In the depths of a bleak Covid winter, extremely couple of of us had been sensation peng. With Zoom meetings and state-mandated everyday walks our only sort of socialising, there was very little to dress up for, and several chances for us to come to feel gorgeous.
Then arrived a track that changed it all. Peng Black Women – a keep track of by the up-and-coming south London rapper Enny – was produced in Oct 2020, but thanks to a December remix, it snowballed into a viral sensation that served as an antidote to lockdown gloom. The lyrics and online video, which showcase her local community in all its glory, are a love letter to Blackness, womanhood, and crucially pengness (a London slang term that essentially suggests “hotness”).
Enny, born Enitan Adepitan, connects with me around video from her motor vehicle, and quickly starts off breaking down the politics in her lyrics. When Black girls are so usually either erased by the media, or held to impossible scrutiny when it comes to the way we appear, on Peng Black Girls, Adepitan phone calls out the fact that women of all ages who are not Black are praised for embodying these similar characteristics: “Want a extra fat booty like Kardashians? / No / Want a unwanted fat booty like my Aunty got, yo.”
A further of the song’s overarching themes is our variety: “Dark skin, mild pores and skin, medium tone / Permed tings, braids, bought minis afros / Thick lips acquired hips some of us do not / Major nose contour some of us won’t”. The reference to contouring – a makeup strategy that boosts the appearance of functions like the nose and cheekbones – feels significantly notable, as it ties into broader discussions about magnificence benchmarks in the Black neighborhood.
“That line’s focused to me, guy!” Adepitan laughs cheekily. “I don’t forget when I was seriously youthful, an individual advised me that I really do not have a bridge on my nose … I was looking in the mirror like: ‘Oh my God, I do not have a bridge on my nose! I have a actually African nose!’ For a prolonged time, that was like a stigma for me. So composing the tune served me just get comfy in my possess pores and skin, and my own insecurities.”
As properly as getting a therapeutic effect for Adepitan, the tune has found the artist thrust into the limelight: she has been heralded as the long term of rap by Vogue and GQ, while Notion journal referred to as her “one of the most enjoyable figures in the current British isles tunes scene”, and, crucially, “someone you’d like to be good friends with”. Meanwhile, Peng Black Girls has been shared by the likes of Skepta and Summer season Walker, with both of those the unique and remix cumulatively amassing more than 12m views.
In Adepitan’s other video clips – notably, Identical Old, which sees her marching via the streets of London and having on the matter of gentrification – she exudes self confidence, flipping her hair, staring down the lens and gesturing in the air with brightly manicured nails. It is a different side to the Enny I meet up with today. As we speak, she once in a while angles the telephone camera to the roof of the car or truck, so only her forehead scrapes the base of the frame, or appears to be out of the automobile window. “I’m deffo shy,” she suggests.
“I wasn’t seriously like the baby that would enjoy exterior I was often in my room,” she proceeds. “My father taught me how to engage in the keyboard … and so I would do that all the time.” Her family’s tastes performed a crucial position in nurturing her interest in music Lauryn Hill and Stevie Ponder in individual.
Inspite of going to college and attempting other careers, Adepitan kept making tunes – and received found by regional radio stations for a freestyle model of her tune He’s Not Into You. That is what put her on the radar of Root 73, an artist-progress programme operate by people today born and elevated in Hackney, east London.
“I achieved Root 73 in 2019 by means of my now-manager” – Adepitan turns the camera to Pascal, who’s sitting down nonchalantly in the driver’s seat, and cackles. “He introduced me into Root, which was the studio he was doing work out of, and they grew to become family. They truly took me in, putting me on phase and stuff like that early on, when I only had about 3 tunes,” she says.
Thinking of her shyness, what had been her to start with ordeals on stage like? “Horrible!” she shouts. “I experienced to drink a lot of liquor just to get the juices going.”
Immediately after the pandemic broke out and the gigs finished, Adepitan introduced Peng Black Ladies, and by the stop of the calendar year it experienced blown up. The remix, which showcased her label-mate Jorja Smith singing the hook relatively than former collaborator Amia Brave, had been produced by way of the streaming channel Colors. The movie racked up millions of sights in a variety of days.
