Most singers only daydream of winning of a Grammy, but Dalia Raiyen already knows what shes doing with hers when she gets it. Her dream is to take a Grammy back to her home – the continent of Africa.
Initially signed to Sony in her mid-teens, the now 23-year-old has returned to America to record her independent album Sacred on her own Block Money Records. Supported by a Jadakiss assisted single, Show Me What You Got, and an unfaltering cast of Hip-Hop greats including producer Rodney Jerkins, Dalia is once again on the receiving end of major label interest.
Having traveled and lived all over the world, and on the verge of her worldwide release, it was only natural that a stopover at AllHipHop.com Alternatives was next on the list for Dalia right up there with the Grammy if you ask us!
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You were born in Africa, raised in Switzerland, and lived in North Africa. So where do you call home?
Dalia Raiyen: Well, I dont call any place home. I consider myself a child of the world. Right now, Im between Los Angeles and New York so thats pretty much home for me now. I grew up a little everywhere so I dont have a favorite place.
AHHA: What kinds of advantages have you had living in so many places?
Dalia: I think you learn so much about people and the many different cultures. You learn about music and different sounds. You learn how people are, how they live, what they like to eat. Its a blessing. You could learn so much and then I can put all that in my music and that is what makes me who I am today. Im not close-minded because Ive traveled so much and know so many cultures that I can relate it with that. People dont know where Im from because I just can blend in.
AHHA: How many languages do you know?
Dalia: Seven, and Im learning Hindi right now.
AHHA: Can we expect you to incorporate other languages on the album?
Dalia: This one will be English, but there will be one single I will translate into other languages. The reason I learned so many languages is that I wanted to be able to use it to promote myself, and so that the fans could tell me something in any language. I also personally like to help kids around the world. I want to be able to speak to children and be able to understand their needs or whatever they want to say.
AHHA: Different languages lend themselves to different purposes. For example, some are better for poetry and music.
Dalia: I enjoy every language I speak. French is definitely the language of love, and I think Italian is the language of romance. English is also such a beautiful language as well. When I sing in French I cant do what I can do in English. I could do the same thing but French songs are more beautiful love songs. They are deeper. With English, the music is still beautiful, but the words arent as powerful. The languages are different and the music can be different because of it.
AHHA: Youre the Executive Producer of your album. What was your direction for this album?
Dalia: I like to reach people. I want to be the voice of people. I want people to know that Im not from here and that I didnt come to America but instead America came to me – watching TV, watching Hollywood movies, I loved it. A lot of people are afraid of taking risks or trying to make it here because they think that maybe they cant, but thats completely false.
American people are extremely nice. The doors are very open here in the industry and if you want to be a star, this is the place to be. Its harder in Europe to be a superstar; you have to prove yourself for so many years. I still have cousins in Africa who live in horrible neighborhoods. If I make it, I would be the first artist from Africa or overseas who made it big like that.
AHHA: Youre being cosigned by industry heavyweights such as Rodney Jerkins, Yummy Bingham, and LaShawn Daniels. Does this put more pressure on you?
Dalia: No, not at all. I just leave it to the people. If people really like you and theyre feeling your music then thats it. If they dont like you theres nothing you can do to make them like your music, its not going to happen. I did my best, I worked really hard on this album, and I want people to receive it, and if they dont theres nothing I can do about it. These people are very successful and theyve worked with lots of major artists and sold millions of records. Im trying to make this album be a great album. I dont want a classic, because I wont have a career after that, but a great album.
AHHA: Every producer has their own style musically and when working in the studio. What were your producers like in the studio?
Dalia: Ive been around the Darkchild family since I was 15. I just fell in love with the music and I set a goal to work with them. By the grace of God, I met Rodney Jerkins in Los Angeles one day. He was extremely busy at that time and we didnt do anything but then one day we started working and we came up with some good stuff. LaShawn Daniels is by far the best writer out there now. Ive never worked with someone like that and I dont think will ever see that again in my lifetime. He just gets into the booth and sings this song from A to Z without having written anything on paper. I work with so many writers and it would take me three days to finish a song, but with Yummy and LaShawn its different. I can just look at Yummys eyes and say, I want to write a song that is talking about this, and she would say Ok, lets just do it and within a half an hour well be done.
AHHA: When you were 16, you had a deal with Sony. What was that deal for and how did it end?
Dalia: Its very complicated, and I dont want to be a bad person talking about it. I was actually sending demos when I was young, and when I was traveling my friend called me and told me that a girl had music and lyrics that sounded exactly like one of my songs. We went to Sony and I think that they didnt want to go through a whole lawsuit.
We signed a deal with them and they just didnt do anything. They just kept me there because they already had stars. I understand. Theyre a great label and they had to focus on what they had. I think they wanted to keep me because I was still young and because perhaps I needed more experience. I didnt want to cross my arms and just not to do anything about it so I did it independently. Sony is a great label; I would love to sign with Sony again if I could.
AHHA: What made you decide to go independent with this album?
Dalia: First, I wanted to learn more about the business. There are a lot of people out there that just sign deals without knowing what they sign. Also, I wanted to express myself. So many times labels make artists sing songs that they dont like or do a performance they dont like or work with people they dont want to work with. I wanted to really create a buzz about me and make the labels see that I know what Im doing, and I know what people want to hear. I dont hear anything creative or expressive today. There are so many talented people out there, but its not their fault. I think its the pressure of the label to do whatever is going on right now. Its kind of gross when labels take the creativity part. Creativity is what made people like Prince and Michael Jackson stars.
AHHA: Tell us how you hooked up with Jadakiss for the first single.
Dalia: I love Jada. He is wonderful, everything I expected. I actually wanted to work with Jada for the longest time. Yummy had her single with Jada, but he was not convinced. He thought I was just another model type that couldnt sing. He didnt ever hear my music. I was kind of sad about it, but I didnt ask Yummy anymore, and then one day I was invited to this party in New York and he was there. My producer talks to Jada about me and he kind of ignored my producer. I understand, because so many artists would ask him to work with them so he must get tired.
Later that night my producer made the DJ play my song and Jada liked it and was like, Whos this? Jada and I went to the studio that night and laid his verse. I was so tired that I went home. In the morning, the song was ready. He told me I could pick it up or he could drop it off for me. He actually dropped it off to my apartment, and he wrote me note that I dont have to bother about the money.
AHHA: You want to bring a Grammy back home to Africa. What strength of yours do you think will be most valuable to you in getting the Grammy?
Dalia: My passion for the music, and the fact that Im different since Im not from America. People are very understanding and appreciating here, so I think that they will get it. My music speaks for itself. Im not saying anything, but I did my best with this album. I hope people will love it and will let me take a Grammy back home. I want a Grammy. Ill be saying this in every interview. Theyre going to have to give me a Grammy like Kanye West.