Tag Archives: Cover Story

Jenny Hval, Daughter of Darkness

Jenny Hval
Jenny Hval. Photo by Edwina Hay for Bandcamp.

Jenny Hval came of age just after her native Norway’s black metal movement, with its dark occult affinities, started gaining notoriety. Her first band was a goth-metal outfit named Shellyz Raven. So it’s not too surprising that her new solo album, Blood Bitch, is populated by vampires. Early in our conversation, Hval asks me if I’ve ever met a vampire. When I ask her the same question, she replies, “There are definitely some people I’ve met, especially in my goth past, who I think wanted to be vampires so much that who knows where they ended up?”

There’s an audible smile in Hval’s voice when she recalls her early musical adventures. “My first band was called Shellyz Raven,” she says, “spelled with a ‘zed.’ I joined the band later, so I had no say in the name. Everybody in the band was obsessed with that movie The Crow. But we couldn’t call the band Shelleyz Crow, because that would be too much like Sheryl Crow. So we had a problem. We solved it by going with ‘Raven.’”

Hval describes her time in the goth scene as, “Some of the happiest memories from my youth. For me, that scene was very magical. It was problematic, too, because it was so old-fashioned. Everybody was reading H.P. Lovecraft and wanting to look Victorian, which was crazy. But it was okay [in that scene] not to fit in. I came of age slightly too late for the really exciting part of the black metal scene—that was Norway’s punk scene in the beginning, before it got commercial. It was a dangerous scene. It was also, unfortunately, very, very male. But it had youth power. So there was still some of that energy left when I was in my teens.”

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Oddisee’s Fantastic Voyage Through Hip-Hop

Amir Mohamed el Khalifa – Oddisee

“I was open to the fact there was another world outside of my own, and I always wanted to see it.”—Oddisee

From an early age, Amir Abdelmonem Abdelwahob Elkhalifa Mohamed knew he wanted to see the world. Born into a multicultural household, Mohamed grew up traveling between Prince George’s County, Md.—where his Sudanese father lived—and southeast D.C., where his mother was raised. His home life was split between two religions, two cultures, and two languages. And, as natives of the D.C. area often do, Mohamed watched the world’s politics unfold right outside his door.

“I was open to the fact there was another world outside of my own,” he says, grinding coffee in the kitchen of his Bed-Stuy apartment. “And I always wanted to see it, and how other people lived.”

In school, Mohamed read Homer’s epic poems—the Iliad and the Odyssey—and the idea of a journey as a crucible of change left an indelible mark. Years later, Mohamed started writing rhymes, and when time came to give himself a name, “odyssey” was the first word that came to mind. He changed the spelling to Oddisee, but the meaning remained the same.

Oddisee

Last spring, around the release of his latest album The Good Fight, Mohamed married his French-Moroccan fiancée and upgraded from a shared apartment in a brick townhouse to a two-bedroom unit on the floor above, where he and his wife live today.

The couple’s home is an exercise in minimalism: it’s painted in muted colors and accented with tasteful Scandinavian furniture. The walls in the entryway are adorned with old travel posters of Morocco and Sudan, and next to the open kitchen is a giant framed print of the original French cover of Tintin’s The Crab With The Golden Claws. Near the bedroom entrance is a full-length blackboard, covered in French conjunctions, which Mohamed studies when he has the time.

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