ChinahBlac Talks Changing Lives, Erykah Badu’s Friendship & Debut Album [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
ChinahBlac wants to change your life. But not in the overbearing way you think of when it comes to your parents. Think of the singer as a motivational force who urges you to evolve through her lyrics.
"My desire is just to change the lives of people through the music," she tells The Boombox.
Take a listen to the brand of aggressive soul she presents on songs like "Keep Your Word" to get an indication of her message. On this particularly soulful track, which earned her a winning spot in the GRAMMY Amplifier program, making empty promises doesn't fly with the New Jersey native. Like the title implies, keeping your word is key.
Growing up in the hard streets of Newark, the seasoned songwriter used her surroundings as inspiration. "My music reflects the time of my area, my neighborhood, the things that I see when I drive by or see someone walk down the street," Chinah shares. "I grew up in a neighborhood that’s kind of slumpy, not a lot of revenue in the area. The drug sitatuion is very prevalent. My music has turned into moreso a thing of hope for people versus talking about money, sex, drugs, partying."
For Chinah, turning up can only satisfy the soul for so long. "I talk about hope and evolution. I want people to connect to the things that I say in a way that it evolves them or changes their life for the better," she states. "If there is someone out there going through a situation and I’ve written a song about it and you’ve heard maybe their ending can change. Maybe they decide to take another course of action for their life if they hear 'Keep Your Word,' or they hear 'Lessons' or 'War' or different songs that I’ve written. My desire is just to change the lives of people through the music."
The R&B siren has been helping to change the lives of her peers for years as a vocalist and vocal arranger. ChinahBlac has worked alongside artists like the Dave Matthews Band, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu -- and that's just a short list. Working behind the scenes is where she felt most comfortable considering she finds true joy in creating background vocals and arrangements, but with a powerful voice and a message to share, Chinah realized it was necessary to step into the spotlight.
With a resume full of work with big names, it's easy to understand why she had a tug of war with herself to move out of the shadows. Luckily for her, the business relationship she built with Erykah Badu turned into a cherished friendship. "That’s my big sister. She actually helped deliver my son. She’s a doula. We go way, way back. She’s always been a sister and a friend. I was her vocal director for eight years. Sometimes when things run their course people kinda move apart but when it was time for me to move forward we moved closer as friends," the classically trained artist reveals.
Now that she has an official single and video for "Keep Your Word," which drops on iTunes Oct. 2, the songstress is keeping the momentum going as a Grammy Amplifier winner. "The Grammy Amplifier program has helped me in a lot of ways. More importantly for myself and learning my own artistry. Learning my own stregnths and weaknesses. And being able to trust those that are stronger in the weaknesses that I have, trust them to take me to my next step. I had been doing most of music and pursuing my own craft on my own as far as doing gigs here, posting things and what have you. The Grammy Amplifier program presented a vehicle for me to get to the masses that I wasn’t able to do by myself."
So what's next for ChinahBlac? She's working on her debut album. "It’s more of the lyrical content of 'Keep Your Word.' I call it evolutionary music. You can listen to songs and see the storyboard lyrically and apply that to your life to move forward. It’s feel-good music. It’s music that’s going to change your life, and change your situation, change your outcome. I feel like god has given me a gift and platform to create change for people through music."
Fans can look forward to more aggressive soul and her cinematic production style on the effort. According to her, think Chaka Khan, Kanye West, Sting and Hall & Oates all on one album. If you're feeling the sound of "Keep Your Word," stay tuned for “Dust,” a song centered on the after life.
"It’s really a conversation with my dad. Me and my dad are very close. The hook of it is 'Daddy told me not too long ago that everything you reap is based on what you sow, and then you die but then you rise from the dust.' Just speaking of doing things correctly because we don’t know what happens after," she says of the track. "We believe that there’s a heaven or a hell, we really don’t know. But we believe, so just do right by people, treat people right. Try to live a path that is good, just in case there is something after this life."
Her path in this life is destined for greatness.
Watch ChinahBlac's "Keep Your Word" Video