S5Ep4: Afro Futuristic Rockstar, Niambi Ra
Hi ºF-TV family!!!
It's officially Fall season! "Ba-dee-ya, dancing in September" and I'm excited for a variety of things that this new month, new season brings. Every September, I always feel extra energetic! It could be because it's also the start of school for many students here in the Northeast so I channel that interest to learn again. It could be because its Virgo season and they're known for their productively. And it could also be that September is the month where we transition from summer to fall in the same month and both seasons are my absolute favorites! Basically, I'm in a good mood and grateful for it!
During the start of any new season, I always look for music that can match my vibe. This month, I was incredibly blessed to fall upon a multi talented artist by the name of, Niambi Ra , who creates these bold, afrocentric and high energy songs that make me feel proud to be in my skin. We had the honor to connect with the multi-hyphenate and she shared with us the journey into building her artistry, her excitement for her upcoming album, 'NEBULA' and her aspirations for the future.
Keziah John-Paul aka "Niambi Ra" was born into a family that constantly encouraged her to thrive as an Artist. "I wasn't raised in an environment where I needed a plan B. I was always supported and taken seriously." Her mother, who is also a professional dancer, is her greatest supporter and made sure to expose Niambi Ra, at a very young age, to a variety of arts and creative spaces where she could learn various techniques, network with people from numerous backgrounds and excel in her craft. When Niambi Ra entered high school, her appreciation for music grew stronger!
She discovered hip hop through her teenage crush in 9th grade who introduced her to elite Hip Hop & Neo Soul pioneers like 'A Tribe Called Quest', 'Erykah Badu' and lots of other legendary hip hop artists. "That was when I first got the bug," Niambi Ra shared with us as she reminisced about how her boyfriend and her used to write rhythms and share their music together. It was during those high school years that she realized, she also wanted to be a lyricist!
Niambi Ra studied at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. and loved her experience there! "We learned how to be artists through the black lens and through the black artists that came before us which is so powerful!" She explained how it really was a nourishing and fun environment to receive education in. "At lunch time we would make beats on the tables in the cafeteria...somebody should have made a movie about our school, it was LIT!" Being in a safe and encouraging learning environment like Duke Ellington School of Arts, made the dream of becoming a professional Artist an attainable reality for Niambi Ra. She also credited D.C. aka "Chocolate City" for its pride in black culture. Being surrounded around that energy is what also helped shape her self esteem as a young Black Artist and when she made the transition to higher education, she was grateful to have that self awareness.
Niambi Ra enrolled in New York University Tisch School of the Arts (NYU) in 2010 and was really excited to be at the prestigious school. However, the transition was a tough one at first. She shared with us some of the challenges she endured as a freshman at the university, including issues surrounding racial identity, class and social structures. "I was around a lot of rich white kids" and many times she felt alone, misunderstood and lost in the sea of unfamiliar faces. She also found herself code switching a lot to fit in with the crowd which she regrets now, but for many BIPOC students nationally, this is a tool for survival in order to thrive at higher educational institutions.
Navigating that awkward space and getting over that culture shock was hard for the young Black Artist but she didn't allow those challenges to defeat her or impact her studies. "I also knew what was being sacrificed for me to be there so I went hard. I put a lot of work in school. I didn't get caught up NYC. I didn't get caught up partying. I put my time into school" and her efforts were worth it! During her years at her alma matter, Niambi Ra studied abroad in Ghana where she was again enriched in the greatness of black culture. She later also minored in African Studies at NYU and took some really interesting classes that both stimulated her mind and her heart! She soon became inspired to combine all of her knowledge and all of her pride into her music! Since then, Niambi Ra has wrote and co-produced several powerful & feel good songs and performed on multiple stages on the East coast. She shared with us the inspiration behind some of our favorite songs.
'Friday' was the first music video Niambi Ra shot and it is EPIC! The song, which talks about the excitement of #TGIF, was released later in her career but was influenced by go-go music from Washington, D.C. Niambi Ra is a BIG fan of go-go music and explained to us how the popular song, "Overnight Scenario," by the group, Rare Essence, inspired her to create her own vibe! One of the things you'll notice in this particular song is Niambi's natural delivery with words, especially when she's rapping. The lyricist explained to us the spiritual experience she feels when she's rhyming. "I feel like I'm a modern day grio. The position of the grio is something that is not chosen, its something that's past down to you. When I rap, you cannot tell me shit. I'm just a vessel." The song was produced by a fellow musician and producer, Lion Milk, from Niambi's band, 'Blackstarz' and also co-star's some of Niambi's creative friends. Check out the music video to gig to this beat!
"I feel like I'm a modern day grio. The position of the grio is something that is not chosen, its something that's past down to you. When I rap, you cannot tell me shit. I'm just a vessel." (~ Niambi Ra)