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Stories · 7. Sister Haero Interview
There are only a handful of female Muslim artists in the world today. These few, yet bold individuals are leading the way in halal self-expression. Giving young Muslims girls an alternative role model to Britney and Christina, its incredibly refreshing to see a female artist being appreciated for her message, and not her sex appeal. Sporting hijab with a hip hop twist, Sister Haero proves that Muslim girls can be stylish, expressive and pious. Mashallah. MuslimHipHop.com took some time out with Haero to get the full story:

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Where are you from originally? How did you get involved in hip hop?

SISTER HAERO: My parents are from Kurdistan in northern Iraq, and Ive been in the States since I was 11-months-old, so this really is the only place I know as home. I used to write poetry when I was real young, but I didnt start rhyming until I was almost 20I saw Cannabis freestyling at a show and I turned to my brother and said I wanna do that, and then next thing I know Im writing spoken word pieces and rhymes, Alhamdulillah. From there I started to go to different spots to perform, and after some time organizations began inviting me to their events to host or perform. After a few years, I decided it was time to step up my game and record my music and spoken word, and I began freestyling, so that aspect brought more attention to me as an artist. Around the same time, I started getting into music. I began listening more to hip-hop and also joined the MSU (Muslim Student Union) on campus. I went to San Diego State University; and my disappointment with the current music of the time, and my new-found love of Islam, brought out a lot in me and I began to write about what I was feeling. I began writing stuff that was expressive, yet tasteful, at the same time. I actually had stopped listening to the radio because I was sick of hearing the same commercial songs over and over, and the music that was out wasn't challenging my mental state. The only time I listen to the radio now is if Im around others who are listening to itcause it really doesn't fulfill me at all. Id rather just listen to the CD's I have.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What music has inspired you the most?

SISTER HAERO: WowI love a lot of artists: from Mos Def, J5, Common, De La, Pharcyde, The Roots, Pacto Maxwell, Marvin Gaye, old school Jodeci, Brand Nubian, Digable Planetsthe list goes on. I like listening to jazz as well...any particular artist? No. But most of the time I stick to the hip-hop. Every now-and-then, I'll listen to R&B, but I have to be in the mood for that. If I had to pick, I would rather listen to a hip-hop love song than an R&B love joint. That's just how I am. Some of my favorite songs are Pete Rock and CL Smoothe's "T.R.O.Y.", "Award Tour" by Tribe, and "Act II" by The Roots f/ Common.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What do you want your listeners to know about in your songs?

SISTER HAERO: Basically, Im inspired to write about life, whether its about politics, the ups-and-downs of relationships, the music industry and trying to make it in the game, to my family, societywhat I see around me, what I experience, things I would like to achieve in life. Sometimes, I'll get on that "Im tighter than you are tip," depending on the beat. A lot of times the beat dictates what Im going to be writing about. I may have a topic that I want to touch upon, but if I don't have a beat that fits it, I won't write it. Usually, I'll hear a beat and then be like "ahhh, this is the hook...can you hear what it's sayin?" Because for me a lot of times the music is "talkin", so I write what I hear and just go with the flow of it all.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What is it like being a female Muslim artist? Do you get a lot of friction from Muslims?

SISTER HAERO: I love being a Muslimah artist, because so many people have stereotypes about Muslim women (we dont have fun, were not allowed to state our opinions or showcase our talents, etc.), and I feel like Im helping to break those stereotypes every time I step to the mic. And in regard to Muslims, mashallah, Ive gotten a lot of support within the communities. Every now and then of course, I have to deal with more conservative people who prefer that I perform WITHOUT music. Alhamdulillahthough its frustrating, I appreciate the fact that theyve taken the step toward inviting sisters to their events to perform. I look at it as a small step toward progression, and Inshallah Id like to be a part of that in any way possible.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What are your plans for the future musically?

