If you aren’t familiar with Inayah, prepare to fall in love. Not only does she pair her smooth, sultry voice with nostalgic R&B vibes, but it’s her out-of-this-world personality that fans around the world can’t get enough of. Boasting 1.8 million followers on Instagram alone, the independent singer, songwriter, mother, entertainer and overall lover of life wears her heart on her sleeve, giving audiences around the world a piece of herself with each release.
Hailing from Houston, Inayah first gained recognition after her cover of Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” went completely viral. With her background in gospel music, the EMPIRE Records signee has been locked in the studio perfecting her forthcoming debut album—all while being 8 months pregnant.
Most recently, Inayah returned with her newest single titled “Fallin,” a romantic ballad dedicated to all the lovers out there. Pairing the record with a cinematic visual directed by Alfredo Flores (who does all of Ariana Grande’s videos), Inayah undoubtedly brings the record to life by laying down her pipes over a Blackstreet classic, “Don’t Leave Me.” The record is produced by Harmony Samuels, who’s produced hits for all the elites from Brandy to Jennifer Lopez to Mary J. Blige.
Flaunt caught up with Inayah via Instagram Live, who was glowing in her pregnancy. Read below as we discuss her how “Fallin” came into fruition, shooting the visual with Alfredo Flores, her love for R&B, going viral after covering Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up,” recording “Best Thing” through heartbreak, studio essentials, her fashion style, forthcoming album, new merch, and more!
Congrats on your pregnancy, that’s so beautiful!
Thank you! I’m super, super pregnant right now. I’m so over it sis, I’m ready for this to be over. I’m 8 months, sliding into the home plate now.
I know you’re a mother already.
You know I got a 9-year-old, but I started all the way over. I actually forgot how to do it, so hopefully it’ll come back to me. [laughs]
“Fallin” out now, how are you feeling?
“Fallin” is finally out, it’s doing so good. Thank you Inayah-aters for all the love and support. I didn’t even originally want to do the record. To be honest, I didn’t want to do it because I felt like it was out of my usual. I never really sang about love, it was more so about heartbreak. I’m tough, I’m gangsta out here. I don’t need no man! To finally show my vulnerable side and this confidence I’ve built in myself from being in love, versus the other type of confidence I had: the self-made, independent woman confidence. I’m still confident, but now I’m confident and in love too. The message is fun, it’s inviting. I like it. The record’s doing so well, I’m so happy.
It remakes Blackstreet’s “Don’t Leave Me” with a modern twist, I know it’s produced by Harmony Samuels. Was that in the studio with him?
Shoutout to Blackstreet first and foremost for approving the sample. I’ve been listening to them since I was a little kid, that was an absolute pleasure. Harmony Samuels is dope all the way around, talented and extremely gifted. Him and Brittany B wrote the record together one night, played it for me and I’m like “ehh.” I went back home and I thought about it. I played it for my boyfriend, I sung a little bit. He said “baby, that’s the one!” [Jamaican accent] He’s from Jamaica so yeah. He really encouraged me to record it and now I’m falling in love with it as the days pass.
How does he feel about that record being about him?
He brags! He be in the shower singing the record all off key. [laughs] He sounds terrible, but he loves it. He’s really supportive. My manager Kenny really drilled it in me: “Inayah, it’s okay to step outside the box.” When we shot the video with Alfredo Flores, that was it for me. Okay, I see the vision. I’m with it, I’m loving it. It’s taken a life of its own man, I’ma start listening to them more often. [laughs]
I love that the video tells a story, how did that collab come about?
Alfredo’s a big deal, his vision is beautiful. When he came to me with the mood board, the idea of the video, I was blown away because I hadn’t stepped into anything of that caliber yet for my videos. Everything I shot so far with my brother Spiker Designer, he’s amazing as well, it was in your face raw! Giving you the real. We never really went with themes so much. When he came to me with the Euphoria idea, “whoa! This gonna be some trippy shit, let’s do it!” We did it, I saw it come to life. It’s a beautiful thing when you can see the layout of what you dreamed of come to life. Altogether, a beautiful experience.
Biggest memory from the shoot? Where did you guys shoot it by the way?
Girl, being pregnant and having to take breaks every 10 minutes. It took a lot of strength to make it through that, but having such a strong team and beautiful people around me made it all worth it. I was struggling girl. I had to stop and pee every 10 minutes, I was getting hot. They had to bring a fan on set for me. It was a lot, but we made it through. I had my baby there with me, he came and flew out. He was a big help, it all came out well. I’m still blown away by the video. I still watch it like, “that’s me!”
