25 Years Of Lil' Kim

tumblr_o8n11352LX1szbfero1_1280.jpg

by Brooklyn White

Lil’ Kim, the 4-foot-11-inch tall musician and model, is a force. She started out as the first lady of Junior Mafia in 1994, and over the span of her 25-year career has reinvented herself a healthy number of times. Her resume is long, reconfiguring the content women could present in Hip-Hop, setting new trends with her fashion, and remaining largely herself. Ever aware of her legacy as a fixture in rap music, one needs to look no further than Trina and The City Girls’ “fuck niggas, get money” or the style choices of Rihanna for affirmation. She is a legend who deserves it all and then some.

Who can forget the commanding opening line, “[h]ot damn ho, here we go again”? The way she is able to guide her vocals over winding soul samples and Latin pop, without getting lost, is a talent. “Musically, her cadence is one that other women in rap still have yet to emulate,”writes historian Karen Garcia. “Her transition to pop, [while] still being very Hip-Hop is also amazing. No one ever doubted Lil Kim’s ability to rap and make gritty music.” She has worked with ghostwriters, sure, but some of Kim’s most fun verses (“Lady Marmalade” and the “Not Tonight” [Remix],” were written without assistance. If it’s murder, you know she wrote it.

Men have always proudly shared their stretched exploits with anyone who would listen. Barbershops, game nights and break rooms become cringe-worthy hot beds for this kind of information sharing. “Boys will be boys”, chimes the decrepit patriarchy. They are encouraged to kiss and tell, circumventing the “hoe” label. Women however aren't given the same privilege. Those who are pro-hoe have moved past puritancal views and the gender binary is fading, but many cis-het men still cling to both as a way to exert control over women and the LGBTQ community. Thankfully, they remain unsuccessful. 

“Lil’ Kim made me feel comfortable with my sexuality,..saying what I want to say, how I wanna say it and not feeling sorry if people are offended. Also that there’s nothing wrong talking about sex or openly expressing my sexuality as a Black woman.” -C. Alexis, Tarot reader

“Got buffoons eating my pussy while I watch cartoons.” Imagine, for just a brief moment, the leisure surrounding this line. Not only was Lil’ Kim saying that she doesn’t take men seriously, but she was so used to sex that she can focus on other activities while being pleasured. She wasn’t the first woman in rap to discuss it - Salt N’ Pepa quite literally “talked about sex” in 1991. But what Lil’ Kim did differently was paint vivid pictures of her liaisons and consistently consider her own pleasure (even though she was unafraid to please her partner, too). “That's how many times I wanna cum, twenty-one, and another one, and another one, and another one”. In 2016, a study conducted by the Archives of Sexual Behavior revealed that heterosexual women are 30% less likely to orgasm during sex than heterosexual men, which is unacceptable. Lil’ Kim was not interested in sexual encounters that didn’t end with an orgasm and asserted the right for heterosexual women to have them too.

“Her approach to fashion and beauty was, and is, sexy, expensive and over the top.”

Of course, Lil’ Kim is also a fashion and beauty trailblazer. 20 years ago this year, she attended the MTV Video Music Awards in a custom, Misa Hylton designed jumpsuit that showed off one breast. The Brooklyn-born hustler also debuted two banged wigs with the Chanel and Versace logos spray painted on them in 2001. Her approach to fashion and beauty was, and is, sexy, expensive and over the top. Kim sometimes personifies camp - the bad-yet-good taste that was the theme of 2019’s Met Gala. No one else would dare step out in a blonde, Bo Peep-style wig, a bedazzled anti-mask or boots lined with red weave. The other girls just don’t have the guts, and that’s okay. Kim also walked for Baby Phat (recently revived in collaboration with Forever 21) and was featured in a campaign for Iceberg Jeans, erasing the lines between hip hop/pop culture and mainstream fashion. Luxury brands were leery of rappers for years, but Lil’ Kim was able to create meaningful relationships with multiple luxury brand designers, and quickly became a fashion darling.

So here we are. Two and a half decades into Lil’ Kim’s career and she’s still doing it. Still making art and inspiring rappers. Still speaking directly to women and showing them how to move through a world that doesn’t want them to believe it is for them. Dripping in Chanel and jewels on the regular. We know that she’s imperfect, we know about the beefs. We know that she’s imperfect, we know about the beefs. And we know about her struggles with colorism, abuse and body dysmorphia. She’s a fighter who deserves honor, and you better believe we’re giving it to her. It’s clear that Lil’ Kim is the Queen Bee and a trendsetter, and she’s still going awff.

