Sisterhood of Hip Hop’s shinning star Siya calls herself the “Gay Jay-Z in this exclusive conversation with HipHopDX. If claiming that wasn’t strong enough of a statement, Siya has also committed to carrying the LGBT community on her back throughout her career, while staying true to herself until the bitter end—including her lyrical style. “This is me and I’m not changing a damn thing,” she says. “I’m not putting on a dress, I’m not putting on makeup, kiss my ass! I like women and I don’t like dick! So what else would you want me to say! I might pull more bitches than you! I mean I’m not single now, but I’m sayin!”
Not only is she taking a strong stance, but she also has influential people backing her up. Veteran R&B artist Tank has been her mentor for the last few years, kicking off their partnership with a controversial yet honest song named “D.Y.K.E.” back in 2012. Contrary to what the majority of the Hip Hop scene has to display today, Siya strongly believes that there is still a lot of room for lyricism. “Tank’s always telling me to dumb things down and that I’m too lyrical. He thinks that people don’t want to hear that shit, but yeah they do. I still have a very big fan base of people who want to hear me rap about shit with substance. That’s just because I’m a very lyrical artist, I’m a wordsmith.”
Being in her new position of stardom, Siya has assumed the responsibility of helping many of her own people from her childhood BedStuy projects reach their own dreams in Hip Hop—including her barber! Hungry, motivated and striving for unity between people of the world and the LGBT community, Siya also hopes for a greater unity amongst women in the urban community. Siya revealed, “Where in the fuck have you seen that since “Ladies Night” or “Lady Marmalade” for women? A lot of females in this generation don’t have the same mentality that Missy Elliott or Lil Kim had back then.”
She contiuned, “I want a lot of these dudes to give up their spots to make more room for us, just like I want Nicki to be like, ‘Yo, what’s up! Let’s all do a record together and show these niggas that females can do it just like them, if not better.’ It only takes one phone call but it’s not being done and it’s mind boggling to me that all these dudes can do it but females won’t.”
Interestingly enough, the crew of rappers Siya has taken under her wing, doesn’t include any female rappers.
Siya Previews Sisterhood Of Hip Hop Season 2
HipHopDX: Sisterhood of Hip Hop, season two. Take us back, where were you when you found out the show was coming back for a second season?
Siya: I was with my manager Lulu. We were probably on the way to a bar. We kept getting wind of its possibilities but I was always just like, “Yeah, alright, okay” not thinking much of it actually happening, then it did finally happen and I was like, “Oh shit! They really want a season two!” [laughs]. Like, “Ya’ll want more of my life, and our lives… cool, let’s do it!” The producers and the network brought it back because it was such a big deal the first time around as far as social media and it breaking some records on Oxygen. I’m just excited that it’s happening again, and I would do it again after this too!
DX: So you sound like you weren’t completely surprised that season two came back because it was popping all over social media and was breaking records?
Siya: I mean, I wasn’t but then again I was. My life was just in a weird place after the first season. I was down in my own insecurities about it, but I was wrong [laughs].
DX: When the season was finished, were you surprised about how much the show had an emphasis on all of your actual lives as opposed to the music?
Siya: I was surprised but now that I got my feet wet as far as reality TV, now I realize that it needed to be that way so society and viewers can get to know us as women. You can’t have someone relate to you if they don’t know you. At first I was like, “C’mon man, let’s focus on the music!” But looking back now, I get it and I’m glad they did it their way.
DX: Does that make you change the way that you look at what it takes to have success in the music business? We seem to be getting a lot of people these days who get popular before their actual music does. We end up getting to know so much about artists based off their tweets or Instagram videos before anything else.
Siya: Perfect example: Kevin Gates. He blew up really because of the shit he was saying on his Instagram. Only after that were they like, “Music…okay let’s press play!” Other than that people were more focused on what he was saying in his 15 second videos. With Plies, people are now more into his Instagram videos as opposed to his music [laughs].
