It was a mild-mannered Sunday evening. Downtown Columbia, South Carolina, had never felt so relaxed, the traffic thinning well before nightfall and sidewalks moving towards an eerie hush. But I found myself rushing to my appointment—so I didn’t get the chance to properly take it all in. Rather, I kept at my hastened pace. I tried my luck at a parallel park. I was attempting to sandwich my ‘04 Volkswagen in between the ritzy cars lined on Main street, the location where I’d be interviewing the star of the hour.
I walk into the lobby at Adesso, the luxury condominiums offering high-end living for Columbia’s high-end earners. I think to myself while I check in at the guest counter: Ahomari couldn’t have selected a more perfect venue had they tried.
Ahomari and I greet and quickly spark conversation on our elevator trip up to the fourth floor. The chit chat is interrupted by jaunty laughs and an ‘uh huh, girl’ every handful of breaths or so. The conversation is much warmer than the over-air-conditioned walkways and the snooty atmosphere of Adesso. I break our little around-the-way routine when I ask them out of mounting curiosity: “So Ahomari . . . how exactly are you paying for all of this . . .?” and by ‘this,’ I’m referring to the pure opulence and luxury of the Adesso building.
I ask, not to be all up in the girl’s Kool-Aid, but just because, in my mind, I’ve never known Ahomari to be the one for a waged or salaried position. Now, don’t get me wrong, Ahomari’s full-time employment as socialite, Facebook cultural critic, the world’s premier messy-woke meme curator, and promising indie songwriter-songstress is by no means a walk in the park! And it certainly sounds like a fulfilling way to spend one’s time, just not exactly the most cash-promising way—at least I don’t think.
“I can’t . . . but Michael can,” Ahomari opines as a matter of fact. Ahomari begins to exit the elevator, creating more questions and prompting me to follow.
I follow them down the hall. Still curious, still wrapped up in their magic. “Who is Michael?” I wonder how exactly does one find a stranger willing to put them up in a luxury condo? I make a mental note to explore this mystery in greater detail during the interview.
“Please excuse the mess,” Ahomari warns, preparing to twist the handle to the condominium door. I think about the hurricane state that my living quarters are constantly falling in and out of. “Pssh . . . this can’t be anything in comparison to my room,” I think to myself. I rest assured, but then again, knowing Ahomari, I take heed.
The kind of preparation I take however does little to nothing for me upon my entering the apartment. Instantly, I’m awestruck. I walk into a habitable piece of art where wall-to-wall windows are beaming the dusking sunlight, radiating crystal ornaments and giving sepia finishes to the assorted fabrics, furniture, and hardwoods. Spotless, might I add. “This is what you call a mess?”
My face frumps and, to a degree, I feel trolled. In retrospect now, having sat with Ahomari for an hour-long talk exploring race, childhood experiences, body image, gender, sexuality, sex, and music—I don’t take it personally. Ahomari is essentially trolling life, the whole world really, and they’re actually getting ahead while doing it.
After some tea, and the most sophisticated showcase of shade, Ahomari and I move to talk about the real reason why I’m there to interview. The release of their brand-new EP: FEMME. The chanteuse released the seven-track mixtape through SoundCloud on May 1st, 2017—and I had the privilege of streaming it before the scheduled release date. My guess is that Ahomari had been in one of their better moods when they made the decision.
For interviewing purposes, I had originally planned to jump directly into the frying pan. There was—as there still is—much to be said about the singer’s EP. Is this really a surprise, when considering the outspoken candor of the artist who penned the work? FEMME is subtle but controversial and mostly by design. It easily lends itself to the kinds of uncomfortable conversations that conventional and commercial popstars equate with anthems. It is anthem-like and protest-y and obscure, but pop-like at its core and innocently looking for a way into your iTunes.
Ahomari grew up in the South, darker, larger, and queerer than virtually everyone in their immediate vicinity. Their divinely-inspired assortment of intersections, once brought ire and ridicule on the singer. And to a good extent, it still does. But nowadays, the lack of individuality in Columbia’s social and aesthetic landscapes is so glaring that it actually accentuates Ahomari’s eccentricities. And what they were once condemned for now draws in an influx of interest both socially and romantically.
Ahomari talks about being socialized as a gay male before acquiring the language to articulate and re-articulate a more accurate description of their gendered and sexual realities. They no longer identify as gay or male, and their gender and sexual experiences these days are very flexible and fluid, Ahomari says smiling. One thing that has remained a constant for Ahomari, however, has been their physical frame. With a larger than life persona, the law of attraction practically dictates that they’d wind-up with a body closer to a sweet potato than a stalk of asparagus.
Ahomari reminisces on all of the crime-ridden neighborhoods and run-down apartment complexes in the Columbia-area that they and their family had once called home. Ahomari’s not ashamed, not at all. In fact, they continue to draw lessons and inspiration from these precarious days, although most people, Ahomari bemoans, automatically assume that they hail from the suburbs. They attribute the misconception to their breathy valley-girl elocution and their crystal-clear enunciation. Their speech, much like their song, is sheer performance.
When I left Ahomari that day, I noticed we talked and unceasingly but hardly about FEMME, their latest EP. It was difficult not to feel like I bombed the reason why I was asked to do the interview in the first place. But Ahomari takes such a radical commitment to authenticity, both musically and in everyday life. So much so that the way FEMME perfectly mirrored the life that Ahomari had invited me into for an hour, made me feel like we did discuss it in a way—albeit indirectly.
Stylistically, they consider their work to draw upon the influences of darkwave, trap music, and pop. As a music fan, they prefer Mariah Carey over Whitney Houston. Although, in their defense, they recanted and reselected a good number of times. Fun fact: none of the copious number of outside samples used on the EP were actually cleared. And I warmly remember how Ahomari would stop to gossip in between every single question I asked.
The evening I spent with Ahomari hardly felt like an interrogation of singer by fan or of star by onlooker. Truly, it felt more like a conversation between me and what I aspire to be. Ahomari is walking and breathing poetry, fiction, sculpture, song, dance, play, and oil painting. I found all of these forms of beauty and even discovered a piece of my own in the hour we spent talking about her masterful new EP: FEMME.
Editor’s Note: FEMME was released in May 2017, and Ahomari Raymond Turner has since released a subsequent album with musician and producer, Sean Jones, under the moniker blue, girl. You can see them perform tonight at Hoechella at 7pm.