Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Lightning Strikes Thunderheist

Written by Nicki Bahrampour
Active Image
Isis is unapproachable as she walks onto the patio of the Drake Hotel in Toronto. Unapproachable and curiously unaware of her surroundings, or so it seems. Earphones in, and dark wayfarers shading her eyes, she walks right past me and sits two tables down. “Wow, I totally didn’t see you,” she yells as she takes her earbuds out, shoving them into her purse. I offer to bring my things over to the table she’s chosen; she simply nods and looks back down at her BlackBerry. 
Photos by Jason Rodgers
{multithumb thumb_width=500 thumb_height=225}
{mosimage width=600}
   
Isis is unapproachable as she walks onto the patio of the Drake Hotel in Toronto. Unapproachable and curiously unaware of her surroundings, or so it seems. Earphones in, and dark wayfarers shading her eyes, she walks right past me and sits two tables down.

“Wow, I totally didn’t see you,” she yells as she takes her earbuds out, shoving them into her purse. I offer to bring my things over to the table she’s chosen; she simply nods and looks back down at her BlackBerry.

The hotel patio is anything but inconspicuous. It’s situated on a street known to attract trust fund kids, fashion design students, and artists who utilize found objects. The first place you’d think of if you wanted to be seen.

Isis is part of the electro/rap duo Thunderheist whose success seems to follow you to every party and after party you attend. Thunderheist formed when Grahm—the other half—began sending Isis music he had produced, which she would then rap over. This was not the beginning of her career, and she wants to make that clear right away. She could have done it on her own.

“I was making hip-hop music before any of this; I played the Apollo Theater; I toured the States and Canada; I put out a CD that did really well. I was eighteen and touring the world. Some people know that, some people don’t.” 


She’s referring to the time when she was known simply as Isis, not as half of duo Thunderheist. “Some people assume that because you’re a duo it’s just going to happen, but I already had my career. I mean, it wasn’t what it is now but I definitely had my own thing going on.”
{multithumb thumb_width=300 thumb_height=400}{mosimage width=300 height=400}
It is clear that Isis can take care of herself, and it’s something she takes pride in. It’s a part of her personality that has always been—it did not just come along with the reality of working in an industry dominated by powerful men. Not to say it hasn’t helped.
 
“I’ve always gotten respect from men. I am my father’s daughter and I grew up with three brothers. I’ve always demanded a certain level of respect. I’m a tomboy in a dress.”

Her bacon cheeseburger arrives and before it even hits the table, she looks up at our waitress who she seems to know by name. “Can I have some Dijon mustard on the side? Not the seedy stuff, just like the regular Dijon mustard.” Our server giggles, and turns away quickly as though Isis is her only customer.

"Wait, why doesn’t anyone serve pickles anymore? Can I have a pickle too?” Her voice seems to travel through our waitress to the other side of the patio.

A few eyes dart in our direction, but she seems oblivious to them and everyone else’s opinion of her. “When I first started doing things with Thunderheist and we started getting bigger, a lot of people I knew before chastised me. They said, you’re such a talented MC; you could have stayed with hip-hop; why would you leave to make this party music?”
{multithumb blog_mode=popup thumb_proportions=bestfit resize=1 full_height=600}
She holds up her finger, a sign to stop talking as she takes another bite of the burger which has been appropriately Dijonified. “Because I’m fucking young and want to enjoy my life,” she says with her mouth half full. “I don’t have to conform to what someone else believes hip-hop to be.”
{multithumb thumb_width=450 thumb_height=450}{mosimage width=450 height=450}
She takes another bite. “It’s easy to navigate a man’s world when you understand the full power of women. Men will bow down to you. I’ve had men carry me across a field because I don’t want to get my pumps wrecked, and it’s not on some prissy shit.”

Before either of us has uttered another word, the table jerks in my direction as our vodka lemonades tip dangerously close to the edge of both our table, and our neighbor’s white dress. Isis is holding a napkin up to her face and that’s when I notice a bee flying stealthily around our sugary drinks.

For a moment we stare at each other. “What was I saying?” she chimes. It seems she wants to ignore the minor disaster. It has also become increasingly clear that she’s not as tough as she wants to make it seem.

The next time the bee makes an appearance, Isis gives off a slight squeal as she grabs her phone and slides across the bench to navigate her way around the table. The juxtaposition of a strong personality and the high-pitched childish sound start to make my head spin.

“People definitely think you’re one way, which may only be one part of who you really are. As a musician, that’s often the part of your personality that makes you the money or gets you heard,” she adds.

Isis takes a large swig of her drink and startlingly out of nowhere, she says, “Touch my leg,” staring straight through her dark glasses. She taps her foot against my leg under the table. I practically choke on my drink. “Seriously, I have never grown any hair on my legs,” she casually admits.

Sure enough, her legs are smooth and I can’t help but ask, “Everywhere?” She takes another bite of her burger and starts to laugh boisterously.

“I missed out on what we consider normal female development because I never shaved my legs or read girly magazines,” she answers. “I wasn’t a prissy girl, and yeah, I grow hair other places.”

Isis is intimidating; she speaks to you like you need a talking to. She’s opinionated and will hardly let you get a word in edgewise, and when you do, it must be smart, it must be entertaining, and it should definitely be loud.
{multithumb thumb_width=450 thumb_height=400}{mosimage width=600 height=400}
Before I ask my next question, I notice two bees flying dangerously close to her neck. She can’t see them yet and I’m not sure whether to warn her, afraid she may lunge across the table this time. They seem to switch to opposite shoulders as though they are performing a synchronized dance in the sky. She hears them before I have a chance to say anything. She ducks her head, and screams. She looks back up, almost crouched under the table at this point. “Are we done yet?” she questions, fear in her voice.

I say that we are.

Isis concludes, “I’m all hardcore and there’s this fucking bee and I can’t breathe. I demand respect from men but I’m deathly afraid of bees.”
{multithumb thumb_width=450 thumb_height=450}{mosimage width=450 height=450}

Share this post