Lyric Michelle is a bold, truthful storyteller who isn’t afraid to show her soft side. The sides that some people may choose to not share with the world or their growing fan base due to the sensitivity of the topics. But instead, Lyric says no. She opts to take the ignorance that she finds herself victim to when it comes to questions and expectations of being a Black woman and turns those experiences into music and poetry. She chooses to not conform to society’s standards of what a Black artist should look like, be like or act like.
“When I talk to people, I do my best to be kind and present and add joy,” she says. That quote is how you would perfectly depict her music. That one sentence alone is the map you keep when directing yourself through her catalog.
Her latest release, “Boot Straps” is brought to life using words by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In a press release, Lyric detailed the meaning of the track: It’s “about the underrepresentation of the Black woman’s experiences in this world and how we are asked to go out of our way to help, all while being haunted by the old stereotype that black women are inherently stronger, thus less human and less in need of rest and emotional support.”
Check out Lyric’s somwaba interview below to get more acquainted with the rising artist.
Do you remember the first time you ever played one of your songs to someone? Who was it and how did they react?
The first time I showed anyone a song was in a performance, I’m pretty sure. It was in my city Houston during a hip-hop showcase called Death To The Mainstream. I signed up to perform for this contest they were having. I honestly think if that first show didn’t go so well, it would [have been] a big hit to my confidence. I performed the song and the crowd went wild. I was the only girl and I don’t think [they] expected my skill level. I ended up winning a lot of the rounds and it gave me the confidence to keep going, never looked back since.
Explain why you think now is the most important time than ever to release “Boot Straps.”
I think it might be received as timely which is great because people are finally paying attention, but I never made it for that intention. I have been making this type of music [and] evolving as an emcee, this song for me is another step in my journey, my evolution. I want to tell my truth in whatever I do and this song comes from that idea.
The song hints at the ignorance of white supremacy and misogyny and how as a Black woman, it is not my responsibility to educate you out of your oppressive ways.
Any bit of information I give has to be on my terms, but it is not my requirement to liberate the mind of my oppressor while I’m still in shackles – that’s just lazy.
“What you thought if you talked to a stranger? The first black girl that you’ve seen all week? She would teach you a lesson, answer your questions, break down American history? You 36… and you never thought you should know this? ‘Oh that’s really my bad, I ain’t neva really had a black friend’ …yea, I noticed”.
One of your recent tweets said, “hip-hop saved my life.” What were you going through that music became so helpful and who in particular was your saviour?
A lot really. I had money issues, and [I was] coming out of an abusive relationship into an emotionally abusive one. I didn’t know my worth and I hadn’t discovered my purpose yet. I felt hopeless and I wanted to end it but I always felt like God spoke to me through music. Born Sinner
came on and it really affected me at the perfect time. But I won’t just say there is one artist, God is my saviour. Even as a kid, adolescent depression is real and not a phase. Back then there was a time I felt the same feeling, and it was India Aries’ “This Too Shall Pass
” that saved my life. I never expressed my feelings to anyone only my journal as a kid, so music helped me feel understood – I felt less lonely. Hip-hop saved my life more times than I can remember. “Blacker the berry, sweeter the juice, darker the flesh the deeper the roots…
” those lyrics helped change the course of my life.
Back in 2016, you said your parents had never been to one of your shows and they didn’t know you performed in Canada and LA. Your music and your thoughts are the most honest expression of yourself. Have you shared it with them yet? How has your relationship moved forward?
Yes and no. Last year I released a project that awarded me Best Lyricist from The Houston Press and Houston #1 Record of the Year by The Houston Chronicle. My dad reads the newspaper every morning since I can remember. One day I went to visit them and there it was, me on the cover of the cities newspaper framed in the middle of the living room. It was weird but pretty cool. Before I moved to LA they came to one show. I didn’t even invite them because, after a while, I stopped opening that part of my life to them. But I was on stage, headlining, all eyes on me and there in the crowd is my Nigerian father telling some stranger that I’m his daughter. I still don’t think I wrapped my head around how crazy that was. Like, I got kicked out of the house for being at too many shows and at the studio too late.
My mom told me once that she thought it would be safer if I shined away from the light, they hated it.
So we haven’t talked about it in detail yet but the door is open and I never thought that would happen. And no I haven’t talked to them about some of my experiences one on one but they did come to that show once… I can’t imagine them not catching some of the lyrics. I don’t hold back on stage, never.
You’ve discussed a memory from when you were a kid when a boy called you “ugly.” You said this stuck with you. How did you overcome this, when or what was the turning moment when you said: “I am beautiful the way I am.”
To be honest, I never really got over it, not yet anyway and I think that’s okay. Even now if someone calls me beautiful, I assume they are complimenting my light, my spirit, not my face. I grew up thinking I was hideous and I accepted that as a truth not to be questioned so I stopped caring about my looks. I was ugly anyway, I might as well make people smile in a different way.
When I talk to people, I do my best to be kind and present and add joy.
So even when I’m all made up, face beat I still get weird about compliments. I haven’t equated beauty and physicality in a long time. There is so much more to what makes someone attractive and beautiful than their physical ratios and characteristics.
What would you tell young Black women who are struggling with self-love?
That it gets better. You are magical and the sun, the light, and energy of our planet’s existence are absorbed through your skin. Don’t let no one tell you that you don’t belong… you were literally made for this.
Issa Rae recently talked about season three of Insecure saying she was scared it was going to be her “bomb” moment. She explained how every successful person has a “bomb” moment and they HAVE to go through it to learn and get better. Have you had a “bomb” moment, and if you have how did you get through it?
Yeah… once. Damn, I never bring this up. Boiler Room came to Houston once and I was invited to freestyle, so I did. I didn’t quite understand that no one was spitting from the dome, this wasn’t THAT type of freestyle. I learned to always assess the room and play to, and, for that specific crowd. The bars were right but I was in no way prepared. I was like, I rap, they want me to rap?
Who is one artist you would say is doing all the right things with their platform?
J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.
J.Cole who is not a slave to the times and to what artists are “suppose” to be doing while using his platform to make positive change. And Kendrick Lamar, especially after his Pulitzer, I mean, damn that’s dope. I started rapping to tell my story but also for the craft.
Rap is literary genius at display and Kendrick always seemed to make it about the pen, first and foremost.
That’s that shit I’m on – that ‘watch my pen work’ type shit.
Who is one person that understands you the most, that you can talk to about anything? Why is that?
My best friend Tracey. She never lets me off the hook if I’m being a dick but she never makes me feel judged. I lost a lot of friends while I was in these bad relationships and I almost lost her. Hell, I did for a little while. But she never completely left, no matter how hard my broken scared little heart pushed her away. Friendships mean the world to me now that I can see clearly, I’m blessed that I understood that before it was too late.
Can you tell us what’s next? Any hot collaborations/plans coming up?
I’m working with as many artists as I can to stretch myself and my pen so I’m excited about that. I’m also gearing up to release an EP soon but first I am having an art exhibit and live show in Houston and in LA at the end of June. I’m collaborating with Red Bull and Karma Tequila with many amazing artists for SIP & DRIP 3 – a concept I came up with to showcase all forms of art. I’ll also have a showing for the music video to “Boot Straps.” I’m really excited about that.
What is one thing you are looking to accomplish by the end of the year?
I’m on tour now with a creative collective Soulful of Noise. My first tour ever and that was my goal for this year. By the end of the year, I want more shows, festivals, and some overseas dates.
I just want this music shit to take me around the world. That’s the mood.