Harlem's She Real Releases Her Highly Anticipated Project 'Standing On My Word' [Interview Inside]
Shaking the block since 2012, Harlem’s hottest emerging femcee, She Real is back with more music! Kicking off the new year right, on January 9th, She Real released her seventh project titled “Standing On My Word.” The New York spitter has really capitalized on her skills and made a name for herself, in and out the country. Internationally, She Real has appeared as a featured performer in Paris, France numerous times and in Toronto, Canada for the Cloudfest. In France she’s buzzing heavy from headlining the "Ready Or Not" Hip Hop Competition and the “Ready Or Not” album release concert at Le Place to DJ Idem's set at the L'ETAGE "Bless Paris" event and Nouveau Casino after party. She Real is only a few bars away from her breakthrough as a worldwide sensation.
She Real’s sound and lyricism has been influenced by some of Hip-Hop and R&B’s legends and trailblazers along with personal experiences. Since the start of her musical journey, She Real continues to grind and her dedication and determination has allowed the emcee to experience amazing opportunities. Just last year She Real was featured on the Joyner Lucas "I'm Kind of A Big Deal Tour", Sway in the Morning, and headlined the Hip Hop festival in Paris, France. Throughout the years, she has been opened up for a variety of artists as an opening act for Joyner Lucas, Juelz Santana, Styles P, and Tone Trump, she has traveled on college tours, and performed on many stages including SXSW. Made appearances on BET Jams:Versed, Sway in the Morning three times, and Hot 97's Elite 8 Cypher. She has also been featured in notable publications such as XXL Magazine, Respect Magazine, and Hip Hop Weekly. She Real has established herself amongst New York’s underground Hip-Hop heavyweights by collaborating with Loaded Lux, Fred the Godson, Chris Rivers, Babs Bunny, and Dylan.
Her lyrical precision and persistence has garnered major noise and won her countless competitions. The poet turned lyricist was the $1000 grand prize winner at Club Pyramid three consecutive times, 2-time $1000 Hip Hop Seazon winner, as well as a The Bar Exam: Atlanta's Definitive Open-Mic Competition and Showcase winner. She Real remains a humble sweet soul with all of the wins and opportunities she receives, making her an even more lovable and relatable artist. Although we’ve witnessed her growth and accomplishments first hand since her journey began in the music industry, we wanted to catch up with the heavy-hitting rhymer at the hype of her recent release. We touch on the start of her rap career, ‘Standing On my Word,’ her influences, women in hip-hop and more! Check out the interview below.
What made you fall in love with Hip-Hop?
"Falling in love; an overwhelming attraction that is capable of rendering you powerless. Yet, when the love in reciprocated it becomes this force that breathes life into your soul. Music has been a part of my life since my inception, but the genre of Hip Hop didn’t sweep me off my feet until “All About The Benjamins” was the hottest song on the radio. When Cameron was still with Mase and LL cool J had the ladies on lock. I would still creep around with anything that Babyface or Teddy Riley touched. I had an addiction to Michael Jackson that just wouldn’t go away. My peers fueled the fire by serving me their favorites on a silver platter. Everyone knew I loved music; due to fact that I always wore a pair of headphones no matter what, but I was new to Hip Hop. I got most of my fix from Hot 97 when Angie Martinez was on from 3-7pm. Hip Hop wasn’t allowed in my home. So, I fought to spend time with her every chance I got. Before I knew it, I was in love. My parents split when I was baby. My mother wasn’t around, and my father’s love wasn’t enough to fill the void. I idolized him, yet always felt as if something was missing. I loved Hip Hop for how raw its truth was. I connected with its aggression. Rappers spoke to me the way no one else could. How could I say no to that? Michael Jackson’s music felt the way I always imagined church should be, but Hip Hop was my therapist. After we met, I haven’t been able to go a day without her."
Who inspired you to get into music? How long have you been rapping?
"I always credit 2005 as being the year that I began taking music seriously as a writer; with 2012 being the year I began taking it seriously as a performer/creator. In 2005 I was sexually assaulted by my boyfriend at the time. As a result, I went through a bout with depression. I was smoking and drinking my life away, after basically giving up on everything including myself. It wasn’t until I began writing rhymes that I discovered placing my thoughts on paper was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually therapeutic. I wrote poetry in H.S. but, this was the catalyst of me using music to assist with transforming my pain into a power. Since 2012 I have been releasing music, and never looked back."
