Queen Yonasda: Conscious Daughter

She is Queen and she’s ready to roar. The days of female empowerment within Hip-Hop may have died off with Latifah, but now there’s a new Queen entering the game and she’s ready to make a change. Queen Yonasda tackles the image of women in Hip-Hop, vows for a balance of power, and in this election year, uses her politics and God to give us a breath of change. And she’s no joke, a daughter of a revolutionary and raised by the notorious Minister Louis Farrakhan, Queen Yonasda’s socially conscious music is everything Hip-Hop has been missing.AllHipHop.com: How are you, as a female emcee, trying to change the image of women in Hip-Hop right now?Queen Yonasda: A lot of people feel Hip-Hop is dead, and I feel that Hip-Hop needs a balance. It needs a balance of the portrayal of the woman. A lot of the women that are, especially within our generation, they are either single mothers or they’ve been raised in a single family home. A lot of my female counterparts are coming from New York; I’m from Arizona, so I can’t relate to what Lil Kim and Foxy are talking about because I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn; I didn’t go through that whole drug thing and all that stuff. My position is that I want to bring “Queen” back into our vocabulary, bring “Queen” back into the way that we look at each other. I think that the word “B” is not a word of empowerment to me; it is what it is, a female dog. If you start calling yourself a “Queen” you start looking at yourself as a queen instead of a rough, rugged B. If you look at Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Salt-N-Pepa, the females back then were calling each other Queens. We have such a powerful influence as female MCs, and we have such a major influence amongst this generation because we are the mothers of the nation. We have such a major influence on these younger girls and these boys that are coming up that we raising within our music, and also in the community. AllHipHop.com: So how do you define “Queen”?Queen Yonasda: Strength, wisdom, virtuous—that’s what it is, a virtuous woman. And virtuous is defined in the Bible in regards to how she is able to take care of her community. How she is able to take care of her husband, take care of her children, and also take care of her community. And the way that she is able to even at times when she doesn’t have anything—make everything of what she has. AllHipHop.com: So why Hip-Hop, why did you get involved with Hip-Hop specifically?Queen Yonasda: Well, my mother she was on the run from the feds and because of the fact that she was a revolutionary – she was in the American Indian movement at the time and also she just stopped working for Muhammad Ali – she was really getting into helping her people out, which is Native American. I’m half Native American and half black. So we were in California and she took me over to Venice Beach and I saw the Rock Steady Crew. And it was like the early 80s when Hip-Hop was at its height. I was in awe of seeing that these kids were using Hip-Hop as an expression of letting go of all the stress and the anger. To me it just seemed like a revolution was beginning. I saw the way that they were fusing that strength into a musical form into B-Boying, and MCing, and DJing, it was really crazy at Venice Beach during that time. AllHipHop.com: And you’re mother also worked for the Nation of Islam with Minister Farrakhan…Queen Yonasda: Yes, during the time she was working for Muhammad Ali she was introduced to Minister Farrakhan and she was also introduced into the Nation of Islam. She was working for Minister Farrakhan and assisting him in developing the construction of the Phoenix Palace here in Phoenix, Arizona.AllHipHop.com: When you were raised by Minister Farrakhan, how did that shape your views and the way you express yourself through your music?Queen Yonasda: Without the Farrakhan family I really wouldn’t be here. The day when the feds came to the house, I was about 7 or 8 years old. They came to the home to grab my mother, my aunt came to stay with us, and they received a call that the state was on their way to come get us and separate me and my brother. That’s when Minister Farrakhan and his daughter Maria and her husband Olive stepped in and said, “We’re going to go ahead and take them because they shouldn’t get lost in the system.” It’s shaped me [through] discipline. I tell everyone in my music that when you are going through certain things, God is always there. When I moved to Chicago, I learned a lot about Islam, it was not a wake up call, but a culture shock for me. I learned a lot about respect of women, and in Native American church law it’s there, too, but growing up in an Islamic home I’ve learned a lot especially with discipline because you have to pray five times a day and don’t eat this -- the five pillars of Islam. AllHipHop.com: So with 2008 being an election year, how do you think your political views and socially conscious music is going to be received?Queen Yonasda: My timing is so perfect