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Pop Culture

Medical student becomes TikTok star for her 'awkward black girl anthem'

For Isimeme Udu, aka Hemlocke Springs, creating catchy beats that would take on a life of their own was never part of the Ivy League college plan. But here we are.

hemlocke springs

From med student to TikTok pop star.

Sometimes, life takes us on unexpected detours. One day you follow an impulse and suddenly you have a brand new purpose.

Such was the case for Isimeme Udu (who also goes by Naomi), who not only managed to become an overnight musical success on TikTok, she did it while pursuing a Master of Science degree from Dartmouth College.

Her musical persona, Hemlocke Springs, came from a random-name generator site—a strategy made famous by Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino)—and is reminiscent of pop stars with eccentric vocal stylings and bold fashion choices like Kate Bush and Marina. She jokes that people have ascribed her sound to countless genres and similar artists. If you ask her, it’s all “regular shemgular pop.”

Right now, Udu has more than 235,000 loyal followers on TikTok, something she didn’t exactly anticipate as a full-time medical student. But immediately after releasing the bridge of her then upcoming single “girlfriend,” the video amassed a million views, was used in more than 60,000 subsequent TikToks and even got the attention of Khalid, who can be seen bopping along to the catchy tune. And since the song’s release on Nov 2, it has racked up more than 9 million streams on Spotify.

Listen below, and tell me that’s not an earworm.

@hemlockesprings every time I listen to this song, I wonder was I truly sober..girlfriend comes out this Wednesday, november 2nd! Presave link in bio! Thank you so much evryone! #hemlockesprings #presavemysingle #newindiemusic2022 #newindie #newmusic #music #fyp #fyppppppppppppppppppppppp ♬ girlfriend - Hemlocke Springs

The song has on more than one occasion been called an “awkward Black girl anthem” by listeners, and Udu herself has become a role model for Black women who want to let their weirdness shine.

It has also been lovingly embraced by people on the autism spectrum, who find ecstatic release in the ultra funky beat.

@rainbowlight77711 @hemlockesprings ♬ original sound - Hemlocke Springs

Udu didn’t expect anyone to even listen to “girlfriend,” much less for it to achieve such overwhelming success. She shared in an interview with People that she would previously post a song onto her SoundCloud, then ”remove it literally one minute later." Making secret music became a habit for seven years.

When she finally decided to keep her songs up, she released a song called “gimme all ur luv,” which also caught celebrity attention from the likes of Bella Hadid and Grimes. No easy task, given the huge amount of content from aspiring artists on the platform.

@babybella777

The sandwich mentioned :

♬ gimme all ur luv - Hemlocke Springs

Though it wasn’t part of the plan, Udu is embracing her seemingly destined career as an artist. She shared with People that she has since finished out a “hellish” final semester at Dartmouth, but fully switched gears for the time being. She has signed with a record label, is working on an album and hopes to perform live one day. "I've been practicing in my room with a hairbrush," she quipped.

Hemlocke Springs, of course, isn’t the only artist to find unexpected fame on TikTok. Though the platform making music more accessible has some potential drawbacks—especially when the need for constant output and hacking the algorithm supersedes quality—it has undeniably helped people express themselves in ways that might defer from the traditional or mainstream. I mean, would this music or “goblin metal” or musical mashups of cat noises have been as widely embraced only a few years ago? I think not. And it’s a good thing that we are celebrating uniqueness. Clearly, it means a lot to a lot of people.

Also, if you’ve been looking for a sign that you should actually pursue your own weird passions—be it music or art or some kind of avant-garde gardening—this is it.

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12 real stories that show why ruthless immigration laws are the wrong move.

Immigration policies that rip families apart are a travesty.


If there's ever been a particularly bad time to be an undocumented immigrant, it's right now.

President Donald Trump, who launched himself into the 2016 presidential race with his support for a multibillion-dollar border wall, has been cracking down on immigration as promised. In addition to tightening border security, he's pledged to remove 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants "immediately." And he appears to be keeping his word.

Deportation is nothing new, but Trump's plans are unprecedented. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

It's a scary climate we're facing, but unfortunately, it's not just Trump and it's not just America. All over the world, people are more concerned with their countries' borders than seemingly ever before.Nations all over Europe, for example, are tightening up immigration rules and/or ramping up deportations themselves.

Amidst all the noise and rhetoric — every "radical Islamic terrorist" attack that gets waved about by politicians with something that eerily resembles pride, every horrific crime committed by white Americans that's met with deafening silence, every press conference faux pas — there are real people and real families being ripped apart in the name of patriotism.

