Haiyti: “I’m a complex person who is difficult to market. My different personalities fight each other for the surface.”

We talked to the German trap artist about aesthetic vision, controlling your image and being original in the age of social media.

Translated from German to English by Claus Schwartau

German trap artist Haiyti is a chameleon. One day, she’ll shoot a video where her perfectly coiffed head is surrounded by an assortment of muscular tanned males in a pool—and the next, she’ll shoot something selfie-style with a shaky lens as she’s wandering around a bleak park hiding her body in an oversized hoodie. It seems as if Haiyti sees every music video of hers as an opportunity to try on a different personality. While the diversity of her videos renders her image pretty much undefinable, a signature unity exists: her body of work is tied together by an aesthetic that clearly references social media culture and the OG rap of the 90s, portraying it with a seemingly low-budget approach that’s inherently ironic.

However, this laid-back, low-key 90s approach is also increasingly prevalent among a young generation of rappers; take France’s Prince Waly, for instance, or Iceland’s GKR. With that in mind, we thought we’d ask Haiyti about her aesthetic vision, the relationship between music and visuals and staying creative in the age of cookie-cutter social media.

Hey, Haiyti. How would you describe your overall aesthetic vision?

Haiyti: Like an Italian industrial area where you have no idea what’s going on behind the gate of a shady car repair shop. It smells of freshly ground coffee and gasoline. On a Ducati, in dirty leggings and a leather jacket by Fausto Puglisi. If I had my own logo, it might be a stiletto with a broken heel.

What’s the relationship between your visuals and your music?

I build my visuals with my words. For example, I painted a manta ray on someone’s belly. I am a ballpen tattoo artist. My lyrics are, ”I fly like a manta ray through the night.” So the writing, the picture, the flow, the melodies and the text are always mixed. This is inevitable.

To what extent is the Haiyti we see in your music videos a creative persona?

Haiyti is a holy, imaginary person who has to let go of superficiality now and again because she has to tell true stories. The art figure Haiyti balances life between the high life and gutter, between polytox, detox and rehab. In reality it’s similar. The creative persona is the exaggerated version.

It seems as if many European rappers currently have a soft spot for a certain aesthetic. Lo-fi, somehow ghetto, with 90s references and nostalgia. Where does it come from, in your opinion?

The continuous development towards the future takes too long. We haven’t found a second planet to wreck yet, so the decades and their respective trends keep circling back to the present. Rap became big in the nineties. For this reason, these trends are the first to be repeated and redefined. In the meantime, I’m doing a full on Audrey Hepburn thing in my next video.

How do you approach coming up with the concept for a new music video?

Haaaa, that’s a good question. The last video, “Dope Game”, was a makeshift thing because the people with whom I actually wanted to shoot a video didn’t show up. My camera man Meik Lafferthon, my friend Jacuzi from Bremen and the Porsche were already there. So we sawed the wood where it was thinnest – in the Dope Game! My most organized video so far was “Italiano”. A football coach from Berlin and I – shoutout to Zeljko – chose the boys together through Instagram. Well, so much for organizing a video shoot …

Do you typically run everything or do you work with a team of friends whom you trust?

I always work alone. Often the camera man and the editor suffer.

To what extent do the Internet and social media influence your aesthetics?

I can no longer do many things that I wanted to do because it’s already been done before online somewhere else. Your aesthetics naturally change, and the change has become even more pervasive because of the Internet. It’s how Mosh (Rapper from Berlin/Kreuzberg) once said: If everyone has a face tattoo now, I want to get rid of mine. It always used to be that way, but you become much more aware of it because of the internet (laughs).

Why do you think it’s important for an aspiring artist to have super tight aesthetics, visuals and sound? Do you think about this or not so much?

First of all, sure, I’m a rising artist “in the game”—but in reality, I’ve been making art and music for a long time. I never decided to be famous; it was just that at a certain point it had become impossible for people to not have heard of me.

For someone who has studied management, I’m still a complex person who is difficult to market. I could have come up with a certain, clear-cut image and fooled people, maybe I even should have done so. However, I don’t have such a clear-cut image in my backpack! My different personalities fight each other for the surface. Even I have no idea what I’ll be like when I wake up tomorrow morning. You have to have enough talent to let chance decide for you, and let things move forward on their own.

I could probably make a dancehall song like 187 or copy UFO361 so that it would be a hit on the radio and quickly become more famous. But I have too much pride for that, and I’m too much of a fighter. I explore areas where no one has gone before. That’s why it’s so difficult to categorise me within a certain ‘image’. I’m a gangsta rapper one day hanging out with shady characters, and the next, I’ll sell a piece of art at a vernissage and sing pop songs. One night I’m playing in front of ten bored people, and the next, the place is packed and everyone is going crazy. At the moment, I don’t really know where I stand myself. This is more and more shaping up with time, though.

You’re also a visual artist. What’s the connection between your art education, music and visuals?

My art is absolute, so there’s no mixing going on.

You play with a wealth of different concepts and visual themes in your music videos. Which field would you like to explore next? What excites you?

I want to make better music videos. Something for eternity, something that’s timeless and priceless. Most preferably a fresh manga video, since you already know what I look like in real life.

Thanks, Haiyti.