Drake shouldn’t be the only musician competing for space in your music library when we’ve got so much talent on the come up.
We at Shedoesthecity love bringing local talent to the forefront of Toronto. That’s why I called emerging rapper Xolisa (pronounced Ko-lee-sah) to chat with her about self-care and vulnerability. This walking hyphen (she’s an emcee-songwriter-producer) will be embarking on an international tour to promote the release of her LP “And Gaps Do Lead To Bridges.”
How long have you been emceeing professionally?
I’ve been creating for the past four years though I knew music was the end goal. I took piano lessons and singing lessons when I realized that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
Everybody has a voice, but emcees use theirs as an instrument. How have you learned to use yours?
It’s difficult at times because of what you want to sound like when you’re singing compared to how you actually sound. The instructor is not trying to get you to the point where you sound like Beyoncé. Instead, it’s about learning how to discipline your own voice – how to hold parts of it back, how to let it go and use it all. Learning how to sing in a way that’s healthy for your vocal chords is also very important.
What measures must you take in order to take care of your voice?
If I have a show, I’ll do everything it takes to keep my vocal chords strong. It’s easy to take it for granted, especially if I’m in a good place with it. I make sure to avoid dairy products. I drink a lot of water! I have to watch what I eat because I can’t perform on an empty stomach, but I also can’t be too full.
Do you have any rituals to calm performance jitters before you rap?
Before a performance I have to slow down and settle before I go on. It’s all about taking the time to centre myself first. It’s tough to find that balance when you’re first starting out, and it’s certainly something that I struggled with. There is such a thing as rehearsing too much! You have to give yourself enough time to check in with yourself.
Do you meditate?
Yes! People think that it’s all about lighting some incense and sitting in the lotus position for hours on end, but it can mean so much more than that depending on what works for you. I am a much stronger performer and person when I take time out of my day to slow down. I meditate daily, when I first wake up in the morning and before I go to sleep. It helps when I’m touring, and I need that consistency.
What other methods of self-care do you use?
I just had four colds back to back, so I’m trying really hard to focus on being thankful and practicing gratitude and recognizing the people who I really cherish. Another important piece is noticing how stress affects me and my relationships. When you’re stressed out, you’re not always kind to the people who often need it the most. That being said, it’s not a valid excuse.
The type of work that you do requires balancing vulnerability with exposure. How do you navigate that?
The cool thing about song writing is that I can disguise what I want to and expose what I want to. It’s just my heart and my secrets and I’m still in control. There are still things that I keep close to my chest because they’re personal. It also helps to remove myself as the subject of the music; this new album is not so much about me as it is about what we’re going through as a human race. Now I’m talking about things I’ve never spoken about, at least not in such a public manner, like being a black woman.
Which black women inspire you?
Definitely Nina Simone. I tried not to read anything about her recent biopic, even though I heard about the controversy. I wanted to listen and make my own choice. Besides her, I find myself drawn to women who have stood up for themselves, women like Lauryn Hill and Assata Shakur.
To find out more about Xolisa, her music and her international tour, visit www.xolisamusic.com