First Look Friday: Sharaya J Is Hip-Hop’s Next Authentic MC

Kevito is the managing editor of Okayplayer. His top three MCs…

Photos of Sharaya J taken by Al X.

As we inch closer to the new year, we have celebrated the way artists have taken their careers and made it wholly their own. We’ve gotten into formation, taken a seat at the table, while awakening our love for melodies pure and true. It seems as if all these events were put in motion to celebrate the forthcoming of Sharaya J, an MC and a songwriter who looks and sounds like nothing else currently in the game.

A native of beautiful Hawaii, Sharaya was raised in Jersey City, New Jersey in the vein of music and art. Her father, a member of the ’90s hip-hop group Double XX Posse, taught Sharaya studio life and music from an early age. Showing a proclivity towards being a performer, Sharaya would grow into one of the entertainment industry’s leading choreographers credited with working with Sean “Diddy” CombsRihannaCiara and Alicia Keys.

No stranger to the spotlight, this talented up-and-coming phenom has had her work profiled by publications such as ComplexInterview Magazine and New York Magazine. Hell, she is even Alexander Wang‘s favorite rapper, so telling you that she is a Goldmind Inc. label artist should come as no surprise since Sharaya stays doing her own original thing just like her mentor and friend, Missy Elliott. With songs like “Snatch Yo’ Wigs” and “B.A.N.J.I. (Remix)” burning up playlists, we’re ecstatic to premiere a new cut from Sharaya J in the form of “BIG,” which you can hear for yourself below.

We were fortunate to catch Sharaya J while she was working on her upcoming project to talk with us about her music, how being authentic keeps her true to the game and shares the most definitive obstacles she’s overcome so far. Press play below and enjoy the read!

Photos of Sharaya J taken by Al X.

Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that those in Jersey City are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?

Sharaya J: New Jersey, as a whole including Jersey City, is widely exposed to all types of music; but growing up in the Tri-State area also introduced me to a style that we call Jersey Club Music! It is similar to house music if you wanna compare the tempo, but it has that hip-hop grit. I am a dancer, so I was drawn in by the style early—waiting for the DJs to drop those mixes in the party was what I lived for.

It has been a style and a culture in New Jersey for a long time made popular by DJs like DJ Jayhood, DJ Lil’ Man, Frosty, Tamiel and more, I’m sure. I am a Jersey girl, so this sound has definitely influenced my music career and I see the world finally catching on to what we have known about for years.

OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?

SJ: I will start with my parents. I grew up in a musical home. My mom was a music head and my father was a lead rapper in a ’90s hip-hop group. I was exposed early to studio life, video sets and cyphers in my living room. My mom kept an Aretha Franklin or Sam Cooke CD on repeat. I learned a lot from the both of them. I am also very grateful for my mentor, Missy Elliott. She taught me so much about the music business and about life in general. I will forever be grateful for that wisdom.

OKP: Your song, “Takin’ It No More” is extremely dope and has heightened anticipation for new work from you by music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?

SJ: I would have to say it was a process, but a great process. The key is to always remain a student and try to absorb as much as you can while you can. Work hard, stay humble and do it in the name of the art. It’s a cool thing to be acknowledged by others for you work. My mom was the most excited [laughs]. She’s my biggest fan and biggest inspiration.

OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racist occurring almost on a daily basis — how can your music (and/or others) help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?

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