Their stories are terrifying and heart-wrenching, but they're massively important.

1. A DREAMer gave a powerful speech about deportation. Moments later, she was arrested.

Daniela Vargas, who has lived in the U.S. since she was 7 years old, spoke at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi, about the importance of the DREAM Act, which aims to help immigrant children who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years and graduated high school receive permanent legal status.

After the event, Vargas and a friend were pulled over and arrested by immigration agents.

2. A Sri Lankan student studying in North Wales was saved from deportation only by a last ditch effort hours before her flight.

Shiromini Satkunarajah, an electrical engineering student at Bangor University, was nearly sent back to Sri Lanka earlier this year. Despite having lived in the U.K. since she was 12 and being only three months shy of graduation, Satkunarajah was only allowed to stay after receiving an outpouring of community support.

3. A woman living in Great Britain was sent back to Singapore without being allowed to say goodbye to her husband and two children.

Irene Clennell had lived in the U.K. since 1988 but was abruptly sent back to Singapore after having her indefinite leave to remain revoked. Clennell is married and has two children with her husband but was not afforded the chance to see them one last time.

4. A mom living in Phoenix was sent back to Mexico. Her children would later face Trump as he addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos' children were reportedly in attendance as Trump addressed Congress. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP/Getty Images.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was sent back to Mexico in January this year for having a criminal record. Her crime? Working under the table to provide for her young children.

5. A beloved restaurant manager in a deep-red town in Illinois was arrested, and now the community is reeling.

Most of the people in West Frankfort, Illinois, voted for Trump. They never thought anything would happen to Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, the friendly restaurant manager who seemed have done at least one kind deed for everyone in the community. Now, he's been detained by ICE and is currently waiting to find out if he'll be sent back to Mexico.

6. A Kuwaiti man and father of two living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the other hand, was miraculously spared from deportation because it would cause his family too much hardship.

Yousef Ajin has lived in the United States for 18 years with his wife, with whom he has four children. He reportedly met with immigration officers frequently, but on Jan. 30, 2017, he was suddenly detained.

In February, a judge granted a deportation waiver in order to spare Ajin's family from hardship. Many other immigrants aren't so lucky.

7. One man was caught trying to cross the border and returned to Tijuana. He appears to have jumped to his death shortly after.

The man, Guadalupe Olivas Valencia, had reportedly worked in the U.S. before to provide for his family back home before being deported multiple times. Caught trying to enter the country once again, he seemingly decided jumping from a bridge was his only option.

8. A single mother in California was sent back to Mexico, leaving her two young children in peril.

Photo by Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images.

On Feb. 7, María Robles-Rodríguez was nabbed by U.S. Border Patrol and sent back to Mexico, leaving her twin 18-year-old daughters to fend for themselves.

9. Gay men being deported from Britain to Afghanistan are being told to pretend they're straight.

The British government's advice to gay men being sent home to Afghanistan, where they can be freely persecuted for their sexual orientation? Just don't act gay and everything will be fine!

Seriously.

10. Jose Escobar was detained after a routine meeting with immigration officers. He's a husband and father of three.

Escobar, who has lived in the United States for 16 years, had a deportation scare a few years back but was told he'd be safe if he checked in with immigration agents every year. Only this year, an agent reportedly told his wife, "We're just doing what President Trump wants us to do with the new rules."

Escobar will likely soon be deported.

11. A Mexican man living in Idaho was deported. His wife and the mother of his children could be next.

Tomas Copado ran his own auto body shop in Idaho Falls until he was sent back to Mexico earlier this year. His wife, for the sake of their children, recently had her own deportation deferred.

For now.

12. Some undocumented immigrants may be deported to Mexico even if they're not from there.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

According to several reports, the Department of Homeland Security plans to send anyone who crosses illegally over the southern border of the U.S. back to Mexico, even though they may be citizens of another country.

Needless to say, this is horrendous and possibly in violation of international law.

Statue of LibertyPhoto by Guzmán Barquín on Unsplash

Every modern nation needs smart, empathetic paths to citizenship. Any immigration policy that tramples on human rights and rips families apart is a travesty.

It's time to bust the narrative that foreigners primarily come to our country — or any country — to do harm. They come mostly to find opportunity, to escape persecution, or to be with family.

If we can't come to see them as human beings rather than inanimate outsiders, finding the money to pay for a giant wall will be the very least of our problems.


This article originally appeared on 03.02.17

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