Salma Slims Is Ready for Her Closeup

Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 10.19.18 AM.png

by Brooklyn White

Salma Slims’ new project, Runway Rapper is here. It hosts features from Salma’s Private Club Records labelmate (and brother in-law) MadeinTYO, Slim Jxmmi of Rae Sremmurd and Ty Dolla $ign. The EP, as well as Salma, is inspired by Naomi Campbell, the cheeky model with an extensive career and indelible presence. But make no mistake, Salma Slims is her own woman.

The former cheerleader, girl group member and Lowes employee has come a mighty long way from having 9-5’s and juggling college courses. Her hard work has paid off though and now she has multiple high profile campaigns under her belt (including Calvin Klein) and over 200,000 Instagram followers who are ever excited about her latest moves. Read our email exchange with the runway rapper herself below.


Brooklyn White (BW): You're based in Los Angeles now, but you spent your formative years in Atlanta. How did living in the south prepare you for the types of people and events that you come across in California?Salma Slims (SS): Atlanta raised me. Taught me how to get it out the mud,... keep my foot on they necks and never let up. My mentality is fixed on that. Coming to LA, I’m the same person but I grind harder out here because this is an entertainment city and everybody is after the same thing - to make big. [I]t makes me go 10 times harder being out here.

BW: Your introduction to the music industry was in your teens, under Tiny Cottle's Pretty Hustle. Can you tell us  a little about that experience?
SS: My introduction to the music scene was actually with 247 Ent/Konvict music when I was in a group, and from there our group caught the attention of Tiny though a cypher we did that went viral…[S]he liked the fact that we were a rap group and it was something different that you didn’t see much of during that time.

BW: What do you want listeners to walk away with after listening to 'Runway Rapper'?
SS: Runway Rapper is a lifestyle. Being a bad bitch with lots of attitude and class. This [EP] has a mixture of everything and a little bit for everybody.

Hair and makeup by  COYA BROWN , wardrobe by  AMIRAA VEE , nails by  ASTRID CURET , set design by  SIERRA HOOD , set design by  TEDRA WILSON , photography by  RANDIJAH S  and TEDRA WILSON

Hair and makeup by COYA BROWN, wardrobe by AMIRAA VEE, nails by ASTRID CURET, set design by SIERRA HOOD, set design by TEDRA WILSON, photography by RANDIJAH S and TEDRA WILSON

“I absolutely lovvvvvvvve Naomi..I feel like I’m her daughter and she doesn’t even know it. We have very similar stories - she grew up in a very religious home being [Jehovah’s Witness] and I grew up in an Islamic home.”

BW: How long did it take you to craft this project from beginning to end? Did any particular life occurrences motivate it?
SS: It took me about 4 months to finish the project[,] I’m in the studio every other day. I was just waiting on the label to drop the project, so it took forever to come out. I actually just finished a project with super producer Dun deal and it’s some of my best music, so I have so much music I’m sitting on right now.

RANDIJAH S and TEDRA WILSON

RANDIJAH S and TEDRA WILSON

BW: You've cited Naomi Campbell as a major influence, and that inspiration is evidenced on the cover of your project. What have you learned from her career and how do you juggle music and fashion?
SS: I absolutely lovvvvvvvve Naomi..I feel like I’m her daughter and she doesn’t even know it. We have very similar stories - she grew up in a very religious home being [Jehovah’s Witness] and I grew up in an Islamic home. She had so many doors [closed] on her but she still remained to go hard and now she’s the biggest supermodel in the world. I get a lot of my creative inspo from her. The cover of my project was paying homage.... I’ve always wanted to [redo] her PLASTIC DOLL portrait from 2011 that was shot by Seb Janiak. Shoutout to the photographer Brian Christopher, the graphic designer Weird Creative, and [creative director] FilthyMcDave for helping me bring that to life.

BW: Your most recent track is "Seasoning" - a ticking, thumping, bass-heavy track full of clever references and confidence. How did "Seasoning" come about?
SS: I was in the studio working with Camiam and he’s done a lot of huge records. The beat was so hard, I wanted the record to be the intro to my project. I just went in the booth and spazzed on the beat.