Right now, it’s social media and it ain’t even about TV no more. Like, 106 & Park is gone because nobody really watches it anymore they’re all on blogs. Websites like HipHopDX and MediaTakeout and Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It’s just crazy how times have changed, and I’ve seen times change! I used to have MySpace!
DX: Do you remember BlackPlanet?
Siya: I’ve never had BlackPlanet that’s one thing [laughs]! But I used to upload my music to MySpace and things like that were my little things. They also used to have this thing called Downelink which was like the LGBT Facebook back in the days. Yeah… , I probably banged a couple girls off of there [laughs]!
DX: Now that you understand how reality TV works and you realize that people need to relate to you before they start caring about your music, does it change the way you think about the music you’re putting out or working on right now?
Siya: No, my music is always going to be my music. I mean TV and my music are together, but they are also still very separated. I have a fan base because of my music first, and then television, I was already moving before the show. So I don’t really think that the show has anything to do with the kind of music I’m making it’s just made me mature more as an artist.
Tank’s always telling me to dumb things down and that I’m too lyrical. He thinks that people don’t want to hear that shit, but yeah they do. I still have a very big fan base of people who want to hear me rap about shit with substance. That’s just because I’m a very lyrical artist. I’m a wordsmith. Now if I put out a song and I’m rapping like Rick Ross, well that’s the way Rick Ross raps! Let that man do his thing [laughs].
DX: He did a good job with adjusting his style, too. When he was Teflon Da Don he was he was a lot more dynamic. I think there’s a difference between what you’re saying and how you say it and I think a lot of artists have a hard time adjusting to that. I think that they’re under the impression that you have to say dumber things…
Siya: Yeah, to get more attention but no you don’t! Not in this game or this generation. Granted, that’s what they like sometimes when they just want to turn up. Kids these days they want someone to look up to and relate to because that shit is lost. For my fans, I am that and especially for the LGBT community. I’m saying everything that they want to say but can’t say or are afraid to.
DX: What can people expect from season two? How would you describe it?
Siya: Season two is a whole different ball game, bruh. [Laughs] Yeah they’re going to be pretty blown from season two. We definitely have a whole lot more of celebrity guests, I think we have almost 30. They definitely pulled out all the cards for this one.
DX: Who’s coming through?
Siya: Rick Ross, Funk Flex, I got Travie McCoy back on it again, Irv Gotti… he’s so awesome. We’ve also got some very influential female emcees but I’m not going to speak on them you’re just gonna have to see it. This seasons is just going to be great, it’s going to be so much more powerful than the first time around. You’ll get to see just how much we’ve grown from the first season and of course there’s going to be a little bit of drama somewhere in there. It ain’t with me, but it’s in there. [Laughs]
This time around it’s about me and my music. I got rid of a lot of negative people in my life and bad situations that I was dealing with, and I’m just on a whole different wave this time around.
DX: The drama was entertaining though!
Siya: Yeah, it was entertaining but a lot of people didn’t realize that when the cameras turned off, that was the foul shit that I had to deal with in real life. My relationship was very toxic and I was dealing with someone who wasn’t supporting me and it was all about them.
DX: Are you guys still in touch?
DX: Not at all?
Siya: Not at all. I’m on to happier, bigger things.
DX: No Memorial Day texts or nothing?
Siya: Nah. I’m very much in a relationship with someone new. She’s extremely supportive and I’m very happy.
DX: That’s good to hear.
Siya: I’m in bliss. My career is good, my lady is awesome, I’m good. I couldn’t ask for more.
Siya: Alright well shit then, yeah they are on there. MC Lyte man, she was dropping some gems on us. It was dope to just be in the presence of a female MC like her and of course, Queen Latifah, she’s just so dope. When she walks into the room it’s just like, “Wow!” She’s a boss.
DX: I know for the grand finale for the show, and I don’t want to give that away but, I know that there’s a reworked version of a classic track that you guys perform together. I saw the performance last week and I thought it was a solid reworking because it was thinner than the original. You do open the track and I thought your verse was extremely strong—how long did it take you to write that verse?
