Imani Coppola of Little Jackie: Off The Stoop
Much attention, TV time, blog space, and ink have been given to Nas and his new album entitled
Ni**, I mean his Untitled album. Nas has been praised, criticized, and questioned for the content of his album and the statements he makes regarding race in America. A bit under the radar is Little Jackie’s The Stoop. The group, comprised of Adam Pallin on the beats, and Imani Coppola handling the singer/songwriter duties. The duo have crafted an LP that houses biting critiques of love, the music industry, as well as racial identity under poppy rhythms and smooth melodies.
Much of the subject matter comes from the mind of Imani Coppola, who delves into her own experiences to craft the content for Little Jackie. Those experiences include a decade long a career in the music industry, balancing being an artist with maintaining relationships, and growing up as a bi-racial person living in lily white Long Island. In this RubyHornet exclusive interview with Imani, the singer and classically trained violinist talks about the Little Jackie project, her own solo work, as well as being bi-racial in America. Check it out.
RubyHornet: Why did you name the album The Stoop?
Imani Coppola: I didn’t, Steve Greenberg did.
RubyHornet: Wow…That throws me for a loop there.
Imani Coppola: Sorry…He’s very particular about his marketing strategy. I had come up with at least 30 album titles that no one was thrilled about. He said, ‘why don’t we just do one of the tracks?’ I guess he chose that track because it captures the spirit and the heart of Brooklyn, which they’re trying to capture with the image of Little Jackie.
RubyHornet: Can you talk about that image? I know you have your own solo career, does this have a different feel or different direction?
Imani Coppola: Yeah. It definitely has a different direction. You listen, and you know it’s coming from some other place. I’m definitely more of mainstream commercial foundation, rather than taking art and trying to make it popular somehow. It’s really just starting with the notion of making pop music.
RubyHornet: I know you named the project Little Jackie after a kid who set your backyard on fire. That’s pretty nice of you-
Imani Coppola: [Laughs] Nice…I don’t know where that kid is. He could be anywhere, probably in juvey. juvey? He’s not a kid anymore, he’s probably in jail.
RubyHornet: That sucks. Well, it is pretty nice if someone burns down your backyard and you name your group after them. Similar to the way a fire can make someone start over, do you feel this is a chance for you to start a new thing, or do you see this as a continuation?
Imani Coppola: This is definitely a continuation. I don’t plan on departing for the rest of my life from what I do artistically. I think I’m just making an attempt to share my gifts with the world in a pop format. I do have pop stuff, whatever that is, I have it. There’s no reason I should be a pretentious artist and hide that. Hopefully I generate some capital so I can pursue all of my musical aspirations: production, developing new artists, writing for artists, and my own whacky world that no one has even really touched upon in my life. I think this is a good opportunity for me to establish myself somehow in a pop vain, get known and get back to what I do, what I want to do. Not that this isn’t something I want to do, but everyone sets goals in their life and I feel like I have a million things I want to get done.
RubyHornet: If this is a poppy sound, what is the other sound, or places you want to explore?
Imani Coppola: I’m really into classical music. Most people that know me from Little Jackie don’t know that I was a classical performance artist, violinist, for the majority of my life. That was my first instrument. You won’t find me playing it on this record though. I’m also more experimental, more punk, more rock. That’s where I come from.
RubyHornet: One of the songs that has been around the internet is “Crying For The Queen.” People have told me that the song is a little bit directed at Amy Winehouse. Is she who you’re talking about, what is being cried for in the song?
Imani Coppola: It’s basically an observation of the influx of imports, British female singers who break in America. They make it big and everybody’s like, ‘hey, what’s all the sensation about?’ First of all, if the American industry was set up in such a way where they weren’t so afraid to take a chance on artists like those guys, like they’re doing in the UK, it wouldn’t be such a phenomenon. Maybe we’re getting hip to it now, but it seems the same thing’s repeated through history. People break in England, even Americans that are different, they don’t break here. And it’s like, eventually we’ll get it together. As far as stuff applying to Amy Winehouse, her song was blowing up, she was getting an extreme amount of exposure. People were into her, people are into her, I just feel like she’s in a position where she’s really got her whole life perfect. The fact that she’s destroying herself in the meantime doesn’t really say much about success. It’s not a good place to be. To be in a position to be a role mode, to be that successful, and to be a crackhead at the same time is just not an example you want to set for the world.
RubyHornet: When you talk about success, you have a song called “Go Hard or Go Home” [which is about family, not success], would you say that attitude and putting yourself fully into the music as an artist is essential to achieving success?
Imani Coppola: Yes, I definitely do. I think in my early 20’s I was definitely reserved about putting my everything into my career. I was doing everything I could to be as creative as possible and contribute as much creative energy as I could to whatever I was doing. It’s such a multifaceted thing. To be a star in itself has facets. It shines and you have exude brilliance in all areas to stay on top and be admired and idolized. So you do have to like throw everything into it, everything.
RubyHornet: As far as “Go Hard or Go Home” being about your family…When you’re writing and revealing things about yourself, do you think about what you want to reveal about your personal life and how growing up has impacted you?
Imani Coppola: I just really wanted to write a song about my past. No one really knows. I don’t want to come off like I’m some privileged person. I struggled. I still struggle, everyone in my family struggles. And it’s going to be really confusing. I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn. I grew up in Long Island, in an all white neighborhood with racist people by the water. It’s odd, and most likely people will listen to the music and categorize me as this thing, and I’m not that. I never wanted to be that even though my own life and my upbringing was really rough, I never want to be lumped into the category of stereotypical Afro-American.
RubyHornet: It says in your bio that you have an interesting take to look at both races, what is your take if we could look through your eyes?
Imani Coppola: I came up with a new term today. You know how black people have afros? White people have anglos, dude. You know when white guys grow their hair out and it’s this long, natural length? That’s an anglo, yo.
RubyHornet: Then there’s the Jew-fro
Imani Coppola: Yeah, the Jew-fro. Adam has a Jew-fro.
RubyHornet: I’ve had my share of those in my life.
Imani Coppola: [Laughs] So, yeah, my take is that I get to do that all day long. I can make jokes about white people and black people. I can feel like a really intense hatred towards both races too. I don’t know, but you probably experience that yourself. I think everyone is human, and probably the hardest thing for me to have to dealt with is not having anything that I really identify with and relate to, and always feeling like you will never have a home in the world, no matter where you go. It’s lonely. But it makes me unique, blah, blah, blah.
RubyHornet: As far as that connection and feeling lonely, do you feel any strong connection to Barack Obama and his possibly becoming president?
Imani Coppola: Hell yeah! You kidding me? Everyone forgets that he’s half white. He’s part black, but guess what, he’s half white. He’s mixed, he’s bi-racial, it’s fantastic. I just want to bring light and attention, not that we’re a cause…not that homosexuality is choice, but they have a lot of parades and they bring a lot of attention to their odd choices. But, I just feel like there isn’t enough awareness of how difficult it might be for a bi-racial person to have a culture to identify with, or feel like they have a place in the world.
RubyHornet: Going back to your younger days and playing people your music, do you feel like they had expectations just based on what you look like and your background, or tried to fit you into specific categories?
Imani Coppola: No, oddly enough. I don’t know, I don’t think so. It just didn’t seem like my first deal was trying to be urban in anyway, it was just pop. I don’t really feel like it was difficult back then, but the whole music format was different then. Now it’s definitely a lot more specific in my opinion. Hip Hop is definitely a major force in music right now. A lot of artists and a lot of people, that’s where their money is made. Production wise, that’s the format. It’s pretty much the norm now.
The Stoop hits stores July 8th.