NÁPOLES TALKS NEO-SOUL, HIP-HOP & OPENING FOR BEYONCÉ & JAY-Z
Neo-soul is having a serious moment right now. Blending sultry vocals with r&b melodies, the genre has taken off in the last few years and boasts some of today’s most popular artists. Nápoles – a singer, DJ and musician, lies under this umbrella, forging a female-led revolution in the creative spaces of Stockholm.
However, her music pushes boundaries – a quality that the Cuban, Russian and Scandinavian singer takes pride in and actively seeks out in her network. Influenced by wide ranging genres, from gospel to dance tracks, her work feels intimate, yet relatable – and is focussed on connectivity. From the clubs of New York and London to forging a space for females in music in Sweden, Nápoles is no stranger to bringing people together through music.
Aside from laying down some smoother-than-smooth tracks, Nápoles plays a huge role in her co-founded DJ collective, LadiesLoveHipHop. I sat down with the artist herself, before the release of her EP ‘Cloud 9’ to find out more about her experiences singing, DJing and crafting a female creative revolution. I also had to ask about the ‘pinch me’ moment of opening for Jay-Z and Beyoncé on tour, her quick-stop guide to Stockholm, as well as the trials and tribulations of creating a cohesive body of work.
You have a really unique, soulful tone to your voice – and I’m excited about your upcoming EP release. Could you talk me through your favourite track, and what to expect from the record as a whole?
So, I would say that my favourite track is ‘Know my Place’. It switches all the time – but that one is great because it’s so simple, but at the same time I feel it is a great representation of me as an artist. It’s chilled, but still has some movement.
The whole project is a new side of me, compared to my first project, so I’m really excited about showing that.
You mention your first project – who were your creative influences for that project, and have they changed since?
For the first project I did a lot of exploring and wanted to find my sound and just see where it could go – so I didn’t have any particular influences. For this one, it was about creating a cohesive project from start to finish, which you can just listen to and see how it all goes together with thought. That was my first intention with it. As we went on producing it, it developed and became what it is today.
For sure – I think there’s a lot of power in having a cohesive project nowadays as opposed to a standalone track. Growing up, did you favour the single or the full body of work?
I was actually a dancer growing up – not professional but I took a lot of classes and wanted to be one. So, I didn’t listen to a lot of albums all the way through unless they were huge artists doing big releases, but it was more the case that I heard songs in class and got inspired. I always looked for unique songs that I liked, instead of listening to big singles. I listen to a lot of beats, and it wasn’t until I got a little bit older that I started analysing the lyrics and music projects in a whole other way.
So how would you say you transitioned from being a fan of music to making your own?Since I dance, I had that influence, and also joined a gospel youth choir at 15 which meant I did a lot of background singing. That gave me experience in performing and working with various musicians and artists – I was able to see the business, or the scene from that angle. When I later started DJing, I got another angle – the club scene. All of this gave me confidence and the belief that I could do this stuff myself. I guess that’s how the transition of me wanting to create my own thing came about – from all the experience.
Talking of DJing, I know you’re part of the LadiesLoveHipHop collective. Could you talk a bit about the aims of the collective and how it all came about?
Yeah, I used to go out a lot when I was 18 in Stockholm, and we just saw that we could do something different. We could create something that wasn’t here, in Sweden, and that’s how it started. We wanted to play new music, we wanted to play music that people here hadn’t heard before.
We loved to go out – in London, New York, we loved that our trips gave us new tracks to listen to. When we started doing regular club nights, we started to realise the work required to organise these things, and that’s how it became a collective. We started to support each other in personal goals, and that’s when it became more than just a DJ group.
LadiesLoveHipHop has gone on to do some amazing things already – talk to me about opening for Jay-Z and Beyoncé!
It was crazy! We got the email one week before they were coming to Stockholm, and we thought it was a prank – we were like, WHAT? We called them and said “what is this, are you pranking us?”. Turns out their management had decided they wanted to go with us as openers, they said “they want you to do this. Are you down?” Of course we had to do it.
So yeah, we had one week from that moment. Our minds just went into it – we wanted to play the best music we could play. When we got there, it was so amazing to see how professional everything was – it was super inspiring to see the whole machine behind a big tour like that. It was definitely a turning point for us, too – we started working with brands and doing bigger things off the back of that moment.
They gave us a room, we changed, we prayed together, and that’s how it went down!
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Another major part of the collective are the LadiesLoveHipHop festivals. I’m curious as to how you go about organising a festival, and if you have any standout moments from previous festivals?
As I started doing music, Nataša and Rebecca (the other two in the collective) decided that they wanted to produce a festival. It was a great journey from smaller events to producing a big festival. In terms of numbers it wasn’t that big, but it was big for us and for Stockholm. It was also the first festival with an all-female lineup within the scene.
The first one was great – super cozy and loving, and great to see that we can cultivate that sort of scene in Sweden and have people show up and out for the cause. Now we’re going to do it bigger and better – the lineup from this year was going to be fantastic, so next year will have to be even better!
I performed at the first one in 2019 – I hadn’t released any songs but it was a great debut because of the people there. It was our community, and therefore I felt so relaxed on stage because it was the kind of scene I’d love to play within anyway.
For sure – so good to make your debut at your own festival! Do you have a dream collaborator or project to work on in the future?
I think my biggest dream project right now is to produce a timeless album. I want to work with musicians and producers from around the world and connect with likeminded people.
I have a couple of quick fire questions now. If I were to spend a day in Stockholm, what are the top 3 spots to hit?
The first one would have to be a vintage shop, where I get all of my sickening outfits! It’s a great vibe – they play great music, it’s super welcoming and it’s like a hangout, not a shop. I love wine and great food, so I would have to take you to Savant – it’s like a wine bar with such a cool, knowledgeable owner. He’s so good with reading your mind about what to drink. Thirdly, and this is the best one, you’d have to go to a LadiesLoveHipHop event. Whether it be a club night, bar night or whatever it is – we love to be with our community and hangout with like minded people, have good conversations and listen to new music. Dress up, have a good night, all of that.
What’s your favourite track right now?
Hmm. It would have to be one I made last week! I love it! You’ll hear it next year.
What are you most looking forward to in the next month?
I’m really looking forward to the release party for my EP – it will be the first event we’ve done since 2020. It’s going to be super wholesome – a tooth gem station, a chill-out merch room, a bar, and I’m going to perform and then there’ll be a club night. It’s going to be a dream – and we’ll record it!
Top 3 dinner party guests – dead or alive?
Rihanna, Bob Marley and Action Bronson. They have a good mix of character, conversation and it would be an iconic, wild night.
Who’s the best act you’ve seen live?
Ahh it’s so hard to choose, but one that stood out to me was Solange. I love when artists can change the way you feel about them from seeing them live – after that show her music hit me in a different way, it was really inspiring. When she’s performing she has nothing that stops her – I was blown away.
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