We were first introduced to Melissa Czarnik when we got the press release for the song “Saturday” that she did with The Eric Mire Band. We were feeling it and reached out to Melissa to find out more about her. Here is the 2nd installation of the Artist Intelligence series…
Not too many rappers hail from Milwaukee, what inspired you to get into rap?
I grew up on hip hop, in a way it raised me. I began at an early age sitting on the phone with friends writing down the lyrics to our favorite songs…when I got older I would go to parties and jump in on ciphers. But I didn’t begin to take writing serious until about 19 when I was trying to form an all female emcee group with my homegirl Erica Heisdorf Bisquerra…but that sort of fell apart and eventually I linked up with Eric Mire who has been my producer ever since.
You fuse a lot of different sounds in the creation of your music, what are some of your major musical influences?
My major influences are probably jazz, hip hop and r&b.
If you had to describe yourself with any one of your bars, what would it be?
“Constantly pushin’ boundaries, went from trolley to worldly, I’m the avant-garde amongst your normalcy.”
Not many rap artists perform with live bands, but you often perform with the Eric Mire Band. How did you and Eric link up and how do you feel that influences your music and live shows?
Eric and I linked up about 8 years ago when he was the producer of another Milwaukee hip hop group called the Nowhere Mine. We had a natural chemistry. Similarly, the Eric Mire Band came about the same way, one by one we all connected and immediately vibed.
The band doesn’t really influence my writing as much as it influences my live show because often the songs are written before I ever play them with the band.
It’s not until after the song is written and or recorded that Eric and I bring it to the band, unless of course a member of the band is featured on the track. The band operates a lot like a jazz band. Eric creates music charts and then the band improvises or puts their own style or flavor on the track… Our live show is never the same, songs are always done slightly different then the last time we played it. As an emcee I really dig that because it keeps me on my toes and I’m never bored.
What are your 3 favorite songs, not by you?
Right now, I’ve been listening to these three a lot… Nneka’s “Heartbeat,” Mulatu Astatke’s “Yegelle Tezeta” and an all-time fav Outkast’s “spottieottiedopaliscious.”
What are some of your favorite artists to listen to in your free time?
Muhsinah, Outkast, Zap Mama, Maxwell, Tchaikovsky, Nina Simone, Diamond District, Grant Green, Gilberto Gil, Goapele, John Coltrane, Anita Tijoux… This list could really go on and on!
With the rise of artists like Nicki Minaj, the state of the female MC in hip-hop has been in even more debate than usual. What changes do you think need to be made so that women are seen as equal participants in the arena of hip-hop?
Artists like Nicki Minaj are so fabricated, so plastic, so wack. I would suggest checking out Invincible’s short video, “The Revival” for some footage on the REAL status of women in hip hop. I think the underground scene is where real hip hop is for all emcees, men and women. You can’t believe the status quo. Search out good music. Great hip hop is happening underground all over the world, I think that goes for both female and male emcees in hip hop.
You dropped Strawberry Cadillac in 2008 and have been featured on a few other Hyperdrive Motivator releases, what other projects should we be on the lookout from you in the near future?
Ahhhh yes! I have set a release date for my new album, July 31st! Look for it worldwide on iTunes, cdbaby, and www.melissaczarnik.com.
What would success in the music industry be to you?
Success to me would be touring the world and sharing my music with millions upon millions! There are so many places in the world I want to see, what better way to do that then by sharing my art and having it appreciated.
If you could pick any artist to collaborate on a project with, who would it be?
I’d have to say Lauryn Hill, because she is to me one of the best artists ever to grace the stage. Lyrically, vocally, and spiritually she sets the standard for what I think is top-notch artistry.
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