Mapei, Singer/MC/Traveller

Interview, 7 October 2015

For years, people within the music industry and fans alike were eagerly anticipating a full body of work from Swedish/American recording artist Mapei, and in 2014 their prayers were finally answered as she released her debut album “Hey Hey” to great critical acclaim.

The long awaited album hit the shelves about a year after the immensely successful single “Don’t Wait” had transformed Jacqueline Mapei Cummings into somewhat of a mythical figure online, thanks to the praise the song received from music fans online and from influential media outlets such as Fader, Vogue and W Magazine.

After posting the song to her Soundcloud, it took only about a week for the Internet music aficionados to catch on and build a solid hype around the track that had her newfound fan base craving for more.

Born to an American father and a Liberian mother, Cummings was raised in Providence, Rhode Island up until the age of ten when she moved to Stockholm, Sweden. Since then she has spent her time living back and forth between the US and Stockholm.

After being active, mostly as a rapper, for years within the industry, Mapei gradually gained notoriety within music circles and the rumor of her immense musical talent led many to predict the young lady to become the next big thing out of the Swedish music scene.

Currently, all signs point in that very direction.

“Don’t Wait” was the result of a collaboration with esteemed Swedish producer Magnus Lidehäll whom Cummings started working with after returning to Stockholm from a few years of inspirational travelling to places such as Tunisia, Portugal and Brazil.

With a newly found courage to parade her singing, Mapei, alongside Lidehäll, worked hard in the studio and soon had enough material for a full-length album.

Riding on the success that followed the release of “Hey Hey”, Mapei has toured extensively and has been spending most of her time writing new material for her sophomore album, which is scheduled to drop sometime next year.

We recently had the chance to sit down with the singer to discuss music, having the courage to follow your heart and the artist’s role as a prophet in today’s turbulent society.

Photo: Fredrik Etoall

Now we are moving into the final quarter of the year, what has Mapei been up to in 2015?

– Among many things I did a reality show with Volvo Trucks. The plot was that my friend and I travelled around Europe with a truck driver to see what a trucker’s life was all about. It was exciting because I hadn’t seen countries like Poland before. Above all I’ve been working on my second album, which really feels like the work of my life. It’s very compatible with what I want to convey as an artist. I’ll be recording everything this fall so hopefully it can come out sometime next year. They say it takes 10.000 hours to become really good at something, and I feel I’m really getting into the art of writing songs with all the hours I’ve put in so far.

Your debut album came out around the same time you entered your 30’s, was it that you suddenly stopped caring what people thought of you as a singer that made you take a leap of faith and release your first album as a vocalist?

– The thing was that I had put together an album and wanted to release it. It was very hard for me because creating an album is like writing a thesis or a book almost. That album came about in a very dark period of my life and it made me feel good and I wanted to inspire others to seek out their happiness too by releasing it.

A caption from the music video to the single “Don’t Wait”

In the years leading up to the drop of “Hey Hey”, you had created a lot of hype around yourself within the Swedish music scene, were you nervous because of all the high expectations?

– I mean, that sort of thing got worn out after a while cause I wasn’t really in the scene. I just did music with friends who were DJ’s and stuff and they would be like: “ You have that voice, can you do something over this?” I was known for doing soul music but kept doing projects across different genres because I stopped caring about what was expected of me and removed myself from the so called “scene”. I started hanging out with my family a lot and just did what I had to do, which was creating music at its very core.

What did “Don’t Wait” do for you as an artist?

– It enabled me to travel the world and meet exciting new people. I have a fan base in Brazil now due to the percussion in the song, which was inspired by Baile Funk. It has made people laugh and cry, people have had the song played at weddings. It also means a lot for me personally because I had no idea how to feel when I heard it myself. Should I dance or should I cry? It’s amazing to create something that’s an extension of your inner beauty and that makes people relate to you. It’s a feeling that I can’t really put into words.

A shot from Mapeis collaborative reality show with Volvo Trucks

What did all the great feedback do for your creativity?

– The more open you are to receiving energy the more earth will give back to you.

With all the places you’ve lived in, where do you consider home to be?

– I kind of always have my foot on the other side of the ocean but I really feel Swedish. I grew up here and have my friends here and I know how things work in this culture.

“When I write a heartfelt rap verse I consider myself a child of hip-hop, but when I sing I do something that I’ve been doing since I came out the womb”

You’ve said earlier that your teens molded your creative talents, when did it become apparent to you that music would play a big part of your life?

– I always told myself that I wanted to become a star at the age of eighteen when I graduated high school (laughs). It sort of manifested itself to the world and I didn’t really know what else to do. I studied media for a while at university but music kept calling me and I couldn’t really escape it.

What do you label yourself as: a rapper, singer or simply a musician?

– You know when I write a heartfelt rap verse I consider myself a child of hip-hop, but when I sing I do something that I’ve been doing since I came out the womb so that also too feels very natural to me. It’s hard to say really, it’s a spur of the moment kind of thing.

“The artist’s role is very important but I feel very few are taking on that responsibility, apart from a few angels”

With the world currently going through some tough times of unrest, what role does the artist play in today’s society?

– A big role. I think there should be more responsibility especially on the radio. I think they should play more conscious music to educate people. It’s all been watered down to just making money and I think the world could be a better place if they changed their attitude. The people that run things just seem to want people to stay ignorant. So the artist’s role is very important but I feel very few are taking on that responsibility, apart from a few angels such as Kendrick Lamar and Lauren Hill, as well as Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain in their day. Some artists do have integrity but too often its just watered down crap unfortunately.

You travel a lot, why is it important for us as humans to travel?

– Because it helps us realize how we are all one as a people and you are able see our planet as one big house. The world becomes smaller and you feel how it becomes easier to relate to other people and different cultures. Travelling is a cure for ignorance in many ways.

So now that you have traction all over the world and especially in the US, where do you plan to take your artistry in the near future?

– To a more honest and visual place, I want my videos to be more on point. I want my lyrics to be more conscious and inspiring. Sonically, I want my influences to seep into my work more and I feel I’m getting there…

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