INTERVIEW: Sasha Renee discusses fighting misogyny, passion, & J Cole!

I knew nothing about Sasha Renee before hearing her featured verse on RMLLW2LLZ‘s killer 2016 track “The Pedigree”, but after first listen she immediately had my attention. Who is this, and where the hell did she come from? After a bit of Googling I realized that according to her Bandcamp page she’d been at it since at least 2011, and that she had a new EP on the way (that has since been released).

The title of that EP is I Am Sasha Renee, and since hitting the streets it has quickly become one of my favorite albums from 2017. Her clever wordplay and swag-tastic personality are magnetic while the beats and overall production are of the A-1 variety. This is the kind of noise that sounds great in your car with the windows down and/or in your backyard while grilling some pork chops and throwing back a few beers. At least that’s how I’ve been enjoying it. Get a load of the first track (and maybe my favorite) “Fire”:

To get better acquainted with Sasha and the music she makes, I reached out to see if she’d be interested in answering a few questions. Thankfully, she obliged…

Never Nervous: How long have you been at it as an emcee?

Sasha Renee: I’ve been writing since I was 10 years old. Didn’t get serious about pursuing music as an artist until 2010. In 2011 I released my first official mixtape titled “A Proper Introduction”

NN: How was your approach different on “I Am Sasha Renee” than on previous works of yours?

SR: My approach wasn’t much different. I always let the writing process come natural. Several songs didn’t make the cut for the EP. I wanted to make sure I embodied who I am and where I am mentally. I’m about love, music, and activism. I’ve also been in a transitional phase in my life. You hear love songs both about men and women in this EP due to that transition.

NN: Is there a track on your new EP that you’re particularly proud of? One that you want people to especially pay attention to?

“I feel I’m on fire, I feel it’s my time.”

SR: I am definitely proud of Fire. It was the last track I wrote and recorded for the EP. I finally got to cut a record with producer Ricky Boom after having a solid relationship with him for years. He picked the perfect sound for me, soulful hip-hop. Then there was the long overdue collab with Otis Junior. I watched this kid headline his first show just a couple years ago, now he is signed to Jakarta and killing the scene. He has a promising career ahead, so it was an honor to write a hook for him and he delivered it so well! Last but not least, I had not collaborated with my younger brother Charisma for years. He is my favorite lyricist and we grew up together writing music. Having him be apart of such a major record for me was bitter sweet. I only gave him 12 bars and the boy can spit so it was a challenge. He def passed and I def want people to know how important this collaboration and record was for me as a whole. It completely embodies to new me. I feel I’m on fire, I feel it’s my time. It completely embodies the new me.

NN: Who inspires you as an artist? Whether it be related to hip hop or not, what types of people/things influence your music?

SR: I’m influenced by all that I love and all that I am passionate about. I love positive vibes. I am passionate about activism and especially black people. Our struggle runs deep in this country so I always make sure I’m a voice for black folk and positive vibes. My people wanna hear that real shit. My people also wanna smoke weed, have good sex, fall madly in love and enjoy life! So those are recurring themes in my music. I wouldn’t have a sound wave without artist like Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill though.

NN: What is your perception of modern hip hop in Louisville? What’s good about it’s current state and what (if any) problems do you have with it?

SR: This scene has the most talented indie hip-hop artists in the country and I swear by that. The talent is not the issue here, the talent is through the roof! The hip-hop scene overall though doesn’t allow these talented artist to thrive here. There are no investors or A&R’s really scouting our scene, there are not many PR’s or experienced artist managers that know how to get artist the right kind of exposure outside of Louisville. We manage ourselves and perform at the same venues, for the same people, with little to no compensation time and time again. It can be discouraging and frustrating. Things are changing though slowly but surely. I have faith our scene will flourish in the next decade.

NN: Now that “I Am Sasha Renee” is out, what’s the plan moving forward? Touring? More albums?

SR: I don’t have a tour set but I do plan to travel and promote the EP. Moving forward in the next couple of weeks I will be releasing music videos for Get Off of Me and Infatuated, maybe even one for Fire. But this project is really just the warm up for the project I plan to release later this year.

NN: I heard through the grapevine that Bryson Tiller recently gave you a shoutout in a freestyle. Is this true? And has it effected you at all?

SR: There is some truth to that! But Bryson recorded the freestyle back in 2013 when he was still just an indie local artist like myself. We had the same engineer and because of that we were always working in the same space. He had a lot of love and respect for me and my music and I had the same for him. Haven’t heard from Bryson since 2014 though. I’m still super proud of him. He gives me and other talented artist here hope and motivation.

“I couldn’t form solid relationships with male artist, DJs, producers, show promoters etc. without being hit on or without feeling like I was getting paraded around like some kind of child.”

NN: Has being a female rapper caused any struggles as far as booking shows or finding people to work with you?

SR: I feel like misogyny and sexism exist everywhere, but especially in Hip-Hop and that’s no different here in Louisville for me. Not to sound corny but seriously, I’m not just one of the best female rappers here, I’m one of the best rappers on this scene period. But, here it is I’ve been going hard since 2010 and local blogs and magazines are just now paying attention and I’m just now booking paid shows this past year. It’s definitely due to my being a woman and it sucks but it’s all apart of the struggle and like J Cole said, there is much beauty in the struggle! I have to go 10x harder to get the recognition and respect I deserve. People still just don’t seem to respect women as professionals or in positions of power. It’s 2017, I’m not just a piece of ass here to cook, clean, and raise the babies. Lol.

NN: Considering that the hip hop genre is populated mostly by men, what has your experience been like over the years as a lady coming up in this community?

SR: I’m a bit more masculine performing these days, but most of my career I was very much fem presenting. I couldn’t form solid relationships with male artist, DJs, producers, show promoters etc. without being hit on or without feeling like I was getting paraded around like some kind of child. All the biggest shows in the city are headlined by men, it’s like they don’t see artist like me and Tiara P out here. We go hard.

NN: What current hip hop artists in Louisville are you particularly into lately?

“I’m not just one of the best female rappers here, I’m one of the best rappers on this scene period.”

SR: I know so many artists! Especially because I run the Vibe Open Mic every week. I listen to local music more than anything, but mostly the RnB. I listen heavy to Kori Black, Otis Junior, Rob Lee, J Kellz and Brxtn. But I love me some Dom B, Study, and Dwayne Levi when it comes to rappers! So many good artist here though.

NN: Before you go, tell us about your favorite record from 2017 thus far. What’s so damn good about it?

SR: Without a doubt it’s J Cole’s “Neighbors” record. Before I knew it was actually a true story I had loved the song. The hook is catchy but it’s deep. Cole tells this story of being a black man living in white suburbia and his neighbors thinks he sells dope. Not because they’ve seen drug deals take place or because they have heard of drug deals going down at J Cole’s home but because he is a black man with money and a lot of black people constantly come in and out of the home. And Cole is just like “Well mother f**ker I am” like I’m out here sellin this dope MUSIC! Lol. & to find out an entire SWAT team actually raided Cole’s home because the neighbors thought he had a drug operation going on is nuts! He had helicopters flying over and everything. It just makes the song even more dope and Cole always holds it down lyrically, his flow is classic.