Safia Mafia‘s hypnotic vocals and lyrics have gotten us through a couple of rough mornings–her latest project “Love Kills” has been in heavy rotation. Needless to say, it was an honor to finally meet IRL and get a glimpse of her calming aura in person. The Oakland songstress stopped by Nasty Gal HQ to play dress up and talk all things music, her greatest inspirations, and the power of isolation.
What is your earliest music memory?
My earliest musical memory was sitting on the floor of my father’s room watching him play bass guitar. I was probably around three years old.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
I honestly can’t remember the first song I ever wrote, but one of the oldest songs I remember writing was called “again”. It was the first inspirational song I ever wrote and the last I was able to write until my album ‘Love Kills’ was born.
What is your songwriting process like?
The songwriting process differs from time to time now. It depends on what the situation is. Sometimes I write songs at home to the music in my head. Other times I write to beats. My favorite process is to create the lyrics simultaneously with the producer as he creates the music. Some of my favorite songs were created that way.
How did the name “Safia Mafia” come to you?
Safia is actual my middle name by birth. I came up with Mafia because of the way it just rolls off the tongue lol.
How did you find your voice in music?
I really found my voice in music when I moved to LA. I didn’t have any connections or people who wanted to work with me, so I used to just write songs and record the acapellas in the makeshift studio set up I had in my room. The blessing in only having my voice as an instrument is that I didn’t have anything to hide behind vocally. It really forced me to learn how I wanted to sound, what vocal texture I liked best, what kind of cadence I vibed with. I hated not having anyone to make beats for me at the time, but I’m so grateful for those days now.
If you had to choose, who would you say is your favorite musician, dead or alive?
I literally hate this question! Lol, I am a fan of pretty much all genres of music, so there are folks in multiple genres that I could look at as favorites! Some sure shots are Billie Holiday, Amy Winehouse, JAY-Z, Kurt Cobain, Summer Walker, Frank Ocean… I could go on and on! Lol.
Another tough one lol…what is your all-time favorite album?
Soooo hard to answer! Lol, I can’t say it’s my favorite album of all time, but ‘Reasonable Doubt’ by JAY-Z got me through a very dark depression as a teen. I was a late bloomer when it came to JAY, but when I discovered ‘Reasonable Doubt,’ I literally listened to it every day for about 2-3 years straight. The music behind his lyrics sounded like how I felt, but a lot of the lyrics in my favorite songs on that album were mostly about shaking a shitty life for a better one… something about it kept me going.
How did you come to own your creativity and use it as a true representation of your message?
I came to own my creativity through learning to be ok with being me. That only came through the process of healing. All of this lends to the message I try to portray as an artist of walking your journey towards self love, and not allowing where you were or where you are within that journey to deter you from getting where you want to be.
What would you say to young girls looking to feel more comfortable in their own skin?
What I would say to young girls trying to get comfortable in their own skin is, it’s a process, but…beauty fades, trends are constantly changing, and perfection is an illusion. The only constant is what’s below the surface. You… there’s nothing more beautiful than loving yourself unapologetically, and that’s what people really resonate with the most in the long run.
What mantra do you live by?
The mantra I live by is, “The sun is always shining… whether you can see it or not.” It basically means, all is never lost. Sometimes our brightest blessings are right behind the darkest clouds or right after the darkest nights… our inability to see them before they occur, doesn’t mean they don’t or won’t exist.
One item in your wardrobe you can’t live without?
One item in my wardrobe I can’t live without right now would probably be my wallet chains. I literally wear them all the time! I wear them as chokers, I double them up around my belt loops, I even have a bike chain connected to one of my wallet chains via a giant safety pin! Lol, I am getting to the point where I find myself staying away from pants with no belt loops ‘cause I wear them almost every day.
Describe your style in 3 words?
My style in 3 words…A. Fucking. Mashup! Lol.
My spirit animal would probably be… a liger…
What should we keep an eye out for from you in the future?
Definitely keep a look out for the “Drive” video dropping soon, new music, and shows! The ball is definitely rolling, and I’m just getting started!