On my first day of SXSW, I got to sit and talk with Sirah, a small little rapping fireball that hails from LA. Her debut album, C.U.L.T Too Young To Die, came out earlier in 2012, and her global collab with dubstep crooner, Skrillex, entitled ‘Bangarang’ won her a Grammy in 2013 for her collaborations on i
At the Moonshine Cafe, we met and went downstairs to escape the noise, to a silent and dark wine cellar – the perfect setting to talk with the rapper about her crazy performances at SXSW with people like Macklemore and Action Bronson, how growing up tough helps her in making her music, and the controversial but always entertaining female rap scene.
How is SXSW so far? Is it your first time here?
-Yes! It’s amazing. I haven’t gotten to see as many people as I wanted to see, but I’ve seen people from the shows I played – Icona Pop, Charli XCX, Macklemore, Action Bronson, Rocky Fresh. I tried to go out last night because one of my favorite bands, Y, are playing, but they were doing a show in the back room where there was Ghostface, Killa, and Iggy Pop, so there was no way to get in.
I heard you played with Macklemore and Action Bronson. How was that?
-Awesome. Action Bronson killed it. At one point I look over, and he picked up a dude that was in a wheelchair and had him draped over his back while he rapped, and I was like, “WHAT IS HAPPENING?”
So, you collaborated with Skrillex on ‘Bangarang’ and won a Grammy. How did that come about?
-6 years ago, I was on tour in Romania, and I got mail on Myspace from Sunni (Skrillex). He was doing this ambient, melodic music as a side project, and he told me that he loved my music and wanted to work with me, so that’s how that came about. With ‘Bangarang,’ he hit me up and asked me to send him 16 bars with a sort of ‘Lost Boys’ feeling – because I grew up like that. Our crew had that sort of ‘Lost Boys’ feel to it.
Did you attend the Grammys?
-Yeah! It was really odd. You watch it on TV your whole life and then you’re there, and it’s surreal.
Your video for ‘My City’ came out in February, and the song has to do with your childhood and growing up. How does that influence your music?
-I think that’s really all my music is – growing up and how I came to this place. But I grew up really hard, whether it was doing graffiti, being in gangs, whatever. I think that not only my music, but my life – being homeless and all – creates my music. I grew up in New York and then moved to LA and basically finished out there. I’ve been writing since I was seven years old, and when I was 12, I started just rapping, smoking blunts with boys, freestyling. I never thought that I could make music. I just did it because I loved to. Then at about 17, I started rapping in South Central at this place called Project Blow, and they really taught me how to actually rap. They boo you off stage, the Black Panthers tried to recruit me – it was mad weird.
Who did you grow up listening to?
-Well, my first show was The Beach Boys, even though they were all kind of dead – it was like the Beach Men. But also Joni Mitchell, Alanis Morissette, Big Pun, Biggy, Eminem – I just love music from everywhere, anywhere.
-That’s really hard. I mean, I love Joni Mitchell so much, but I would never want to work with her. There’s people I love so much that I would never want to collaborate with them, as a fan. They’re just so magical that it would ruin my perception about them. Anytime I really love someone I would never really want to go see their show. I’m more of the person that is inspired by musicians who just have a creative vision, no matter who they are. That’s exciting to me.
What would you say the most common theme is on C.U.L.T. Too Young To Die?
-I think I’m just angry! Haha. I listen to it and think, “I sound so angry!” There were a lot of reasons why I named it C.U.L.T, but I think it was just me being tired of the internet being so grimey and people not taking time to understand who you are – all the misconceptions that I was reading, saying “You’re a hipster,” or “You’ve never rapped in your life!” I was just mad. To quote Dr. Dre, “If you don’t like me, blow me.” So that was what C.U.L.T was for me – how they have no idea what they’re talking about.
How much does the internet play a role in what you do?
-Now it doesn’t. I don’t read anything. It does happen where I’ll read something and be like, “What?!” After C.U.L.T came about, I just had a lot to say about all these misconceptions bothering me, but it doesn’t have any affect now. When people get really wild on the internet, I just kind of bug them out more like, “You need a hug. What’s up, are you okay?” I don’t even really use it to promote my music. I’m not that type. When people like my music, I’m still just kind of surprised. I think it’s an awesome tool for artists nowadays to even have that option, but I also think it’s a matter of just letting people get to know you – not promoting yourself.
What’s your favorite part about the music-making process?
-My favorite part is after spending days and days making something, the moment when you take it home from the studio and you’re in your room when you just know that you’ve created something that will last forever. That’s the thing about music. At some point, we’re all gonna die, but whatever it is your create, it’s going to outlive everything. In 5o years when nobody gives a shit, some kid is going to find it, and it’s going to mean something to them. Or sample it! I could pay my future kids.
A lot of female rappers are starting to pop up – Azealia, Iggy, Angel Haze – how do you feel about the upcoming female rap scene?
-I just actually saw Angel Haze perform at the Grammy pre-party, and she was really dope. She has an Aliyah vibe to her, while is so cool. Both Azealia and her have that vibe, which is maybe why they fight. I heard just the other day about Azealia getting in a beef with Brooke Candy, and it’s like, I wish us girl rappers wouldn’t have to fight so much. There’s only like 8 of us! I’m not all about that “let’s stick together” shit, but I’m also like, “why do we have to fight so much?” There’s so much to fight against when you get to the platform we have, and it’s just so hard to do this. Any girl that has come up, I would give mad respect to. But I think Azealia Banks is dope. I like her music. I guess hip hop has always been about beef, but I’m just not about that life anymore.
Since we are Indie Houston, who are some of your favorite indie artists that we can listen to?
-Oh! My favorite band, Why? I’ve always loved them. I don’t know if The Limousines are still unsigned, but I love them. They have this song ‘Internet Killed The Video Star.’ [starts singing]. I listen to a lot of indie music. I’m really on this rapper right now, who is actually upstairs – Jinx the Flyer. He’s from Connecticutt. He’s produced for so many big rappers. I even feel like there’s this weird folk and R&B resurgence happening right now, and I love it. I’ll hit up my fans and ask, “What are you listening to right now?” Because I just love new music in general. It’s exciting.
Watch Sirah’s video for ‘My City’ below.