Her rise, though, has allegedly been hampered by a management deal she entered into with Oliver Ashley, son of Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley, who has recently applied for trademarks for the name Ivorian Doll. On Twitter, she accused him of unfair financial terms and controlling which label she was allowed to sign to; she begged to be let go from the contract. Ashley has not responded and could not be reached for comment, and Mahi, who made the allegations after we spoke, would not comment further.
The situation badly needs resolving, as there has been space in drill for a woman like her for some time. The style is known for bleak themes and stories of real-world violence, and suffers from a reputation as a boys’ club. But Ivorian’s ability to play with a mix of styles has granted her respect from her male peers, and refreshed the genre as a whole. “I’m not so ‘boyish’ about it,” she says of her artistry. “I’m not wearing the tracksuits; I’m very sexy with it. I feel like that’s what’s making me stand out because I’m making it different.”
Her new EP is evidence of the sounds she’s willing to toy with, like smoother, mellower rhythms similar to afro-swing, and bouncier, chart-friendly rap. The release after that may include more women, as fellow artists such as Shaybo, Br3yna and Teezandos make their own mark, mirroring the golden era for female rappers in the US. “When I first started, the sexism was just ridiculous. It’s even made me more of a feminist,” she says. “I think it would be good to see other girls make drill a bit more sexy, more fun! It doesn’t need to be dark or violent. Drill is a beat, it’s not what you talk about. So I’d love more girls involved, because that’s what makes the genre bigger.”
The Guardian 20/01/2021