ENNY: “It’s a ruthless industry and being nice is underrated”

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Real recognises real, and in a year where nobody has time for artifice, South Londoner Enny stands out as artist whose biggest drive is to tell us exactly how things are. Having slowly grown in confidence ever since her first Instagram-freestyle piqued attention in 2018, the upbeat yet no-nonsense observations of ‘He’s Not Into You’ and ‘For South’ paved the way for the enormous success of ‘Peng Black Girls’, a track that celebrates Black-British womanhood in all of its filter-free glory. Now signed to Jorja Smith’s record label FAMM, Enny finds herself in a position to become a real ambassador for her ends.  We caught up with her to chat about the importance of representation, learning on the job and making your music accessible without compromising its message.

In terms of meeting [producer and manager] Paya and figuring out your direction, how did you know you’d found a sound that really felt like your own? It can be quite a tricky thing, especially in the rap space, to not just sound like everyone else and to bring in those elements that will surprise people.  

Oh completely. I just think it’s come from my taste in music – I like a lot of music. I like things that are dancey, things that are hip-hoppy, things that are electronic. I really like Daft Punk and Little Dragon – when I say that people seem to be surprised, but I think they’re both sick. I just like a whole range of sounds, and when I heard Paya’s stuff, it was soulful but still like, headboppy y’know?  It was kind of just what I was looking for at that time. 

What has working with Jorja Smith been like? We’ve all heard the ‘Peng Black Girls’ remix, but I don’t think so many people know that you’re also her first label signing. What is she like as a mentor, and as a friend? 

She’s just really nice! That was what struck me – I think often we put people on pedestals and when you’re so far away from them, you don’t see them as human – you’re just like “oh my god, this big star”. But then she came to the studio, and it was just like wow, you’re just a genuine, ordinary nice person that is really passionate about their craft. That was what was really sick to see – it’s a ruthless industry, and being nice is definitely underrated. It shouldn’t be – niceness can go a long way. 

Who else is on your dream collabs list? 

I’ve never really had like a collab thing in mind – I’m much more of a person who is like if it’s right in the moment, we’ll go with it. That’s why I’m so happy with the Jorja feature – it wasn’t something that I had been thinking about, but it happened and it was the sickest thing. That said, right now I’m really interested in Doja Cat, just because I think her artistry and approach to music is really sick, the way she goes between rapping and singing. Even if it’s not to do a song with, I just want to understand, why are you so sick?! It’s nice to see her doing so many tracks with other women too – in the past, it has always been that only one woman can be in the room, but we’re all seeing that it doesn’t have to be like that; we can all sit at the table. 


In the past, it has always been that only one woman can be in the room. But we’re all seeing that it doesn’t have to be like that; we can all sit at the table.

ENNY

Speaking of collaboration, tell us a little bit about the collective you’re part of – Route 73. How has that helped support your development as an artist? 

So Route 73 is a Hackney based community with a studio in Dalston, and it’s where I met my manager and producer. I’ve met so many sick people, and it’s just this very special space that gives room for artists to develop and connect with other artists. If they believe in what you’re doing, they’ll support it; they provide space and studio time and before everything got locked off with COVID, they had lots of showcase events too. It’s been really important and valuable for me, especially in giving me the space to figure out my early ideas.

Some ideas definitely need that incubation, but others come in a flash. You’ve said that ‘Peng Black Girls’ was quite a straightforward song to write? 

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Yeah, it was, it just came to be in a moment. I kind of write to just get things out, so it was just a real mix of the things I’d been feeling. It was just a day where I was walking back from somewhere; I had the beat in mind and knew that it needed something sick to go over it, but nothing ever came until that one night where it all just flooded out. It’s even funny to look back at it now, because I’m like, what was happening that night that made me go “I don’t want a bum like Kardashians, I want a bum like my auntie” and it just feel right? Just looking at the lyrics now, trying to dissect it a bit more, it’s kind of interesting to see where my head was at.  