The reality that it was this online video – which swapped out Brave in favour of the lighter-skinned Smith – that introduced the music to prominence, captivated scrutiny from listeners. To quite a few, it seemed like colourism – manufactured more biting by the simple fact that it is a music about Black women’s empowerment. Even though Adepitan and Brave have acknowledged the optics of the conclusion, equally prompt that the predicament is complex, with Adepitan telling Crack journal that Smith would rake in a lot more views, and Brave telling gal-dem: “In my heart of hearts, I really do not believe they realised how it will come across.”
The authentic video, which attributes dozens of women, is a better car or truck for showcasing the diversity of Black womanhood – as properly as Adepitan’s have track record. Shot by the St Lucian north Londoner Otis Dominique, the online video was generally filmed in Adepitan’s native Thamesmead (other noteworthy shoots in the spot include things like Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy and A Clockwork Orange). The marshland web page turned brutalist housing job, which has for decades been solid off by politicians and planners as a “sink estate”, is going through regeneration.
She continue to lives in the space, at dwelling with her mother and father, and suggests that it holds a specific area in her coronary heart. “When my brother and sister have been young, I know it was very racist. They ended up it’s possible the only black people in the location at the time. But when I was more mature … it was residence there was a good deal of community.
“So the toughest matter is looking at [the disappearance of] matters you grew up with – memories you affiliate with people that may possibly not be in this article any more. When specific properties go, you type of feel like the people are going with them.”
This local community spirit and solidarity threads as a result of the movie: pals standing all-around her aunties in classic Nigerian dress her little cousins in matching orange raincoats and pink wellies. There is also a theme of adaptability: the action moves from wholesome shots in Adepitan’s living place by day, to sleek stylish in a Croydon car park at night time. “I required to demonstrate the unique sides to how I grew up,” she suggests.
The information of the song, and the rest of her modest overall body of perform – tackling Boris Johnson’s premiership and cheating in associations – obviously connects with a rising fanbase. In the YouTube comments for her tracks, a selection of followers have dubbed her the “British Lauryn Hill”, whilst above on TikTok, Peng Black Women serves as the backing monitor to video clips of Black women of all ages and women showcasing their makeup, hair and outfits. “That’s gassy,” she suggests. “I love seeing that. Black women of all ages are just so attractive and I don’t experience like they get explained to it enough.
“[When the song came out] I received so many messages from younger black women, in Europe or in Asia, just stating that they felt unpleasant and now they sense gorgeous … It kinda created me unhappy, since I realised that how I felt expanding up often was how thousands of ladies are experience right now. But it also felt unique to know that it connected and designed a variation.”
Online suggestions would seem to have been all the additional significant for Adepitan given that she rose to fame through the pandemic. It has made for a bizarre introduction to the field: the absence of dwell situations usually means she is nonetheless to meet up with several women in the small business, other than Smith, whom she describes as a passionate perfectionist. “I imagine I’m even now discovering my footing,” she claims.
When the industry resumes, there is a huge entire world out there for Adepitan to investigate. The final few several years have seen a unexpected boom for women in rap – from the success of Shygirl and Very little Simz in the British isles, to Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat across the pond. “It’s nearly like a Renaissance moment for women who are having a stand in what they want to do, and just becoming whoever they want to be when it arrives to audio. They’re not finding trapped in bins, or centered on what they feel that persons may possibly want to listen to, or what labels are telling them to do. They are just getting by themselves.
“Before Cardi [B] and Nicki [Minaj], it was Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott, like you could pinpoint unique moments,” she states. “But now you’ve received hundreds of girl rappers.”
She admits that from time to time, as a Black lady, she feels the stress of the market looming around her. “I really feel like that pressure was initially what variety of stalled me for a extended time, mainly because I always felt like there was not a market for persons that search like me … for a darkish-skinned Black rapper, specially 1 that was not going to rap about sexual intercourse or stuff like that.
“But I’m likely to die 1 working day. I never want to have regrets and be like: ‘Oh, I didn’t do this since another human remaining thinks a certain way, or modern society is telling me that I can’t.’”
With a viral hit less than her belt – plus a new upbeat party observe, I Want, and an EP on the horizon – it appears as if Adepitan is going to have a enormous summer time. “Once outdoors is correctly, correctly open up, I’m heading just about everywhere!” she says excitedly, in advance of reeling off just exactly where: “I’m heading to the clubs, I’m likely to the festivals, I’m likely to the places to eat.”
She pauses, the stage persona putting on off, and the introvert re-rising: “I say that now, but I’ll likely keep at dwelling.”
If that means far more music, and far more motives to truly feel peng, then none of us can complain.
Enny’s following one, I Want, is out in June