Tee7days – LSU Tigers Louisiana State University Last Man Standing T-shirt

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Chloë Sevigny in a Valentino dress at the the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards in 2010.Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images At 22 years old, Hawa has lived many lives over. Born in Berlin, a nomadic childhood saw her move between Guinea, France, and the United States. As a 10-year-old living in New York City, she was offered a place in a highly selective young musicians program at Lincoln Center. Over the following few years, she had her music played at Carnegie Hall by the New York Philharmonic, and traveled with them to see it performed around the globe. Then, at 15, she gave it all up—well, classical music, anyway. And so began phase two of Hawa, the artist. (Born to a Muslim family, she was named after the Qu’ran’s equivalent of Eve.) After quietly beginning to post music online—frank expressions of sexuality laid over silky R&B synths and skittering, trap-inflected beats—she was signed by the cult British alternative label 4AD at 17. In 2020, she had arguably her first breakout moment after performing during Telfar’s critically acclaimed Pitti Uomo fashion show. With a hefty bank of songs behind her, she was poised to release her first album later that year—an album that, she explains, bears little resemblance to the debut record she released last week, titled Hadja Bangoura. “I feel like all the stuff that I was making before, I just personally wasn’t impressed by it,” she says matter-of-factly over a video call from her home in Brooklyn. “It was very, very soft, and it didn’t feel real to me. There was so much chaos happening around me, and I wanted the music to reflect that.” Hawa is such a perfectionist, it turns out, that the record went through three entirely different iterations before it reached the form you can hear today. “I can be very hard on myself and I can obsess over things,” she says in something of an understatement. “It got to a point where it became more of an obsession, and not an obsession in a good way—it was fucking me over. I had to find that perfect balance, which I describe as a structured mess.” She breaks into a hearty laugh: “Also, I just get bored very easily.”

LSU Tigers Louisiana State University Last Man Standing T-shirt

Photo: Guarionex Rodriguez Jr.Another factor in the album’s delay was the death of Hawa’s great-grandmother, with whom she shared a uniquely intense relationship as a child in her family hometown of Conakry, Guinea, and after whom the record is named. Where her debut EP, 2020’s The One, was a bolder, brasher, and altogether more explicit ode to carnal pleasure and late-night pursuits, on Hadja Bangoura, she plumbs her emotional center, opening a window into her vulnerabilities. “I think in these songs you can hear that I’m more in tune with myself, and you can hear that this is a person who’s healing,” she says. Other influences found their way onto the record, too—from her handful of failed relationships while she made it, to the time she spent back in Conakry writing—lending the music a sense of wistfulness. “[My great-grandmother’s death] just gave me more motivation and made me more inspired, as I wanted to take what I was going through and make her proud,” she says. “I knew she wouldn’t want me to cry, or be sad, or self-destruct in any way, shape, or form. I feel sometimes, too, that hardship isn’t always a bad thing. I’m a Muslim and a true believer, and in Islam, they say that Allah doesn’t put anything in front of anyone that he thinks they can’t handle. I just go and use the talent that God gave me and try to do what I love. I try not to think too much about what comes out of it.”

LSU Tigers Louisiana State University Last Man Standing T-s hoodie-white

The album’s lead single, “Gemini,” neatly encapsulates the strangely compelling cocktail of grief and desire that—along with the album’s deliberately off-kilter sonic combinations, like the daring, drill-inspired percussion mixed with squelchy stacked vocals on “Trade,” or the plaintive, gorgeous piano and shimmering, distorted vocal lines of “Progression”—makes it a thrilling exercise in opposites. “What do you want from me?” Hawa sings in the achingly lovesick chorus of “Gemini,” her voice twisting and turning in on itself. “I’ve given you all you need / I’ve given you all of me.” This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.For Hawa, who came out as gay to her mother at the age of 13, writing frankly about sex is more than just a means of reclaiming an identity that often left her feeling like an outsider—particularly within the stuffy world of classical music; she also wanted to view sex in simpler terms: as something to celebrate. “If you think about music, it’s all about sex,” she says. “And I don’t mean that in the marketing sense, I mean in terms of the origins of music, and the reasons why people really make it—to express their love and desire for someone. It’s always been used as a form of communicating love. Sex is you showing all aspects of yourself to one person, and I’ve never been afraid of that. For anyone who has insecurities, sex is where you can let all of that out. It’s the most freeing thing, not just in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. So I’ll always love that as a topic.”

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