Up-and-coming rapper HAWA’s foray into music began in her tween years as one of the youngest-ever composers of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Now, the 20-year-old is trying her hand at something new.
“I never wanted to do classical my whole life,” HAWA, who was the youngest ever composer while jet-setting the globe with the orchestra for five years, told Blavity. “I didn’t want to be a composer, I wanted the attention. I wanted to be the one on the stage, making people cheer. I like excitement, I get bored easily. So I made it an adventure. Being an urban musician is the most adventurous s**t you could ever do.”
As a resurgence of Black women rappers continues to bestow the music industry with sex-positive bars and rhythmic reclamations of time, HAWA cites the value in displaying varied perspectives as her reasoning for highlighting women in her work. For example, in “My Love,” the rapper describes her willingness to go to war for the woman of her affections.
“She my don, she my piece, you could say that,” HAWA raps. “So I’ma need these n***as to move way back.”
“I feel like it’s always great to have different perspectives because if we talk about the history of music and the history of R&B, pop and hip hop, it’s all about ‘getting the women’ or expressing your emotions or your pain for the women you’ve loved, or you lost, or the women you took advantage of,” HAWA told Blavity. “I’ve always centered women in a way where I’m not really talking about them in a sense of playing them. I’m talking about them in an empowering way.”
HAWA may be a newcomer but her music already has a mind of its own. She carefully weaves together an arsenal of distinct sounds along with a caviar smooth voice reminiscent of the golden age of R&B.
The artists’ voice roars over her tracks with the gentility of an R&B singer and the fierceness of some of the hardest rappers. Her artistry can be characterized by her willingness to explore romance. Diving deeper, HAWA said her music is also an illustration of the complexities and nuances of lesbian relationships.
“We hear about heterosexual relationships but you don’t hear a lot about lesbian relationships,” the Berlin native said. “From my perspective, as a lesbian woman, I have this whole thing of showing different aspects of how two lesbian women interact and how complex and natural that relationship is, is very important to me.”
“When people think about lesbians, they think about this whole fantasy and they try to fantasize it,” she continued. “It’s really two human beings who are truly in love with each other, who truly marvel at each other and they will do everything that they possibly can in order to grow together.”
While recent years past have seen small strides when considering the presence of Black queer women within rap, HAWA is still an anomaly. The largely male-dominated hip-hop industry is still bursting at the seams with heterosexual, cisgender men. But women like HAWA, Young M.A. and Syd (formerly known as Syd tha Kyd) are glimmers of hope via representation. A visionary, through and through, the artist cites Da Brat as one of her musical influences who’s helped to shape her creative expression.
“Da Brat was someone that really inspired me because I remember when I was a little girl and saw her in a magazine, and I was like ‘Woah, they allow girls to dress like this in the entertainment industry,’” HAWA recalled of the edgy “Funkdafied” rapper. “To see Da Brat in her tomboy fit with the baggy pants and the braids, that was iconic to me! I was like ‘wow you can actually do this and it’s okay.’ Da Brat is someone who really inspired me to not only do music but also do music the way I want to and be as free as I possibly want to and not think ‘oh since I’m a woman, I must give off this feminine side all the time.’”
The women in HAWA’s family have also played a major role in paving the way for the artists as she becomes a legend in her own right.
“I was raised by beautiful, powerful women,” HAWA said. “My whole life, that’s all I saw, beautiful Black African women actually taking this world and doing everything that they possibly wanted. It would be impossible for me to not portray that in everything I do.
HAWA’s ultimate goal is to leave a legacy that transcends the sands of time that will allow her to uplift the next generation.
“I want to achieve a legacy. I know I have to prove that a little bit more and I do everything I can to prove it,” she shared. “If I don’t make it, that means that the people that are going to come up after me in this country are going to have a harder time.”