because we are in a year of change – spiritually speaking, we are in a year of completion. And with Hillary and Obama, I think that everyone is just yearning for change, they are yearning for something different, they are yearning for the truth. And they’re yearning for justice to finally be done, I think the nation wants our troops to come home. Even if you think of God very little, they are putting a lot of faith into the candidates to please make this change. And music is that change. Because I went through so much in my life from being, I was abused, I was homeless, both my parents were locked up, I lost my mother in 2003, so many things I’ve went through in my life. I haven’t been shot nine times, but I sure do have a story to tell. I’m still here and I’m still happy. And God has lifted me up and God has really been blessing me with the people around me and opportunities. I’m strapping onto this ride -- a change to lift a nation. So, if I could be able to do it through my music, then so be it. I would love to and it would develop into my work. AllHipHop.com: So, tell me about your album – what are you bringing to Hip-Hop that we haven’t seen before? Queen Yonasda: You know so many female rappers have children and they don’t even acknowledge them and it’s like “Why!? You have children, you know, talk about that in your music.” I do talk about that in my music. My album is called God, Love and Music and it’s about that. It’s about at the end of the day whatever you believe in whatever you are going through those are the three necessities – the God within you the God we don’t see, Love the love for yourself and the love for Him, and also, Music, because even if you don’t listen to music, it’s the heartbeat of your heart – it has a sound it’s a music and it’s what keeps you alive. So that’s the reason why I call my album God, Love and Music and my album...oh man, I have Cappadonna from Wu-Tang Clan, I’ve known him since November 2004.AllHipHop.com: How was it to work with Cappadonna?Queen Yonasda: It was a lot of fun; I learned a lot from Cappadonna. He’s been in the game for 15, 20 years; he just really taught me a lot to the point where some people have asked me, “Does he writes your verses?” I’m like “No, he doesn’t.” We write all the time together and we recorded. As a matter of fact, we have a full album we have done together, it’s not released yet. We don’t know what we’re gonna do with it, it’s called Kings and Queens. I have him on the album, he’s on my first single “You Don’t Want No Problems.” I have Remedy he’s a Wu-Tang affiliate; he’s a Jewish rapper, and he has a song with me it’s a rock version we re-did Queen’s “I Want It All.” Dr. Ben Chavez from the Hip-Hop Summit laid some of his poetic verses on there; Minister Farrakhan introduces me on the album. April Love, she’s a female rap artist from Baltimore, and a lot of people feel female rappers can’t get along. She is vicious on the mic, [we] did a woman’s empowerment anthem called “Come Too Far.” The album is really R&B, rock, conscious Hip-Hop, club, I have salsa on the album, I have reggae. Music has no boundaries; music is such a universal language. You’d be very surprised a lot of people in the Hip-Hop community that really want to make the change, but the labels and things like that are restraining them from making that change.[Queen Yonasda f/ Cappadonna “You Don’t Want No Problems”]AllHipHop.com: Talking about labels, what would you like to see change politically within the music industry?Queen Yonasda: If you make one hit single you get a single deal or they sign you, I cannot stand that right now because you are playing with people’s livelihood and not everybody is talented. Labels used to really believe in that artist, they used to believe that they’re going push out 10 albums not 10 singles. These labels aren’t looking at the artist anymore they are looking at the dollars. On top of it, too, there are so many artists that are uneducated about the business. These labels are not taking the time to educate them. I wish we had a label like Motown, like what [Berry Gordy] did with his artists going through the whole artists development. I took music business at NYU and also I did an internship through Island Black Music; I learned a lot on the business end; I know the basics of the music business. Any label that wants to pick me up; they’re going to know that they aren’t dealing with no dumb woman. AllHipHop.com: So my last question, what does 2008 mean for Queen Yonasda?Queen Yonasda: Right now I’m still negotiating a tour, I want to give people hope that we’re not neglecting you and use my popularity to help. 2008 is going to be a great year, my album drops this summer and I’m still looking for distribution, but even if I don’t get any I’m still going to drop the album. In May, I’m going on tour with the Hip Hop Lives tour – I’m the only female artist on that tour – with Wu-Tang, Paul Wall, Busta Rhymes, Ice Water. My first single “Pow Wow” will be released soon, so yeah, 2008 is going to be a great year.