words by JoliAmour DuBose-Morris
image by Metro Public Relations

When SadBoi comes around, everyone gets nervous. That’s it. In some ways, that’s all that has to be said. You can debate it if you want, but there won’t be much solitary evidence to go against her. SadBoi, the all-around musician and rapper from Canada with Jamaican and Antiguan descent is able to enter any room and unite all of the collective baddies around her while barely sparing the men a flash of her glance. She’s the ultimate ‘girl’s girl,’ as her many visuals and videos center her friends and women alike who get to clink their solo cups together and cut up on the dancefloor unapologetically. 

SadBoi is Rated R in the music industry, setting herself up as the empress of R&B, reggae, and rap fusion with Brazilian funk, deep house, UK garage, and pop intertwined. Not to mention her authentic style, from the slicked braided pigtails with assorted black ribbons to the grills and silver jewelry flashing from head to toe, completed with the crop top and miniskirt combo, if she passes you; you’ll know it’s her. 

It’s not all fun and games, SadBoi’s coming into her own in this industry—not to be validated by her audience or peers—but to be affirmed in her confidence. Once upon a time, the name SadBoi was about how the artist felt at the end of a breakup. Her songs used to be about cries, heartaches, and certain emotional attachments. Now, after drying those mascara-stained tears and taking a mirror selfie, she’s using her lyrics to speak value into herself. And, to others who’ve ever felt like they lost their worth. SadBoi (whose real name is Ebhoni Cato-O’Garro), is constantly reinventing herself and beating her personal goals about what her music has to sound like. Hit after hit, from “His Sweater,” to “Stank Hoez” (we had two completely different opinions on it, but it’s very much a banger) to “Ms. Do You Wrong,” “Potential,” “Slide,” and now her most recent album, Bare Chat with big hits like “Ackee” and “Baddies”—SadBoi returns to the studio each time with more and more. 

In an online interview for Blanc, I spoke to SadBoi about her stardom, the difference between her perception and her fandom, and where everything goes from Bare Chat.

You’ve got Antiguan, Jamaican, and Canadian influences in you, how does this background play a part in both you as a person and as a musician? 

I honestly think it’s very similar to growing up in the UK,  I feel like Toronto and the UK are very similar in a sense, where it’s a melting pot, so it’s people from all over, different cultures, different food—even when you go to the parties, you hear a variety of music, and you know, growing up in Toronto, that’s basically what I had the chance to experience. I’m grateful because not only did I grow up in a Caribbean household, but like on Sundays, you hear, soca or, regular music, but when I stepped outside—the nightlife, you heard different music. Even going to school, meeting people, and hearing their stories about their family and where they’re from, played a big role, like, I don’t know if I didn’t grow up in Toronto, if I would have that similar style in my music, per se. So, it’s played a really big part, honestly. 

When I hear your music, it’s clear there’s some influence from Deep House, R&B, and some parts of Drill—who are your musical influences? 

I’m a fan of 2016, that whole time, so I’ve listened to Rihanna, Anti, Drake, Views, and just stuff like that. It’s interesting because I feel like I have an old soul, in a sense, where I find myself listening to music I was listening to in high school. I still listen to Lana Del Rey, like—I love Lana Del Rey. I will go into BB Trickz, it’s so weird, and then I’ll go and listen to old school reggae, so I really can’t say, because [my music taste] it’s honestly all over the place, like—all over the place.

Which genres are you trying to fuse in the most?

I would say my Caribbean roots. I feel like there’s a lot of reggae influence in my songs. There’s a lot of patois. I also think another big part of my music is the Brazilian funk. I love Brazil. I’ve never been, but I love the culture, I love the music, I love Anitta, I love Ludmilla, I love Tasha & Tracie, I love Duquesa, so I’m a big fan of Brazilian funk.  I would say that plays a big role also. I would say I land in Brazilian funk, alternative pop, I don’t know what you would call it, honestly.

In one of your pictures, there’s this dry-erase board of all the songs for Bare Chat. There are a couple that are crossed out—will they be going towards a new project, and will you still release them?

