(AllHipHop Features) For the past three seasons, Siya has been one of the prominent women highlighted on the unscripted television program Sisterhood Of Hip Hop.
But be wary of simply labeling the Bedford–Stuyvesant bred performer as a “reality star.” Siya prefers the word emcee is connected to her name.
Besides releasing rap projects such as Better Late Than Never and What Never Happened, the Brooklynite also has a studio album titled Siya vs. Siya currently in the works.
Actress will soon be added to Siya’s résumé as well. She is set to appear in the forthcoming film Deuces as part of a star-studded cast that includes Larenz Tate and Meagan Good.
Music, movies and more is on the way for Siya. Meanwhile, cable viewers and Hip Hop followers can continue to catch the spitter on the Tip “T.I.” Harris led Sisterhood Of Hip Hop series.
“All I can be is grateful for him to be the executive producer of our TV show and to have faith in female emcees,” says Siya about the Grammy-winning rapper turned television insider.
In a recent phone conversation, I asked Siya about her small screen work, her motion picture debut as well as other topics related to the protégé of R&B heavyweight Tank.
[ALSO READ: A Conversation With Murs On ‘Where You At?’, Strange Music & His Upcoming 24 Hour Rap Marathon]
Season 3 of the show has started again. Has the platform been beneficial for your career?
It definitely has. Reality TV is all about how you use it to your ability. Everything you do is recorded, so it’s about how you conduct yourself. I’ve been as honest as possible with my fans about my personal life, my music, and my struggles. That’s what’s made me so relatable and a music idol to the youth.
Like you said, you’ve been very open about your relationships on the show. Reality TV has a history of damaging couples. How have you managed to keep the spotlight of television from having a negative effect on the people around you?
Again, it’s all about how you conduct yourself – on camera and off camera. I’m a reflection of those around me, and the people around me are a reflection of me whether they’re my friends, my partners, or my family. If we’re gonna ride, we’re gonna ride out together. We’re just gonna have to hold each other down through it all, and that’s exactly what we do.
The tone of the show is not the same as some of the other reality TV programs. It seems to focus more on your lives and careers. Do you feel like the direction of the show has an effect – I don’t want to say on your image, because like you said, you’re being yourself – but the way you’re portrayed to the world?
The way I’m portrayed to the world is exactly how I’m allowing them to portray me. They can’t edit something negatively if there’s nothing negative to edit. I’m a positive person in general. I’m all about female empowerment, being true to who I am, and being true to the audience.
I always tell people that. They say, “This TV stuff is fake.” I’m like, “Nah, it’s these other shows that be fake because they be doing the most.” They gotta edit them up and make them look a certain way. What you see is what you get with our show.
You talked about being a positive role model for women. You’ve also been outspoken as an advocate for the LGBT community. What has been the reaction from some of your fans for stepping into that role?
It’s been amazing. For one, we need that. We need more outspoken people to represent what we represent as far as the LGBT community. It’s always been hard being myself, being afraid to be myself.
I feel like for me to be able to pass the baton down and give other people strength to be themselves or come out of the closet, that means a lot. I feel like there should be more people like me in the music industry who spoke up.
There are starting to be a lot of people that don’t care what other people think and starting to voice who they truly are. We need that. We need to be the voice for people who can’t be the voice for themselves.
Do you think it’s harder for a man to come out in Hip Hop than it is for a woman?
Absolutely, it’s been like that for years and it’s gonna continue to be like that, unfortunately. You have to understand, it’s a straight man’s fantasy to be with a lesbian woman or to see two women. Even with the way I dress, I still get hit on by a lot of guys in the industry, because I’m “a challenge.”
For dudes, it’s so frowned upon. It hurts me to see them end up hurt because they can’t truly be themselves. There are some guys now that are on that wave of “F-ck it. I’m gonna do what I want to do and be who I am.” People like Miles [Brock], Milan [Christopher], Fly Young Red, and the list goes on. There’s a bunch of openly gay guys that are doing what they wanna do, and I personally love it.
You’re working on your debut studio album. What can listeners expect on Siya vs. Siya?
