19.02.21
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“In school I was a top student in English”, Ivorian Doll tells me over Zoom, attempting to retrace and historicise her love of writing, phraseology and poetic rap. “You know rapping is like poetry. And I love poems. I love Shakespeare. I love writing. English taught me to be creative and descriptive and I loved it. So when I look back at it I’m like, OK, this is why you’re doing what you’re doing today.”

When IVD, real name Vanessa Mahi, begins to reflect on her origins, it appears school was the making of her. The 23-year-old rapper was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, but grew up in east London where she lived with her father, a pastor, and attended all-girls school The Haggerston. Despite popular belief that her stage name ‘Ivorian Doll’ is inspired by the legion of American ‘doll’ rappers (Asian Doll, Cuban Doll, Kash Doll), Mahi insists that it’s pure, fortunate coincidence: “My name was Ivorian Doll when I was in Year 7. I couldn’t have imagined there being a whole doll community. But I think the name is allowing me to stand out, and the other ‘dolls’ are reaching out to me – Asian Doll and I have actually become very close.” And it’s not just the dolls she’s digitally rubbing shoulders with. Mahi reports her shock at being messaged by the likes of Keke Palmer and Tyga, with Tyga allegedly calling her “the littest female rapper he’s ever heard.”