Local Mic: Safia Mafia

BY BLENDED STAFF

LOCAL MIC IS A BLENDED SERIES DEDICATED TO HIGHLIGHTING BUDDING ARTISTS IN THE LOCAL MUSIC SCENE.

PHOTO: Safia Mafia

PHOTO: Safia Mafia

Oakland-born singer-songwriter Safia Mafia is a name you’ll want to remember. Last year, Safia had the opportunity to perform at the 2018 BET Experience and share her music to a greater audience. Her break into the music industry has been anything but easy, but Safia Mafia will stop at nothing to do what she loves. Blended’s Hillary Kline chatted with Safia and discussed the hardships she’s faced and how these have only encouraged her to grind harder.

Tell us how you got your musical start?

I initially started with writing poetry as a kid. In my late teens I started writing songs and eventually recorded my first track in a friend’s bedroom studio. I just hit the ground running from there.

For someone who has never heard of your music before, how would you describe it?

My music is definitely a mashup of R&B, pop, etc. I like to blend genres. It’s like R&B with a twist.

Let’s talk about your EP entitled Pure. Talk to us more on the meaning behind this song and what it represents to you?

Pure was my very first body of work I ever released. I named it Pure firstly, because “Safia” means “pure” in Arabic. Secondly, because there was so much raw emotion in that EP. At the time, I was coming out of my lowest low emotionally and felt I had been broken down to my purest parts. It’s kinda hard for me to listen to those songs now without getting choked up...

You just released your first full-length project, Love Kills, which is an eclectic album featuring Guapdad 4000. Tell us more about this project and your feelings on its release? 

Love Kills is my first album, and the first body of work I was able to be completely open with. I lyrically put myself out there in a way I literally couldn’t a year or two ago. It’s very direct, honest, and I didn’t pull any punches. These are real stories, true emotions. Guapdad 4000 is the only feature on the project, and he’s also the first person I ever had featured on a released track of mine. The “Weed & Wine” session was a great time! He’s super talented and hilarious!

PHOTO: Safia Mafia

PHOTO: Safia Mafia

You talk about how you were homeless and living out of your vehicle. Tell us how that experience shaped you into the artist you are today?

I was homeless when I first moved to LA from Oakland. I wasn’t living out of my car, but I was couch surfing between 3 people’s houses. I wouldn’t spend more than a few days at each person’s place ‘cause I didn’t want them to get tired of seeing me and put me out. That lasted a few months until I was able to get myself together. It really shaped the artist and person I am today because I know what I’m capable of when my back’s against the wall. This industry is so fickle and is full of ups and downs. You really gotta be a beast to survive, and those early days in LA proved to me that if you back me against a wall, I’ll come out swinging.

What is your message to artists trying to break into the industry?

(Laughs) I’m still trying to break into the industry myself! What I will say is, if you want to get a foothold in it, you have to do the work. Learn who you are musically. Learn what makes you unique. How do you want to present to the world? Then, work your butt off! Get really good at your sound and be consistent and authentically you. People will respect that and take notice.

Who are some of your musical influences?

I’m literally a fan of music! I grew up listening to pretty much every genre, so I have been influenced by so many great musicians and artists. One artist I’ve always respected vocally was Billie Holiday. Even as a kid, I can remember noticing the honesty and vulnerability in her voice. You believe every word she sings. She wasn’t a powerhouse vocalist, but she could bring you to your knees. I always admired that.

If you could have just one musician to collaborate with, out of the entire industry, who would it be with and why?

This question is always so hard for me to answer ‘cause there are so many artists I love... SZA, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, Sampha – (laughs) – I can’t choose!

What is next for Safia Mafia?

What’s next for me most immediately is the visual for my next single, “Drive.” I’m very excited about that! I’m also back in the studio and looking forward to dropping new music soon. Also looking forward to more shows coming down the pipeline. Just out here working and tryna get it!

Check out Safia Mafia's first full-length project, Love Kills, on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services.

Lead Image Credit: Safia Mafia