A new-age femme fatale, Seattle-area rapper Xxngel Baby combines nineties hip hop glamour with new-age trap bass. Her biting bars reflect her poised and assertive nature; the bold wit of her lyricism is perfect for the task of breaking into a male-dominated genre. As a woman in STEM, this arena is nothing new to her. She embraces the intersectional feminist label and dedicates her music to girls like her in hopes of empowering them by living in her truth and transcending despite the odds.
I had a chance to sit down with Xxngel Baby and discuss her latest single, “Aaliyah” which is an homage to hip hop’s baby girl with a Black feminist touch.
What did you have in mind when you wrote Aaliyah? What inspired you during the creation?
Aaliyah is definitely more of an aesthetic song with social commentary about black women in hip hop/black women and anime/black women and personal agency that you have to read between the lines to pick up on. For example, It’s nothing new to compliment a black woman by saying she looks like Aaliyah and she has her energy, but I think it’s new for a black woman herself to decide that. It’s usually a compliment bestowed on them by a man, you know?
Aaliyah is the ultimate feminine muse of hip hop and black culture, it’s an honor to be likened to her and I don’t believe men actually have the ability to tell if a woman has an Aaliyah kind of appeal or not. Her energy was too feminine- she’s for the girls. How could they comprehend the depth of such an ultra-feminine woman?
I wanted to be a little controversial when I added the lyric: “need a Jet Li”. I didn’t want another song where the black woman goes for the hood dude. Mostly, because there’s plenty of songs like that out and I think that’s what they’d like to hear. I wanted to make a song women would like to hear and that was more accurate to the lives black women live now. Interracial dating is a thing that isn’t talked about, or even accepted for black women. “Looking like a Aaliyah, Need a Jet Li” is a statement of personal agency, self-confidence, femininity and authenticity.
Aaliyah isn’t about any one thing it’s more of a statement: I’m a black woman and I do what I want and fuck how you feel about it. Like most of my songs.
Why is this particular song special to you?
It means a lot to me because I get to pay homage to Aaliyah as a black woman. I think it’s usually men doing that and they rarely get it right. Again, I just don’t think her artistry is for them to consume like that. And I think black women are owed a lot more than we are given in the hip-hop space. Black women are the muse of hip hop and hip hop is the muse of the world, so I think black women should realize the power and personal agency we have that is usually denied to us.
What has your musical journey been like so far?
Not very musical! When I first bought Ableton, I would produce all day and night- I have TONS of songs I’ve written and memorized- but I didn’t have much to say. It wasn’t until I started maturing and gaining experience that I could write anything I actually liked. So, I’m not locked in a studio all day trying to make stuff happen, you know. I’m living my life and when I get the urge to write, I do. I like the songs I write this way. I can’t put out a song that is meaningless to me and I don’t like songs unless I’m making a statement about something I’m passionate about (like I did with Aaliyah). I don’t really care if other people see the meaning or not -as long as it feels personal to me I can feel good about putting it out.
What are your goals? Tell us your biggest hopes and dreams as an artist.
I want to put out a serious body of work. I think I’ve gotten very political as I’ve grown up, and I have a lot to say about being a black woman now. And, more importantly, I think what I have to say other black women would want to hear. I go into writing a song thinking, “What hasn’t been said that I wish could be said?”. I’m already writing for this..opus. It’s very intentional writing and very personal and political, and my hope is that it resonates with other black women and moves them to explore themselves more. I don’t think we are ever allowed the space to ask ourselves ‘Who am I really and How do I feel about that?’.
I read a lot of black feminist books and I’m so grateful to the women that wrote them for putting their thoughts to paper so someone like me could find them. Their words make living my life a little easier and less lonely. I want to do the same with songwriting.
You’re also a woman in STEM, and you’re very passionate about this. Let’s talk about the future you see for Black tech in music!
Yes! Black tech is making waves in music and in the culture already. Rappers are the first to perform to acclaim in different metaverses, black musicians are investing heavily into tech and web3, you know, shout out Ashanti for being the first black woman to invest into web3 publicly. I think people in hip-hop culture are natural risk-takers because of our backgrounds, and investing in tech for your music is a risk that they’re taking. I believe this is part of why the biggest trends in mainstream culture start out in hip-hop culture. It’s that risk factor -that fearlessness to try things that may not yield anything for you but feels good to do because it’s what you were curious to do.
I think that tech isn’t a welcoming space for the casual onlooker, but hip hop culture is making it more accessible to people because that’s what hip hop does. Everyone feels more comfortable in hip hop culture. One, because it’s a very accepting culture, and two, hip hop doesn’t have a choice but to be accepting to everyone anyway. People who come from more privilege and maybe get outcasted in their own social spheres feel an entitlement to hip hop culture to accept them, just like they do to the black bodies that keep it going, but what are you going to do?
All that to say, hip hop and black tech go hand-in-hand and risks get taken that will lead to some cool new trends that will transcend music. It’s a cycle and hip hop and black tech will continue this cycle. I actually have a song coming out on June 24th called “Black Tech” that draws inspiration from this cycle.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
More music. More catchy tunes. More controversy. More political statements and more tech projects. I don’t show my techy side that much in my music, but I’m working on a cool app that I’m excited to share more about. More creativity in general, there’s so much I want to say and do with music. I feel like I’m doing what I can right now considering my full-time student status but I’m nowhere near the level I’m capable of with this rapping thing.
If you’d like to connect with Xxngel Baby you can find her on all social media platforms @XxngelBaby. You don’t want to miss this up-and-comer making serious waves!