BW: What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
SS: [The] “Seasoning” video also dropped May 31st. And..I’m hoping to go on tour this year and take everything out the roof.

‘Runway Rapper’ is available on all DSP’s now.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

A Conversation with Schenay Mosley

SCHENAYHEADER.jpg

by: Nadirah Simmons

I first saw Schenay Mosley during the NYC stop on Smino’s Hoopti Tour. A singer and multi-instrumentalist whose music embodies Alternative Soul and R&B, she commanded the stage with ease and set the tone for the show, something that few lead acts can even do. Mosley, who moved to Chicago to pursue her education and music career attended a rehearsal for Smino and has been singing with him ever since, calling the St. Louis rapper and the entire Zero Fatigue crew a “genuine family” she can trust with her thoughts and ideas.

I immediately dug into her discography, captivated by her 2018 EP Lotus. We conducted a quick interview via email about what’s influenced her artistry, her creative process and more.


How did you get into music?
I got into music when I was 4 years old. I just started singing and realized that I loved it. I use to tap my fingers on tables when I was younger and eventually my parents bought me a keyboard. It's been history ever since. 

How did your upbringing and your environment influence you being an artist?
My Dad used to DJ back in the day (he still does now) and he always played music around the house. My cousin used to come over and make beats in the basement and I started learning how to produce from him. I grew up singing in the choir, taking piano lessons, you name it. I've always been drawn to the frequency of music. 

Who are some of your biggest inspirations musically?
Some of my biggest inspirations are Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, Aaliyah, Whitney Houston, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Sade, Marvin Gaye, Beyoncé the list goes on.

What is your creative process like?
My process varies depending on how I feel. Right now I'm letting the music flow and I'm not controlling what I say or do. I just lay it all out in the booth and clean it up later. It feels more authentic that way. 

How did you link up with Smino? What has your experience touring with him and the Zero Fatigue crew been like?
One of my former friends told me he was looking for a backup singer and I agreed to come to a rehearsal--I've been singing with him ever since. And I love traveling with them, it feels like a genuine family, I know I can trust them with my thoughts and ideas. We always make sure the energy stays pure.

What is your favorite thing about being on tour?
My favorite thing about tour is seeing the look on everyone's faces when we walk on stage. I love the connection I have with the audience and I love instilling joy into their hearts through my gift. 

How do you identify, and how important is your identity when it comes to creating?
I identify as a spiritual being and black woman, first and foremost. And my identity is important since it is the lens in which I'm telling my story. I also like to write things from a human perspective since I am more than the color of my skin. 

What inspires you to keep going?
This indistinguishable fire inside of me, it's like I HAVE to do this. I have to share my gift and help people in a certain way and this is it. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself selling out stadiums and enjoying my career with my beautiful family.

Texas Women Are Rapping Their Way Into A Brighter Future

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 10.35.12 AM.png

Like America as a whole, the history of Texas is racist, sexist, and selectively shared. Fortunately, archivists like Bri Malandro and BOONAPALISTA are using the internet and images to shed light on the true stories regarding historical events. Malandro’s term “The Yee Haw Agenda” (a nod to Black folks in western wear) has wrapped itself around the world wide web, prompting conversations about the way we consider cowboys and their whitewashing in Hollywood. The timing is nearly divine, with Lil Nas X enjoying his fame as a musician with country and rap influences, the Kentucky Derby recently rapping up, Solange Knowles rolling out her ode to southern living with When I Get Home, and fans witnessing a meteoric rise of Black women from Texas who make fiery, honest rap music about their surroundings.

For over 10,000 years before colonizers drifted to Texas, Native Americans lived there and got acquainted with the land, themselves and each other. When European squatters came during the early 1700’s, they brought religion and deadly illnesses, and some were not met with kindness (excluding the trade-eager Caddo). Eventually, this kindness would not be met with any, as Caddo tribe had dwindled by 95% by 1816. There were multiples countries who staked claim to Texas until it claimed its independence in 1836, but this obviously was nowhere near the end of ethnic and racial grievances in Texas. Legal Black slavery continued until 1865, Black and Latinx folks have been strategically ignored during voting seasons, the deaths of Sandra Bland and Jordan Edwards rocked America to its core.