You studied film at uni as well before deciding to focus more on music – did you bring any of that practice to the ‘Peng Black Girls’ shoot? 

Visuals are defo important to me – once I’ve got a song idea, the first thing I’m imagining is the music video. With ‘Peng Black Girls’, I just wanted it to reflect the realness of us. I know we see a lot of stuff on the internet, and it’s not always a true representation of who we are as Black women, and especially as British Black women. In London, there’s a bigger community now than there ever was in my parents era, and I wanted to show all aspects of that visually – the traditional cultural side, the London everyday, and then the night out, in the scene with the cars and the black dresses. I like the video and I think it’s awesome, but to see everyone’s response to it really blew me away. It’s been kind of shocking – I’m so familiar with these scenes, but other people don’t get to see it in their everyday lives. So to hear responses like I have, it’s really been a wow. 

I’ve seen loads of people making tribute TikToks and photoshoots in reaction to the video. What has been the best or most out-there thing you’ve seen? 

There’s not been anything too wild to be fair, just really just cool stuff. It’s just sick to see how people are connecting to the music. I did see something funny on the Twitter hashtag – someone had screen-recorded on TikTok this video of two white girls dancing to the song, and then reported it. That did make me laugh a bit, but just cos it was bizarre – it’s not like people shouldn’t dance to the song, but it is kind of funny seeing two girls lip-syncing about being two peng black girls in the area…

How does that sort of thing make you feel? While it’s clear who the song is written to empower specifically, I’m presuming that you still want it to be possible for everyone to engage with it on some level. How do you strike that balance?

When I had the song, I didn’t attach it to the way it’s been received at all, so it was a bit of a shock. It was even a last minute decision to call it ‘Peng Black Girls’, but I just couldn’t think of a name for the song. It did cross my mind for a bit that it might alienate some people, but it is what it is. I think we sometimes forget that art is just art and it doesn’t always segregate people – it can bring people together in appreciation. 

In both ‘Peng Black Girls’ and ‘For South’, it’s clear that you have a strong tether to home. How much does being an ambassador for South London figure into your work? 

It’s definitely a big part of my identity – it’s where I was raised, and there are so many differences between North, South, East and West. The more I’ve grown the more I’ve seen that, and so I feel like it’s always sick to remember what you’ve come from and all the life experiences that have made you who you are and impact the work you make – even the way you speak. I feel like it’s very important to show this to the world, because people haven’t seen it. A lot of people don’t realise there’s such like big Black communities in Britain, but they’re catching on now. 

So you’re not you’re not going to be one of these stars who gets huge and moves to LA? 

Rah, none of that! Hell no. Maybe I was younger, but definitely not now. But then who knows? I think we’d all take a bit of a travel right now. Honestly, get me outta here! 

What is your favourite thing about South London? What are you missing most given that we’re not able to do our usual things?

I just miss him seeing my friends! Just being outside, doing random stuff. We’re not the sort of people who need a big plan – sometimes it’s nice to just gallivant around your area. I real miss going shopping  – the high street or Westfield, hanging about in Shoreditch. Honestly, I just miss window-shopping – I didn’t get anyone a Christmas present this year, because I was like nah, I need to be in the moment to know what I want to get you. Online shopping is so much pressure. I’ll make up for it this year! 

Fingers crossed! What else can fans look forward to from you in 2021? 

I’m dropping another song soon, and then hopefully, a release of an EP. This EP has been in the works for ages with my producer, so it’s pretty much wrapped up. 

And what is the big end goal for the project? What does success look like to you?

I just hope that people connect to it. When I met Root 73, the way they embraced me as an artist and welcomed me into the community, that was a real moment for me where I felt really fulfilled musically. And then to come into that 2020 and then have all this stuff with ‘Peng Black Girls’, it’s kind of again, that feeling of “Oh my gosh, OK, things can get even better”. So now I’m kind of open to whatever the journey holds! As long as the music’s connecting, wherever it takes me, I’ll be happy.