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In 2021, PinkPantheress caught the world’s attention when she released her debut mixtape, to hell with it. Featuring 19 minutes of melodies, samples and reinterpretations of house, drum-and-bass and cybercore soundscapes it touched on a confluence of emotions and teenage tribulations: from loneliness to family conflict, via crashing your car and failing your A-levels. From there, things kept taking off, scoring spots on hit soundtracks — Black Panther:Wakanda Forever and Barbie — as well as collaborations with Willow Smith, Skrillex, Kaytranada, Troye Sivan, Destroy Lonely, and Ice Spice, who joined her for ‘Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2’, a global hit and her biggest track to date, amassing more than a billion streams. As she prepares to drop debut album Heaven Knows, PinkPantheress speaks exclusively to Rolling Stone UK on bringing her first album to life, protecting her privacy and being a Black woman in music.

PinkPantheress on the ‘PinkPantheress sound’:
“Every artist I love has an essence.… You just can’t mistake their songs [for anyone else], even if they use multiple genres… I think with my essence there’s a constant underlying sadness, even when the lyrics aren’t sad. [It’s] also one of hope and lost hope, and, like, grey.… My essence was very inspired by Britain. There’s a certain feeling that I feel like none of us can really put our fingers on when it comes to being here.”

PinkPantheress on recording in LA:
“Previous to this album, I’d never recorded anywhere else but London, so that’s new, and probably why the songs do sound different. But I can never lose the Britishness in me.”

PinkPantheress on drawing a clear line between her personhood and her artistry:
“I’ve always been super private, even in school. It’s probably to do with the way I was raised, too, with my mum being Kenyan and me learning a lot about Kenyan values, African values. I don’t know if you got this, but my mum just taught me that you can actually keep things to yourself.”

PinkPantheress on the process of learning to love how she looks:
“Before this year, I just hated how I looked. I feel better about the way I look now because I’ve kind of just accepted it. And it’s made me more willing to enter myself into this world now as opposed to holding back.”

PinkPantheress on the expectation placed on women – and Black women especially – in music:
“I’ve had people ask online, ‘She’s got an arse, why doesn’t she just show it?’ I’ve always said if you’re a Black female [artist], you’re expected to sing really well, or you’re expected to dance really well, or rap really well. It’s those three things, or you have to have a perfect body, be ‘in check,’ and basically be a model, or you might as well leave. And I think that’s why a lot of people say, ‘Why isn’t she bigger than she is?’ And to be fair, you have to remind them sometimes [that] you’re coming through as a Black female artist making alternative music, not even pop necessarily, who hails from the U.K., who doesn’t really post pictures of herself online, who dresses a type of way that people aren’t used to. It’s like, ‘What do you expect?’”