Aasha Marie is one of our most important voices in Chicago. She is an all around talent, shaped by her upbringing, environment, and spirituality. Positivity radiates from her and her music. While Aasha hasn’t released a full project yet, you can expect that to come on March 27th called While You Were Sleeping. Aasha can sing with heart and soul, rap poetics, and shine in lyrical skill and expression.
A week ago Aasha and I spoke on music as a form of therapy, how she’s progressed, her process in making music, and more. Read below.
You can also pre-add While You Were Sleeping here.
Hey Aasha! Thanks for talking with me. Can you give us a brief intro on yourself?
I’m an artist, songwriter, musician, rapper, poet, producer from the south side of Chicago. Christianity shaped much of who I am, while music shaped much of my expression and voice. Music overall is a huge part of my life.
Sounds like it’s a form of therapy perhaps?
Oh yes of course! I love music especially rap b/c I can express myself in a way that I cannot anywhere else. It’s the one art form I feel so much freedom and ownership in. It’s my language, best way of getting my feelings out.
When did you decide to spread this message and get into music full time?
Officially in 2014, my younger brother is a phenomenal producer, rapper, writer and overall creative. He left for LA and left me with some left over beats never claimed or used by anyone and I hand selected the ones I liked and formed my first EP. It really started from me writing so many rhymes and thinking to myself “I really need to do something with this. I think I’m onto something here.”
Once I decided that then there was no stopping me. I felt like I couldn’t live with myself unless I put the message-music out. I was really finding my voice, and allowing my gifts to be used, seen and heard.
Do you feel you’ve progressed since then? If so – in what way?
Yes I have. I’ve really made a conscious effort to push my pen to better lyricism, trying new cadences, flows etc. choosing different production I wouldn’t normally choose to challenge myself and collaborating more. I’ve opened up the earlier stages when I’m working through rough drafts to my peers who are artists/musicians so they can give their feedback and input. In the same way it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to sharpen an artist.
I’m a lot more confident in my strengths and my weaknesses. I allow myself to FEEL more and allow that to flow through my pen after filtering it in my head and heart and through prayer. I’ve been a lot more self aware as an artist and coming out of my shell artistically.
Was that hard to do initially? Sounds like a lot of inner work too.
Yes very hard. Before this album I had depression and self doubt. I needed much soul care and counseling and needed to process some things. So much of my depression was tied to my fears of not being able to produce content, music etc like I wanted too…like I NEEDED too. I let fear cripple me and then writers block came which sucked b/c I wanted to be in creative space but was blocked emotionally and mentally. I realized I had to process through and confront the hard issues in me, like my fears of failing AND succeeding, my anger and bitterness about feeling “stuck” in my life and my apprehension about my artistry being “good enough.” I had to pray a lot and affirm myself through scripture and counseling man I’m still working through a lot of that stuff but I’m not where I used to be! I thank God I can say that!
That leads into the diversity of your content. You can make smooth soul, hard edged rap, and a plethora of other genres. Does that encompass who you are? How are you able to switch it up?
Oh yes! I feel like it does encompass who I am. The different sounds and emotions expressed through the music ultimate showcase the different parts of my personality, my passion, the neighborhood I was raised in (Englewood) and my influences mainly being the African American Baptist church and my hip hop influences. Sometimes I hear different sounds and get inspired and sometimes it’s just a concept I’ve been wanted to talk about or experiment with. Ultimately it’s me getting into character and showcasing a side of me that was there that just needed to come out.
Did any of this play a part in the music that was played when you were growing up? Did you have a lot of influences in that way?
The music I played growing up was whatever was on the radio and I remember watching mtv, bet, and a 24/7 music channel called “the box.” I used to be stationed by the radio waiting for my fave songs to come on. However music overall started with gospel music, at church, in my home etc I come from a family (immediate fam) of singers.
Hip hop influence really started in high school, I had a friend in my first period chorus class who would also make sure I was hip to the latest mixtapes and artists and she would let me borrow her CDs or just give them to me. Then I had another kid in high school who would always buy my Busta Rhymes CDs every birthday, he was a really nice kid (laughs).
You’ve recently put out 4 singles. What was the reasoning behind this amount of tracks being released?
I released 4 singles b/c I wanted to give people a variety of music, a good enough sampler to hear the different musical pockets from me. I also wanted to see how people would respond to it since I hadn’t released a project since 2014. I felt 4 would give people a glimpse of what I sound like.
How has the reception been? Are you happy with it?
People have been really excited and impressed b/c I don’t think a lot of people knew what I had to offer musically/artistically except maybe people really close to me. I am happy that I finally decided to come out of my shell and share my music b/c it’s such a vulnerable place to be sharing your heart and thoughts in the music. A few people said they have been encouraged and inspired which means a lot to me. When I’m making music now I don’t take for granted who it will reach, b/c it’s going to impact somebody somewhere.
You talked about how your brother is a super talented creative and gave you some leftover beats. What is your process in terms of recording?
My process is listen to the beats and write how I feel. Or write around a concept I had stuck in my head. I usually have song titles and concepts FIRST before anything and then I just write to those concepts and continue writing some bars at a time until its complete, until I got the flow down, and then I go record.
You have a project coming up. How would you describe it compared to your other work?
I’ve only had one project (EP) prior to this so this is what I consider to be my debut/1st full length project. This project is me stepping into who I authentically want to be and at the same time who I’ve always been. I feel more comfortable wirh my voice and who I am and who God is making me to me. I feel more bold and more in my bag so to speak. Sharing my journey my past, present and things I want to see In the future from the church and the world.
I’m super excited for the release based off all that you’ve said. Would you say this is your true coming out into the music world?
Oh definitely. The album is called “While you were sleeping” and it’s meant to be while you were sleeping I’ve been grinding, working, crafting sounds and music to present to everybody. It’s the wake up album for me but for everybody else, not in a pretentious way but in a “hey this is what I’ve been working on and I want you to hear it.”
What are you hoping for when you drop the album?
I want people to hear my heart and soul on a record and my artistry. I want to see and hear hope beyond this life but also have songs they vibe too, dance too, songs they can feel songs that heal. I hope they feel inspired and empowered.
BONUS: Mini doc on Aasha: