R&B singer Ayanis is a walking ball of energy. It’s a quality that jumps out in her music as well as her overall personality. We spoke to the Texas-born, Atlanta-bred singer just months removed from her sophomore project, Yani, and this enthusiasm and exuberance flowed with ease throughout our half-hour phone call.
Despite all the hectic aspects of 2020, Yani stood as a bright spot for Ayanis. The 11-track project saw her working with some of today’s most recognizable names: Wiz Khalifa, Mulatto, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Jack Harlow, and Queen Naija. Despite this, Ayanis doesn’t fade to the background because of her co-stars, instead, she shines just as bright beside them.
Coupled with the album’s most popular tracks “Ecstasy” and “Lil Boi (Big Talk),” there are many moments where Ayanis stands out on her own. “New ” is a sultry number that captures the renewed love with an old flame and “Good Music” a triumphant track that reaks of the New Orleans background her parents grew up in.
With a new year ahead of her plenty of opportunities to grow as well, we sat down with Ayanis to discuss Yani, her childhood, and what her ultimate goal in the industry is.
You ended 2020 on a high note with the release of your Yani project, what was your reaction to the way it was received and what are your goals musically for the new year?
Yani got a really great response and I took my time on it so I was proud to see that people are really supporting the record. People haven’t seen me with features before, so having features on the project — people being able to see me collaborate — sees me in a different light, and then my music has grown from my first project, Directions to Yani. So, you know it’s like me being grown, sexy, and very confident, but the response has been great, and as far as this year? I want to get my first plaque for sure — plaques with an s — I wanna go platinum. Billboard, that’s a goal for myself, top 40 — I really want to get the No. 1 on Billboard for real. Put out another project as well and just continue to grow.
What was the difference behind your intention in creating your 2018 project Directions compared to Yani?
So the intention of Direction was discovery. It was me figuring out, okay what do you like? What don’t you like? What do you sound really good on? It’s basically like an experiment in a way with Direction. It was me trying to figure out what works, okay let’s try this but I’m down to experiment with sounds and different types of production and when I got to Yani, I really found myself. I really put a stamp on it and said Yani is my alter ego. You know me as Ayanis, but Yani can be bold, she can be sensual, she can be confident, she can talk a lot of sh*t. Direction was like my younger self, it’s like an introduction basically. The intent was the introduction to let people know, she’s a singer, she’s a dancer, she’s an entertainer, and then when you get to Yani it’s like, “Oh! Alright!” You know what time it is. Just settling in myself as an artist and my confidence, I think the intent was there just because of me growing as a person and as an artist for Yani.
I know it might be too early to tell, but what do you think your intention will be with your next project?
I think I made it very clear that I call my genre “R&Bop.” I like to do uptempo, I like to do music that I can dance to and that people will feel good cause, that’s what I felt like, is missing a little bit R&B, like the music that people can dance to and be with their friends with and be with their family with and be hype on top of also having the vulnerability in the songs That’s why I call it “R&Bop” cause it just really pushed the rhythm and blues. So for my next project, I think it’s too early to say because it’s like I just start recording in the recording process and then I figure out where I want to take it, but it’s going to stay within the genre of “R&Bop.” It’s gonna have those records that you can dance and feel good to while also talking my sh*t for the ladies, I always have to do that. I have to speak for the ladies first and foremost.
Moving back to Yani, how would you describe this project to a listener who hasn’t discovered you yet? What experience do you think these 11 songs bring?
You’ll experience great energy, I want that first and foremost. The energy of being fun and exciting and feminine but also Southern. I have a certain twang when I talk, I have certain lingo because I was born in Texas and my family’s from New Orleans, and I lived in Atlanta, so everything is Southern. Yeah, it’s energy, we’ve got songs on there like “Ecstasy” that are sensual and “One Night” as well. Then you have me having fun like in “Gumbo” or “Good Music,” which is like something you can vibe out with your friends and your family. You also have a vulnerable side, a relatable side, which is me discussing being afraid of relationships or still dealing with the same person like with “New.” It’s just the energy of how you feel when you’re most confident and also when you’re sitting at home alone and you’re like, “Oh sh*t,” you know when you think about your life that night. It’s the energy first and foremost, I think it takes you through the experiences of every emotion really.
Let’s talk about some of the songs on the album, starting with “Drip,” what made that the perfect song to start the project with and how was the chemistry between you and Mulatto as you both worked on it?
I know that the project had to start with “Drip” because the production is so big and so triumphant, shoutout to the producer, [DJ] Hardwerk, he’s incredible, he also produced “Flex.” When I heard the production I was just like, “Woah.” If this was the first song on a project, you would keep listening to the next song and the next song and the next song. So I wanted to start it on such a high note, I think on my first project I started it with a slow tempo song and then I gradually went into more uptempo, but this project like I said, for me with the energy so I wanted to let people know I’m here, that was why it was first. Having Mulatto on the record, she’s also from Atlanta, we’re both from the southside of Atlanta, so it’s dope that she did the record with me. She’s so talented and she’s been working for such a long time, we actually met a long time ago when we were both younger and to see her now flourishing and doing her thing is amazing to me. I just want to have another triumphant boss-ass female on the song and she was perfect. We’re both from Atlanta, we’re both from the southside of Atlanta, it was dope having her on there.
