my appearance that makes me startling. But this is what I do and you can’t change me.

Anfa will perform at Scandinavian MAN Live! in Stockholm August 28. Here’s how you can get on the list.