Ethiopian-born and Montreal-raised rapper Naya Ali burst onto the scene in 2017 with her debut single Ra Ra. She told us about her new EP Godspeed: Baptism (Prelude), which announces an album of the same name, her influences and her musical universe.
When and how were you introduced to hip hop?
Growing up what would play in my house was country music, Motown and Ethiopian jazz. But when I reached middle school, I started wanting to discover more types of music. However, during those times, to discover new music you would have to watch MTV and Much Music. So, the way I discovered hip hop was through watching the hottest music videos which were Diddy, Mase, the whole Bad Boy era.
How did you start rapping?
I wrote poetry as a teen and the more I fell in love with rap and hip hop, the more I had this want to get into it. So I gradually went from poetry to rhymes all while falling more and more in love with the culture.
You just released the EP Godspeed: Baptism (Prelude). What can you say about this project?
I feel like I waited an eternity to be reborn. It’s a new life, a baptism into the league of greatness. The prelude is an introduction into my deeper universe, the good, the bad, the dark and the light. The first chapter of the beginning.
Godspeed: Baptism is a complete elevation from Higher Self. Bigger records, bigger confidence, bigger presence. Although still raw, hard hitting and honest – this time around I’m pushing myself to explore more sonic territories. More layers, more musicality, more melodies. I’m using my voice as an instrument a lot more this time around.
If someone doesn’t know your music and wants to discover it, which song would you advise them to listen to first?
How do you work on your flow? Do you have special techniques or routines?
Honestly, I let myself go, feel the emotion of the track and the flows come naturally based on the universe I created with the producer.
What is your relationship to writing? Do you write every day?
I need to be able to feel my emotions and live. I observe my surroundings and take in what’s around – from there, ideas, topics, words are created. I guess the words come after the universe I aim to create.
Who are your role models?
I have a few, but to be more specific around my art, I have three role models that reflect the way I create beyond just music and into the creation of a full universe. Kanye West, Childish Gambino and The Weeknd. The way their music is intertwined with the visual universe (that is equally as strong as the music) is phenomenal and it inspires me to do the same in my own way.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
No, I don’t actually. I don’t need a label that was never really initially for me to define my worth as a woman. Of course, I believe in equality, fairness and balance. But, I don’t need to try and level myself to the given standards of patriarchy to deem myself an equal. I know who I am and I know where I come from…If that makes sense?
What are your upcoming projects?
The full Godspeed album. 🙂
What do you think about Madame Rap? What should be changed or improved?
Maybe do the interviews face to face via Facetime or something. I feel we can connect more to each other that way.
Find Naya Ali on her website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Bandcamp.