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How Inayah Lamis is Reviving the Art of Musical Storytelling


Jul. 16 2019, Updated 8:27 p.m. ET

Most people don’t reach over one million Instagram followers overnight, but singer Inayah Lamis did. The songstress has been perfecting her craft for years but it was her remix to Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” that propelled her voice across social media, landing on the screens of Tiffany Haddish, Rico Love and more. She went on to ink a record deal with EMPIRE and release hit after hit after hit. In honor of “National Side Bitch Day”, Lamis is dropping her latest single “N.A.S. (N*ggas Ain’t Shit)”.  This Houston-native is no jokes when it comes to her calling to revive the art of storytelling in music, and that’s why she calls her genre S.O.L.A.R., storytelling over lyrics and rhymes because her music aims to tell a story, not just make you twerk. Lamis shared all about why her career is built to last, her gospel roots, and why her son has made her so famous on the block that she has to move.

BOMBSHELL: Ten or twenty years ago, you had to climb the ranks of music industry execs or cross your fingers for five seconds of an audition spot on a talent search or hope to be discovered by a music producer. Today, it seems stardom is much more accessible through social media and your career is the perfect example of that. Did you expect your career to take off like this when you started posting videos of you singing?

INAYAH LAMIS: I definitely didn’t expect for it to happen the way it did. But I always knew that I would have this opportunity. Not to sound cocky, but I’ve been working at this my whole life, but I definitely didn’t expect for it to come about the way that it did.

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B: While social media has been a prime catalyst in promoting your voice and your music, it can also be a vehicle for comparison, distraction and nasty comments. With 1.3 million followers, how do you prevent social media from taking over your mental space?

IL: I have a pretty good balance. I’m pretty firm hold on making sure social media stays social media and real life remains real life. I never mix the two, and I have a solid family foundation, so they keep me grounded. They keep me focused.

B: There’s a stigma that succeeding in the music industry is a “one-in-a-million” chance. How did your family respond when you told them you wanted to pursue a career in music?

IL: My family has always been really supportive – they’re my biggest fans. My momma, my sister, and my son – who is seven going on 17 – are all really excited. My son goes to school and tells his friends, “My mommy’s famous! She has one million followers.” And my sisters have always helped me, they’ll come to a showcase and sing background for me if I need them to. My family is on board and they’re happy that everything is working out the way it is. Several people in my family also sing, my grandfather – who passed away, he was my best friend – was a singer, and my mom and aunt are both songstresses, and they taught me how to work my voice out.

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I’ve always been a creative child, so my momma would buy me little karaoke machines and whenever I would misbehave, she would take the radio or the microphone or lock up the stereos in the house. Essentially, she was taking away my music because she used what I love to make me focus. I appreciate her so much for that now because I’m a great writer, a great artist.

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When she would take it away from me, I remember feeling so damn empty. So I knew then that I never wanted to live in a world without music.

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When she would take it away from me, I remember feeling so damn empty. So I knew then that I never wanted to live in a world without music.

B: Your latest single, “N.A.S. (N*ggas Ain’t Shit)”, drops on February 15, which is National Side Bitch Day. The title speaks for itself – and is a statement I’m sure many agree with – but what led you to write that song? Because we all have a “n*ggas ain’t shit” story.

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It’s also for the women who’ve been strung along by guys who are just playing with her. For the guy who has a girl waiting on him for 2 or 3 years, when are you gonna pop the question or just ask her to be your girlfriend? There’s so many types of relationships and women who can relate to this. For me personally, I was never the side bitch, but I was the one who had history with this guy since 15, but he never made it official or gave me a title. I was never his girlfriend, but we were always doing boyfriend-girlfriend shit. You can look at it in more ways than one.

B: Aside from being a performer, you’re also a mother. How does motherhood shape your grind?

IL: I like to say that my son actually saved my life. I wasn’t as focused as I am now, as goal-driven before him. Austin really defined “purpose” for me and made me sit down and pay attention and grow the fuck up. I love that my baby keeps me grounded. I know it sounds cliché, but he’s my motivation. He tells everyone about me and we have to move at this point because he runs his mouth at school and all his friends come to the house to ask for autographs or a picture. But I love that he’s so proud of me.  

B: As a Houston-native, you’ve grown up in the town of music legends like Travis Scott, Yolanda Adams, and of course, Queen Bey. How has Houston impacted your love of music?

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IL: There are so many musical legends in my city and we have this very unique culture of music. From [chopped and] screw to slowing it down to swinging and banging, I adopted that and I made that a part of my core, my foundation. I appreciate the music scene in Houston because it’s very unique and many people have adopted it. Screw is a phenomenon all over the world because of Houston.

B: You call your genre “S.O.L.A.R.”, an acronym for “Storytelling over lyrics and rhymes.” Obviously, every song is different but what is the overall story that your music represents?

IL: I feel like the element of storytelling is missing from music now, I feel like it kind of went out in the 90s. I want to bring that back the purpose in music. Like Stevie Wonder said, “It’s a world within itself and a language we all understand.”

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Lately, in the past decade, music has kinda been shit and mumble; the beat is nice, it’ll make you shake your ass a bit, but what about the message? You have to speak about things that people relate to, so I think that’s my responsibility – and if it ain’t, then I’m taking that responsibility on.

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Lately, in the past decade, music has kinda been shit and mumble; the beat is nice, it’ll make you shake your ass a bit, but what about the message? You have to speak about things that people relate to, so I think that’s my responsibility – and if it ain’t, then I’m taking that responsibility on.

B: Who are your favorite musical storytellers?

IL: Oh yes, here we go! We got Missy Elliot, Toni Braxton, Beyonce, of course – old and new Beyonce. But my roots are actually gospel. Most of the inspiration and the stories I learned from were The Clark Sisters, Johnnie Taylor, Fred Hammond, BB King. I listen to music as a writer and as a consumer, so it’s deeper for me than it can be for other people.

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IL: I don’t know that I have balance there. I never realized I might not have balance there until you asked me – damn! I try to listen to music from a perspective of how other people will hear it, but in the end, I judge it based on the writing before the delivery.

B: You obviously have a clear vision of professional longevity when it comes to how long you’ll be in the industry and where your career is going, but what is your idea of success? When will you feel like you’ve “made it”?

IL: When I write a song for Beyonce. I’m deadass serious too. She is the queen. Once I get that, I’ll be like “okay momma, I’ve made it.”

B: Bombshell is all about driving the culture of dope chicks. What makes you dope?

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IL: I think I’m pretty unique. I think I have a different approach because no one’s doing what I do. And I don’t mean to sound cocky, but because I’m so different and one of a kind, that’s why I’ll be successful and in this industry for a long time.


B: Who are you listening to on repeat right now?

IL: My new music. My EP is dope as hell and I’m addicted to it myself.

B: Where’s your favorite place to write your music?

IL: I have a little room in my apartment with dim lighting, a lava lamp. I just sit in there and write when my son is at school.

B: 3 things you can’t leave the house without?

IL: Notebook, my cell phone, and my pistol – I’m just playing… perfume.

Follow Lamis on Instagram @Inayah_Lamis and on Twitter @InayahLamis and check out her latest single, “N.A.S. (N*ggas Ain’t Shit)” on Spotify, iTunes, or Google Play.

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