This piece was originally published by our sister publication, PAPER

Oakland-born King Isis is continuing the legacy of their great-grandmother, Omega King, who famously became one of Chicago’s first Black opera singers to perform on-stage in the city. Beyond the name, King Isis similarly blazes fresh trails through song; their new EP shed arrives as a follow-up to 2023’s scales, both of which carve out King Isis’ role as a contemporary alt-pop auteur. “This is about accepting the parts of you that you don’t fuck with,” King Isis says of their music, “and becoming a full person because of that acceptance.” To that end, shed unravels with emotional catharsis across five tracks, as King Isis’ vocal delivery ranges from soft and introspective to deep, grimy bellows. Below, they break the whole thing down for PAPER, track by track.


One of the biggest themes on this project is its title: to shed. “POISON” acts as the introduction to my own introspection, the journey of going through some of my lowest moments, learning from them and the continual process of self-acceptance. “POISON” speaks to places and moments in my life where I’ve felt overcome with feelings of drowning — drowning and sinking in the depths of oceans of my own creation. It’s the beginning of confrontation with the unknown. “POISON” is a simpler song lyrically, but I put it on this EP because it sets the tone for what follows. It’s the beginning of synthesis with the shadows, entering the serpent, inspired by Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera. It also uses chromatic phrasing, which is my favorite — the dirtiness and the friction. It’s reminiscent of one of my favorite bands, Show Me The Body, and of the Bay area music I l grew up with.


Of both the scales EP and shed EP, this is the only song I didn’t start on the guitar. I started it on Logic at my house in Oakland and the chorus got stuck in my head. It’s about a toxic relationship with unrealistic expectations. When I’m in the process of writing, I don’t really think about what the song is about until I’ve finished it. I love words, I love language, but lyrics typically come last. When I’m writing, I don’t intentionally forge a meaning or even any actual sense, I just let the words write. Usually after I’ve finished writing a song and put it together, I’m like, Oh yeah, that’s what this is about. I’m the most open and vulnerable when I’m writing, and this relationship was something I hadn’t really processed so it made sense that the song came out unintentionally.


Lyrically, this is my favorite song on the album. It’s about rediscovering a relationship with spirituality that is predicated on love rather than shame. Growing up, religion and spirituality existed as a space to confine, limiting the ways that I existed — especially in regards to beliefs surrounding queer identities. I feel like I’ve always been a spiritual person but that early influence definitely made my relationship with spirituality complicated and distant. Being on my own and being ok with myself and all parts of me, has made me rediscover a relationship with spirituality that I hadn’t before.


Where “333” is me stepping back into my relationship with spirituality, “MONKI” acts as a rejection of the beliefs that were instilled upon me and reclaiming my space in authenticity, however that may be. It’s addressing ideologies that have projected deep internalized insecurities within myself. It exists for anyone who has felt that they have had to hide and constrict themselves for the sake of another.


“NVR RLLY” is probably one of my favorite songs I’ve written. When I made the demo version, I felt like I unlocked a new layer in both my voice and songwriting. Sonically, this song represents the journey of unlatching from a relationship that was mentally, physically and emotionally destructive and repurposing this rage into power. I think the production traverses the journey of releasing myself from shame and was the only song that could close the EP.

Photography: Gia Gallant

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