It hit 1.5 million views in less than a month. How does it feel seeing those numbers?
I haven’t even looked! Thank you Inayah-aters. lovers! I be walking around the house wobbling, trying to do my exercises, waiting for the baby to get out. I don’t even be paying attention to the numbers any more, but that’s beautiful. That’s little me! [laughs]
What does it mean to have your Inayah-aters support you through everything?
I hate the term fans, I don’t like to call them fans. I’m absolutely head over heels in love with Inayah-aters because they keep me pushing. They keep me going, they keep me motivated. It’s been a pretty hard pregnancy for me but after the love I got from the video, it showed me “we love you regardless. We gon’ cheer you on girl. We got your back, we gon’ run them numbers up!” I love my Inayah-aters, I don’t feel like any of the artists fans go harder for them than my Inayah-aters. I wish I knew them all by name.
What does R&B mean to you at this point in your career?
I felt like the element of storytelling was dying in music. People are afraid to get back to what’s real and tell the truth in their music. Consumers and artists are focused on a current bop, a hit that’ll make it through the waves for a little while, then you gotta push out another one. You let that one run for a little while, then push out another one. I’m trying to make music that’ll stick to your ribs. I want some music you can play 10 years from now and show your family reunion. You can get up and dance with your pop, your uncles and aunties, everybody knows the words no matter what age they are. That’s the type of impact I’m trying to leave. For me, R&B is leaving a long-lasting imprint for consumers, something they can listen to time and time again.
Coming up in Houston, they’re really known for the chopped and screwed, trill shit.
Yes ma’am. Sippin’ syrup, candy paint! When you come down here, let me know. I’ll take you to the hood! It’s so many places to eat down here. You got Shipley’s. You got the Turkey Leg Hut, which is my favorite restaurant. You got Mr. Lee Got Wings, endless food sis! Food is one thing I’m great at. [laughs]
What is the ideal date night with bae?
Well since it’s quarantine and we try to be so careful with the baby coming, we don’t really go anywhere. He loves to cook, he makes me a lot of Caribbean dishes. The most recent Jamaican food that I’ve fell in love with is pigtails. It might gross you out, but I love it,
Yeah, pigtails! I never thought I’d love it, but I guess I eat ass now ‘cause them pigtails are finger-licking good. I love them! He makes a lot of Caribbean dishes for me. A chill night for us is him cooking and us eating, laying in bed and falling asleep.
Bring us back to the beginning when you covered Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up,” did you anticipate what it’d do for your career?
I definitely didn’t expect for it to explode that way, especially starting off with American Idol and The Voice. You remember I told you how I was chasing it? I’d go to all those competition shows. I remember me, my mom, and my sisters flew out there, our very first time getting on a plane. We stood outside of Lake Michigan, frozen solid for 2 hours in line. For me to go in and do my audition for The Voice, I made it to the first round preliminary, second round, third round. Right when I got to the last part of it all, someone else advanced instead of me.
It happened for me anyway. Who would’ve thought that with me chasing it that way, God had already taken me all around the world. I’d never even had to leave my living room ‘cause the “Boo’d Up” cover went! I had 4900 followers when I did that. In 2 days, I had 200K followers. From 4900 to 200K in 48 hours.
What did you make of that?
Hell, I’m still trying to believe it! [laughs] I still get nervous when people see me in the stores and they freak out. I still get nervous when people cry when they see me. I know you ain’t crying girl, it’s just little ol’ me. They really love me, it still feels unreal. I’m so grateful.
Not for nothing, you have such a great personality, amazing energy, amazing sense of humor. Good people deserve good things that come their way.
People tell me I’m funny girl, but I don’t even be trying to be funny. It’s just me. This is naturally me, I love that people love me for me. I love that I don’t have to put on a show. I love that I ain’t got to pretend. I love that my Inayah-aters ride for me for exactly who I am, so that’s who I’m going to continue to be. Straight up.
What’s the reality of the independent grind?
Let me tell you, them long nights in the studio. 13-14 hour sessions, I was built for it. It’s cool, I’m grateful for it. To go from that to working hard and being in the studio for long hours, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m pretty content and blessed with the way things have worked out.
