interview Miss Marianna  (May 2009) | Interview By: Jonathan Hay

   West coast femcee, Miss Marianna, agrees that Hip Hop is in dire need of a new leading lady to step up to the same plate foundated by legendary Greats such as Salt-n-Pepa, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Lauryn Hill. Does she have what it takes? She answers that question not in mere words, but in deed—hopeful that indeed her words may prove the deed.

With her debut album dropping in July, Miss Marianna’s rhymes – which were once described as having “too much attitude” – will contest the test of time.

Dubcnn gets to know Miss Marianna in this special interview for Dubcnn’s “A Woman’s Touch,” a special Dubcnn series created to shine light on some key players of the female gender who have shaken our world of hip-hop and urban music -- and made it a better place.

Check Miss Marianna out on her Official Myspace

As ever, be sure to leave your feedback in our forums or email them to haywire@dubcnn.com.

Interview was done in February 2009

Questions Asked By: Jonathan Hay

Miss Marianna Interview
A Woman’s Touch (The Special Dubcnn Series)
By: Jonathan Hay & Sabrina

Dubcnn: First off, lets delve into the history of Miss Marianna…

Let me tell it; and I'm sure my ‘herstory’ could be made into a mini-series. (laughs)

Dubcnn: Personally and professionally, what are the significant moments or events in your life that helped define you as a person and as an artist?

I was in a talent show when I was like eight years old and I could see the audience and everything in slow-motion, even though I knew I was [actually] dancing my heart out. I could see how much fun everyone was having. Just then, I realized I loved the stage. It's cool because I still see stuff in slow-motion on stage.

Dubcnn: What are some of the obstacles and discouragements, if any, that took place on your way to finding your passion?

I can remember back when I wrote my first rhyme in 5th grade. I wanted to lead a three-girl group and when we auditioned they said my rapping part had ‘too much attitude’. 

[Another time] my mom took me to a children's modeling agency, but the representative from the agency told me I was too short for the runway and a little too heavy for print work—but of course, for a fee, she could work with me. We didn't have a lot of money—or family—so I'm sure that's what made my mom do what we all have to do sometimes: make a way out of no way. She linked me to all kinds of community classes and events so that I could participate in theatre, choirs, pageants, poetry, community events, you name it. I was busy trying everything out and loved doing it all, but I still couldn't figure out ‘my thing’.

By high school I started to put in work by organizing and emceeing at events. I worked with boy bands as the girl MC/poet, but that comes with a whole lot of personalities! Being in a band takes serious dedication because, when everybody has an ego and everybody's young, broke and opinionated, drama pops off in a instant! (laughs)

Dubcnn: What was it, exactly, that made you want to pursue a career as a female emcee?

I was in a hip-hop group, named ‘Box a Chocolates’. We were pretty wild because we always had crazy costumes…that led us to shows in the Bay Area at some real dope underground spots. Eventually I realized I was in so many music groups and always the ‘hook girl’ for other artists, but I didn't have my own project—I was ready to do me!  I had something to say. It kinda bothered me that I could count on one hand how many female hip hop artists are out. For most, marketing a chick as a ‘sex object’ is so much easier—until they meet me and realize that chicks can offer more.

I just know that there's a void that needs to be filled, we all know it, and there's a whole nation of women in hip hop waiting for the next representative to take the lead. If the music I make can help usher a ‘way out of no way’, that's just what I plan to do.

Dubcnn: So when you got serious about it, what steps did you begin to take and why?

I had the chance to work in radio on air at 103.5 KBMB The Bomb, and that was a quick way for me to see how important it is to get spins and have solid promotion. I started to record and perform on my own. I had my fair share of managers, producers, and talent agents and I got into the mixtape game because I wanted to get straight to the streets and get support from Djs.

I studied the business a little more because I was tired of people just telling me anything—Cats will promise you the world, especially when they think that since you're a girl you won’t bust ‘em in the head! (laughs) But for real, I had to learn my rights and understand what I was getting myself into…not paying attention to details can have you stuck. I'm sure that explains my no nonsense work ethic. Don't get me wrong, I have a fun with this music, but women in this industry are constantly challenged, so you really got to be on your A game. The fact is, hip hop's in love with a stripper—not with the chick that has something to say.  