Who’s your Top 5 of all time?
"Top 5 Hip Hop artists of all time would be Jay-Z, Eminem, Old Kanye, Missy Elliot and Andre 3000. Hov will always be the greatest of all time to me. He’s one of the most consistent. One of the greatest story tellers to ever live. I love his evolution as a man and an artist. He is one of the few that provides a balance in his messages, by not only glorifying the lavish lifestyle that hustling brought him, but also revealing its darker side. He’s also proven as business man just how far Hip Hop can go. Eminem’s internal rhyme scheme and storytelling ability is deadly. Old Kanye had a passion and style that made me believe that I didn’t have to be a “gangster rapper” to be mainstream. Missy has always possessed a level of creativity that was unmatched. Forced me to think outside the box. Andre 3000, honestly touches my spirit on a different level than most. Aquemini being one of my favorite albums of all time, I love Outkast’s style, messages and spirituality. A dream of mine is to one day do a whole collab tape with Mr. 3 stacksand myself. All may not agree with my list in regard to who is and isn’t a part of it, but I chose everyone based upon the impact they had on my life. These are 5 Hip Hop artists whose music I lived with more than any other."
Who’s your Top 3 artist who are currently hot right now?
"Top 3 Hip Hop artists of today would be Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Big Sean. This was hard because J. Cole, JID, Leikeli 47, Joyner Lucas, Nipsey Hussle, and Jay Rock also have a huge impact on me in today’s music as well. Nipsey Hussle and Jay Rock both had 2 of my favorite albums for 2018. I think Jay Rock is so underrated it hurts my heart. Jay Rock also has some of the best visuals I’ve seen for 2018.
Drake, Kendrick and Big Sean are at the top of my lists because of the albums they have produced over time. Their messages, concepts, lyrical capabilities and styles are lethal. Within that top 3, I believe Big Sean is underrated as well. His mixtape Detroit, albums: Hall of Fame, Dark Sky Paradise and I Decided, have all inspired me in ways many are unable to do in today’s era. His bars are crazy, and his messages make me believe that I can do anything I set my mind to. I just have to work hard. Drake is the legendary crooner that is consistent as f&^k. I sometimes have to be in the right mindset to listen to him because he’ll have me reminiscing and missing people I need to stay the hell away from(lol). Kendrick sits at number one because he is this elite monster that keeps my 3rd eye sharp. His cadences, concepts and choice of instrumentation keeps me on my toes. He is as versatile as they come. My favorite emcees will forever be the type that force me to think and reflect. All 3 do just that."
What inspired the significance behind the title of your project?
“Standing On My Word”, which is being released on January 9, 2019, is a play off my artist name She Real; representing that I mean what I say. It is also a reflection of my confidence in my capabilities. I am literally standing on every bar, story, metaphor, cadence, word and concept I deliver on this project."
What can fans expect to hear or get from your upcoming project?
"This project is a formal introduction for anyone who has never heard a She Real song. With only 8 tracks, this project is a reflection of how versatile I can be. Not one song favors another. I touch on family, love, dreams, aspirations, thoughts of the world around me and opinions of myself. I wanted people to honestly be able to sit and reflect but also have a good time."
How would you describe the sound of your new project to a new fan listening/reading?
"I tried my best to curate a combination between sounds that are seemingly popular today and what I believe I bring to the table. I’m huge on originality and versatility. There is a balance between smooth easy listening records and hard hitting energetic instrumentation."
Any features? If so, from who?
"This album includes a feature from Big Pun’s son Chris Rivers and former Duck Down recording artist Chelsea Reject. I am honored and appreciate the fact that they both took the time. Both of them have a serious pen game."
How long did it take for you to curate the album?
"I have released an album every year since 2012, except in 2017 where I released 2 projects. In 2018 I decided to take my time. I wanted to build more of an anticipation leading up to the project. I also wanted to find producers I’ve never worked with before for different sounds. This seemingly took a year and a half to put together. That includes shooting videos, testing songs on crowds, getting features, planning the cover art, looking for promo etc."
What kind of “sound” or production did you have in mind before stepping in the studio and dishing out the tracks?
"I don’t usually plan albums in that way but, I wanted an album that could rival today’s artists across the board. Fit in but stand out. I spent hours; days; months looking for beats that inspired me to create. I actually ended up separating them into 2 tapes. I grouped sounds and beats together based upon how I felt they flowed with one another. I looked for producers that provided progression without the use of samples. Some songs were written 6 different ways before I decided on my favorite concept. I guess I felt like I had something to prove, not only to the world but myself as well. I am always challenging myself to produce content that is better than my last."