As always, Black people (and women, specifically) have done the work required to shine a light on injustice, entertain while healing, and make Texas a safer space for others. Late last year, 19 Black women made history when they were elected as judges in Houston and Beyoncé continued to heighten cultural awareness with her Homecoming documentary. Additionally, women from Texas are rapping to regain control of sexual narratives, advance themselves financially, and spread messages of empowerment, fun and freedom.

“Megan from Houston, I’m naturally sexy” is a bar from Megan Thee Stallion’s impromptu “Still Tippin” verse. Like the original performers of the southern cut, Megan reps Texas hard, as shown by Pimp C-inspired verses, cowboy hats, and frequently flaunted “H Town” hand signal. In her 2017 video for “Last Week in HTx”, she takes fans on a trip to some of Houston’s landmarks and highlights the devastation the city endured during Hurricane Harvey. She states her own struggles, saying “every..night I was eating cheese eggs.” Thee Stallion has kept her homestate in her heart, mind and music as she climbs the Billboard Hot 100 with “Big Ole Freak,” sells out shows, and posts up with fellow Houston-born royal, Solange.

“I feel like I have to put on for my city, because we have so many legends and so many greats,” Megan Thee Stallion, Rolling Stone

A newly christened Asian Da Brat [FKA Asian Doll] hails from Dallas, Texas and in a documentary with All Def Digital, she went into detail describing the early days of her career. “I [stayed] in the hood, [our curtains] had..tacks. I didn’t even have a bed,”. That kind of poverty in Latinx and Black communities is all too common in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. According to statistics shared in May of 2018, nearly a third of Black and Latinx people living in Dallas are living below the poverty line, respectively.

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 11.20.37 AM.png

“I want to know everyone where I’m from and I love repping Dallas. It’s always been more of a Texas thing, though...Texas is so slept on. I just want to put on for my city and state as much as I can and show everyone that we’re here.” -Asian Da Brat, Billboard

Making it out of poor neighborhoods is a goal for many young people who dream big and work hard to make their talents shine. Dallas is a city that’s booming with flair, and hopefully it gets to the point where the resources and opportunities align. But as homeless communities swell and more youth feel forced to turn to the streets to support themselves, there’s no telling when the tide will turn. But, Asian Da Brat is here to guide her peers every step of the way. She regularly encourages Black youth, especially women to hustle, be wise, and maintain their confidence.

Cuban Doll makes vivid, quotable music too, and has talked about becoming a woman while her mother was in jail. Growing up with an incarcerated parent is an under discussed reality that has had an affect on tons of non-white kids and teens. So, the Dallas native sharing her feelings about the last few years of her upbringing holds weight. In a short amount of time, she’s organically grown a large following and has drastically altered what could’ve been perceived as the trajectory of her life.

Black people and people of color have faced socio-economic disparities since European settlers entered Texas. But brilliant Black women are changing the story around their culture and shaping their future. Everything is litter in Texas fosho.

Rap Groups Comprised of Women Help Progress Black Feminist Thought

salt-n-pepa-essential-songs-listen-637d6f74-8e06-4087-ae3d-d3d81ed4d98d.jpg

by Brooklyn White

The Black woman’s voice is critical. Without it, the earth is cursed - condemned to a lifetime of misogynoir and Eurocentricity, and devoid of discussions on the intersection of gender, race, and class. There have been too many instances of erasure, or worse, a flat-out lack of knowledge on the various issues that affect Black women. Even more necessary than individual, Black feminist thought is the collective consciousness and inventiveness that Black women have cultivated since the beginning of time. As a result rap groups comprised of women have performed bops and have fostered solidarity amongst Black women.

The fusion of Black feminism and rap (created by Black women, of course) is not shocking. Both have a buzzing nucleus that summarizes the differing aspects of Black women’s experiences across industries, institutions, within family units and more. Romantic relationships, socio-economic plights, basic relations, and coping mechanisms are among the topics tackled in both rap and Black feminist’s conversations. Fellowship amongst Black women is fostered as a result of this sharing of information. And while entertainment plays a large part in the consumption of the art created by Black women rapping, there is an equally strong desire for a sisterhood. I cannot think of a better display of the connection between Black sisterhood and Hip-Hop music than groups made up entirely of women.