Siya: About 15 minutes.
DX: Now you’re bragging.
Siya: Nah man. [Laughs] Irv told me, “Look Siya, I want you coming off the record, right, and come off saying this” and once he told me I already knew what he wanted me to go for because Irv likes the fact that I’m a lyricist. He also loves the fact that I can hold my own in a room filled with men who are also lyricists. He’s always tellin’ me, “Yeah Siya, kill these niggas off but you know, dumb it down just a little bit!” [Laughs]
The fact that we brought Irv out of retirement when it comes to production was dope. He’s a really good guy and when the idea was brought up he came to me for confirmation and to get the girls together to do the record, so I can’t wait for people to hear it.
DX: Which one of your fellow sisters in the Sisterhood of Hip Hop most impresses you as an emcee?
Siya: Honestly, they all do. It’s hard to pick one because they all bring something different to the table and they all sound like no one else but themselves. Brianna Perry’s deep raspy voice like [Foxy Brown] but she’s still beautiful and easy to look at. Bia, she’s got “that jug swag” she’s so raw with it. Now Diamond, she’s just [Atlanta], you can’t take ATL out of that girl for shit! Then Nyemiah is just Queens and I love hearing her spit because she just makes me feel like I’m back home with it. They’re all super talented in their own rights and I have the utmost respect for all of them and I genuinely love them as my sisters.
Siya Salutes Caitlyn Jenner
DX: Do you feel like the breakout star of the cast?
Siya: I mean c’mon. [Laughs] I am, but I am for different reasons—what I’m doing has never been done. Me being openly gay and carry the LGBT scene on my back. Me just being comfortable in my own skin and talking about my childhood and things that people were not aware of—I brought that shit to light. A lot of the girls were more closed in the first season so… I mean, I’m black, young, I’m gay and I’m a lyricist. You’ve never seen that shit on TV before and I own my shit so I can see why.
DX: Is there pressure at times? Does it ever make you feel uncomfortable?
Siya: No, I’ve never been uncomfortable but there definitely is pressure tied to it because I got so many eyes on me. I can sit here and name a dozen of people who are in the industry and are LGBT but don’t speak on it. It bothers me but at the same time that’s how they chose to live their lives and careers. Me on the other hand, I’m out and I’m like, “This is me and I’m not changing a damn thing. I’m not putting on a dress, I’m not putting on makeup, kiss my ass! I like women and I don’t like dick!”
So what else would you want me to say? [Laughs] I might pull more bitches than you. [Laughs] I mean I’m not single now but I’m sayin! So naw man, like, I’m happy that I’m someone’s role model that’s trying to figure out who they are as far as their sexuality goes.
DX: Big story this week, Caitlyn Jenner.
Siya: Caitlyn mother fuckin‘ Jenner!
DX: I saw the 20/20 interview.
Siya: Yeah, I saw it.
DX: I don’t have a benchmark for anything that I’ve ever seen on television quite like that. We’ve all seen a lot of interviews, a lot of challenging conversations. But in my heart I was just sitting there thinking about how much courage it took to sit there in front of the world and break it down.
Siya: I mean, Caitlyn said it best during the 20/20 interview. She said that she knew she had the secret story that nobody knew about, that would be the biggest one, and she was 110% correct! Yesterday Caitlyn was everywhere, she broke the internet and I think that’s so dope because she is giving hope for transgenders everywhere. She’s giving them hope to be as brave as her, it’s not easy, especially for transgenders. Gay men have it extremely hard in the music industry alone, as well as the general society.
Caitlyn has my blessings. She was my role model yesterday. Word, it definitely takes guts. We’ve seen her transformation on television from Bruce, this Olympic winner, “a man’s man,” to “Hello! Big titties!”
