A Cinderella Story
My mother has always told me that I was an outspoken child. But after she and my father divorced when I was really, really young and my father remarried a woman that was mentally and physically abusive to me, that’s when the internal war began. Even though instinctually I wanted to be vocal, my circumstances stifled my ability to speak out for things.
I turned to music very early in my life. At the age of 5 or 6, I was already putting my thoughts into melodies. Even though I couldn’t even spell, I would still write down what I heard in my head and put it on paper.
Another event that added to my emotional stress as a child was when I was 10 or 11 years old, my mother got remarried. It was that same harmful dynamic when I got my new father — my stepdad — as when my stepmother came into my life.
He wasn’t always violent, but I’ve never been exposed to this type of violence before, punching holes in walls and denting floors and screaming, all because he was just frustrated with something. Between his personal frustrations mixed with familial frustrations, he would just blow up seemingly out of nowhere. I never thought in a million years at that age that I would be exposed to that type of environment. Prior to my mother marrying this man, it was hard being young and thinking that he was not good for my mother. I tried to communicate that to her, but of course, I was being shut up and pushed to the side because I was young. I was told “You don’t get into grown folks business.” Things like that. “You’re this small child with not much of a voice.” When I felt hopeless, that was where my voice lied, in my music, in my poetry. I was just really sad and angry. Dealing with low self esteem due to eczema, a skin condition that gave me physical pain, and the feeling that I was invisible, it all fueled depression and suicidal thoughts as I got older.
My mother and my stepdad, they would fight a lot. There was one specific year, it was my senior year, where my stepdad left us. I was like, “Finally!” In my mind, I’m like, “Get out of here!” Sadly, it was the best year of my life, but it was the worst year for my mom. I enjoyed my senior year, I graduated. I was going on into that stage of life where you become an adult and you figure out what you are going to do with your life.
Part of that journey including figuring out what I was going to do spiritually. I grew up going to church with my dad, but we had stopped going because we had moved really, really far. It was hard to explain what I believed about God because while I was in church, I really didn’t have the understanding of why living for God was so important. In my upbringing, it was just this is what you do, go to church, say your prayers. I’ve always known God is real. I’ve had several encounters where you just cannot deny that God is real, but the understanding to live holy didn’t dawn on me until I turned 19.
At that time, I ended up just getting like a random job, working at the mall. I had put my dream of going to design school on hold to support my mom through her separation, but it was easy to find work in retail because of my love for fashion. I met this young lady, she worked across in a different store than I did, but my best friend connected us because of our similar personalities. Such a small world, she actually knew some of my family in Nebraska! She was cool and she was like a die-hard Christian, believer of the faith, and she invited me over to her house to come kick it. So I did. We’re playing pool, we’re having a good time. She said, “Do you believe in Jesus?” And I’m like, “Absolutely,” not realizing she was setting me up! She’s like, “Well you should come to church with me,” and I’m like, “Aight cool.”
The church was really, really dead. I think the day I went could have been a youth day, ironically. Someone was singing “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” and that’s one of my favorite songs. It was there that the spirit of God just consumed me. I was the only one standing up. When I tell you it was a dead Baptist church, it was so dead, predominantly black church, it just seemed like nobody wanted to be there. No one wanted to praise the Lord and I had no intentions on having this encounter, but it happened. I was just the only one just standing there, hands lifted, but it didn’t matter that I was the only one because I just heard Him start speaking to me. He was just saying, “This is who you are, this is who I made you to be, I made you to be a worshiper.” I couldn’t do nothing but cry because I was just consumed. I couldn’t even really speak, and when I did it was utterings of heavenly tongue.
Immediately after this great spiritual awakening — I had re-accepted God seriously in my heart, not just as a religion or some routine — life hit me hard! I got kicked out of my house because my stepfather came back not too long after I graduated. When he came back, he made my mom choose: me or your children? And my mom chose him over us.
It’s very true that sometimes when you commit your life fully to God, that’s when all the trials come. I moved out of my mother’s house because I didn’t have a choice. Thank God my uncle took me in because I wasn’t making enough at my job to support myself. But even with his help, he wasn’t a believer and my brother, who I was very, very close to, wasn’t happy with my newfound faith and we drifted apart. It was a contentious environment and I was all alone.
