In a genre rife with posturing and boasts about shallow excesses, Massachusetts-native Alyssa Marie stands out by bringing heart and soul to the rap world. Her words come from the gut and boldly dig into the emotion of her subject matter with an honesty and wisdom far beyond her twenty-four years.
Alyssa has been honing her craft since the age of fifteen and since 2009 has been posting verses on YouTube. In that time, her channel has surpassed two-million views and now with three releases under her belt -most recently 2012’s full-legth album HeartBeat– and another due by the end of the year, people are definitely starting to take notice.
GREG: I know you had started out writing poetry, and being a published poet at that. How did you transition from that into rapping?
ALYSSA: I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I can remember, I’m not really sure when or how I started to write rap lyrics. I’ve always been a fan of music and hip hop specifically and I think it started as just another outlet for my writing. It’s not like I was writing poetry then stopped and decided to rap instead; I was writing poetry first, then somewhere along the line began to write rhymes and rap lyrics. Eventually the two just merged together and created the conscious style of rap that I write now.
As your career was starting up, did you have any major influences or mentors along the way?
As far as rappers I listened to at the beginning stages of my own development as an artist, I’d say Nas, Eminem, Pac, Kis, Fabolous, Rakim, Bone Thugz, Luda, Pun, Banks, and a bunch of others that I can’t think of at the moment. As I got older I was better at finding my own people to listen to and got into some more poetic rappers.
If you download the album W!se Reborn (here), that’s who I’d call my mentor. Martin (“Wise”) was the first person to put me on a track; he offered music and life advice I still put to use every day. I don’t know where I’d be without him. Unfortunately, he passed away a few weeks after we had a falling out and I never got to tell him that, but I’ll never forget it.
Seemingly, hip-hop still really appears to be very predominantly a “boys’ club”, much more than any other genre of contemporary music. Did you find it hard gaining acceptance at the outset? Do you still?
It’s definitely a two-sided coin. On one side of it, you get the “wow” factor just being a female that can handle a mic. It’s easier to impress people and get them to show their friends like “yo, look at this chick rip it!”, but I think it’s significantly more difficult to be taken serious. You may get that first reaction which is cool, but how many people are going to download your stuff and put you in with their favorite rappers? Sure, maybe their favorite female rappers, but that’s not what I’m in it for. I don’t rap about gender specific things, I’m just trying to share my stories and be heard. It’s just not as socially acceptable in hip hop to name a female as one of your favorite rappers without putting “female” in front of it. I’m patient though, there’s enough open minded people to make it worth it.
One thing that has always stood out to me most in your music is that really seems to come from the soul, that its very true to yourself. Is having that honest connection with your audience important to you?
It’s extremely important to me. I know what it’s like to turn to music hoping to feel understood or feel like a song was written for you. Coming across someone who you can relate to so honestly is a beautiful thing, it’s and even more intense experience being on the artist side of it. Reading mail or comments from people saying you saved their life with your words, there’s nothing that can describe that feeling. I have pride in what I do, my music is an enormous part of who I am and if I’m not truthful with that, I’m lying to myself.
Your YouTube channel is just shy of hitting thirty-thousand subscribers and over two million views. How big of a factor has that been in getting your work noticed?
YouTube has been a huge tool in escalating my music career up to now. From entering contests to remixing songs, it’s jump started my success and still serves a great purpose in getting my work out there. Though it was difficult to break free of the “YouTube Rapper” stigma, I wouldn’t be where I am without it.
Your most recent album HeartBeat went through a lot of growth from its inception to its release. Can you tell us a bit about what happened there and what your approach was?
A big majority of HeartBeat was written and recorded all in a three week timespan. It started out as a completely different project with different songs and vibes, but throughout the creation of it more than half of them were cut out and new songs were added. I was lucky to have Beatblocked be so helpful in the engineering side of it because we were literally still recording forty minutes prior to the digital release of the record.
In a recent vlog update, you teased an upcoming project called No Parades On Easy Street. Is there any more detail we can get on that?
This passed winter I went out to visit my sister who was going to school out in Hawaii. I got there and ended up falling in love with it and decided to stay with her until she came home at the end of May. We were literally eating one meal a day and could barely even afford that, but we made it work and I was able to write this new record in the process. Again, even since leaving Hawaii I’ve altered the track list and cut/added songs, but the majority was still made out there. It’s coming soon though, just tying up loose ends.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Any parting thoughts you’d like to share?
Thanks for having me, I hope everyone reading this keeps checking for me as I continue trying to figure this confusing career out.
Pure Volume: www.purevolume.com/new/AlyssaMarieMusic