Enny: A life less ordinary
“I defo feel like a duck out of water and I’m defo making it up as I go along.”
In conversation, Enny often lets slip that she doesn’t quite understand her own rapid rise to stardom. “I’m just going off a lot of vibes and hope,” she quips, before erupting with laughter.
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The 26-year-old, real name Enitan Adepitan, giggles a lot over the course of our video call. Dressed in a casual black hoodie, her youthful face is framed by a long straight wig and her soft features are illuminated by the glare from a device or lamp somewhere off camera. The melanin that pops warmly in the frame is exactly what she thought would prevent her from reaching this position. “You don’t really see people like me,” she says.
It’s precisely this reason that she put people like her at the centre of the video for her breakthrough track Peng Black Girls. Landing in November 2020, the visuals celebrated Black women of all hues, ages, hair and body types, as Enny takes centre stage looking extremely south London with pretty acrylic nails, a black puffer jacket and fiery red braids. Other scenes paid homage to her Nigerian heritage, with a regal pink gele and ankara dress, and showed her in a black slip evening dress. No matter how often people try to make Blackness monolithic, videos like this showcase its versatility. The song’s memorable opening lines, delivered in a laid-back, bouncy flow, are an ode to this: “There’s peng Black girls in my area code/ Dark skin, light skin, medium tone.”
Upon its release, Peng Black Girls quickly started to gain traction online as other peng Black girls found themselves, their lives and their experiences within the celebratory bars. At the time of writing the original song has more than one million views, while the remix featuring Jorja Smith has almost 5.5 million. “That’s gassy!” she says when I break the news. Enny has been uploading her freestyles onto YouTube since 2018, but it was when she self-released the soulful He’s Not Into You that she was signed to Smith’s label FAMM, setting the wheels in motion for their wildly successful collab on the Peng Black Girls remix. Nowadays, she’s taking a break from looking at the original’s streaming figures as she finds it all “a bit much”.
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In a year where so much has shifted, Enny’s living situation grounds her in her former life. She currently resides with her parents at their family home in Thamesmead where she grew up as the youngest of six. “Let’s call a spade a spade. I feel like the youngest get an easier ride,” she says. So lockdown has been “calm” as everyone “likes their own space”. She recently told The Face how, throughout her childhood, her “less outgoing” parents wouldn’t often let her outside to play. This sparked her original connection with music, as she learned how to play songs on her keyboard. Around the house she’d soak up the influence of her siblings’ hip-hop, garage and indie, these influences joining those of her dad’s jazz records and her mother’s gospel tunes. Each of these elements have taken root within Enny’s sound, forming the rich musical underpinning to her effortless flow and conscious lyrics.
Retracing her childhood, Enny recalls the profound impact both her mother’s gospel records, along with her visits to church, would have on her. “I saw my old rap journal from when I was 13 and it was proper Christian raps,” she says before pointing gun fingers. “It was like: ‘Jesus Christ is my lord and savour’. I was baffled, like what the hell?” Her subject matter has evolved since then, but she still has a knack for soul-bearing lyricism and a drive to analyse the world around her. On her debut single He’s Not Into You she delivered harsh truths about the tell-tale signs you need to let go of that guy you keep dreaming about, as she raps, “He might be into girls or dudes or Nike shoes/ But he just ain’t that into you”. On For South, released last autumn, she showed she had a certain lightness of touch when delivering insightful bars like, “Drink champagne and still pray for our daughters and unborn sons/ Mummy prepared us for war and so we pack her gun.” Her anticipated next single – under wraps for the time being – sees her refining her social critique even further.
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“Someone on Hinge said Peng Black Girls yeah?’ and I was like, ‘nah’”
For now though, it’s Peng Black Girls that has resonated the most with her fans, and cemented her status as a rising star. The song’s success is such that she even had to stop using Hinge after a match recognised her. “Someone said Peng Black Girls yeah?’” she tells me. “And I was like, ‘Nah.’” The song sits among the canon of UK rap that builds and affirms our community in a country that often makes it clear our presence is unwanted at worst and conditional at best. Like Dave’s recent hit Black, or Bashy’s brilliant Black Boys before that, the track holds particular resonance with young Black people who, like Enny, don’t see themselves uplifted often enough. And if both Bashy and Dave’s Afrocentric rap songs hold a special place in UK music history as a reminder not to underestimate yourself, then both have also courted controversy. Peng Black Girls is no different, but rather than the backlash coming from angry white people, the addition of Jorja Smith on the remix served to infuriate some Black commentators. Indeed, the remix eclipsed the original, leading some to question why there was more appetite for a light-skinned pop star reworking a hook that was originally performed by the lesser known, and darker-skinned, Amia Brave.
“It took a proper left,” laughs Enny. She had only recently signed to Smith’s label when the singer expressed interest in the song, penned a new verse and sung her own version of the hook. While Enny understands “the optics” of the situation, she feels like the narrative didn’t fit the reality which was two artists getting excited over collaborating on a song they both identified with. “Also Jorja is a bigger star,” she says of the higher views on the COLORS video featuring the two of them. “It was baffling because it was like people weren’t even listening to the words of the song, they were just angry about aesthetics.”
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With much of the outcry unfurling on Twitter and Instagram, Enny is already learning to reevaluate her relationship with social media. “There’s so many more eyes now. You have to be careful about what you’re saying.” And of course, it’s not just what an artist says in the present but the worry about what they might have said years before reaching maturity. When contemplating the risk of old posts haunting people in the public image, Enny is plainspoken. “Your brain isn’t even fully formed at 15, calm down guys.” Equally, when I ask her whether she knows herself now she’s quick to answer: “Hell no.”
“I have to engage with other people and expose myself in a way that I wouldn’t usually. It’s teaching me new things about myself”
This is, in part, because she’s not yet had the chance to see how she handles the unknown. “I’ve always lived a comfortable existence, I like familiar spaces. All the people that know me have grown to know me,” she explains. This is rapidly changing as her career pushes her into spaces with other people from the music industry. “Now I have to engage with others and expose myself in a way that I wouldn’t usually. I’m learning and it’s teaching me new things about myself.” Namely that she’s only calm and patient to a point, which she admits with her smile beaming. Perhaps that’s the youngest child syndrome making an appearance.
Even though she’s not entirely comfortable in her new surroundings yet, Enny finds herself a part of a golden generation of UK rappers. “Looking at the whole scene from soul to R&B there’s real quality,” she reflects, shouting out the new wave from Ragz Originale to Tiana Major9. She’s sanguine when I ask her about the future, revealing she doesn’t have a plan for where she will be in five years. She explains that if she has no expectations then she will be even more “gassed” for whatever lies in store. “I’m just a Black girl from south London and everything that has happened in the last year is mad, the people I’ve met, the interest,” she smiles. “I already feel mad proud.”
Peng Black Girls is out now via FAMM