Even though this time was trying, I actually was able to be refined and really learn who God was. I got delivered from a lot of things. In my loneliness, I got to experience God on such an amazing level and He freed me from so much of my depression and anger. I had so many things weighing me down. I won’t say that when I got in God, they just disappeared. Instead, it just seemed like I could conquer everything with Him.
I wrote a lot of songs during this time. I read my Bible a lot, my faith was literally engraved in those pages. I just stayed in my Word. This was also around the time where he began to raise me up in the artform of rap. I was completely transformed and because I wrote from my heart, it was only a matter of time before my music changed its course.
I wrote Speak Up Girl, I Can’t Hear You two years ago with this new mindset. At the time, I wanted to balance creativity in a way that would bring respect to what I do as an artist while adding to my credibility as a representative of other female hip-hop artists in Christianity. It would open up that door for people to say ok, we want to hear more of what women are capable of as far as their skillset. I was wanting to fulfill God’s command in my life to put out content, but also, I was really focused on being as clever and creative as possible for the sake of other women that I knew I’d be representing.
I was battling so much with motivating myself to continue making music, alongside waiting for some opportunities to unfold that never did. I was beginning to lose confidence in myself and the promises of God. As hard as I was working, it felt like a major delay in what He wanted from me.
When I was able to defeat that season, I began building closely with other women. Talking to my sisters about different scenarios and challenges that they’ve had in the Christian Hip Hop (CHH) industry, just their discouragement, even things that I personally have experienced, I started to feel that I needed to do something special for myself and for them, for women in CHH but just for women period. Speak Up Girl, I Can’t Hear You developed more and more as I put it together. The process was so long.
On top of the personal stories I was hearing, I was impacted on so many different levels by everything that I was hearing in the news. Bring Back Our Girls, how women were being treated much harsher overseas and having acid dropped on them, #metoo, there’s so many different things, and when I would continue to hear about this oppression and mistreatment, it would bring a lot back to the surface for me. I think what pushed it over the edge was when the #CHHSexism conversation erupted on Twitter. Just to see the reaction from different men and then also just even more crazy stories worse than my own. Just to hear it, I think it was kind of stirring up the idea and the concept of Speak Up Girl, I Can’t Hear You even more.
Me myself, I know how passive I can be in certain situations that I know are unfair or unjust. Just for the sake of not wanting to be — I don’t wanna say “quarrelsome” — but “defensive” even though I’d be defending myself rightfully so, I was afraid of speaking up on behalf of women. You don’t speak up because you don’t want to waste energy on people who don’t want to understand or get it. You go through so many different emotions being a woman and having to defend yourself all the time in a male-dominated society. I felt like over the years, I kind of became very passive and it was a reminder to myself that “No you need to speak up. You don’t need to be intimidated.” There are a lot of issues that women deal with day to day that need to be discussed. People need to take responsibility for their actions and we too have to work through discomfort in hopes of bringing clarity.
Then also, even in ministry, just all the sexism really pushed me to make this project. Women need to know that they have permission from God to walk in that calling of a pastor or walk in that calling of a businesswoman or a doctor despite what anyone may say. You speak up for yourself, and you walk in that momentum and that power and that confidence that God has given you. He’s placed these desires in our hearts and ultimately, men may feel one way, but we have that mandate to see it through and fight for it.
So Speak Up Girl, I Can’t Hear You was a bunch of different things just boiling in my soul and then finally it just boiled over and tipped out.
As God has been guiding me through the process of healing from the anger and brokenness that I’ve felt since I was small, I’ve developed some boldness to where I want to say something. I want to reach out. I want to challenge people.
People are not always going to agree with you. People are not always going to like what you have to say. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be said. I think with that bit of hope of maybe someone can understand where I’m coming from in a way where they will contemplate it, in a way where they’re like I do do this and I want to change it, I think that’s why I speak up for certain things.
Even though the project really focuses on encouraging women, it also focuses on the Body of Christ as a whole. We have to come into that revelation of how much God means to us, then how great God is so that we can put our trust and our love and our confidence in Him. I want people to know who they are outside of their gifts, outside of what they’re capable of. Knowing that at the end of it all, you are a child of God and what does that look like from you every day? Apart from music. Are you giving your heart to him? Because once you handle those fundamentals, there’s nothing but success that’s gonna come out of everything that you do.
Stream Speak Up Girl, I Can't Hear You below.