What are some of your favorite tracks or lyrical highlights off the project?
"I love them all for different reasons, so I might be the wrong person to ask. Each fit a different mood or force me to feel something different. I have a new favorite song on this project every time I listen to it. What I can say is that after a few private listening sessions, the majority have chosen a song entitled “Dear Thot Pocket” to be their favorite. A story that reveals the alternate side of what can happen when you use your looks to attract men for their money. I wanted a record like “Meet The Parents”, “Stan”, “Love is Blind”, or “Mona Lisa”. Like my favorite rappers, I wanted to tell a story that allowed people to be able to think and reflect. A close 2nd would be “Love Like This”. Everyone keeps comparing it to a song Drake or Fab would create. I’m honored by to comparisons and I look forward to everyone’s feedback on the entire project."
In what way has your newer music differ from when you first started rapping?
"The same raw honesty is there. I believe my lyrical capability, delivery and flows have evolved. My mind state and focus has evolved as well. I think if anyone took the time to listen to every project you will hear the growth. I really always challenge myself to be better. All of my music is available on my website SheRealTalk.com."
What is your personal greatest achievement to date from your musical journey?
"I’ve been on tour in Paris, France; Sway in the Morning several times; I even opened up for Joyner Lucas on his “I’m Kind Of A Big Deal Tour”. Yet, I learned that nothing compared to starting my own label in 2016 and being able to travel and work with a team that truly believes in me. Having people that are willing to sacrifice their time, money, energy, efforts into executing whatever goal has been set in that moment, is a blessing. I am truly grateful for every helping hand that is visible and unseen. I take none of it for granted because I know what it feels like to have to hustle alone. I love being surrounded by positive people. I’m always looking to connect with self-motivated individuals that are willing to self-educate. I look forward to what’s to come for all of us and meeting new people that can assist us along this journey."
Which artists did you listen to coming up as an artist to inspire your sound and music?
"Too many to name all of them. What I will do is break down the project according to whose influence may have inspired each record. The song “Listen”, gives me Lauryn Hill vibes. “B.A.N” conceptually Big Sean but lyrically Kendrick. “Already Coming” featuring Chris Rivers was inspired by listening to “Super Lyrical” by Pun featuring Black Thought. I wanted a record like that. May not have turned out exactly how I envisioned but I love the collaboration of the minds. “Swerve” was inspired by the current state of the radio. “Love Like This” was influenced by Common, Drake, Fabolous, Ma$e, and LL Cool J. “Dear Thot Pocket” was influenced by Jay-Z, Eminem, Eve, and Lil’ Wayne. “Oh Lord” was inspired by Michael Jackson because he always found a way to mask topics of substance or relevance with party up-tempo production. I wanted to be able to get you to think about certain things that are important without having a preachy tone. “So Hard” was influenced by Rihanna, vibe wise. All names mentioned are barely scratching the surface. I believe I’ve been influenced by every artist I’ve ever heard in my life; rappers and singers alike. From Earth Wind & Fire to Ludacris. From Usher to the Ohio Players. From T.I. to Marvin Gaye. Anything that touches my eyes or ears has affected me in some way. As I continue to release content you’ll hear reflections of all not only these influences over time."
What is your take on female emcees in hip hop now a day?
"I’m hopeful for what’s to come but for a long time I’ve been disappointed. In the 90’s you had so many styles to choose from. Different ways to dress. Different ways of thinking. From Lil’ Kim; Foxy Brown; Eve; Da Brat; Salt-N-Pepa; Queen Latifah; Missy Elliot; MC Lyte; Bahamadia; Rah Digga; Lady of Rage; Lauryn Hill; Trina; Yo-yo; Left Eye; and Moni Love, just to name a few. The current female representation in Hip Hop is very limited. There are a handful of majors and 10 times as many underground that deserve a shot. This era as a whole lacks a certain level of originality and versatility. My goal is to assist in providing that balance that’s necessary for the culture to grow. Honestly, I believe it’s impossible to birth anything new without a woman. Period."
What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue this career?