3 things you need in the studio at all times?
You trying to show my deeper side? [laughs] In the studio, I have to have my breathing machine. I have this little vaporizer that gives me the steam. It helps me relax and clear my airways. I have to have Honey Lemon Cough Drops, sugar free. I have to have my warm tea.
Your boo said you need food.
He tryna embarrass me. [laughs] Okay I gotta have a little food break. If got those 3 things, we’re finna come out that studio with a banger!
What was the studio session for “Best Thing” like?
Oh, you going back! “Best Thing” was emotional because recording that song, I was going through that heartbreak in real time. As I was in the studio, we had to do a couple of takes because I was crying. I had a real life heartbreak during “Best Thing.” [sniffles] I had to put all of those emotions into my notepad. When I finally dropped that last tear, I sung that song from the bottom of my pussy. I pushed it out. You know what, I’ma put all of my emotion on this record. I’m finna let it out and let it go. It’s my biggest record to date because of the transparency.
You saw that it has 26 million views right?
Yeah, I’ve been keeping up with that one. [laughs] I got into the emotion of that song, so many women and men were blessed by it. I didn’t realize how many of us was dealing with that, they blew that song up.
Talk about being big on women’s empowerment and positive messages, and having a platform to do so.
I love that my Inayah-aters love me for exactly who I am. If anything, I spread the message of being see-through, being confident no matter what you face. Not being afraid to talk about it because when you go through something, someone else is going to get their deliverance through your message and story. I’ve been given the front seat for so many women and men. I’ve been given the wheel so I have to be that inspiration, I have to be their voice because so many of them don’t have this platform. Don’t have the opportunity to spread the message, so I’ll be y’all president! Give me the mic and I got y’all! I got love, confidence, peace, I’ll still check a bitch too. That ain’t going nowhere, however I’d rather choose peace. [laughs]
How would you describe your love for fashion?
As of lately, I’ve been throwing on whatever is comfortable. However, I’m not flashy. It don’t gotta be high priced. If it’s cute, I’m putting the shit on. I have some name brand in there, throw a purse or some shoes with it. I’ll take my ass to Walmart, Target, whatever else. If I find a cute top, I’ma buy it! If I find some cute bottoms, I’ma buy it. I’ma go in my closet, match it with some cute earrings and a cute watch. My fashion preference is cute and comfortable.
Shout out to Kenny [Hamilton] in here!
Kenny, that’s my boy man. I gotta give Kenny a big shout out. Let me tell you a story about how we came across each other. After my listening party, my A&R for my label Tina Davis took me to meet this well-connected guy. Had no idea who he was. Me and my team went, had dinner with him. Everybody walking into the restaurant stopped at the table to shake his hand. You had Dre, Chris Brown, everybody stopping at the table to come shake this man’s hand. Who the fuck am I sitting next to right now?
We had dinner, I introduced myself. I introduced my team, it was a normal night. He didn’t try to sell me to him or nothing. Months later, he went back and looked at my catalog. “Yo TIna, ain’t this the young lady you brought to me that night at dinner?” We ended up reconnecting, now we
re inseparable. Kenny was literally the missing piece to my puzzle, the missing piece to my success. Very grateful to have Kenny on my team. Thank you Tina for that connect, love Kenny!
How long after the baby will we have to wait for more music?
That album’s done honey! I’ve been working through my entire pregnancy. I haven’t been on social media. Kenny’s had me on the road darling. We’ve worked tirelessly, endlessly. We’ve achieved so much. I could be done with the album now if it wasn’t for me wanting to add more music. When I come across a new dope ass producer, I’m always like “wait, we not done yet.” [laughs] I have a major catalog right now. There won’t be too long of a wait, you definitely gonna get a new album from me this year.
Are you thinking about getting some merch?
I’m so glad you guys asked. I was on tour before the pandemic shut down the entire world, we had the merch moving then production stopped. Remember they stopped all things coming from outside of the U.S. We’ll be restocking now, I do have some new merch on the way. Gonna be real dope and real cute. I know y’all been waiting, it’s coming.
Anything else you want to let people know?
Thank you for all the love and all the patience. I know y’all have been wondering, “where did Inayah go? I’m still here, I’ve been working through my entire pregnancy. The music’s coming. I’m sharing everything with y’all. The merch is coming. It’s all on the way this year, I promise. I’m excited, y’all gonna love it!