Q1. How were you first introduced to music and more specifically hip-hop?
A1. My mom always played music during the weekends. She had a stereo in her room and she would blast Kelly Price and Mary J. Blige every weekend to the point me and my brother and sister would sing the lyrics to the songs and I loved singing so much I auditioned for my elementary school choir and made it. When I was 12 I saw a group of guys battling during recess at my middle school. I just loved the way the words flowed out of them. I start freestyling in my head because I was too nervous to let anyone hear but I loved rapping. The next year I started physically writing my rhymes.
Q2. Who were your musical inspirations and influences growing up? Is there anyone currently that influences you?
A2. I was only really exposed to R&B growing up and it helped me with my songwriting and poetry. R&B seemed deeper than rap to me because all I knew about what rap was what was being played on the radio. When I started rapping, I listened to Lupe Fiasco and Eminem. Lupe changed the way I approached my music in a sense of storytelling. He was one of the first artists who portrayed to me a deeper side to hip hop and it stuck more with him. I think I was at a different point in my life when I first listened to him. Eminem showed me his no bullshit attitude and his versatility within his different personalities that he displayed in his music. Right now, I would say in addition to them my biggest influence is Damien Rivera. I’ve had the honor of working with me and even working under him and he’s still a great inspiration and mentor. He’s molded me in more ways than one and I respect his attitude and insight. But I listen to anyone who has a message, no matter the genre: Ryshon Jones, Hopsin, Angel Haze, CES Cru, Tech N9ne, Kendrick, Cole, just to name a few on the hip hop end.
Q3. You have gone thru a few name changes. How did you finally get to be Harsh Notes?
A3. My first rap name was Magik Hustla. When I wrote my first rap, I used that a lot but I had no idea what hustle meant. When I rapped for Dwayne Pearson, who was one of the guys I saw rapping at recess, he said I had flow, so I changed my name to Magik Flowz. I went with that for about nine years. As my music developed more, I realized that flow isn’t the only thing I possess, I’ve matured. So I asked my mentor, Damien Rivera, for some ideas and he gave me Harsh Notes. He said it fit because I wasn’t afraid to speak my mind and I don’t candy coat shit. It fit to me because I no longer bite my tongue when I make music. I lost sight of what was important and why I started making music in the first place and that often be gritty, cut throat and explicit. Music is the greatest form of expression for me.
Q4. You are from Springfield, Massachusetts. Not the first place people would think a female emcee would hail from. Describe what the music scene is like in that area.
A4. The music scene is very divided, a lot of people stick to the groups they know which is sad for the most part. But despite that, the talent out here is amazing. Little by little people are starting to lean towards more artists and give other artists the same amount of respect as others, but I still feel like as a city we have a long way to go. I would love to see Springfield rise up. I think it’s a matter of time. I see and hear so many artists doing big things out of the city and I feel once that one artist gets put on, the rest of the city is going to be heard. Don’t sleep on Springfield. City of Homes, Birthplace of Basketball, but definitely some of the best emcees that I’ve heard in a while.
Q5. How would you describe your style for those that are new to your music?
A5. Poetic, but raw. The people that have heard my music say that I have a way with words. I craft and formulate everything, not just rap, into a beautiful way. There’s a natural poetic feature inside of me or something. And that’s why I love and respect the art because there’s so much more to hip hop than just a catchy hook and beat. I want people to hear shit I rap and say, “Yo, rewind that back. She said what?!” I’m confident when I say I’m at that point, but I still feel like I have a long way to go and I can’t wait to see where music takes me.
Q6. Being a lyrical female emcee, what stereotypes and/or obstacles if any have you had to overcome?
A6. When people ask who I am and they get told I’m a female rapper, they don’t picture a lesbian with fitted hats, hoodies, and jeans; they picture a pretty woman with lots of sex appeal who talks about things women love. There are not many female rappers who have a gritty persona or raw music. So it’s challenging to get people to listen knowing that, but given the chance, I’ve never met someone who didn’t love my music after listening to it.
Q7. As you well know it’s a male dominated industry. Do the guys ever get intimated when they first hear you on the mic?
A7. Nah I don’t think so, not to my knowledge anyways. When they hear me, they don’t believe I’m a woman because I have a deeper voice when I rap certain things. It used to bother me when people confused me with a guy but it’s a good thing in a sense because more men aren’t as reluctant to listen to me. When they get told I’m a woman, they just can’t believe it but it seems like I get more respect because of my raw but poetic nature so I’ve gained some respect from the men in this industry so far. And it’s nice to be looked at as more than just a pretty face and sex appeal.
Q8. What makes you stand out from other female rappers?
A8. I lack sex appeal and I really don’t give a fuck what anyone says about it. I’m not here so you can listen to my music, hang my posters, and imagine making love to me on a pool table. I’m here so you can listen and relate, respect my story, I want my fans to listen and think when they hear me. I’m a female rapper but I don’t want to be just a female rapper, I want to be a hip hop influence despite of my gender.
Q9. Since you first started rapping, how has your music evolved?
A9. I went from talking about things I knew nothing about like guns, violence, gangs, drugs, hustling and I started writing what I know, my adventures through my everyday life, or things I’ve seen. It makes my music more realistic and it’s easier to relate to. I’ve matured in so many ways between my content and the way I approach a record. It’s no longer the “I need to get this done” mentality, it’s “I need to take my time and put my heart into this and mean what I say” because that’s who I am.
Q10. Tell us about your upcoming album. What can music fans expect to hear from Harsh Notes?
A10. I’ve been working on an album for quite some time and have trashed it time and time again because I wasn’t satisfied with the results I was getting. So the album is still getting worked on. I have a couple of tracks I’m thinking about keeping like “See You Down” but it’s still not set in stone. I have been working on an EP called “The Story” which was inspired by some photography I just recently viewed from a friend of mine. So I’m hoping to make that a huge release this year and work on my album in the process of making the EP a success.
Q11. What advice would you give to young girls who want to pick up the mic?
A11. Take your time, have some patience, develop your sound and develop your craft. Don’t be like everyone else because it works for them, do what works for you. Every artist has a niche, and you need to find your niche. There’s been women who have went through so much so women like me could make noise in male dominated industries, so let’s not fuck it up. Stay consistent and stay positive and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just because a lot of men do it, doesn’t mean women can’t excel at it.
Q12. How can people keep track of you and your music online?
A12. Visit my website at http://harshnotes.com my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all @HarshNotes.
Q13. Do you have any last words or shout-outs you would like to give?
A13. Shout out to my family and friends out in Springfield and beyond. Thank the world for giving me a chance to speak my message be heard. For every rapper, male or female, trying to come up: Do not give up no matter what anyone says, remember the reason why you started rapping and stay humble. All good things happen with time.