The Sequence is owed much more respect than they’re given - one of the first women collectives to make a big splash in Hip-Hop (in 1979). Though the Sugar Hill Records signees have been sampled by large performers like Dr. Dre, they still haven’t gotten their credit, or their coins, and they’re not happy about it- the typical underpaid, overworked bullshit that Black women have been enduring for centuries. But the ladies haven’t let financial issues and misappropriation of honor deter them from sticking together in pursuit of loot, and have managed to create an avenue for others, like Salt-N-Pepa and the City Girls. The women have also made folks reconsider how we honor living, Black predecessors.

“Pick up on THIS!” proclaimed a James Brown sample placed in Cheryl “Salt” James' and Sandra “Pepa" Denton's “Push It", the legendary anthem that thrust the New Yorker's careers into the cosmos. And pick up on it we did.   

Early on, everything about Salt-N-Pepa cemented their solidarity, from their matching asymmetrical haircuts (the result of Pepa’s hair coming out during a perm), to their names. The group had a string of hits in the 1980s and 90s, while approaching still-discussed concepts like not needing a man for his money and their sexual philosophies, and were the first mic-wielding women to go platinum, and also among the first to win a Grammy. Salt-N-Pepa have been making strides in the name of feminism for over 30 years, and inspired women to think more critically about the societal guidelines they color within.

The West Coast, as well as the Panhandle State presented their women-centric duos and trios - J.J. Fad and Oaktown’s 3.5.7 of the former and Anquette and L’Trimm of the latter. Supersonic, boomin’ whips were a sliver of the outcome of these bands, who continue to find new listeners and spark conversations. The very existence of communities of Black women who celebrate themselves, support themselves and uplift others like them is worth consideration.

J.J. Fad, ‘Supersonic’ cover art, 1988.

J.J. Fad, ‘Supersonic’ cover art, 1988.

Some might argue that JT and Yung Miami of the City Girls are not feminists. And a conversation on their musings and music (Alexa, play “I’ll Take Your Man” [by Salt-N-Pepa]...wait no, actually play “Take Yo Man” by City Girls) could support this belief, while simultaneously reinforcing the longstanding Black feminist tradition of rejecting the pathologizing of Black women’s relationship with their bodies and sex. And when you break down JT’s incarceration and find that it’s a matter of capitalism and the struggle to pursue the American Dream as a young, Black woman and Miami’s redistribution of wealth in the form of $25,000 awarded to the best twerker in the world, you may be inclined to think more critically.

It’s true that we live in a time where the term “feminism” often becomes a buzzword for brands and outlets who hover over the concept like gnats and slap it onto anything concerning women. Similarly, many are quick to call mundane and completely unintentional acts “iconic” and “radical.” I won’t be pressed if my theories regarding the feminist nature of certain Hip-Hop groups are challenged. I find solace in the fact that like The Sequence and Salt-N-Pepa, I’m elasticising the bounds of Black feminism and its purpose, while pushing the conversation forward. Period.

A Daughter of Berkeley, Shy'an G Is Poised to Put On For the Bay

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 11.16.52 AM.png

On a Sunday morning in Oakland, Shy’an G, quietly spoke about the familial and regional influences on her latest EPs The Reset, a creative project that engulfed listeners throughout 5 tracks on her growth and development as an artist. Family is a vital point for strength for the young MC who has been covered in local publications such as East Bay Express and KQED Arts for her latest project, after a two year break from I Just Need A Minute, her first EP, released in 2017. The daughter of two local artists, her ability to paint illustrations in rap originated from her lineage of grandparents, featured on The Reset’s cover as a reminder of the legacy she hopes to build upon.

“I just needed a minute because I was going through a whole bunch of crazy stuff and it was stuff that I didn't really need to deal with” Shy’an G says. “I tried to create a life for myself that I thought I was supposed to live and it turned out to just explode in front of my face, it just took me right back to the beginning. So I just need a minute to kind of figure out where did I go wrong?”

During her absence from music she experienced periods of unemployment. and disrespect from peers. But instead of allowing outsiders to narrate her journey, Shy’an G took ownership of her experiences and funneled those energies into The Reset. She called upon her team of local producers; Yajj, Money Maka, M6 and ManiOnThisThang, and returned to YR Media’s Remix Your Life  (formerly known as Youth Radio), the artist development program that provided her with writing workshops to strengthen her talent and produce a transformative project that would re-introduce her artistry to the Bay area rap scene. “ It's really funny that you know it’s the reset because I went back to the place where it started to create something called the reset,” Shy’an G says.

