With a childhood spent crisscrossing the world, splitting her time between the USA and Sweden from an early age, Mapei has channelled her sense of displacement into her music. With her debut album, 2014’s Hey Hey a collection of genres that peaked with the pop/hip-hop/baile-funk hybrid Don’t Wait. Her latest body of work includes a one-woman show and a collaboration with the Swedish/American production duo DECCO, on Shooting Stars – a textured house track that is as much dreamy as it is dance.
What do you enjoy about collaborating with producers for projects that aren't necessarily your own? Is there more freedom in that?
Yeah because I don't think too much. I'm so picky with sounds and everything, but if it's for someone else I can just go into character. I sort of mimic or channel, whatever, the type of song I'm doing at the time.
How did the collaboration with DECCO come about?
Well, I was at an ABBA songwriting camp because I write songs for other people, too.
Excuse me, a what? ABBA?!
Not the actual group ABBA, but different writers at the ABBA hotel! They put us in different groups and I was with Joacim [Persson, one half of DECCO], who I've known for a while. I wrote a song for a Disney show with him before. So they put us in the same group and we wrote the song about a year ago at that camp. I thought I sounded really good on it so we've been working on it since. I'm really happy with it. It sounds like I'm stumbling on stars in a galaxy (laughs). I like my voice on it.
"We can burn like shooting stars" - is that meant to be a positive or negative image?
It's positive. I would say the song is sexual in a way.
In what way?
Not submissive, but wanting and needing. It displays a side of me I don't usually show in life or in music, that's really sensual and sexy (laughs).
Does that feel freeing or scary?
I'm still working on it. I'm 32 and I still don't have a partner, but it's my fault you know, because I'm so childish and goofy and scared of love. But I'm working on it – that's my new year's resolution.
Do you need to be in a certain mood to be creative?
Definitely. I'm a tough cookie. I've done albums with producers and been in different studios and if it's not the right mood it's just like 'ugh'.
What mood do you need to be in?
A magical mood. I can't be in a sterile environment. There has to be stuff going on in the room, or the people I'm with have to be very vibrant and groovy.
You moved about quite a bit as a kid, how has that affected you as a person and as an artist would you say?
The world is so abstract. It's affected me in the sense that I feel like I can relate to everyone at the same time as I'm always observing, because I've had to adapt to different environments. I come from a whole other world, so it's interesting, I'm still moving between dimensions.
You've talked before about moving to Sweden and being the only black person in your friendship group - did that make you more determined to prove yourself?
Yeah, but the discussion is different now. I didn't grow up with black people on television in Sweden and now there's big debates on televisions and people are really active in the Afro-Swedish discussion. There's a community of people now so it feels like a load is off my back. I felt like I had to either be really polite or really cocky. Not towards my friends but towards people in general, just to survive or protect myself.
How did being there affect your musical tastes growing up?
The whole pop side in Sweden has been everything from Euro techno to Robyn, so it's really been an influence. But on the other hand when I'm in the States that's when I really feel the music in my veins. But I love Sweden too, it's in my blood you know. I function well here, but the States is a dream world to me and then when I actually live there it's like 'oh shit'.
How in-tune with your senses are you?
I'm extremely in-tune, it can be annoying (laughs).
Why is it a negative thing?
Because I just want to be normal. I just want to be manipulated by the government and go to my job and sit in front of a box and press a button, but I can't because I'm too in-tune with my senses and also other people's senses. I don't know if that's a diagnosis, but I just feel too in-tune. Not so much with my smell because I always have a cold.
It's been over two years since Hey Hey came out - how's the follow-up going?
I'm just going to let it take its time. I have such a vision and I feel like I'm important. I don't know if that's an Indigo child thing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigo_children), but I feel like I have something to show and I feel like I've evolving. Hopefully it will go well, I'm not rushing things, just allowing things to come to me.
I didn't think female artists were allowed to take their time in the pop world anymore!
Yeah, so that's why I'm in Sweden. I'm so used to it hear that I feel like I'm not as curious about everything so I can focus. When I'm in LA I'm like 'oh what's going on, is there a party over there?'. Here it feels like Groundhog Day which gives me the freedom just to create.
On Hey Hey you said you wanted to deliver a positive message with you music. Is that still important to you now? Do we need that even more?
I would say a magical message. I always try and stay positive because it helps me; if I'm negative then I just rot you know. I don't want to go there. I want to say things about reality more and tell some truths.
Is it easier to be angry in a song then it is to be positive?
Yeah it is. It's so easy to complain and talk rubbish, especially from the ages of 19 – 40. Everyone's so cynical and it's easy to be that way.
Let's end on a positive note – what are you looking forward to from 2017?
I'm doing a one-woman show with the Swedish National Theatre. That's a cool thing about Sweden – they fund artists.
Are you acting or singing in it?
I'm doing a monologue, some poetry, and rapping and singing. I kind of know what it's going to be about but I'm still writing it. It's happening on May 12, so I have a bit of time to work it out. I just want to be productive. I have a lot of different things I'm working on.