Madame Rap asked the American rapper and singer Asha Griffith to tell us about her experience in hip hop and jazz and her collaboration with The Wolphonics, a project founded by French saxophonist Fabrice Theuillon, who are going to release their album « The Bridge » on September 14.
How did you discover hip hop and jazz?
My grandfather used to play jazz music, Bob Marley, doo wop and other « oldies » when I was younger. That was the first time I remember hearing jazz. I liked his jazz selection (probably because I heard the songs so many times), but I wasn’t listening to jazz on my own at that point–only with him. As far as hip hop goes I really can’t remember. I probably heard hip hop on the radio. I was born in the 90’s so hip hop was pretty popular by the time I was able to listen to music on my own.
When and how did you start rapping?
My dad encouraged me to rap when I was 10 years old. He wanted me and my younger brother (who was 5 at the time) to make an EP. He produced the music and I co-wrote the lyrics to the songs. We went to the studio and everything. We even had performances at local events and sold our cd’s and posters. The EP was called « Me and My Little Brother ». I wasn’t ready for the artist management side of things– sometimes I wanted to watch cartoons instead of practicing so the whole rapper thing didn’t last long. I wanted out so by the time I was 11, I was no longer a rapper lol.
What about tap dancing?
I started dance lessons at a local dance studio in New Jersey. I did all dance styles from 5 to 17 years old, but tap was my favorite. I realized I really liked tap around 11.
How did you meet Fabrice Theuillon and joined The Wolphonics project?
Fab found my music on Soundcloud. I uploaded my first mixtape, « Masterbait » on the site. If you haven’t heard it yet, lend me your ears for a second and check it out. Ok, so yea, he found my music online and sent me an email saying he was from Paris, and wanted to meet to talk about featuring me on an album he was working on. I was a little apprehensive at first, but we met up in Brooklyn a few days later and over the next year we collaborated on a few songs and then he flew me out to Paris for the first Wolphonics show. We’ve been building ever since.
What would you say is the common ground between hip hop and jazz?
Culture & Expression. Jazz and Hip hop is Black American music-an extension of African music. Without Black struggle and oppression in America there would be no hip hop or jazz. What people love about both styles is the authenticity. It’s transparent. It’s real. It’s raw. That’s what makes it so amazing.
You come from New Jersey. How is the female hip hop scene like over there?
There’s no « female scene » or « male scene ». There are really talented women creating waves in NJ. Felisha George is one of my favs in the hip hop community back home. A lot of singers dabble in rap too, but again, there’s no exclusive scene for women.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, what kind of feminism do you most relate to?
I believe in political, economic, and social equality. I’m not aware of all the different kinds of feminism….Let me google this–I’ll be right back…hmmm I don’t totally relate to any of the labels I found. I can say that I’m not radical or a man-basher.
Who are your female role models and why?
My mother. I know her personally and I know how hard she’s worked for what she has.
What are your upcoming projects?
I’m working on an album–Moodswings! And an EP called Songs That Smell Good
What do you think of Madame Rap? What should be changed or improved?
Since I can’t read French my experience on the site is limited, but I think the layout has changed since the last time I visited the site. Has it? Either way, I’m digging it and I love the fact that Madame Rap supports women all over the world and not just in France.
Photos 1 et 2 © Stanislas Augris
Photo 3 © Kamel Friha