A disciple of the conscious rap tradition, “Go Off,”draws upon the spirituality of Nina Simone to speak to power about social inequalities and truth of our current realities as Black people in this white supremacist capitalist state over a Money Maka beat. “Top Down,” the EP’s single, paid tribute to ManiOnThisThang, one of the project’s producers who tragically lost his life this year.

“Working on that just writing for that beat that he did because he was on the verge of becoming a game changer, you know only 17 years old. Just doing it. You know. And accomplishing a lot more than a lot of other producers who are older than him. He was really changing the game up, he has so much skill. And he's also somebody who I looked at as someone who lived his best life too” Shy’an G says.

Living her best life means the removal of barriers and people who attempted to hinder her from embracing the creativity of her artistry in the rap game. Every word on The Reset is intentionally placed with the objective of Shy’an G’s power and wisdom at mind. Reminiscent of her musical influences of Lauryn Hill, Talib Kweli, and womxn rappers in the Bay Area, this is the definitive project that broke Shy’an G out of her shell. From a young AAU basketball player to an emerging socially conscious rapper, she credits the numerous womxn rappers in the Bay Area who mentored her, and contributed to the development of an innovative sound heard throughout The Reset. The latest in a legacy of womxn rappers taking control of the narrative around their artistry, Shy’an G aims to gain respect in an industry where patriarchal mentality and stereotypes have siloed MC’s due to their gender.

A student of Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Monie Love, Rah Digga, and Missy Elliot; Shy’an G possesses an awareness of the complexities within the female rap tradition, and emphasizes unficiation between womxn in rap, especially in the Bay Area. “I want to present an alternative, I got love for all of my Black sisters out there winning I just want to the media to know that this does not have to be the only image that is projected”, Shy’an G said in an interview with East Bay Express. Embedded within her discography are affirmations towards her community of Black womxn who made supported her vision, and laid the foundation for her success.Her hope for the future of Bay Area Hip-Hop is to invoke the spirit of The Conscious Daughters, a womxn Hip-Hop duo from East Oakland who gained regional acclaim in the 1990s, to the current roster of womxn rappers in the Bay.

“If I ever get to the point where I'm well known enough and I meet the current ladies of the Bay Area holding it down I just wanna tell them like thank you. Thank you and can we please continue to grow? Can we continue to let people know that we can hold our own as well as the dudes out here. I just want women to be valued better in Hip-Hop, specifically in Bay Area Hip-Hop too,” Shy’an G says.

Deep seated within her rhythms, in between the 808s and layered productions, are tiny hints of a socially conscious prophet emerging through to listeners. A daughter of Berkeley, Shy’an G encompasses the historical foundations of regional and national conscious womxn rap tradition, yet draws upon new underground sounds to produce EPs that display the beginnings of an emergent pioneer.

A Conversation with Teenear

teenear.jpg

by Nadirah Simmons

In a music environment where viral moments and Internet clout can make or break you, singer-songwriter Teenear has both and a whole lot more to offer on top of that. The 20-year-old singer started out singing covers on YouTube as a teenager, and today is signed to Slip-N-Slide Records. Not to mention her video for “Need Your Love” has is close to 2 million views on YouTube. It’s the kind of success artists who have worked for years dream of having, and the kind Teenear has to be proud of achieving at such an early stage in her career. But even with all of those wins under her belt, she’s just getting started.

We talked with Teenear about the roots of her music career, how spirituality influences her sound, the importance of asserting her voice and more.


When did you decide that you wanted to start making music?
I was born and raised in Miami. And honestly just growing up in Miami, the scene with Southern type records, I was always around it and it wasn't necessarily something that I was interested in immediately. In school I was doing entertainment and musical theater was like my thing. And then around the age of like 13, 14, you know when you're in junior high you're trying to figure yourself out-that’s when I was like “okay let me see what I want to do.” I started venturing out and trying different things with musical theater and to be honest to the studio I never tell and I just started going it was at the time Justin Bieber had just came out and I'm like “who is this kid?” I went to look him up and he came out with this contest where you had to write to one of his beats. And one night I just sat there and did that contest for myself I never put it out. But just that experience of creating something is what sparked it for me.

