Chicago singer-songwriter Dreamer Isioma is repping the Gen Z music scene

By Shi Bradley

Photos by Anna Olp

a woman wearing a colorful vest and headphones

In the era of social media, it is now easier than ever for artists across the world to release music and gain followings from their bedrooms. Seemingly overnight, new artists rise to prominence. Since 23-year-old Dreamer Isioma’s breakout single, “Sensitive,” went trending on TikTok in 2020, they have slowly but surely become a true force to be reckoned with in the music industry.

On Oct. 20, on the stage of the Arizona Financial Theatre, Isioma’s talent and creativity was apparent. With music that spans across genres, Isioma delivers a performance of high energy jumps and shouts, smooth vocals, and an experimental drummer and bassist assisting their performance. A soft purple lighting illuminates their face and shows the passion and emotion put into their music.

When you meet Isioma, their energy is surprisingly subdued and calm compared to the energetic rockstar you see on stage. Still, even in their laid-back demeanor and quiet responses, you can hear the love in their voice when they talk about music.

Isioma began their professional music career in 2018, and released their first two projects in 2020: “Sensitive” and “The Leo Sun Sets.” Since then, Isioma has released two albums, “Goodnight Dreamer” and “Princess Forever,” and has traveled across the country, both on a solo tour in 2021, and as a supporting act on Janelle Monae’s “The Age of Pleasure Tour” in 2023.

“This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever gotten to experience in my career,” Isioma said. “I feel happy to be here. Janelle brings out so many cool people here, and it’s just an amazing vibe. I feel blessed.”

Recently, Isioma released a new single titled “Daze/Over,” a song Isioma described on their Instagram as an “abstract stream of consciousness.” Isioma played a role in producing, writing, and singing on the track. Isioma describes their process of making music as “experimental.”

“I honestly don’t try to go into the studio with a set process,” Isioma said. “I write what I feel and as I go. It’s all very improvised.”

Outside of music, Isioma has become an inspiration to many people in the LGBTQ+ community. As a nonbinary and queer artist, Isioma’s music often reflects various themes of sexuality, gender, self-acceptance and self-love.

“I try not to let outside things and other people’s opinions bother me,” Isioma said. “I do whatever I want.”

Isioma was born and raised in Chicago, in a Nigerian-Christian household. Isioma said the experience let them grow a tough skin and allowed them to embrace their individuality. Isioma first experimented with their gender identity in middle school, wearing masculine clothing. In 2021, Isioma underwent a masculinizing chest surgery.

Isioma’s household was also where their love of music began. Isioma grew up taking piano and violin lessons from the age of 3. Music was always playing in their house, ranging from Christian music to classical to afrobeats.

Isioma’s 2022 debut album, “Goodnight Dreamer,” was well-received by critics and fans alike, who praised the album both for its genre-bending explorations of Afrobeats, jazz, hip-hop, rock, and rap, as well as its recurring themes of love and identity.

Isioma’s second album, “Princess Forever,” which was released April of 2023, is a 13-track blend of psychedelic rock, Afrobeats, and funk. It explores similar themes to “Goodnight Dreamer,” all through the lens of Isioma’s alter ego, the galactic ruler “Princess Forever,” giving the album an otherworldly feel.

Isioma writes, produces, and records music inside of their bedroom, a rising genre many people are affectionately calling “bedroom pop.” Isioma says working in their own space and setting a specific vibe is essential to their music process.

“My setup is pretty decent,” Isioma said. “I have my posters on the wall, a studio booth in the closet, phone panels everywhere, and an acoustic shield.”

Isioma listed Nirvana, Norman Connors, and Tina Turner as some of the artists they are inspired by.

“My music taste is very eclectic,” Isioma said. “Right now, I’ve been listening to ‘Lithium’ a lot, (‘Nevermind’) is my favorite Nirvana album.”

Isioma says their career has been crazy in many moments, but touring with Monae has been one of the biggest highlights of their career so far.

In the future, Isioma hopes they will still be making music and reaching even wider audiences.

“I want hundreds of millions of Spotify streamers,” Isioma laughed. “I’m manifesting it.”

a woman in a colorful dress singing into a microphone
a man in a costume singing into a microphone