DX: Last year I was part of a roundtable conversation leading into the discussion of the first episode of Sisterhood of Hip Hop. I asked a question that made everybody think I was crazy. The question was, “With women like Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, Rapsody, Snow Tha Product, 3D Na’Tee, Tink, yourself, the other sisters in Sisterhood of Hip Hop, having tremendous success. It makes me wonder, is it really still a challenge for women to breakthrough as emcees at this point and time?
Siya: It still is. It’s a male dominated industry and on top of that, females that are in the industry that are poppin’ like that, don’t reach back. Perfect example; Drake or DJ Khaled. DJ Khaled makes one call and has 10 of the most poppin’ niggas on one song. Where in the fuck have you seen that since “Ladies Night” or “Lady Marmalade” for women? A lot of females in this generation don’t have the same mentality that Missy Elliott or Lil Kim had back then. Those women were like, “Yup, okay, let’s fuckin‘ do it and kill these niggas off to make more room for us” and that’s my mentality as well. I want a lot of these dudes to give up their spots to make more room for us, just like I want Nicki to be like, “Yo, what’s up. Let’s all do a record together and show these niggas that females can do it just like them, if not better.” It only takes one phone call but it’s not being done and it’s mind boggling to me that all these dudes can do it but females won’t.
DX: Have you stumbled into an answer yet?
Siya: Females are I guess just a little bit more territorial, or maybe they’re just afraid of permanently loosing their spot because someone else may come in and be a threat. But even still, it’s Hip Hop. Like, there’s room for all of us, I don’t get it. They’re always just highlighting one person, making it seem like that’s it. But no, that’s not it. There are so many female emcees out here that are so talented and being overlooked or not given the shine that they should be. Myself included. But I dunno man, I can’t force people. I can just make great music and wait for the world to catch up.
DX: I think it’s really interesting that in the first season, every sister in the Sisterhood of Hip Hop has a male mentor. Are you still all being represented in a way, by a man?
Siya: That was pretty much my thing too! Even previous to Tank, I’ve had offers to be in crews. For instance French Montana who every time I see him, he shows me tremendous love. Chinx… rest in peace to Chinx but he showed me the same kind of love. French was tellin’ me like, “C’mon, come play First Lady, Siya!” At first I was like, “Yeah, let’s do this!” But then I thought about it and I was like, “You know what, let me go over here and let me do this TV show and let me try and make things happen for myself without the crew.”
Yeah, I have a male mentor but he’s the R&B singer Tank. Tank is over there, all the way over there and I’m right here. Even Tank looks at me sometimes like, “Siya I don’t know what call to make because I may not be able to make that call.” He is starting to make sure that he can start making those calls now though.
Currently he is working on his next album Sex Love & Pain II, and the music that he’s about to put out isn’t him. It’s him telling the world like, “Ok I get it, ya’ll want that old Tank, but this is me.” Nowadays niggas wanna hear a bit of that R&B/Trap shit and it’s so dope to me! But by him doing that and making different types of music that this generation wants to hear, he can open a lot more doors for me, and that’s really what he wants to do.
I can’t go do a show with him and Frankie Beverly, or him and Jagged Edge! [Laughs] People would be like, “Now who’s this young lady up here rapping?” [Laughs] I just can’t, but we workin‘ on it.
DX: At the end of the taping last week when everyone was doing their own thing after the main recording, you brought out your artist.
Siya: Yeah, Smoke!
DX: Smoke is a dude.
Siya: Smoke is my guy, he’s super talented! Actually, he’s my barber! [Laughs] I was just sitting in the chair one day and he was like, “Yo Siya, listen to this!” So I was watching it, it was a video and a song and I was like, “Nigga, you kind of hard bruh! Let’s work some shit out, why don’t you come fuck wit’ me?” So I brought him on board.
I got my artist Pop Will from Brooklyn who I grew up with. I’m also helping out my man Lala Boom, Inner State Lee, my man Swedge—so I got artists that I want to help push and really help them achieve their dreams. These are all cats from my projects that I grew up with who I know have amazing talent, but don’t have any pull right now. I’m about to go hard this summer and get these guys out there.