Siya Vs Siya is exactly what it sounds like. It’s me versus myself. It’s two sides of the album. It’s the side where I cater to the women – I sing and rap on records. Then it’s the side where I cater to the streets and the mainstream side of the music business. I give them that raw Hip Hop, street records, and club records.
It’s exactly what I’ve been battling with for years. I know the type of music I want to create. It’s not necessarily the music that these kids care about. I’m a lyricist, and I’m not okay with dumbing down my music for the sake of selling records or being on the radio.
Is being a mainstream artist your goal? Or would you be content with having a strong fan base, but maybe a smaller fan base?
I’m already a “mainstream artist” in a sense. I’m all over the radio on a single with Chris Brown, Tank, and Sage the Gemini called “#BDay.” I’m not only in America but on the radio on many countries overseas. I’m on a television show that reaches millions of people all across the world. I’m a household name.
As far as my fan base, it’s not just America. I’m talking about other countries. Countries that I never even heard of know Siya. [laughs] It’s crazy and it’s extremely humbling. I’m okay if I’m not on your favorite radio station in your city at this very moment.
Speaking of that record, at the beginning of your verse you reference 50 Cent’s “In Da Club.” Obviously, it connects to the theme of the song. But was 50 also a musical influence for you?
50 Cent was definitely an influence for me. I’m dropping a record called “New York.” I’m literally going back to my roots of what Hip Hop felt like to me when I was growing up. I’m talking that Brooklyn sh-t.
At the beginning of the record, it’s a sample of 50 Cent going, “Yeah.” It’s minor, but to me, it was a big deal. He’s always been that cat that said what he wanted to say and did what he wanted to do. I’ve always admired that even though he’s from Queens and I’m from Brooklyn.
It’s the same way I respected the lyricism of Big L, Jay Z, Biggie Smalls, Big Pun, and DMX. I’m a real Hip Hop head. I wasn’t raised on this Hip Hop that’s going on now that these kids love. I’m from the core of Hip Hop.
Being a lyrical rapper, what is it like being signed to an R&B artist? Tank has been in the industry and he knows the game. But what is that dynamic like?
It’s a weird dynamic. [laughs] Tank is an amazing human being. He’s like a father figure to me. He’s always been down for me no matter what and he’s given me the creative freedom that I’ve always wanted.
He brags about me to everybody because he believes in me that much. Honestly, I’ve never hit any bumps in the road because he’s an R&B singer. If anything, I’ve learned so much from him because he has that talent and he’s been in the game for so many years.
I’m signed to a man that’s extremely talented and who can make the same exact calls that a rapper can. So what’s the difference?
You’re moving into the acting realm. Can you talk about your role in Deuces?
Deuces is an amazing film directed by Jamal Hill. He did Brotherly Love. My movie is about a dude who’s been in the drug game for so many years. He’s sick of it and wants to get out. I’m part of his personal crew.
It’s me, Larenz Tate, Meagan Good, Lance Gross, Rick Gonzalez, Rotimi, La La Anthony, and a few others. It was my first acting experience. Larenz Tate really took me under his wing and taught me so much. It was an awesome experience.
Have you gotten the acting bug now? Can we look to see you in more films and TV shows?
Yes, I do have the acting bug now. [laughs] I’ve been doing auditions. I’m actually going to sit down with the production company that did Sisterhood Of Hip Hop and talk to them about ideas for other shows. I want to tap into executive producing as well.
Finally, when can we expect the album. Have you decided which quarter it may be arriving?
I was shooting for August, but now we’re going to shoot for the end of August or early September. Let it bubble through the third quarter that way when the first quarter comes around we’ll get them calls how we’re supposed to get them calls.
[ALSO READ: A Conversation With Malik Yusef On Supporting LGBT Rights And Working With Vic Mensa, Beyonce & Kanye West]
Sisterhood Of Hip Hop airs Tuesdays at 9/8 central on Oxygen. Watch full episodes of the series on Oxygen.com.
Stream Siya’s What Never Happened below.
PHOTO CREDIT: thedonlikecheadle