For a month before filming the video for their new single “Ishtar, Reprise,” Afrofuturist art-pop artist Savan DePaul worked with director and videographer Evugh Ohman to storyboard it–planning shooting locations, costumes, and how each element would chart onto the concept of the song. “She’s super thorough and took note of all my visions,” says DePaul of the process. “We wanted to incorporate that vision of ascent to connect to the mythology and then went from there.”
That mythology is the story of their now-fully-fledged persona, Ishtar Sr. DePaul spent a number of years rapping and releasing music under their own name. Then, in 2017, they entered a period of artistic metamorphosis in parallel with some intense personal exploration–preparing for a musical and metaphysical molt.
“When I first formulated the Ishtar concept in 2017, my intent was to make another rap album under my real name with the theme of Ishtar,” DePaul says. “But as I reckoned with my sexual and gender identity, in addition to kicking some abusive and hateful people out of my life, I decided that a separate pop persona was what I wanted to do. The name Ishtar Sr. came because I wanted to claim some semblance of gender-variance in my artistic identity.”
From there, they developed the cosmic concept of their first full-length as Ishtar Sr., Divine Ecdysis. DePaul calls the record a “loose collection of mytho-futurist tales about love, sex, and being,” with “Ishtar, Reprise” as the culmination of its themes. “A rundown of the journey I’ve gone through, coinciding with Ishtar’s mythical rise from the underworld and return to great heights.”
It’s emblematic of DePaul’s transformation in a lot of ways, not least because, as the title implies, it’s a reimagining of a song she released about five years ago. The original “Ishtar” came out in 2017–early on in the concept’s life cycle–and wound up on a compilation released by Vivid Kind, a label and artist collective based out of Georgia. Soon after, though, DePaul had plans for an updated version featuring Royersford, Pennsylvania artist CODEi.
“We originally connected back in 2017 and have been talking about doing this track together since 2018! CODEi is a very detailed writer, so he bounced ideas towards me and I came back with suggestions,” they say. “Lots of external circumstances delayed the song’s completion–my own housing security, various anti-police uprisings, the pandemic and lockdown–but we came together in the beginning of 2021 to finish it.”
The main innovation was the song’s bridge section, devised to space out the co-written lyrics; DePaul says it was just a matter of implementing vocal melodies they’d already come up with. In the song’s final form, it’s a worthy capstone for a smart and starry sci-fi saga, and with Ishtar free from the underworld, their fresh new wings are pointed toward the skies.
“Now that I’ve accomplished this much being true to myself, I can really push sonic and visual boundaries. All the people that helped alongside my own two hands in the creation, promotion, and release of this art? Yeah, I can craft something even more alien and otherworldly.”
Divine Ecdysis is available via Grimalkin Records as a limited edition 10” lathe cut (featuring two vinyl exclusive tracks), a cassette featuring lyrics and additional artwork, and a digital download through Bandcamp. Proceeds from the sale of tapes will benefit Project SAFE in Philadelphia.