27 Jul Mischa on Inclusivity, Equality, and Vulnerability
What is Hip-Hop, but a phonographic snapshot of our culture in its current time and place?
Unlike other popular genres, which keep lyrical details vague for the broadest appeal, Hip-Hop and R&B’s up to the minute references will provide a treasure trove for future sociologists to study and learn about our lives, culture, and values – and Mischa’s sophomore EP, Alpha Barbie, has a lot to infer in the subjects of inclusivity, gender equality, and vulnerability.
Now, this writer will state upfront that his knowledge of rap music comes from songs that have successfully crossed over into the mainstream, or styles that have been co-oped by traditional pop stars (oh, and Hamilton). However, from this sample data, he couldn’t help but notice a trend: the beloved songs that have a sense of populism to them, a “we’re all in this together” mentality, usually from the perspective of the underdog in the proverbial dumps. The more celebratory, glamorous songs invite you to watch on in jealousy – as the artists go to VIP clubs, wear expensive clothes, steal your girl… I totally understand and support the underdogs of the world, but after we all join forces and fight the power, don’t you want to party? Well, then the title track of this EP, Alpha Barbie, is the jam for you and your crew.
“Everyone deserves to be included and welcomed for who they are!” Mischa exclaims over the phone. “The entire Hip Hop Kulture started off as a way to bring people together and welcome one another in a safe place. Growing up, I was always bullied and an outcast. Secretly writing helped me express myself when I didn’t have the confidence to express myself visually. Now that I have worked on that self-love and confidence for myself, and choose to be vulnerable with my art and expression, I want to extend that invitation to all.”
“My style and brand are very much direct representations of my personality. In a world of ‘you can’t sit with us!’ I want everyone to feel included with how they choose to express themselves in an organic way. I’m very much one to vouch for a come as you are mentality. I often have people tell me that they never see me off brand and the reason for that is because my brand identity is so true to who I am 24/7, 365. Everything I wear and portray speaks volumes as to who I am.”
Fun Fact: the only #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 to ever pass the Bechdel test is Fancy by Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX… Mischa, grab a collaborator, ‘cause you are the hero we need!
Next up, let’s talk about women in hip-hop. After years of pop culture only allowing one female rapper to be popular at a time, the floodgates have finally opened with a series of newcomers – Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, to name a few. Upon being asked her thoughts on the subject, Mischa muses “I know with the way media portrays rap entertainment music and females in the industry, it seems there can only be one ‘Queen’ but that is not the case at all. I want to be part of that change.”
“As a female, you definitely have to take more concrete steps to really plant yourself in the industry.” This is one of the many reasons Mischa makes a point of reaching out to emerging female artists, because she’s been there too.
“I feel that woman empowerment is growing and I think that people are finally seeing that we need to be lifting women up as opposed to pinning them against one another, but we can thank the media for that. I’m so happy to see more women feeling comfortable showing off their talents to the world. I have always been one to empower women and I truly believe that will solidify what the next generations are going to look like. We just need to keep laying that foundation and building on that. That’s why my title track single off the Alpha Barbie – EP holds such a special place to me. It’s meant to be that statement we all needed to hear.
Naturally, at some point in our hour long call, I had to ask Mischa the million dollar question: How do you balance your badass, confident, tough chick persona with such a miserable 2020?
“In this society, there is such a pressure of what you want to show versus what you should show to people. I think it’s important to stay true to you and at the end of the day, we’re all humans. I’m such an over thinker and this question really hits home for me because it goes through my mind always. How much is too much to reveal? I find doing what feels right to you will always be key. The same thing won’t work for two different people. Knowing that never makes it any easier though!”
“I make music because I want to reach at least one person who can relate. So they know that they aren’t alone. That’s why I’m transparent about my struggles with anxiety and depression, growing up being constantly bullied and having to overcome a lot of hardships. They go through it. I think being an Alpha Barbie is ultimately about acknowledging that you can’t have the good without the bad. Everything is what you make of it. Alpha Barbie’s get down too.”
Tragically, the Alpha Barbie Release Party (taking place at 2020 Bluesfest) was one of the many concert casualties of a global pandemic. Mischa compensated with an intimate, socially distanced listening party for a select group of curators and tastemakers. “The vibes were unbelievable. To see everyone’s genuine reaction through each song was truly special. If you were to ask each person their favourite song, each person would say something different. I think that is the key to a great project. You can have a lot of “Yes” individuals in your circle but you need to make sure that you’re hearing the honest truth from people who you respect.”
“On this project, I truly wanted to showcase my versatility on the Hip-Hop/R&B spectrum. It was such a pleasure working with both Quest and Jonny Brown, the producers of Alpha Barbie, as well as Geoff McNeely, the head engineer, to give the record a sound that was perfect. I find that my sound has matured as an artist and I’m ready to show that to the world. The content and subjects that I’m speaking about take a deeper dive into my mind and show fans a side that they have yet to hear from me and I want to carry that in my music from here on out. Each song is significantly different from one another but very much takes you on a ride from the first to last track. With Like, Whoa, I feel that I was almost limiting myself to sound a specific way but with Alpha Barbie I took a chance to display what I’m capable of more artistically.”