Sultry Brooklynite Nomi Ruiz came to prominence with her memorable collaboration alongside dance maestros Hercules and Love Affair and has since found a dynamistic new voice leading Jessica 6, an eclectic trio that seamlessly blends the most colorful of musical genres into slick tracks that evoke heartache, empowerment, and sensuality. Elsewhere spoke to Ruiz to reveal the heart and soul of the nu-disco diva.
Hello Nomi. Tell me what initially inspired you to make music.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint a specific moment when I was inspired to make music. It has always been something that I never really understood, like some higher power forcing me to take this path. I never trained to sing or studied music, I was born with it in me.
You were raised in Sunset Park in Brooklyn, New York. How would you describe the Brooklyn music scene, and did the borough influence you musically and/or personally?
Yes, I was very heavily influenced by Brooklyn. People were always playing their music loud in their apartments, cars, and on the streets. Growing up I heard lots of freestyle, R&B and hip hop. My brother was into rock music, so I heard some of that at home, and I personally loved pop music because I love to dance. I guess that’s why the music I make tends to be very eclectic.
It’s definitely evident that those genres are deeply rooted within you, especially being surrounded by them throughout your youth. So how did your music evolve from the grittier sounds of your debut album, Love in Lust, in which the R&B influence is very apparent, to the glossier dance music you’re creating today with Jessica 6? How did the inception of Jessica 6 come about?
I was having fun trying out new things. It all started when I was a guest on the Hercules and Love Affair album in 2008. I didn’t know at that moment that it would take off and define me or my style, but I’ve found a real love for dance music since then. I forgot how much I love clubbing and dancing to house music – I’m a huge fan of house and techno. I wanted Jessica 6 to be a mixture of all that: hip hop, soul, house, and techno.
I was going to mention how well you’ve integrated so many distinct and contrasting musical styles, it’s almost as if you’ve created an entirely new subgenre of electronic dance music. And personally, Jessica 6 is like a representation of your past and your present as you experiment with new ideas. The band name is taken from a character in the post-apocalyptic story Logan’s Run. How does the character of Jessica 6 relate to your Jessica 6? Was it the book or the film that inspired you?
Initially it was simply the way the name rolled off my tongue. It sounded so sexy and also reminded me of the 1980s female trios Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6. I identified with their feminine punk spirit, I felt as if I was becoming a part of them; the third “six.” I haven’t read the book, but the film inspired me because of its rebellious content, the way it carried this beautiful metaphor for believing in your own version of reality and realizing that your natural instinct is the truth; that there is life above the underground.
You also had a personal project in between Jessica 6’s two releases, a mixtape entitled Borough Gypsy, which I understand was ten years in the making. Tell me about Borough Gypsy and what it means to you.
Borough Gypsy is a very personal piece of work. I put so much of my soul and life story into it. My heart still belongs to hip hop and soul music, it’s the music that flows through my veins. Borough Gypsy is a sonic journey through my life in New York, finding myself through pain and through rhythm. I’m currently working on a follow up to it which will be released sometime next year.
That’s very exciting! What exactly makes Borough Gypsy so personal? You mentioned that you’ve shared parts of your life story. Did painful experiences give inspiration? Was it a combination of suffering and joy?
Borough Gypsy delves into the moments in my life when I accepted the fact that I didn’t belong anywhere. I was searching for a place to call home, trying to find some feeling of belonging in other people and places. In the end I realized that I’m just a loner and I may never belong to a certain place or person. I explored those feelings and sang about them. I also created an alter ego named Apollonia who raps, and that allowed me to express anger in a way that I can’t do with my singing voice.
Surely your music, mostly lyrically, sometimes reflects your life as a trans woman. Do you hope to help provide a voice for the trans community with your work? Do you feel being trans has effected your approach to the music industry, and have you learned a lot about yourself in the process?
I like the idea of my music being the soundtrack to the movement that is happening within the trans community and also to anyone who is changing the way the world looks at gender. I’ve definitely become more confident in who I am and a lot of that has to do with my fans allowing me to create and make a living off of my art. They are constantly writing to me and encouraging me. I’ve grown much stronger through sharing my music with the world.
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