‘Don’t Wait’, Mapei’s breakthrough single from last year, is an arms-in-the-air, joyous, patience-slamming triumph. 1 million plays to the good, it celebrates the sound of someone giving in to their instincts and just going for it. No messing around. No second thoughts.
It’s a strange title, in a sense, given that the Swedish musician - real name Jacqueline Mapei Cummings, aged 30 - did a whole lot of waiting before she finally came good on her promise. Back in 2012 Mapei was a much talked-about, hyped rapper, fresh from releasing the ‘Cocoa Butter Diaries’ EP. Following that, things stalled. The next step would have to take time. “I couldn’t find the right sound,” she says, post-finding that all-important eureka moment. “I was really tired of rapping on homemade beats. I just wanted to do something more polished.”
For the first time since writing songs from the age of 12, she shunned rapping and decided to express herself through singing. Sessions in Swedish producer Magnus Lidell’s plush studio were a first, too. She was used to recording in thin-walled bedrooms (“You couldn’t really scream so much”). Limits were in place. Not anymore.
The songs form what will eventually amount to a debut album out later this year. Together, they point to a genuine freeing of ideas. “ I wanted to do something more fluffy poppy, more beautiful and feminine. I always wanted to do that. I ditched that dream at some stage and tried to be cooler than I was,” she says. The inner pop’s broken free, and there’s not a great deal capable of standing in its way.
Jacqueline describes the record as a “rainbow unicorn,” which is quite something. These songs are definitely colourful, though. They take in everything, from the musician’s wild imagination to her equally extreme background, which took in “the hood in Sweden, the hood in America,” plus a period in Brazil. At one point she shared a space with Lykke Li while living in Sweden. An unprivileged background plays a part in her music too. “I’ve always been a tomboy, angry, cocky. But I’ve always had a sense of humour,” she claims.
“I just wanna get away from reality. I don’t know the facts about these things. I wouldn’t call myself political so I can’t take that on my shoulder and be a political rapper. But I know what I know and I know what I’ve been through and I wanna speak about that sometimes. But I prefer a more simple world.” Perhaps it’s been worth the wait after all.