One of my favorite songs on the project is “One Night,” the music video has 3.3 million views right now. How did the collab with Wiz Khalifa come about?
Shout out to the producer J. White, he’s incredible. He’s worked with Cardi B, did “Bodak Yellow,” he’s done a lot of amazing stuff. So, how the “One Night” with Wiz Khalifa came about was that I met him at the Christmas party that Atlantic [Records] has annually. He was in the section right next to me and I got his information and then he was like, “Hit me up if you ever hear a song idea,” and I was thinking to myself, oh yeah, I’m definitely gonna have something that I can hear you on. I want to say I already had the song, I’m pretty sure I already had cut at the time and I thought about it and I was like Wiz would actually be perfect for this because he’s so versatile and I’ve really been a fan of him since high school [too]. I sent him the record and literally, he sent it back. I wasn’t expecting to send it back so soon cause I’m a new artist and he’s probably really busy, so the fact that he sent it right back I just really appreciated that. But yeah, it was because of the Christmas party to make a long story short.
A track like “Lil Boi (Big Talk)” overflows with confidence, but so does the whole EP. What’s the source of this confidence for you?
I’ve always been a very confident person, I would say because I’ve always known what I wanted to do. I think knowing my purpose is what helps me be confident because I always feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel like I’m living my dreams out because it’s my purpose. So, I think that’s probably why I’m confident, on top of whenever I stay in certain situations, I always think in my head like, “I’m gonna bounce back from this, it’s all good.” If a guy tried to play me? Ha, he played himself cause now I’m on ten like now let’s go make a song about it. I just have that mentality to keep going and keep pushing the envelope and keep bettering yourself, that’s for sure what pushes my confidence just because I’m a super passionate person.
Was it hard creating a project in the midst of a pandemic? If so, how did you overcome some of these creative obstacles?
Well, some studios were closed at the beginning of the pandemic, but it didn’t stop anything because I’m always finding ways to be creative, no matter the situation. We already had some records, because I’m literally always recording. When we got back in it was like, I think I was just so excited and eager. I had ideas, I had things I wanted to talk about, I had time. To me, it was kind of a blessing, because you have time to think about what you want to do next. Usually, it’s go, go, go, go go, if you have a second to think like, alright, what’s your objective? What do you wanna leave the impression with for this next project? How do you want people to feel or? What do you want to experience? I think it was a blessing, in a way. In another way, I want to perform. In that aspect, I miss being able to perform and meeting people because I want to actually see people in real life. Do the interviews in real life, from that spectrum it’s like, damn. On the other hand, being able to record, that’s been great. I just missed real-life interactions as an artist, being able to meet people, see people and talk to them in person.
What’s a dream collaboration that you hope to make a reality in your career?
I have a few, but I’ll just give you like three. Drake, Missy Elliot, man I have so many, Beyonce and Rihanna [too].
Being that you were born in Texas and raised in Atlanta, what are some artists that had a huge impact on your artistry.
Oh man, being from the South, there’s so much influence, especially between Texas and Atlanta. As far as Texas goes, I was listening to Beyonce growing up — I love Beyonce. I lived in Texas until I was six and then I moved to Georgia, my dad’s in the military. It’s that and New Orleans influences too cause my family’s from there. Atlanta, so many [influences] too, there’s TLC, there was Monica, there’s Outkast. When I was in middle school, Travis Porter, they have such a fun, vibrant sound to their music. Then R&B, you have Ciara — there’s a lot of really amazing, talented people between Texas and Atlanta that influenced me. I got to work with Jermaine Dupri and he’s from Atlanta.
How was that?
Amazing! He really is hands-on and he can stay up. I know I could stay up, but he can stay up. He’ll be working on a beat and then we’ll be writing songs. He’s incredibly talented, very hands-on. He brings in the right people, he brought in Johnta Austin and Dallas Austin, it was incredible.
What was Ayanis like as a young girl?
Oh my gosh. She was not afraid to try anything, she’s really the same [now]. I think she still lives in me for sure that’s how I’m here. My mom used to always have this camera, this VHS, and she always used to put it in all of our faces and be like, say hi. I would sing or dance or [be] like, “Look at me!” I knew exactly what I wanted to do, even back then. My mom would tell me all the time, “She’s confident, the girl don’t sit down. She never sits down.” That’s what she always used to tell me. “Girl you always moving around, when are you gonna sit down?” I’m like, “Never!” I’ve been that way, fun, not afraid, and confident, a dreamer [too]. That’s how I got here. When I was younger, I used to always say, “I’m gonna be a singer when I grow up.”
What do you hope to be or become as you grow older in this industry?
I think just because of the way I was raised, I always want to be a good person and treat people the way that I want to be treated, as a person. No matter how big I become, I’m gonna always try to remain humble because I think that’s important. Things are given to you, that doesn’t mean that you get to be a d*ckhead. I know what happens. I definitely believe what I see for myself, I believe I’m gonna have a huge career. I’ve been working towards it and I’m gonna continue working towards it for years, so I’m definitely in it for longevity. I want to be a platinum-selling recording artist, I want to be able to travel the world when it opens back up, the world tours, give back, just [be] a big superstar. Touching people with my music, with my talents, and being able to give back to people and making them feel something and inspire other people to believe in their dreams.
Yani is out now via Atlantic. Get it here.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.