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Shake Up the Soul Ian Isiah


OFFICE — It seems like the goal of the community you are a part of, as fluid and nebulous as it is, is to create an experimental space, in terms of sex, radicalism—pretty much a full roster of “taboo” topics. Sexuality, and sex itself, have been thematic in your work, and your life across the board. What might you attribute that to?

IAN ISIAH — I’ve always felt that sexuality, or the act of sex, was a very important factor in whatever I’m working on. Not really so much on a “perv” level, but as more of a sensual touch to things, a lusty attribute if you will.

O — Do you remember where, or from whom you learned about sex?

II — Growing up here in New York City, and being of West Indian descent— Trinidadian—I have always been around sex. From the way my people wine up dancing in clubs, or the influence ‘90s R&B had on my life growing up, I’ve always noticed sex.

O — How does music relate to sex—both in the act and the concept?

II — Music is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I remember being three years old in my grandma’s kitchen banging pots and pans. I also remember being five years old and someone handing me a microphone in church, and I never stopped loving music since then. However, it wasn’t just the music. The sound created a vibration. A rhythm inside me, that for some reason, ‘til this day I can’t explain. That same vibration I get from really fab sex. Basically,  I strongly believe if the music is great enough, you can definitely get a bomb orgasm, as you do with sex.

O — Do you feel like you have been more inspired and stimulated to create by something that is lacking in your community or industry? Or moreso by seeing, hearing, and meeting people that are doing something you wanted to be a part of and contribute to?

II — When I first started singing outside of the church, like in the clubs ‘n’ shit, I was pretty young. And obviously foolish. I didn’t realize that I was in training, preparing myself to be able to sing in front of anybody and everybody at any time, all over the world, and be able to be a blessing to them while doing it. I gained a confidence I kind of knew I had, but obviously wasn’t operating in it at all. Now that I am more experienced, I’m learning to be a better leader with my musicianship. My inspiration comes from everything, as hopefully all artists would say. Every time I grab a mic—in the club, in the stu, or even at a funeral—I challenge myself to not just make sound, but to also shake up the soul.

O — Rather than just asking about ‘identity politics,’ let’s separate it out. How do you define ‘identity’, and what is your immediate reaction to the word?

II — ‘Identity’ to me is like a big-ass gumbo, filled with life’s laughs, love’s tears, and denial dreams. Well, that’s my immediate reaction to the word. Identity these days can also be capitalized on and misunderstood. This is a serious issue in our generation in my opinion. A lot of us are rightfully talented, however a lot of us are also allowing ourselves to be influenced in ways that are not helping growth towards our craft. As creators, artists, or whatever weird title you wanna give yourselves, there comes a time when you have to learn to close your ears and open your eyes.

O — And secondly, do you feel like you are an active person when it comes to politics?

II — Sometimes we allow ourselves to become too involved in matters that don’t pertain to us, or our craft. This hinders us from actually being great in my opinion. I’m definitely not into official ‘politics.’ I’m for sure awake though.

O — Growing up, did you fantasize about any celebrity or character?

II — Like sexually? I mean, I’ve had a few MTV and BET heartthrobs, and basketball crushes, none of which I’ll ever name out loud. Non-sexually speaking, I fantasize daily about all my spirit animals: Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Little Richard, Frankie Lymon, Beyoncé, Kim Burrell—the list can go on. I don’t really dwell in fantasies though.

O — What has been the hardest thing about forming part of the community that you have with your music, GHE20G0TH1K and Hood By Air? There is bound to be some really revolting backlash, not to mention if any drama goes down within the group as well...

II — Actually, in terms of “drama in the group,” that’s the hardest part of being a part of any community. But creating is a blessing, and I respect that, as well as the people I build that with. I’m blessed to have a work family that understands strong bonds and concepts that the world would never be ready for.
my opinion, and we, as Hood By Air, have accepted the challenge of shaking shit up!

O — You and Shayne Oliver have been working super closely together for a long time, and you guys have known each other for even longer—has your relationship ever been more than platonic?

II — No, Shayne and I have never been in a relationship. He’s my sister, and I don’t really do the incest thing.

O — How are you able to work together and also be friends? Have you dealt with complications in your relationship?

II — Of course we deal with drama and complications, as all best friends and family would.

O — What is the best memory you have since knowing him?

II — I’m not sure if I have the best memory just yet. We are still reaching ahead, ready to take over the world.

I strongly believe if the music is great enough, you can definitely get a bomb orgasm, as you do with sex.



O — How are you attempting to transfer the Hood By Air energy to your involvement with Shayne’s work at Helmut Lang? What are your goals there?

II — The goal is to revive a house that doesn’t receive the respect, in our generation, that it should. Helmut Lang is an icon. A father to so many inspiration boards all across the fashion world. If anything, it’s a huge honor for Shayne, and myself, to be working with him. I’m soooooo excited for him. This revival is way overdue for the Lang house in my opinion, and we, as Hood By Air, have accepted the challenge of shaking shit up!

O — In terms of experimentation in all of your mediums— with Hood By Air and fashion, in music, in sex—is there anything you have done that, afterwards, even you thought was maybe over the line or a little too much?

II — Nah. Not really, I learn and laugh about all of my regrets. That’s the key to growth and elevation. It’s a process, and I’m learning every day to be better.

O — Did you experience homophobia in the West Indian community? I know that can be an issue for some, especially in certain Brooklyn neighborhoods.

II — Homophobia is an obvious issue in the West Indian community. It’s not to be talked about much really. I grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where there is nothing but West Indians. And yes, I’ve experienced ignorance. However, I’ve also converted a lot of that ignorance into what are now lifelong friendships. No matter where I’m at, I am still the same person, and heterosexuals respect me because of that.

O — How does being West Indian come into play in your life now? Do you participate in Carnival or J’ouvert?

II — I love my Trini people. Being West Indian adds a sweat and spice to my life, and I’m grateful for that. When I was younger I would march in Carnival and J’ouvert with my dad’s steel pan band called The Raddles.

O — Being Trinidadian, did you grow up listening to Mighty Sparrow?

II — I love Mighty Sparrow, he’s like the R. Kelly of calypso.

O — I know you have spoken previously about the quality of nightlife in New York needing to be revived. How do you feel that is going, and how does one actively change such a thing?

II — Yeah, it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight. We as ‘nightlife leaders’ or ‘party throwers’ really just have to maintain true culture when it comes to throwing a party. Always come with the fresh new heat, the platinum classics, even the up-and-coming beat. Making sure your party is consistent, and the sound is always right. That’s how you revive the night.

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