Imani Francesca Coppola (born April 6, 1978) is an American singer-songwriter and violinist probably best known for her 1997 hit "Legend of a Cowgirl" which sampled the instrumentals from "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan. In 2008 Coppola returned as one half of the pop duo Little Jackie, with a hit single "The World Should Revolve Around Me".
Coppola grew up as the second-youngest of five children in Long Island, New York, Coppola's lower-income family, headed by a black mother and Italian father, did not fit in, and she and her family were picked on. Her circumstances encouraged her independence and also her creativity, as her family, who received welfare, had little money to pay for entertainment. Her mother, a teacher, was the primary income earner, while her carpenter father was often out of work and refused to earn an income from his art.
Coppola grew up surrounded by music, as her father is a jazz musician, her mother plays bass, and all of her brothers and sisters are musically inclined. She says her first musical memory is of her father, who was her biggest musical influence, playing the song "Bessie's Blues" "on a severely out of tune piano." She began playing violin at the age of six, eventually studying studio composition at the State University of New York at Purchase. She was not happy and left after one year, but during her time at Purchase, she made some demos and passed them on to her older sister Maya, who is a singer-songwriter in the music business. Maya gave them to her boyfriend, music publisher Ross Elliot, who got Coppola together with producer Micheal Mangini at Digable Planets. While still in college, Coppola cut three demo tracks with Digable that resulted in a bidding war for the artist among other studios. Coppola accepted a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1997.
Coppola's debut album, Chupacabra, was released in 1997. The album was critically well-reviewed in The New York Times, where Ann Powers described it as buoyed by "fanciful raps and supple vocals." Among the album's tracks, the song "Legend of a Cowgirl" became a video hit on MTV.
Coppola sings at a show in Milan in November 2007.
In 1998, Coppola played Lilith Fair, although she was vocal about her opinion of Lilith founder Sarah McLachlan before the tour, indicating that she felt McLachlan was "boring to watch live". "I think she's a good songwriter, at times, and singer. She's boring to watch live, though," said Coppola. " In 2000, she teamed with the Baha Men for the European and Australian Top 10 hit "You All Dat".
Columbia Records dropped her in 2000, subsequently shelving her second studio album, Come and Get Me… What?!. Coppola had been frustrated by the music studio's desire for her to sample other artists when she wanted to compose her music entirely herself. Then 22, Coppola felt she needed to learn considerably more about music and art.Never having performed beyond high school musical theater, Coppola felt she had achieved success too easily, without truly working for it.
Without a major label behind her, Coppola started recording music at home in 2001, also in 2001, Coppola was part of the band supporting Sandra Bernhard in her off-Broadway production of The Love Machine. She released two albums, Post Traumatic Pop Syndrome and Little Red Fighting Mood the following year through independent distribution. During this time Coppola also starred in the movie "The Singing Biologist" playing a smart and witty New York cafe singer looking for something new to bring to her band. By 2004, Coppola was playing acoustic guitar in small clubs like Forum in New York City with her drummer Alex Elana, in the Two Shadow Posse. According to Coppola, these events were not well-attended, and she hated performing at them.
In 2005, she launched her own website (created by a fan) and also opened an online music store where she released the shelved Come and Get Me… What?! as well as two new albums, Small Thunder and The Vocal Stylings of Imani Coppola. Also in 2005, she wrote and performed the song "Freedom Come" for the independent film On the Outs and co-wrote Maia Sharp's single "Fine Upstanding Citizen". In 2006 she contributed two of her own songs, "Woodstock" and "Fake Is The New Real", and arranged all of the strings for artist Alice Smith's debut album For Lovers, Dreamers and Me. She can also be heard singing back up vocals and playing strings on several songs of the album.
Coppola sings at a show on tour with Mike Patton's Peeping Tom at the Detour Festival in October 2006.
In 2006, she released a free skit album, Audio Blahgs. On May 26, 2006 Coppola performed with Peeping Tom on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Subsequently, she went on tour with the band, providing both vocals and violin. During this tour, Imani has performed songs from her album The Black & White Album. In an interview with Erin Broadley in November, 2007, Coppola indicated that she had enjoyed the experience of working with Patton and other artists, which she found artistically open.
Coppola's eighth studio album, The Black & White Album, was released digitally on January 14, 2007 and released through Ipecac Recordings on October 30, 2007. Bill Braun wrote in Amplifer Magazine in November 2007 that Coppola's The Black and White Album has an organic nature that reflects America's diversity. The Globe and Mail wrote that The Black and White Album is a "brutally honest album that's fun to hear." Bret McCabe wrote in the New York Sun on November 13, 2007 that in The Black and White Album Coppola mixed musical genres like Brazilian pop wizard Tom Zé.