No one could really put me in a box because I'm not an ‘onstage booty shaking’ or some ‘hard-hustling thug’ chick. Still, something I was doing was working for me.

Dubcnn: You became a finalist in the world-famous, Showtime at the Apollo. Tell us more about your participation in such an honorable event…

It was mainly singers, and I, of course, was the only MC in the whole show. I got through one verse and a hook and, just as I started the second verse, it was like a swarm of bees [across] the audience—the sounds went back and forth, but the cheers and clapping were drowned out by ‘boo!’ The Sandman's quick, so you gotta move! (laughs)

Anyway, I don't think they would've heard me unless I was singing and slithering across the floor, but it was a learning experience and taught me to be ready for different audiences. Competitions are crazy, but I'm grateful for the opportunity. I know I'm not the only superstar overlooked by an audience before.

Dubcnn: And you’ve opened up for Common. What was the dopest thing about that experience and how did it come about?

It was the first big show I had after breaking up with management at the time, and I got it on my own through a local promoter. It packed a big audience and gave me a good reason to keep it pushing. That show alone was motivation to know for sure that when one door closes, another one opens.

Dubcnn: Speaking of big experiences, who are some of the collaborators you’ve linked up?

I was featured on one of Zion I's overseas-released albums and also worked with Sacramento heavy-hitter, Doey Rock—you can check him out on my upcoming album. Recently, I opened for Chino XL…he's not new, but I'd like to work with him. Oh, and I still wanna do a song DJ Quik. I'm worried he's gonna retire for real after this new album with Kurupt. I read your last feature article on the two of them and I was like, ‘I wanna go eat at that Moroccan restaurant, too! I'm half Moroccan!’

Let me stop—you asked who have collaborated with, not who I want to work with! (laughs) I can write a long list of names, but really if anybody wants to collab, get at me, I stay ready!

Dubcnn: Who are your top favorite female emcees of all time, and why?

Man, Salt-n-Pepa was like the first time I saw a female duo group make so much noise in Hip Hop. I used to bump "Push it" and "Tramp" like it was the end of the world! I was trying to dance with my ‘lil home girls and everything. My mom liked them, too! (laughs) House cleaning early Saturday mornings meant a little Salt-n-Pep was getting spins—literally.

One thing’s for sure: Salt-n-Pep were no ‘yes girls’ either. They pretty much demanded respect; and I think they could shake somebody up if they wanted to! It was positive, but confrontational. We needed that ‘get in your face’ type attitude to be seen and heard. 

Queen Latifah is more than an emcee; she's been a part of Hip Hop. She’s a consistent reminder than you can show progression in everything you do. She is a real Master of Ceremony because she maintained that respect as an emcee, actress, and personality. Seeing her in headwraps and Afro-centric attire made her like the cultural symbol of the strong black woman. She's like Superwoman to me now. She does it all. She stars in great movies! And is still making great music!

MC Lyte is smooth, to the point, with nice metaphors. I would always wanna be chill like her, but I'm naturally real excited so I always admired her cool. Her confidence really shines through; she hit all topics, kinda like a storyteller. She kinda narrates a positive message through her rhymes. She's probably like an auntie you could tell anything to and she'd rap a tight bedtime story to you. I saw her dancing, too! Oh, and her hair was banging. I had the mushroom haircut because of her. (laughs)

Lauryn Hill always makes me feel like a better person after I listen to her. Her vocal and lyrical range will probably be in textbooks! She has such a well-round talent for making music with integrity and style. She's crossed over and made mass appeal with all audiences, and I love her rhyming just as much as her singing. Man, now I wanna hear her album!
Dubcnn: What is your local hip-hop scene like?

Waaacck! No, just kidding. We do have talent, but it’s not yet a major metropolitan city, so there are only so many venues that allow Hip Hop artists to really get on. When there are only a handful of venues that cater to Hip Hop you tend to see a lot of local superstars.

