If that sounds like there's a lot going on both musically and thematically, well, there is – and she's more than aware of that. "I'm still trying to figure out how not to be so heady and literal with my lyrics," she admits. "There's an aspect of being literal and clear I do derive from Fela – he wanted to make the message clear and understood by all people. But there's a part of me…" she trails off, sounding a little reticent – but as always, she opts for candor. "M.I.A. used to almost make fun of me, she'd say, 'Don't be so heady.' And I always hear that in the back of my head when I'm making music – how do I make sure I'm not being too literal and less artful?"
Gandhi needn't worry too much. Visions opens with "Waiting For Me," a brainy bop that mixes hip-hop beats and Indian polyrhythms while she tackles climate change, capitalist excess and womxn's history – but thanks to Gandhi's ineffable charm, it never sounds like pontification. Instead, she demonstrates handily that you can make people think and move their hips at the same time.
And even when she is literally preaching, it's still pretty compelling. If you haven't seen her speak live, you can get a taste of it via her strategic approach to releasing Visions. While it is a five-song studio set on streaming services, the CD, vinyl and Soundcloud version includes four extra tracks of Gandhi in speaker mode, holding court on everything from unconscious bias to owning your voice on various stages. Of the decision to release her short-form album differently based on platform, she explains, "On Spotify and Apple Music, people are playlisting [songs], they're going to shuffle play -- they're not listening to full bodies of work the way you would on CD or vinyl. So I didn't put the additional songs on that."
Her music business acumen isn't shocking – she's a Harvard Business School grad, after all. She readily labels the institution's biz school as "the breeding ground of the capitalist patriarchy," but she acknowledges it taught her emotional intelligence, how to read the body language of a room and to be acutely aware of one's own limitations as a leader. While she hardly appreciated the way the school rewarded the loudest (usually male) voices in the room regardless of whether they were correct, there is absolutely no hostility or disdain in her voice when she talks about studying within a system she doesn't agree with.
"It allowed me to be critical of the kinds of leadership we as a country and culture value and which styles we don't value, and it gave birth to my whole music project. So it's worth it," she says with a laugh.
And truly, the world could use more activists and artists with some business savvy. Staying indie in order to have control over one's art and message requires planning, and Gandhi has a strategy. "It's important for anyone indie to diversify their source of income," Gandhi says. "When I'm not coming off an album, the things bringing in income are syncs, public speaking, drumming, DJing, producing other people, scoring. The best thing you can do is diversify your source of income so each of these revenue streams are coming back to reinvest in making more and better art."