AHHA: Atlanta is your home. As far as Atlanta Hip-Hop and the bad rap its getting about the images it portrays, do you agree or disagree?
India.Arie: My father is a Black man and I know, its almost like a superhero to come out of the ghetto. My father [former ABA and NBA player Ralph Simpson] had eight brothers and sisters, he was the oldest – my grandmother had him when she was 16. He still made it out of the ghetto, became a multimillionaire, he did it through sports. Nowadays, you want to look at it and have this political view like, athletes are coons. Yeah they got their money, but they did it through sports.
Ya know what? My father is the closest thing that you get to a superhero, cause theres Black men all over Africa who are dying of AIDS, dont have anything. I feel that my father as a Black man is the closest thing you can get to just being a super man. I look at a lot of these brothers who do this Hip-Hop music and for them its a hustle. But theyre making it, theyre feeding their families and theyre making it and I respect it, because I love my people.
On the other hand, yeah, the images are very socially irresponsible. It makes me mad on a personal level. I feel like people should be held responsible for the things that they do. Sometimes people just are where they are in their evolution as a human being, and I cant tell somebody that you gotta be like me or youre wrong. Or somebody cant tell me I gotta be like them or Im wrong. We just are who we are. I dont want to do that kind of music. Theres people who dont want to do what I do. But I love my people and I always gotta make sure I make that clear, because every time they get young Black people together on a television show, they always want to talk about that. Im tired of that.
Did I get a little mad? I think I got a little mad. My eyebrow got furrowed I get tired of that. Dont be talking about my people. Im protective of my brothers.
AHHA: So who is to blame? At what point do you go from blaming labels to blaming the artists themselves, for these images being portrayed?
India.Arie: Everyone is responsible for what they do. People who buy it are responsible for what they do. The people who make it are responsible for what they do. I mean whatever it is that makes it marketable, every person who buys into that and thinks its okay, is responsible for what they do. Whether its from a corporate perspective or whether its the artist or the person who dances to it in the club – even though its talking about you, and theyre talking about you crazy, and you still think its okay.
I dont think that Im anyone to decide where they blame goes. I feel, that we all have a choice. Some people feel, I dont have a choice, this is my way, this is how Im going to do it. You have to respect that. Its not what I want to do. But on a human level-and the world is too crazy to not be looking at each other as people, you have to see each other as people. Thats part of the problem.
AHHA: How does it make you feel when you first came into the game that, despite being a beautiful brown skinned woman, [your image] didnt fit the light skin with a whole lot of weave template?
India.Arie: Im fine with me. Im blessed to be where I am. I know a lot of people who dont get an opportunity to live out their dreams because of some of the same issues that you just addressed. I have friends who sing great, write great, and [may] not be able to get their thing really going because theyre gay. Some people might not be able to get their thing going because they dont feel comfortable about their size. Everybody has hang ups. To have friends who sing great, and their parents told them, You have to be a doctor, so they dont have the confidence inside to do this thing that God really made them to do.
Im not going to sit here and act like Im some kind of victim, Ive been able to live my dreams and it could be better, it could be worse, whatever. I feel that I am in a unique position, Im all that more grateful. Everybody doesnt like everything. I have always felt like, all my life, that I was an acquired taste. There are people who love me, there are people who dont, and its fine. I dont need to push myself on anyone who doesnt get me, or anyone who doesnt feel me, or whatever. I just want whoever my music is for, to get a chance to at least hear it to make a decision of whether or not it touches them or not.
Im not trying to act like there arent days or things that happen where Im totally disappointed and angry about it or whatever. But in the end, I get to live my craft. I dont wear anything I dont want to wear, I dont say anything I dont want to say – I say what I do want to say, I sing what I want to sing. I get to travel, I get to meet people. And I know what the whole paradigm is as far as a womans place in the music industry, I get it. And I know that I dont fit it. I couldnt fit it if I wanted to and I dont want to.
AHHA: Who are the people that your music is for?
India.Arie: One of my ongoing prayers is that God will take my music and let it touch each person that its for in whatever way that they need. Thats always been my goal. That the way that person needs it, if they do, my music is for them. I dont know how to do that, but I know that prayer is real, and I know that God can. Thats my prayer and those are my intentions. I move through the world and people say I heard it here, I heard it there, Ive used it in my class.
I get this emotion coming off of people and I know its not about me, but its about the music. I always want to thank those people cause they give me a sign that my prayers are being answered.
AHHA: Its one thing theorize, but since your music has touched millions of people, does it ever get overwhelming?
India.Arie: [nods head yes]
AHHA: How do you deal with it?
India.Arie: I dont know. Im still trying to figure that out. Even as I grow as an artist and as a person, there comes more responsibility with it. And I always say, another of my ongoing prayers is for God to show me how I can be of service in the world. I have to get on a plane, I have to go to these places, and talk to these [people], its work. But I asked to be used, and I get used up [laughs]. But its what I asked for. Im only going to be this person one time so I like to feel like I do as much as I can while Im here this time. It gets overwhelming and I can see it getting more overwhelming. At a certain point Im going to have a whole lot of responsibilities.
I remember the first time I was in this room I was doing media training. And that day I decided I was gonna be myself. We talked for an hour and a half and she was [like], So what would you say if somebody ask you how your different from Erykah Badu? We went through all these hard questions, then at the end of it I was like, Im just going to be myself, I got it. Thats the decision I made. I think its sometimes more difficult to just be yourself that it is to have another persona that protects you. Im actually using my life force energy to do all this stuff, its a huge responsibility.
Then I have just my personal stuff, my family, make sure that everybody is ok. When somebodys name is not in my album credit, for real, it gets personal. I have to be on the phone like, No auntie, I didnt mean it that way. I just wanted to take a different direction with my album credits this time. Im responsible for a lot of people and I never thought, I was always the young one, the youngest one in the family, the smallest one, the quiet one, the secretive one, now Im the one whose shining this light in my family in heaven and on earth. Its a big responsibility. But, like I said, I welcome the challenge.
AHHA: Speaking of crazy worlds, at last nights show you got a big applause over some comment you said about the Bush administration?
India.Arie: Yeah, what did I say? I was saying all kinds of stuff, did I say that?
AHHA: It was something about Bush
India.Arie: Yeah ya know, I have a second album called Testimony Vol. 2, Love & Politics, and I have this song on there called Who The President Should Be. I just feel like, I would like to see the world leaders be people who have a spiritual level of discernment. Where theyre actually connected to a higher energy so that they can guide people down the right path. The president should be more like a Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader.
The American President is kind of like this person who wants their ego stroked. Thats how most of them have been in my opinion. They want to win, its like a football game. Its a competition. I wanna win, I wanna win, I wanna win and be the leader, be the man. Sometimes, especially the scarier the world gets, whoever is going to be our leader, this person should be connected to a higher truth. And Im not talking about their religious affiliation, Im talking about their spiritual connection. This is all my opinion. That right there speaks to how I feel about the Bush administration. But its not just about him, its about the way that our society is structured and how selfish we are and how ego driven you are.
AHHA: When you say I wanna win, the next question is what do you want to win and at what cost?
India.Arie: I just dont like the idea. Ive had this feeling for a long time that society way just going to have to just crumble all over the place before were like, Ok, lets fix this. Something like recycling-to me, that kind of should have been a law a long time ago. Im not trying to be metaphysical, Im talking on a very mundane level. Put the glass here, put the paper here. I feel that way about the office of the presidency itself. If someone is going to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, this person should be capable of leading.