Then I joined the praise team at my church, and the CEO of Slip-N-Slide attended the church. And it was really just word of mouth, people telling him “you have to come see her sing.” And one moment he was there, he heard me sing and it was really just a conversation of once again taking it seriously. So I started posting my covers on YouTube and he knew this is something I wanted to do so he let me get in the studio.

That's amazing. I know you said that you're from Miami. How has your environment or that community in particular kind of influence your love for music?
I really just feel like Miami is such a creative space. There are so many artistic people here and that in and of itself is what inspires me.

A lot of our favorite artists have their roots in the church. What role does that play in your music making process? And does how does it either encourage or discourage you from talking about certain things in your songs?
Yeah for sure. It's a battle with me because I'm a very spiritual person and I'm still like a growing adult you know. So yeah when it comes to my music there are moments where like I want to do certain things I'm like maybe I shouldn't say that. I want to make sure like I'm a positive influence but I know it it's constantly going to be a battle because I don't want to say something that might get the wrong reaction you know. But I feel like it comes with growing and growing in me spiritually and growing and music. I'll figure out my balance. But yeah definitely a struggle.

Is there any pressure from anyone around you, not just management but the industry in general, to change who you are? As far as you know how you present and what you do decide to sing or talk about?
One hundred thousand percent. And it could be people that honestly don't have an influence on anything I do in my career but it happens all the time. I hear “Oh Teenear you need to wear this you need to do this you need to say this you need to be more sexy.” It's like leave me alone. Let me do me.

When did you like know for sure that this was what you wanted to do?
For sure it was when we wrote my first single because we recorded so many different songs and it was frustrating. I was like maybe I shouldn't be doing it. It wasn’t until we wrote [the single] that everyone actually loved that record. Out of all my other songs I had recorded before that, I finally felt like “okay this is definitely for me.”

So tell me a little bit about this song “Need Your Love.” When did you come up with the idea for this song?
This song was honestly just the ultimate definition of young. There’s people telling me I need to be careful and then I don't know and I don't know if this is love or lust. So this is a personal song for me because I deal with it right now. I'm young. I don't know what love is. Do you know what love is? Just young love and just having fun trying to be in the moment, even though you're hearing a hundred opinions.

I feel like a lot of times, especially when you're younger, you have this perception of what you think love is. And people are so quick to like shoot shoot you down like “no that is not what it is, this is and you'll know when you get older.” But it's doesn’t take away from what you’re feeling at the time. You're 20 years old and not just with the idea of love but also with you being an artist, you are super young and there are a lot of older people around you making decisions. How do you make sure you maintain like your voice and you assert your truth?
It's definitely really hard but I have a good team, we definitely have grown to work together. They listen to me, and if I have an opinion they actually do take it into consideration.

Before we got started we talked about artists who inspire you and you named Beyoncé. How do you feel about the people who just treat music kind of like a hobby or as a get rich quick type of thing?
I started out when I was young. I literally recorded all my covers in my closet. That is crazy to me you'd think from my back then now and when it comes to social media, honestly I feel like at the end of the day if you're not going to put 100 percent in something if you're just doing it for like one reason or for the moment it's going to come off that way. And like you said, Beyoncé worked so hard to get what they got. And if you're not going to do that it doesn't matter how many followers you have on social media that moment is going to come and go and you're not going to last. It’s up to how much effort you put into whatever it is you try to. You can do it, do it but right.

How do you separate yourself from all of the other singers and the other women who are trying to do the same thing? How do you make sure you stand out? Honestly I'm really trying to just be myself when it comes to it all. I'm not trying to follow the next person Even when it comes to like my music; none of my songs sound the same at all. “Need Your Love” is R&B, “Friday Night” is nowhere near R&B. If I like a song I'm going to put it out-I’m not going to stay R&B or because do pop because everyone telling me to do Pop. It's just how I feel, I'm going to be myself no matter what, today, tomorrow, five years from now. That's what I want to stand on. Being who I am because I have to look back on this, and I want to be proud of everything that I do.

So what is the story that you're trying to tell or that you want people to really take from your next EP.
I really just want them to see that I'm being unapologetically me like that. There's a hundred styles in it and I feel like it's definitely going to make people understand that I can't be placed in a box. I want them to just get that like this music is just me speaking, like it really is who I am.