In November, 2007, Coppola said in interview that she was unsure if she was going to tour to support The Black & White Album, citing financial concerns. She said, "I don’t even have a car. I don’t know, I would love to put together at least one banging show together for this album. Definitely, it deserves that."
2011, Imani released a new single and high budget video titled "Over It" which is found on "Imani's Magic Chicken Soup EP" found on Reverbnation.com
2012, the first single, a high energy trance club song titled "State Of The Art" was released off the upcoming new album "The Glass Wall."
In 2007, Coppola was signed to S-Curve Records as part of the band Little Jackie, with whom she collaborated with producer and multi-instrumentalist Adam Pallin. Coppola sees Little Jackie as an opportunity to get back into pop and also to generate the income she needs to follow her dream of developing artists herself. She indicates that "genre-bending acts" like Gnarls Barkley have enabled her to return to the music industry through this venture.
Speaking in July 2008 to noted UK R&B writer Pete Lewis of the award-winning Blues & Soul, Coppola stated: "Whereas, in my opinion, Imani Coppola is a REAL artist, Little Jackie represents my 'POPULAR artist' side… And to me this is probably my last attempt at becoming a superstar! If it blows up — WONDERFUL! If I become a superstar — FANTASTIC!… And if I don't, I guess I'll stay very happy just being a crazy-lady artist — making art every day and having that be my food!"
The group has released two albums, The Stoop, which launched the hit single "The World Should Revolve Around Me" and in 2011, Little Jackie released their second album MADE4TV.
Coppola says her songwriting is fused through a pop sensibility, within which she exercises her creativity and individuality. She indicates that her tastes and musical influences are diverse, including classical, which she acknowledges can be a problem in an industry that wants its artists to be clearly defined. Coppola decided to write in whatever genre she wanted. She describes her focus on The Black and White Album as "more experimental, more punk, more rock." Coppola also incorporates theater into her performance with her visual creativity, donning different wigs or makeup during performances.
Coppola uses a different process when she is songwriting for herself than when she is songwriting for another artist or writing on spec. She says, "My brain changes, my thought processes, my body language changes, the way I work changes….; When you do work for other artists, it’s definitely more of a job and it requires a lot of tools."
Coppola in performance attire.
Among her career goals, she hopes to produce and develop other artists.
Coppola lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. A private person, she also struggles with the modern demands for artist accessibility in the music world, with such demands as online interviews and video blogs. In making choices in her own life, she is torn between respect and resentment at the legacy left by her parents. She says, "My parents are both artists and we starved, we went through a lot of difficulty growing up because of their choices in life… When it comes down to making important decisions about my life and my foundation, you know, their artistic side haunts me. Like maybe I should just do what they did."
Chupacabra (October 28, 1997) - Released on Columbia Records
Come and Get Me… What?! (2000) - Self release
Post Traumatic Pop Syndrome (April 6, 2002) - Self release
Little Red Fighting Mood (October 6, 2002) - Self release
Afrodite (January 1, 2004) - Released on Mental Records
Small Thunder (2005) - Self release
The Vocal Stylings Of Imani Coppola (2005) - Self release
Audio Blahgs (2006) - Free Download
The Black & White Album (January 14, 2007) - Self release & Ipecac Recordings (November 6, 2007)
Free Spirit (January 25, 2010) - Free download
Imani's Magic Chicken Soup EP (2011)
The Glass Wall (2012)
"Legend of a Cowgirl" (1997) - Chupacabra - #36 US, UK #32, #20 NZ
"I'm a Tree" (1997) - Chupacabra - #98 US
"It's All About Me, Me, Me" (1997) - Chupacabra
"Count To 10" (2000) Come And Get Me…What!
"Woodstock" (2002) - Little Red Fighting Mood
"Shot My Lover Dead" (2002) - Little Red Fighting Mood
"These Days" (2004) - Afrodite
"Gravity" (2004) - Afrodite
"Woke Up White" (2007) - The Black & White Album
"Springtime" (2007) - The Black & White Album
"I Love Your Hair" (2007) - The Black & White Album
"Pay Me Back Bitch" (2010)
"Mama Gotta Work Out" (2010)
"Over It" (2011) - Imani's Magic Chicken Soup EP
"State Of The Art" (2012) - The Glass Wall
"The Kids are Dangerous" (2012) - The Glass Wall
"Ave Maria" (2012) - The Glass Wall
"Brand New Day" (2009 cover) (from Sting's 1999 solo album of the same name) performed for Chase Bank.
Little Jackie albums
The Stoop (July 8, 2008) - S-Curve (July 8, 2008) - Parlophone - UK #138
Made4TV (October 15, 2011) - Plush Moon Records/TuneCore
Little Jackie singles
"The World Should Revolve Around Me" (2008) - UK #14
"The Stoop" (2008) (Released October 27, 2008) - #DNC UK
Take Back The World (2011) (Released September 30, 2011) - Plush Moon Records/TuneCore
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