I will be releasing them. A lot of those songs on that board stemmed from when I first changed my name. I felt like a lot of people were not going to understand it. I get the question all the time, “SadBoi? But like, that’s a girl?” So, I was very much going through something. I was going through a breakup and stuff like that. So, I just kept writing about the guy. A lot of those songs on there are very vulnerable, at least. Very detailed about the situation. I didn’t feel like it fit with Bare Chat tracks necessarily. I think there’s going to be a time when that music does come out. Some of the other songs on there as well. So, yeah, it’s going to come out at some point.

What was your writing process when making Bare Chat? I know ‘Slide’ and ‘Potential’ were on prior EPs. So, how long did it take to get to this final album?

When I think of songs outside of my vulnerable stuff—songs like, “Stank Hoes” and “Slide,” those are songs that I created while I was in my safe space. So, there’s not a line in there that I second-guessed. There wasn’t anything in there that was like, “People are going to like this.” It was me, writing these songs in my washroom, sitting in my washroom sink, and just trying to uplift myself. With all of Bare Chat, each song on there, when I had, went in my washroom and I wrote these songs, I thought a lot about the things that I needed to hear or get off my chest,  just so I feel good. Because I feel like it’s hard sometimes, people were like me. People may think, I don’t care about certain things. But I’m going through it. Sometimes, I need to hear those things myself. I wish I was that person who woke up in the morning and was like, “Oh, I’m a baddie,” you know? So when I created this project, it was much, like, kind of me just speaking things and the person I want to be or the person I wish I woke up and felt like. So that was the process for me and keeping in mind, Toronto, my city. So even making sure I said keywords, our slang, and stuff, just so it still draws me back to home and people from home are like, “Oh, I know what she’s talking about.” I think it’s similar to London, to be honest with you. But, yeah, that’s what I was really thinking about. 

Do you remember when you could start to see that you were building a fan base?

I want to say “Potential.” And “Potential” was a gift and a curse. Because when I did “Potential,” it was my first time in the studio with a producer. I was like, “Let’s try mixing garage with reggae.” And I just did the song once. It was so quick and easy for me to write to it. And I loved the song. But then “Potential” did really well. And it was a song that I felt put me in so much writer’s block. As an artist, I felt like I had to top “Potential.” And honestly, I felt like I couldn’t. I couldn’t make another “Potential.” I fell into this space where people were like, “Make another potential, make another potential.” So, I had all the buzz, but then I didn’t know what to do with this. “Slide” was the song that I made to get myself out of writer’s block because everyone kept telling me to make “Potential.” So I just went to what I knew and the producer who did “Slide” and a majority of this project, I’ve known him since I was 17. “Potential,” I feel, gave me a boost. But I think I noticed everything around “Slide” to be honest with you.

What is the best song you feel like you’ve made so far? 

The best song that I feel I’ve made, I would say is, “Ackee” which is off Bare Chat. And I would also say “Complicated” but I don’t know if I’m saying it because they’re also my favorites. I  feel like there’s something special in those songs. 

How do you keep intention or authenticity, especially as your fan base evolves and so do their expectations for your music? 

I think that’s something that I’m still figuring out. But, I think I’m starting to understand it. The key things that people like or what drew people to the song, whether it be the tempo, whether it be, the fact that I use a few slang words—Toronto slang words—or the fact that there’s a breakdown in there. I think those are things that I think of while I’m moving on to my next project because at least for me, there are so many other things that I could do, and I don’t want to put myself in the box, “Okay, I have to make another “Slide.” Instead of thinking like that, it’s, “Okay, how can I give people that but also make it feel new whether it be taking on certain elements, adding certain elements?” That’s where I put myself. I also try not to be too hard on myself with that. 

And that’s important because if you make that boundary with yourself, regardless of what other people think, you’ll be like, “I’m making this music for me. This is affirming for me.”

Yeah, exactly.

Even though the origin [SadBoi] was based on that relationship, do you feel as you get bigger you might come up with a different reason for why you’re still SadBoi?

Yeah. Like, it all came from a guy and that whole situation that I was in. But I think I’ve grown not only as an artist but as a human. Right now, I’m taking on this persona he had, and his ways of being toxic and not caring. I feel like there’s something special in it because it can, it will, and it is turning into something more powerful. You know what I mean? In my tag, I say, “Are you crying, baby?” It’s not me saying it to be funny, but it’s almost flipping the script, to the guy, like, “Are you crying? Am I hurting your feelings?” And I think there’s just something so powerful in that, and just me transitioning and becoming more confident. Over time, the name continues to grow with me, and it becomes more powerful when I think about it.