Dubcnn: As far as the new breed of West Coast emcees, who are you feeling?

Hmm...new on the west coast…well, Blu and UNI are cool—I like the lyrical, eclectic sound. This cat, Chase Moore, from Sac is pretty raw with the freestyle, too.

Dubcnn: Who do you consider to be your biggest competition on the West Coast?

I don't really feel that there's competition because there's a lot of uncharted territory and everyone has something different to bring to the table.  If I feel any competition it’s with the industry’s standards of female artists. I noticed how everyone got excited over the Miss Rap Supreme Show, but it was because everyone thought that it may actually be the jump off for some real lady presence in Hip Hop. The industry would go crazy for a new female Hip Hop artist. Either way, it’s obvious that times are changing and I need way more alliances than competition.

Dubcnn: What specific steps are you taking now to ensure that you are set apart from any other female emcees in the game?

I'm staying true to myself and my own identity. I know everybody's ready to hear their favorite female MC—the go-getting homegirl and diva who likes to party but can still handle business. I'm no ‘yes girl’ and I think that's what makes this movement so authentic. I'm tipping the scales and creating theme music that ladies can play on the come up. The fellas can bump it, too, because, believe me, they get excited to see us do everything they can! No matter what, I put in hard work and sacrifice. I'm showing Hip Hop that I'm here with my own ideas, and still I'm representing for the ladies on the way.

Dubcnn: As an artist, how are you treated amongst your peers, locally?

[I’m treated] with respect. Every day, people who knew me as a [hair] stylist kept me in tune with the streets for years. It’s crazy because my clients still look shocked and really excited to see me on stage. They always tease me after shows about who they're gonna get to do their hair when I ‘blow up’. It's nice to have people believe in me. That's a big part of why I volunteer with at-risk youth regularly. I kinda just took my music, motivational speaking, and youth leadership and rolled it all up into one. Lately, my title is ‘Urban Life Coach’. I'm trying to create a space for teens to take control of their individual success, despite whatever madness is going on around them. Working with them keeps me grounded because they're real and all they want is something real to hold onto. They know Hip Hop is filled with a lot of hype, so I think they really respect me for staying connected and not just being another wannabe rockstar.

Dubcnn: Stylistically speaking, do you have a defining characteristic about you?
I get stopped about my tattoos a lot.

Dubcnn: What is the atmosphere that surrounds you at this very moment?

In my bright apartment, sun’s shinning on my face, cars racing down Broadway outside my window.

Dubcnn: You’re connected with an independent record label called Uniquely Wrapp’d. Can you wrap up for us what’s uniquely different about them versus other independent labels in the industry?

Not to take anything from other labels, but, in general, we're real and professional and positive. The label is run by women who aren't afraid to cover all bases and work hard at getting better. We're not built on dope money, crazy sex scandals, or gimmicks—we’re more concerned with good music.

Dubcnn: Do you have an album dropping any time soon? If so, take us into the studio for the creative process behind the music…

Yes. The debut album is set to release July 2009. It's titled First Lady. A lot of the times, when I'm working with new people they say how refreshing it is to finally work with a lady in Hip Hop. So, needless to say, I'm a first at many things. The nation has a new first lady, so there's no better time to become the ‘first lady’ in Hip Hop.

I write my own music, so I know what I'm trying to do when I record. But I'm also creative with my vocal arrangements. I’ve written about fifteen songs for this new album…I never thought picking a first single would be this difficult, but I'm enjoying the process.    

Dubcnn: Is there anything you’d like to say to the females reading this A Woman’s Touch featured interview?

When I'm working with students, they bug out and ask if I'm gonna remember them because they're expecting me to be successful with this music thing. That's a good pressure because I know I could never forget what it feels like to be an everyday girl with big dreams. Just because my schedule gets busier and I meet more people doesn't mean I have to forget to be real. 

Dubcnn: Any final thoughts for Dubcnn?

This is only the beginning of a new phase in my music. I'm really looking forward to what this year will bring. I gotta stay ready. Hit me up online at, www.myspace.com/missmariannamusic




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