TAAHLIAH on her debut EP, Angelica
Glasgow-based DJ and producer TAAHLIAH is set to release her debut EP, Angelica, this month. We talk to her about accolades, authenticity and the new record
High-pitched vocals, glitchy production, and a general chaotic energy: these are the characteristics of hyperpop, and according to Dazed it’s “the new sound for a post-pandemic world.”
Hyperpop has become increasingly popular over the last decade, coinciding with the rise of A.G. Cook’s PC Music label. But the genre has strong roots in Scotland, and as Glasgow-based DJ and producer TAAHLIAH stated on Twitter: “The key aesthetics of 'hyperpop' can be originally found in working class rave tunes from the 00s… We (Scottish working class people) did it first.”
TAAHLIAH is fast becoming one of the biggest names in Scotland’s electronic music scene. At the end of last year she became the first Black trans woman to be nominated for and win both Best Newcomer and Best Electronic Act at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, and the first artist to win two SAMAs in the same year. But accolades are not what TAAHLIAH strives for. “If I'm able to represent my community in an authentic, honest way that people are able to relate to and understand then, for me, the job's done,” she says.
Born in Kilmarnock, TAAHLIAH moved to Glasgow in 2017 to attend Glasgow School of Art, where she is currently completing her final year in Painting and Printmaking. It was in Glasgow, and through spending long nights in clubs and at after parties, that TAAHLIAH’s passion for DJing arose and she first made a name for herself fusing electronic music and hyperpop within her DJ sets. “I was meeting people who were studying in art school, studying at different institutions, who were also DJs. There was this real normality to it I guess… It felt quite accessible,” she says.
It was after a stint in Berlin, though, when her music career really started to take off. “I went to Berlin on exchange, and didn't really attend. I was just making lots of music in my flat and partying all the time,” she says. “It was very different to Glasgow... so to be within that environment for half a year was a real eye-opener. It was like all these different genres of music, all these different walks of life. I think it was really fundamental to my practice now.”
During this time, TAAHLIAH began conversations with London-based label untitled (recs), on which her debut EP, Angelica, is due out this month. Originally intended as a four-track EP, Angelica stretched to seven tracks throughout the course of its development over the last year. The EP chronicles TAAHLIAH’s life so far, detailing a range of different experiences that have come to shape her as a person and as an artist, from coming to terms with being trans (Brave) to discussing coming from a working class background (Bourgeoisie); from breaking up (Tears) to falling in love (Freefalling).
The pressures that come with being a Black trans artist from a working class background in the music industry, and the additional expectations put upon artists from marginalised backgrounds to succeed, are not lost on TAAHLIAH, and they are pressures that weigh heavily on her shoulders. “I feel like my experience in life is always up for debate and critique, so if I'm not the best of the best, no one's going to pay attention to it,” she says. “I feel the pressure to be as good as I can or be the best as possible because my stuff is going to get critiqued so much more than the white electronic music producer.”
This excessive critiquing was a concern TAAHLIAH had ahead of unveiling her Hard Dance mix for Boiler Room earlier this year, which featured several alternate versions of tracks from Angelica. “When the Boiler Room offer came through I was like ‘okay, this is great’ but I was also freaking the fuck out because, at the end of the day, the main audience of Boiler Room is white, cis, straight music bros and they were going to be exposed to this sound,” she says.
“I'm not making music for them; I'm making music for my friends and people who have the same experiences as me and can relate to queerness, Blackness and transness… but also because of Boiler Room and the access to that, it's also theirs to critique in a way.” She continues: “I'm constantly aware of that and that's why I'm so hell-bent on doing something that's unique and different.”
Relatability and visibility are two crucial elements of TAAHLIAH’s work, and the more successes she has, the more opportunities she has to bring her music to different audiences. But staying true to herself and to her fans will always remain paramount: “As long as people can listen to the music and relate to it and take something positive from it then I feel like I'm doing a good job.”
Angelica is released on 28 May via untitled (recs)