Especially since this industry is so male-dominated, do you feel like going about that relationship with men or showcasing their vulnerability helps you you have space and autonomy in such a space? Or how do you rise above it? 

I feel like my lyrics are very cutthroat, so, some men feel uncomfortable when they hear it. But, um…I don’t think about the men, to be honest with you. Like, I could care less about them or what they think, or how they feel about the name, or about anything that has to do with me and what I do. I don’t think about it too much. I’m more so where the women are at. Whatever a girl says, I’m listening. When it comes to men, it goes in one ear and then out the other. But it’s hard at the same time. When I do think of it on the flip side, sometimes, it is a male-dominated industry, and being a woman, you have to put your foot down or stand up for what you believe in. And sometimes you may be in uncomfortable situations where you’re in the studio and it’s a bunch of males and it’s, like, no one cares to hear what you have to say, you know? And, in that sense, it could be hard. It took me a long time. Even now, there are still things that I’m trying to figure out how to go about it. But, you know, it’s disappointing, the industry we’re in, it’s just not fair. When I walk into a room, I’m like, “Okay, if it happens like this, how do I need to position myself to make sure I’m heard, you know?”  And also being okay that I don’t feel bad for needing to be heard or feeling like I should be heard. So that was the biggest thing because I feel like I always would feel bad for speaking up. And it’s like—no, if I believe in something, if I see something, I should be able to have a say.

Your most recent playlist, “Lick BackKkk” revolves around many female artists. How do the women around you empower your artistry? 

Oh, so much. My mom and my grandma empower me a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. I think my grandma plays a really big role, honestly in my whole artistry, the way I carry myself, the way I speak, the way I choose to dress, my grills—the smallest things, I get everything from my grandma. But my grandma was just such a badass, and she was the true definition of “I don’t give a fuck what anyone says.” And she worked hard. Like, my mom and my grandma worked hard. And just seeing them go for what they want and working the hardest in the room inspired me in my career. So I’m thankful for that. And I’m surrounded by so many women. There are so many women in my family. So just seeing them and hearing their experiences, what they go through, and how they deal with things helps me. 

Is the majority of your family alpha females?

Yes. Yeah, the majority are alpha females. 

This is good, because I think it helps you get older and go “I’m not gonna take shit, respectfully.” 

Right, there’s nothing that anybody can do because I’ve seen my mom and my grandma rise to the top. 

Is there anyone in this industry, any other artist that’s given you words of encouragement to keep going? 

I would say the most recent is probably Drake. Drake gave me good advice. Words of encouragement to keep going, which I appreciate. From that conversation, it gave me a clear mind of what to do next and how to go about things and stuff like that. So, I’m grateful for that. I’m trying to think of anyone else. Rosalía. Yeah, Rosalia very early on supported me, anytime I needed. Anything. I could call her and she would give me advice.

So, my last question,  I’m just so curious. I tried to scroll as far as I could to find a page of you without the two ponytails, but when did that exactly come about—the signature hairstyle?

Um, my hair dropped out. I bleached my hair, and it had dropped out. Like, I had a buzz cut. And when my hair was growing back, I did knotless braids. And, I don’t remember what movie I was watching, or maybe I was deep on Pinterest, and I wanted to try—no, it was on Tumblr, and I saw pigtails. And it was a cute look. It was just a photoshoot. And, um, I wanted to try doing my hair like that, but I couldn’t, because my hair wasn’t long enough. So, my mom had to braid my hair on my head and do two pigtails. Then as my hair started growing, I could do pigtails. So, it just became the easiest hairstyle for me to do, without sitting in the chair for so long to get knotless braids, because it was ten minutes. Like,  just two pigtails and a few braids in the pigtails. It ended up being my signature look, to be honest with you. I became so obsessed with the style,  finding different ways to do it. So, yeah, it all stemmed from my hair dropping out, and that being the only hairstyle that was fast to do, because everything else took hours.

Well, it shows that it’s following trends, because I’m one of the many that did it after. I think I did it last November. 

It’s so crazy because I didn’t think it was anything serious. Whenever I go somewhere, people will recognize me because it’s my two pigtails. So, they’ll be, like, “Oh, I know it was you because of your pigtails.”

You’re one of those iconic cartoons with that exact outfit or hair. Like, there couldn’t be anybody else.