That’s amazing. Where do you where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I want to already start another business for myself. I'm really big into like health and like young girls and that's a goal for myself. Whether it's in five years or ten years but I need to make that a thing by ten years. And also just being in not only the music scene but also in the acting scene because musical theater was my thing when I was younger, I love acting, I love singing, so being able to do all of that by then will be amazing. Just being an artist that people really look at and really are inspired by.

What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to do what you're doing?
I would just say be yourself, 100 percent. And believe in yourself, because at the end of the day you don't believe in yourself nobody is going to believe in you no matter how much you try to fake it. It's just not going to work. And just go for everything. If you have a feeling just go for it no matter what. If there's people telling you you can't do it, just do it. I think it just comes down to this believing in yourself. Just have faith.

 

Eccentric Women Have Made Some of the Best Hip Hop Music + Videos

Tierra-Whack.jpg

by Brooklyn White

Tierra Whack’s 2018 debut album, Whack World, was a Dr. Seuss-like doozy. It’s been celebrated for its minute-long songs, reminiscent of HitClips, but also for offering the deep dives and productional experimentation present in 50-minute projects. Whack discussed high fashion (“Hungry Hippo”), healthy eats (“Fruit Salad”), cappers (“Dr. Seuss”), and more, but what helped grasp the collar of the general public were the nearly surreal music videos. The Whack World videos (meant to be viewed consecutively, but perfectly trimmed 15 times to fit the 60 second limitation of Instagram videos) are weird. But not the “oh no, my ex is behind me in line at the gas station, is my card gonna decline?” cringey weird. It’s the perfect kind of individualism that inspires people to fully explore themselves.

In her short film, the Grammy nominated artist sported a prosthetic swollen, drooping face and revealed a Guess Who? board that exclusively featured her mug, and fans, new and old, ate it up. People have long complained that music videos have lost their creativity in the last 15 years, but Tierra’s kaleidoscopic view into her mental and emotional states circumvented any such accusations. The album was reflective of her overall self and overlapping brand, her gif-like promotional clip for “Unemployed” is a visaged potato jumping on a couch (an out of the box, “couch potato” reference”) and her music email reads “GRANDMA STILL HAS SEX”.

View this post on Instagram

“Unemployed” Out Now! 👑

A post shared by Tierra Whack (@tierrawhack) on

Of course, Whack has been compared to Missy Elliott, the mother of all things masterfully unconventional. Elliott’s lyrics are often onomatopoeic, telling, and funny, with an energetic delivery to boost. Her sophomore LP, Da Real World, turns 20 in June, and its best video, “She’s A Bitch” is out of the ordinary and without mar. Partially monochromatic and directed by Hype Williams, in one shot, the multi-million dollar music video presents a jet black, bald Misdemeanor, emerging from the subaquatic abyss with a number of skilled dancers. This is two years after making herself larger than life with the help of a trash bag, and also letting people know that slim women aren’t the only barbies. These messages are radical, especially for their time, assisted by the creative ways in which they were conveyed.

Maryland’s Rico Nasty is on her own wavelength as well, having rocked spiked hair with wispy baby hairs (“You don't have the balls to walk outside looking like this”, she’s said), or swirly, sharp, seashell colored nails. Her Zack Fox-directed video for the loose single “Sandy” is an amalgamation of zany images, including stairs covered in neatly places slices of bread and a foot dipped in spaghetti. Her face isn’t included in the mashup, but her personal eccentricity is alive in other videos like “Guap (LaLaLa)”. Nasty’s guttural verses are unlike any other right now, and are possibly only comparable to DMX’s own coarse approach. But her willingness to fully embrace punk influences and create her own stylistic trends ultimately separate her from the Ruffest Ryder. Rico is her own woman, standing in a winding, animated lane.

These are certainly not the only women in rap to disregard public desires and instead forge their own path. Doja Cat, the anthropomorphic bovine, went viral in 2018, and who can forget Nicki Minaj’s camp era (complete with sky scraping wigs and a surgical mask)? The conscientious weirdness jolts people, usually because deep down, they are afraid to show off their own healthy peculiarities. They play it safe, deep within the shell of their own ego, held captive to others’ opinions. If only these people knew that their freedom and joy, and maybe someone else’s, lays right outside of that shell. Always remember that weirdness is courage, and courage is the core of life.