Why Imani Coppola Matters

Note: This first appeared as a piece for Yahoo! Voices.

Quirky is probably the most accurate term one could use to describe Imani Coppola’s music. Many of her fans might agree that innovative would be the best description for the musician/singer/songwriter. Truly Coppola is a rarity among manufactured acts, and despite her debut album not having the same type of chart-topping success that accompanies more banal and predictable acts, she continues to create her own brand of inventive genius.

Within the 15 years since the release of her debut Chupacabra, Coppola has been honing her unique style with Internet releases in 2002, Post Traumatic Pop Syndrome and Little Red Fighting Mood, serving as precursors to her 2004 indie release Afrodite as well as a few other albums including Small Thunder, Free Spirit, Come and Get me… What? and The Vocal Stylings of Imani Coppola. Coppola also contributed tracks to soundtracks such as Touched by an Angel declaration “Independence Day” and her Sex in the City gem “Count to 10,” reminiscent of her first single, “Legend of a Cowgirl” as well as Grey’s AnatomyChupacabra exhibited a refreshing playfulness in Coppola’s rap-singing that only hinted at her full potential. That spirit continued in Afrodite but further explored her darker side and witty social commentary. However, the musings peppered throughout The Black and White Album find Coppola at the top of her form, showing the creative strides in her previous efforts were no fluke. Indeed, she gives Meshell Ndegeocello a run for the title “Queen of I Will Do Whatever I Want, However I Want to Do It and It Still Turns Out Great.”

Coppola’s indie spirit just may be the impetus behind her willingness to spew intelligent, witty and sometimes downright insane lyrics over genre-bending and –defying music. It is nearly impossible to pigeon-hole, which is one of the primary factors that makes Coppola’s alchemy so crucial. She dares to erase boundaries imposed upon music artists so that they come off like wrapped neat little packages off an assembly line. She is unique in the truest sense of the word, not simply an artificial corporate marriage of classical and hip hop influences that still sounds the same as the other three songs that currently get airplay. And most of all, she is no mere novelty.

Imani Coppola matters because she is one of a handful of artists who represent the last vestiges of uninhibited creativity in an industry that has increasingly stifled originality in music artists. Furthermore, her last album demonstrates growth and maturity in the past ten years and most remarkably an indomitable spirit that refuses to be hindered by industry expectations.

In the meantime, Coppola dropped a side project Little Jackie, named for the Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam song, “Little Jackie Wants to Be a Star.” As the more visible half of this duo, she still exhibits the creative freedom and quirkiness that has defined her since the beginning of her career but perhaps with a bit more knowing and maturity under her belt. With two albums, this project has also proven to be an essential piece of evidence why Imani Coppola and her music matter.

Note: Coppola dropped her latest solo album The Glass Wall in November 2012 and continues to defy genres and convention with every track on the album.