When listening to hip hop and smooth female vocals over afro Caribbean beats, I can’t help but think of Washington Heights, New York. Mr. Softee from the ice cream truck, girls playing hop-scotch and double dutch on the sidewalk, little kids playing in the fire hydrant water. But New York is absent…these vocals are sounds of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Oh, how today’s music can surprise you.
Maria Isa is twenty three — and rich in her Puerto Rican heritage. She brings forth a more positive, refreshing sound to hip hop/Reggaeton music with a throwback to when real female hip hop flooded the airwaves; Roxanne Chante, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte. After listening to some of her tracks, my first thoughts were Drake meets Nina Sky; catchy and clean. But if you listen carefully, you will hear more than just a typical club banger – although they do exist (i.e., her Beamer’s Benz and Bentley remix, Caddy Lincoln Chevy, Low Rider Mamis), but a true appreciator of hip hop will see past all of show stopping to the true message of her music. Maria Isa follows hip hop tradition by using a microphone to convey something positive.
Performing since she was five, Isa pursued performing arts school in Minneapolis. (Hence her songstress side). She writes all of her own music with various producers, including the Goodfellas (based out of Minneapolis), Bronx producer MRompe Boca, and Eddie Sanch; a protégé of the ever so popular DJ Premier. She has her own 7-piece band, her own independent label, SotaRico – and she has a mixtape coming out this fall.
Spiritually, her femininity comes from the belief that feminism in a hip hop culture includes the support received between a man and a woman. She refuses to be “stuck in the kitchen” as she calls it. She will not just sing a hook and sit down. She is very knowledgeable in her craft –understanding that a woman’s place in hip hop has been solidified since the beginning. She began to educate me about Sylvia Robertson of Sugar Hill Records produced “Rapper’s Delight”.
Spreading her message on the stage and in the studio is not enough for Maria, though, as she teaches a hip hop class to minors at a juvenile detention center in Minnesota, where she encourages students to “break the statistic.” . With themes of fighting with and against the system, she uses her positive messages and her first hand experiences of trials and tribulations (herself being a type-1 diabetic) to exhaust that “Nothing can stop you – only you can.”
Maria is back in her Minnesota hometown preparing for two upcoming shows this month. Thereafter s,he will be circling the states making stops in Chicago, Long Beach, Miami and back to her second home in New York. Her newest album, “Street Politics” is available now on iTunes. Just like any real woman – she knows how to turn it on and make you come back for more.
Although Maria Isa knows that the mainstream media seems to frown upon developing the diversity of hip hop artists–particularly female hip hop artists–she still continues to entertain and teach; giving our eardrums something new to beat to. Maria Isa is a breath of fresh air in this current reality of stifling musical repetition.