Owning Yourself

“I knew that by putting shame on one part of my life, I was putting shame on others parts of me as well.” An interview with singer-songwriter Iman, appearing this month at DTLA Proud.

BY MARK ARIEL  |  PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM

Iman Jordan, formerly known by his stage name Mateo, is a pop/R&B singer-songwriter originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. He will appear this month at DTLA Proud.

In June of 2016, Iman publicly came out as gay via his Instagram. He wrote, “Over the years, I’ve created so many faces and have done so many costume changes just to hide the simple fact that I am who I am. I’ve changed my name. I’ve worn clothes I didn’t like. I’ve written songs about my most meaningful relationships and changed the pronouns. All for what…to meet my assumed expectation of others.” 

Shortly after, he changed his artist name from Mateo to his birth given name, Iman.

“I think we have a responsibility to first elevate ourselves towards self love and abundance in order to reflect that back to the world.” 

In interview with THE FIGHT Iman talks about how music ultimately set him free and his efforts to redefine what it means to be an urban conscious artist.

You grew up up in a musical family. How did that affect your musical journey?

Music was a part of everyday life growing up. My dad was a guitar player, my grandmother toured around Canada as a singer, and my grandfather played jazz guitar for Kings Records. It was a source of pride for my family, as well as disappointment. Many of my family members never accomplished the success that they wanted and therefore turned to drugs and alcoholism. Because of this, I decided that I didn’t want to do music while I was growing up. In my mind, it was the reason that my mom lost her dad to substance abuse and the reason why my dad wasn’t around much due to his addictions. But sometimes your passions pick you….you have no choice but to submit to the calling. It ultimately pulled me in while I was in college and I never looked back.  

You came out in 2016—what was the impetus to come out at that time?

Music is what ultimately set me free. By 2015, I had been signed to a major label, wrote and sang with artists like Alicia Keys, and even charted on radio. But there was something missing. My music wasn’t connecting the way I wanted it to. This forced me to evaluate my life and gain a better understanding of what it means to be authentic. It brought me closer to my spiritually which led to my freedom and owning who I am. It wasn’t easy as I had been in the closet most of my music career. I had to come out to my colleagues who invested in me, friends who trusted me, and fans who believed in me. But I knew that by putting shame on one part of my life, I was putting shame on others parts of me as well. It was robbing me of connection with my fans and the world. This is what led me to peel away my bullshit and face myself.

Did anyone in the music industry advise you not to come out?

My label at the time, Interscope, was very supportive. I think they finally understood the artist that they signed…it all clicked for them. I think people just want to get you and understand you first. But you have to be willing to show who you are.

How would you define your music?

My music is a mixture of everything I love.. it’s R&B with a little folk…its soul with a little pop. I definitely strive to redefine what it means to be an urban conscious artist. I think we have a responsibility to first elevate ourselves towards self love and abundance in order to reflect that back to the world. I want to sing my song so that everyone listening can sing theirs. I think my music is a conversation with the world about healing and excellence.

What key moments in your career are memorable to you?

I’ve had many moments in my career that have blown my mind…from having Alicia Keys feature on one of my songs to performing my music on BET’s 106 and Park. But I think the moment that stands out the most to me right now is the video we shot last week for my new project. My boyfriend and I built an entire set in our loft which took a lot of work and time. I’ve never been so invested in a video before. It also showed me what love can create…to be able to create a vision and execute it with someone you love is the ultimate good feeling.

Have you been to DTLA Proud before—and what excites you about performing there this month?

Sooooo… I have never been to DTLA Proud for whatever weird reason…especially since I live downtown. But I’m stoked. This is my community and my family and I’m excited to be able to share and have a good time with my people!

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like to share with out readers?

Yes, I am dropping my EP on August 2nd across all digital platforms. We are releasing a music video on the same day as well. Check me out! 


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