You famously recorded your first album at the Apple Store. Did you get any attention from labels with that project?
There were a few labels trying to court me. There were also a few people trying to do things like movie deals and TV shows, but I never really felt like they had a good grasp of who I was or how i wanted to be represented, so I didn’t do it.
Your dad passed away within hours of the release of your song "Stay Gold" -- and then Donald Trump was elected President a day later. Did that affect your relationship with the song?
I feel like that song has kept me alive. Every time I sing it I hear that message. I'm very proud of that song. I remember writing it and thinking “you're gonna need to hear this one day.” I guess in my head I imagined that day to be me in a mid-life crisis or something, but in less than a month it started being relevant in my life. A friend died in bed with me, I went through a bad break-up, and then my dad. It was a lot.
The song inspired your new project, STAY BOLD: 100 DAYS 100 SONGS. Will there be a particular theme?
Stay Bold. That's the theme. I just feel like there's no room right now to be anyone but your truest self. There's a major shift happening in society right now and a major shift in culture. As far as a theme, it's about disrupting the status quo and activating a certain chaos. But also love. I feel like artists like Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Tupac, they really did it well -- using music to spread positive messages of love and upliftment while critiquing culture and speaking out about oppression.
As a queer, black artist, I'd imagine your whole life has been political. What has been the most alarming part of the current administration?
I was born in this country, but my parents weren’t. Donald Trump says that makes me an "anchor baby." During his campaign, he promised to deport all the "anchor babies," a threat that seems to take extra precedence as we currently battle the impending "travel ban." I'm also seeing someone from the Middle East, a citizen of one of the banned Muslim countries and who had to deal with the fear of not being let back into the country after a work trip to Europe when the ban happened. It's a funny thing when Xenophobia gets legalized, which then allows for hate crimes against certain group of people or race.
You're hoping to recruit collaborators along this journey to help spread the message. Who are some mainstream, politically-minded artists that you'd like to collaborate with?
Yes! I wanna shout-out all my friends who have helped me out so far and who have promised to help because they are my team, they are my support system. Like you talked about before, with my life being political, I feel like when your body has been politicized then every action you make is a political action. Like when Solange says “don’t touch my hair,” or Kanye West denounces George W. Bush, or Prince changes his name to a symbol. Every time a person of color and/or queer person wakes up in the morning, it’s a political statement.
I really like Travi$ Scott's energy. And there are so many women in the game that are geniuses with production, and rapping, and songwriting that don't get the respect and recognition they deserve: Syd Tha Kid, Azealia Banks, Princess Nokia, Wondagurl, Chynna, Xhosa, Rafia...
How can fans help support this project?
Money. We set up a Kickstarter to raise money for recording costs, paying people, etc. This project is really big and I'm super blessed to be in a position to do this. But we don't have a record deal, or managers or PR people -- this is all organic. The beautiful thing about Kickstarter is that when you find a project that you believe in and you want to contribute, there's a cool reward system, so really you're buying something.
Also, share share share! I really believe in this message, and we're making such strides as a society. However, there is this impending hate that's looming over us that has shown its presence in a very ugly way and we need to fight it. There's only so much we can do in one lifetime, but we have to have hope and we have to push the culture as far as we can before we pass the torch on to the next generation.