César Vargas - Founder of UPLIFTT….
I make it my business to uplift and profile the best up-and-coming Latinx talent in the arts; always on the lookout for those who have yet to be discovered. I figured what’s the point of covering Latino celebrities that have been validated by mainstream already? They don’t need the exposure. I discovered Aye Yo Smiley on my Twitter stream, surprised I had not heard of her before, considering myself an avid fan of hardcore hip-hop and tuned in to know and not-so-well-known artists. Recently named by Cosmopolitan as one of the eight Latina rappers whose music you have to hear, Aye Yo Smiley’s introduction into the world was only a matter of time. And making a bold and assertive statement, I’ll put it out there and say that Aye Yo Smiley captures the top ten female, of all races and ethnicities, emcees alive. And as a Latina rapper, mark my words: she’s the best one in the game right now. Hands down. No contest. If she’d go by any other alias it should be crème de la crème.
Small taste of Aye Yo Smiley’s many styles (feat. Brain Rapp & JDVBBS):
When did you discover Hip Hop and what made you go into it?
AYS: Since I was a little girl I always wrote poems & songs. I was influenced by a variety of music; usually whatever hip-hop artist my brother was listening to, I would listen to them. But hip-hop didn’t really hit me until I met Logic (who is also from the DMV) & the first time I saw the movie Brown Sugar. Changed my life. Logic’s tape Young Broke & Infamous showed me that you can make real music, with raw lyricism, music that you can feel and relate to, but also music you can bump to. A little after discovering his music, Brown Sugar was broadcast on TV. It taught me the roots and importance of hip-hop culture. There was so much passion throughout that whole movie, it moved me. When the song “I Used to Love H.E.R” by Common came on, I went crazy! The song told a story. I love how he ended that song. Later, I did more research on hip-hop on my computer, sort of like a modern day “dusty fingers” or “crate digger”. Ever since then, hip-hop changed my life.
Photo by Joe Medina/ Street Science
It’s a little tough being a female in the hip-hop industry because usually the guys that I meet in the industry don’t take me serious enough and just want to be “too friendly”. So when I tell them “no, I’m not interested”, they don’t care to work with me anymore.
I’ve seen comments of people who say you have bars for days and you have some pretty diehard fans, but I want to hear it from you: What has been people’s reaction to your bars so far?
AYS: I love the love I receive from people. It’s an incredible feeling when they hear my music and become believers. When I first started, I received comments like “you can spit… for a girl.’ Which I kind of expected, but overtime as I cultivated my sound and improved my lyricism I got a lot of jaw dropping type of reactions. I’m seen as a contender that can also spit with the guys. That’s very rewarding for me.
You have a style that’s reminiscent of so many great female emcees. I caught a little bit of Left Eye and even Lauryn Hill. You sing as well. Who would you say, male or female, influences you the most?
AYS: You know it’s hard for me to choose just one because so many different artists and styles and even people I know on a personal level influenced “Aye Yo Smiley”, but I would definitely have to say Left Eye from TLC. She was so free spirited, and true to what she believed in, original and full of that crazy sexy cool style. Her rap flow was so effortless, fun, and had substance. I love that about her, and I wanted to be like her, in my own way of course.
You know men have predominantly dominated the genre. What do you think about that and how have they received you?
AYS: It’s a little tough being a female in the hip-hop industry because usually the guys that I meet in the industry don’t take me serious enough and just want to be “too friendly”. So when I tell them “no, I’m not interested”, they don’t care to work with me anymore. But it’s also tough because men and people in general only want to see one female rapper at a time. The way I see it, we should just all be like the Spice Girls! Different female rappers with different styles all dominating at the same time. Then maybe, we’ll lead.
How does your family feel about you getting into the Hip Hop realm?
My family is very supportive with my music career. However, they’re still adjusting to my new lifestyle, having me to fly out by myself back and forth to Houston, late nights working, the parties, surrounded by that “rapper lifestyle”, all of that. Especially since I’m the youngest, and a girl! Definitely a lot of pressure. It’s also kind of funny too because my mom is a teacher. So all her coworkers ask her “how do you feel knowing your daughter is a rapper and you’re a teacher?” ha ha! But it’s all love. My mom sees my music as an art expression. My family are my biggest fans. They get to hear my music before anyone!
You’re only 21 but you spit like you’ve lived a couple of lifetimes. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from absolutely everything. I’m a free spirit, and I have a huge heart that I wear on my sleeve. Most people run away from their fears or mistakes, I don’t. I endure it all, and I embrace it whether it is good or bad. And I believe that’s what shapes me into the person that I am. Open-minded, forgiving, and able to recognize when I’m wrong. It sure feels like I lived through many lifetimes because I can feel myself grow into the flower child that I am. With all my experiences and feelings, I express that through my music.
AYS: There’s a huge difference between being a good lyricist and being a rapper who can make club bangers. Something people would want to listen to and bop their heads to. You are able to do and be both. Something a lot of lyricists and hit makers would kill for. Because one has the street cred, but not the wide appeal, and the other has the wide appeal but lacks the street cred, for lack of a better term. How do you manage to marry the lyricist and the hit maker?
I think it has a lot to do with listening to different genres of music while growing up. But I am also a well-rounded person, a natural shape shifter. I have different kinds of moods, I embrace all of those and it reflects in my music. The way I love learning about myself and expanding my mind, is the way I feel about music. I don’t ever want to limit myself. But I also feel there’s a time and place for everything, there is a time for the turn up, and there is a time for the real.
If you had a chance to collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why? Name as many people as you’d like.
Kendrick Lamar because I “won’t kill his vibe!” Ha ha. Kendrick is dope, I dig his wave. Definitely TLC! They were a huge influence into why I started making music. But also Drake, Tinashe, Jhene Aiko, and Logic! The list goes on.
Did any record label or rapper reach out to you to sign you? If not, what in the world are they waiting for?!
No, nothing so far. But it’s okay because I know they’re watching. I believe there’s no such thing as bad timing. It will happen when the time is right. Just wait!
Are you touring anytime soon? Where can people hear your music?
What’s next for you?
AYS: Dropping my first EP this spring 2015! I have endless music and videos that I’m dying to share with the world! So be ready!