By JR Valrey
During my time hosting at the Compound, I have come across a plethora of very talented musicians on a weekly basis. One such unforgettable talent is Marisha Ashanti, the poetic wordsmith and rapper. Her conscious flow slices through ignorant minds like a hot butter knife. Her confidence on the mic, attracts you to the jewels that she is dropping, and the quality of her background music is superb. While mainstream Hip Hop is mesmerized with the vanity, seductiveness, and sass from the likes of Megan the Stallion and Saweetie, Marisha Ashanti offers another view of young Black womanhood today: one of intellect, depth, love for Black people, loyalty, marriage, and commitment. Instead of promoting the thug stripper vibe that is currently prevalent in Hip Hop, Marisha Ashanti is more in the Lauryn Hill and Ladybug Mecca bag of making music that is empowering to Black women, in a more than just sexual way. She is definitely one of my local favorites, and I hope that the readers go out and check her music. Also here Marisha is, in her own words.
JR Valrey: Where did you get the Ashanti part of your name?
Marisha Ashanti: My father was in the Navy. He was walking through NEX when he saw a perfume bottle that was named Ashanti. The poster said it meant rare, regal, and beauty without bounds. He wanted those things for his daughter so he chose it as my middle name.
JR Valrey: Who inspired you to become a spoken word artist?
Marisha Ashanti: I always enjoyed poetry as a way to release my thoughts and feelings. Music and poetry has always been one for me. They mesh so well in my brain. When I first heard Lauryn Hill perform “X Factor” everything kinda clicked for me. The world made more sense.
JR Valrey: When did you start taking wordsmithing seriously? What’s the story?
Marisha Ashanti: My lyrics have always been solid. I think that’s just a gift I naturally have. I have a way with words. I can make the worst pain sound beautiful. I can make the broken seem whole. But I didn’t truly start taking my craft extremely seriously until I moved to the Bay in 2018. When you come to a plane like this you can’t be playing. The bay is a beautiful place that allows growth through competition. In other words, everyone can sing so what makes you different? For me it’s my lyrics and tone. They carry me to places most can’t go.
JR Valrey: How has being married to a Black man for 8 years inspired you as an artist?
Marisha Ashanti: Man it’s been the best decision I ever made. This man believes in me like no other. He pushes me to be my best. He allows me the space to fail and learn. I have no fear with him by my side. And it’s that fearlessness that elevates me to new levels. Nigel is a king…like a real king…like no joke he is the leader among followers. He is black. He is beautiful. And he has an energy about him that’s unmatched. He is without a doubt my equal. I just feel so blessed to have found my soulmate so early in life. They don’t make’em like him no more.
JR Valrey: Where are you from? How do you look at Oakland/the Bay’s music scene?
Marisha Ashanti: I’m from the deep south, Jacksonville, Florida. People usually think: beaches, but I always prompt them to think more: countryside with swamps and less luxury beaches. That’s the side of Florida that I’m from. If I could describe the Bay music scene in one word it would be “under-appreciated”. It truly is a place of influence. A lot of things people around the world originated from here. This place is addictive and fascinating. It holds so much beauty, built from struggle and strength.
JR Valrey: What’s the difference between our music scene and the one you came from?
Marisha Ashanti: The music in Florida is a bit faster. To me the music in the Bay got more bounce. They both slap! So it’s really about the mood one might be in.
JR Valrey: Can you describe your creative process?
Marisha Ashanti: My creative process is lonely. I don’t really look for advice, critics, and tweaks until I’m done creating. I don’t like to collaborate when it comes to making music. I am confident in my abilities and I know I’m different so I’m not ever really looking for approval. I really look to be understood. I know my music ain’t for everyone. I also know the music I make hits different for the people it is made for. I’m looking to be authentic, and only write the truth. My truth.
JR Valrey: Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
Marisha Ashanti: I see myself on my John Legend-writing for major stars including myself. I see myself being an iconic influence of love and authenticity,
JR Valrey: How do people stay online with you as an artist?
Marisha Ashanti: You can follow me @marisha_ashanti on IG. You can also find me on YouTube under Marisha Ashanti. There you can find my book reviews, music and so much more!