DX: Do you have a female emcee?
Siya: No, Not yet, I ain’t even gonna lie though I’ve been searching because I would love to have a female emcee on my roster.
DX: It’s really interesting. I mean the challenges that women face, and then even the women that are in the position that you’re in right now have a hard time finding other talented female emcees. Is it really that difficult? Are there just not that many of ya’ll?
Siya: They’re out there, it’s just that what I’ve been looking for specifically I haven’t found yet.
DX: What are you looking for?
Siya: A lyricist such as myself. I want someone who’s been through some shit in life and can write about it without being afraid of telling their story.
Siya: “I’m Like The Gay Jay Z”
DX: What’s the best problem you have on your plate right now?
Siya: Doing more movies. I’ve got to get more movies! I went to go audition for Chiraq, the new Spike Lee movie. I really want to tap into that shit so I’m gonna work on that. But yeah, my new movie is hopefully coming out by the end of this year or top of the next. It’s called Deuces and in the cast we got; myself, Larenz Tate, Meagan Good, Lance Gross, Rick Gonzalez–it’s a bunch of us it’s such a dope film. It’s about Larenz Tate (“Deuces”) who is the head honcho in the drug game but wants out. I play a woman from LA named “Diggs” and she’s the only female that’s part of Deuces’ crew. So I’m ridin‘ round on my mother fuckin‘ bicycle still trying to murk niggas, just young and reckless [laugh], but the roll is me! The film is actually by Flavor Unit, Queen Latifah’s company, and Jamal Hill who produced Brotherly Love is the director.
DX: In your words, how would you describe a Siya groupie?
Siya: [Laughs] You ready? I call my fans Siatics. There’s a very thin line between a fan and a fanatic. I have a lot of Siatics. They just don’t stop, man. You gotta see the snaps and the DMs I get, bruh. It’s pretty crazy. I’m like, ‘You really got the balls to send me that? They come out with my face pasted on their shirts. They’ll run up and ask me for kisses on the mouth. I be performing and they be trying to grab my ass, tryna grab my tits. I just did Long Beach Pride and I’m so hands on with my fans that I got into the crowd. But me not realizing how hands-on they were, I could just feel them groping as I was performing. I was on my securities shoulders tryna get through the crowd. They just wasn’t having it. They were tryna pull me off of him. Afterwards, I took pictures with as many fans as I can. I love that shit. I love giving back to my fans. It go so crazy that I was falling off the chair trying to take pictures with them. So I booked it trying to get to higher ground. When I tell you they mobbed me and chased me, it was crazy. It was like 10,000 people out there and I was the only performer on the urban stage. It was crazy.
DX: Why do you think you were the only performer on the urban stage during Long Beach Pride?
Siya: I’m like the Gay Jay Z! [Laughs] That’s what I’m starting to feel like, man! [Laughs] I think it’s awesome though, bro. I’ve worked my ass off so fucking much to get to where I am. It’s finally happening. But I’m also very aware of other LGBT artists that are working their way up and I would love to help them.
DX: Five years from now, what will people be saying about Siya?
Siya: She’s a legend in the making, because I am. I want to continue to break barriers and continue to spread awareness on LGBT and just help my community. But at the same time, I want to stay true to who I am and help hip hop.
DX: Five months from now?
Siya: She’s killin’ it! You been to that Siya show, bruh? Have you seen Siya sell out that whole fuckin’ arena? [Laughs] You seen that movie with Siya? she can get her act on huh bruh [laughs]?
DX: Five days from now.
Siya: Siya’s in love! Siya’s happy! It’s been a long time so I’m grateful. Right now I got a new manager named Lulu, he’s amazing, Tank is on his job—I really don’t have any complaints!
We got the clothing line Damn Pigeon with my homie Eddie Knox, Mike Ho is still killin’ all my videos—I really don’t have shit to complain about! I’m good and I’m fuckin‘ with HipHopDX, what’s better? [Laughs]
Additional reporting by Justin Hunte