The Southern California transplant is giving back to the movement she fell in love with.
Outspoken and genuine, iRawniQ is bringing new attitude and a fresh perspective to the ever-evolving world of hip-hop. Refusing to let her rapidly increasing success cloud her judgement and prohibit her growth as a musician, the levelheaded lyricist is constantly finding ways to perfect her craft, all while staying true to herself. Myspace caught up with the Orange County-based artist to better understand her as an individual, her inspirations and what she stands for.
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
How would you describe your music to people who had never heard it before? For someone who has never been to one of your shows, what can they expect from you as a performer?
You have to expect the unexpected when it comes to my show — maybe a few topless ladies screaming “Snatch power!” here and there, we RAVE...you feel me? There's nothing like performing. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do — its therapy. It’s expression. It’s art. It’s pure. IT’S RAW! High Energy, provocative lyrics with meaning. A RAW show is intimate and expressive.
Tell us how you chose your stage name.
So cool story. My stage name used to be Charizma. It was like a cheesy play on my real name and I used to do a lot of spoken word back in the day. Fitting at the time. But it didn’t quite have the edge I needed it to have. iRAWniQ (ironic) is my name because my life is full of irony. And I’m RAW AF. I am a walking paradox — word to Tyler. After so many incidents of “coincidences,” shit just was adding up. Everything in my life seems to fulfil this ironic platform. So, I just had to be extra and spell it weird. Everyone calls me RAW. It just fits.
Who are some of your musical influences? What aspects of their music drew you to them and in what ways did they inspire you?
I’m was brought into the secular music world late in life. Both of my parents are pastors, so growing up, I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything other than Andrae Crouch, Helen Baylor, The Winans, etc. Kenny G, Take 6 and Oh Wait. The Boyz II Men Christmas Album was as far left as we would go. When I was about 16, I purchased The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It was like my eyes had been open and I too could see good and evil! From there, I got into the eclectic and alternative hip hop artists. Outkast, N*E*R*D, Missy, Timbaland, Kelis to name a few. I was really fucking with the VA sound. Didn’t get into J Dilla until way later, even though I’m from Michigan. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prince, MJ, No Doubt. Radiohead. Nirvana. I love alternative sounds. The Neptunes really reached me sonically. Busta. Janet. Anything that was a little spacey and eclectic I was rockin to because I understood it. Because I too, am eclectic.
Hip-hop has changed immensely throughout the years. What’s your personal outlook on the genre and what uniqueness are you bringing to the table?
Mainstream hip-hop has changed immensely, but The boom-bap is still there! You just have to go to the underground to find it. I love hip hop. It’s a culture. It’s a movement. It’s freedom and expression to say and rap about whatever we wanna say and rap about. I am an expressive, eclectic, openly gay female with bars and a conscience. I’m unafraid to express my gender and sexual identity and present day makes it so much easier to be true to one’s self. I like to think I’m pretty witty, and I rap over alternative beats. My voice is super unique, not high pitched like many female artists, and I have some dope shit to express. I like the fact that I really don’t sound like anyone. Scratch that — I love that shit.
From what else do you draw inspiration for your music?
Life. I am a mother. The ultimate source of energy: giving birth to a child and preparing him for the world. My kid is awesome. He inspires me to reach higher, to expand my horizons. He teaches me patience and valuable lessons on the regular. Anyone who has a shorty knows what I’m talking about. My daytime gig is in the school district. I work with high school students who face difficulties ranging from their home life to typical high school stuff. It’s rewarding, man. These kids need someone to look up to man. Even if I can reach one or two, it feels good to have that sort of positive impact. If that’s not what life's about, I don’t want be living. Nature also inspires me. I love being at the beach, near the water, in the woods and around my hairless cat, Raja. Nature is so much doper than people. Nature is fulfilling — people can be exhausting.
Tell us about your most recent music project.
I have an EP on iTunes right this moment called, Black Girls On Skateboards. It’s wavy AF with a little bit of something for everybody on that joint. I dropped it last year and had some cool press. I was sponsored by SXSW and it was a dope run. Now I’m working on my next project called The Elephant in The Room. Actually, it’s already finished. Every Monday night, I drop a song, a freestyle or a visual from the project. Its an installation I drop on my Instagram called #MondayNightRaw. Its building momentum and people are really receptive. It feels good. I put the tracks on my SoundCloud for streaming and eventually I will put the whole project on my BandCamp for donations.
What's the songwriting process like?
Easy. I write when I feel like it, which is damn near everyday. I have a composition book with me at all times. Between working my daytime gig, working for my school’s non-profit, going to college full-time and being a dope ass mom, to be honest, I am always inspired to write. Not only music, but I’m currently writing a couple of books. One is a children’s book about identity and the other is a coffee table joint. I’m excited about all these endeavors.
What was that defining moment when you knew you were meant to create music and how did you go about it?
I started writing and reading sheet music at a young age. I think at about 8. My mom put me in piano and that was the best thing she could have done. At 11, I started transposing music from piano to trumpet and that kind of evolved into lyrics. The lyrics started as poetry and eventually progressed into songs. So at 12-years-old, I think it’s safe to say I was a bit beyond my years in the realm of composing and songwriting. I got into production at around 17 and bam — here I am. I have a hand in every part of my artistry. I love synergizing with other artists too, but I think it’s important to keep the game personal, that way it can never be taken from you. You gotta have a sense of self or you’ll be like so many other artists, lost in the sauce.
Describe one of your favorite/most memorable performances.
Man, Palm Springs Pride 2015. That..shit...was...lit! I could have forgotten all of my lyrics and did the cabbage patch and the crowd would have still been rockin with me. Let me tell you, Prides are the best shows to play at. There’s no judgement. They’re ready to turn up and they accept you with open arms. I love my gays and my queers. Oh and they buy your merch too. We had a blast at that show.
What's in store for 2017?
This is gonna be the year of the trill. I have some major videos I’m dropping. I am working with the dopest LGBT Djs and collectives in Los Angeles. Dj Goodboy Morgan, Bouncehouse, A Fresh Perspective, Codex Collective and so many more! I have the support of so many people and outlets that this shit is gonna be nothing short of amazing. Next week on the 18th, we are throwing a huge LGBT PussyPalooza Movie Night Party in Hollywood at The Hideaway. We are calling that joint, “BOX OFFICE” and we are looking at at least 500 people there. We’re screening movies, we gonna have henna, tattoos, a bar, live performances (you know I’m gonna be doin my thing), Djs, a taco truck, giveaways...all of that shit! This is gonna be a monthly thing and the 18th is the kick off! If you’re interested in going, hit up www.MilkMilkLemonadeLA.com and RSVP since it’s a private event.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m building my team up. There’s so much talent out here and the thing is, we’re hungry. We’re hungry but we aren’t ever thirsty, believe that. We have our hands in everything from licensing, film, commercials, construction and of course, music. Once you really start stirring the pot, you see all this shit is connected. If you got some great character, ambition, and are humble, come on over to team RAW. We’ve got place for you. One time for the black girls, ‘cause no one ever shouts us out in real life! Sending lots of love and favor to every person that’s reading this right now. Life is what you make it, so let’s make it worth it! #RAW
For more profiles on up-and-coming artists, visit our Artist of the Day page.