"Always be willing to self-motivate and self-educate. Also learn to use every “No” as fuel to push you to go harder. There are countless things I’ve accomplished because someone wasn’t willing to assist me or teach me. In this computer age of information; there is always a way. Don’t be afraid to walk alone. When I use to sell cd’s and t-shirts in Times Square, I couldn’t get anyone to be out there with me for those 12-hour days I was clocking. I never allowed anyone’s lack of a hustle to keep me from mine. If a person won’t work for what they claim they believe in; who cares. I want to earn mine. I never have the time to wait on anybody. Let people catch up to you. The right ones will always find a way to cross your path. God makes sure of it. Lastly, never be afraid to speak to people. You have to be willing to network. After shows I make sure I speak to everyone in the establishment. You never know who’s around you. Remember this is your dream. Nobody is going to hand you s*%t. Nobody owes you a damn thing. You have to be willing to work. God helps those who help themselves."
Do you work with various producers, engineers, etc? Or Do you stick with a select few?
"For my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th project, I worked closely with a producer named Sloppy Joe. He was one of the first producers to really believe in me and assist me on my journey. As time passed I wanted to find different sounds or other styles of production, so I began collaborating with other producers. My 5th and 6th project still contained at least 1 or 2 of Sloppy Joe’s beats. His production just was not used for the majority of the albums post “Real Hip Hop Still Exists”, as they were in the past. I refuse to let go of a winning combination, regardless of where my creative spirit takes me. He’s like family now so we are going to support one another till the day we die. He’s also a rapper, so I’ve been featured on a few of his projects as well. With my most recent project I only worked with 4 producers. Two of them made 6 of the 8 tracks on the tape. (3 a piece) I couldn’t help it. Something about their styles drew me in. AfroKeys and PushinKeys. (No relation) AfroKeys is extremely versatile. You probably wouldn’t believe me if the credits didn’t reveal who made each record. PushinKeys is really melodic. The piano on each of his records is intoxicating. They both play instruments, which is something I was looking for. I’m truly grateful either one of them took the time. I have always been willing to work with various producers but I usually only work with one engineer. The right bond between an artist and engineer is magical. I thank God for Henny. It’s always a blessing to meet people that are just as serious about perfecting their craft as I am. Henny is a monster in his own right as well. He produces, raps, does graphics, engineers, shoots videos, and is one hell of a visual artist. I always tell him he’s like this one-man army. Anybody I ever collaborate with has to be just as serious. I love talented people but not everyone has the drive. All the people I mentioned are beasts and I thank God for them."
Who would you collab with out of any established Artist or Producer?
"I want to work with Jay-Z, Eminem, Missy Elliot, Andre 3000, Kendrick, Drake, Big Sean, Leikeli 47, Beyonce, Solange, T.I., Da Brat, Joyner Lucas, JID, J. Cole, Lil’ Wayne, Teyana Taylor, Nas, ASAP Rocky, ASAP Ferg, Erykah Badu, Ne-Yo, Usher, Diddy, The-Dream, Chris Brown, Brandy, Lauryn Hill, Rihanna, Dr. Dre, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell, Dj Premiere, Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle, Mary J Blige, Method Man, Redman, Bryan Michael Cox, SZA, Luke James, Timbaland, Just Blaze, 40 of OVO, Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius, Babyface, Raphael Saadiq, Teddy Riley, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Lupe Fiasco, Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa, Snoop, Childish Gambino, Will I Am and the list goes on. "
What ignites your writing & creative juices?
"The instrumental always inspires a thought or image to enter my mind. I am a dreamer to my core. If I am unable to see anything while creating, I’ll move on; beat after beat until I do. It's almost as if I write what the music tells me to. As soon as the instrumental choses me, my goal is to either tell a great story, or out-bar the masses while discussing something of substance. I try to never tell the same story or use the same idea twice, unless I have an alternate angle, or my skill level has developed where the story can be delivered with more depth or insight. Sometimes reflecting on a past life experience at a later point allows me to clearly see what I was unable to grasp previously. There is a lesson in everything. As I get older I struggle with the importance of delivering messages from my higher self-versus my lower self. I think finding a balance is key, because both are necessary for growth."
Is there anything else that you’d like to add or say please feel free to do so!
"I have never in my life heard anyone mention a woman in their top 5 dead or alive. I want to be THE one that you have to mention. The one you can’t discuss the evolution of Hip Hop without saying my name. I want my legacy to surpass generations. I want to be a reason that there is a new standard for female MCs everywhere. Make it impossible for anyone to ever ask “Did you write that song”, because they know. I want excellence to become the standard. "
Take a listen below and let us know what you think about this rising female rapper coming out Harlem!