SISTER HAERO: What ever Allah willsthere are benefits to getting a deal as well as remaining independent, but right now Im just trying to stay focused on getting that message out there and giving dawah. Whatever comes, comes, and if it doesnt, Ima stay doing my thing as long as Allah continues to bless me. Im just blessed to be around not just talented people, but talented Muslims. And a lot of the people Im working with are donating their time and services, so JAZAKALLAH KHAIR to all of them...y'all know who u are! Honestly, I would love to get to the point where Im bringing in enough to pay back all these people who have helped me along the way, and who continue to help me. So if staying independent does that, coppin that record deal does that, then Inshallah it will manifest.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: How is the Muslim artist scene when you lived in San Diego?

SISTER HAERO: (laughs)Thats a good one! I actually got frustrated and moved to L.A. so I could more actively pursue the music career, but San Diego seems to be growing. Its a more conservative city, and there just arent as many venues or events to perform at or frequent. I still go back and do shows because I still have to show love to the place I came up in. But really, LA is a perfect fit for me. I don't know how long I'll be here, but I find myself sayin "I love LA" a few times a week. Despite not having my family around, I really feel like Im at home.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Outside of music, what do you do?

SISTER HAERO: I currently work at an after school program in South Central L.A., so that keeps me pretty busy. If Im not writing or working on a song or poem, I stay busy trying to schedule studio time and getting my hands on more beats. And of course, I go back to San Diego to visit my family. I just get out and about the city and meet up with good peoples...Im a busy body. I don't like being at home unless Im asleep or eating, otherwise I don't feel productive. I make it a thing to always "be somewhere." My mom (may Allah have Mercy on her soul) always said "you never like being at your own home," and she was oh so right! Even my cousin Suz (and roommate) knows when Im bored and need to get out of the house. She'll just start laughing at me and call me out on it.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What projects are you working on?

SISTER HAERO: I am currently working on recording my album, doing shows whenever and wherever needed, and making as many contacts as possible. I always try to stay productive somehow. Inshallah, Im doing a spoken word piece about police brutality for a documentary in San Diego, and Inshallah I'll be featured in an upcoming book about women in America. I've actually been featured in another book called "California 24/7" recently about being a Muslim female who raps, so Alhamdulillah I've been blessed to have good things come my way.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: The Muslim Ummah has been struggling latelyhow can we make change?

SISTER HAERO: Making dua. It can get frustrating, because we seem to be bringing ourselves down, but we have to stay positive. And also we have to support each otherthats very important, especially as Muslim artists. But really, the best thing is to make dua. We need more Muslim artists to get out there and actually PERFORM their work and showcase their talent. I don't know how many times I've heard a sister spit a poem or rap, and Im like "you need to share that!" and I'll hear "Im shy" or "I write just for me, not to do in front of others." But see, that's good and all, but we have to be an example for the many, many, MANY Muslim youth that are coming up and need someone that they can look up to. So even if it's on a "lower level" we've got to get out there and share our talents, our outlook on life and our perspectives.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: How has your local Muslim community responded to your music?

SISTER HAERO: Mashallah, Ive gotten a pretty good response. I think more Muslims are beginning to realize that we, as Muslim artists, are the ones they want their children to follow and support, so they are much more eager to support us.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: How do you feel about Islam?

SISTER HAERO: I would be NOBODY, I would be NOWHERE without Islam.

MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What would you like to say to your fans?

SISTER HAERO: Jazakallah khair to everyone who has supported me and the other Muslim artists as well. It is a blessing to be able to do what we do, and Inshallah were able to inspire others as well as make a positive impact within society as a whole. Stay strong, and make dua for us all, those who are oppressed all over the world, and remember our political prisoners like Imam Jamil. *throws fist in air* Dawud, Shaydia, and Aliya (my nephew and nieces) my biggest fans...there's no better feeling than to hear them sing my hooks. If they were the ONLY ones in the world who heard my music or who recited my lyrics, it would all be worth it! Jazakallah khair for blessing me with this interview. I appreciate all the support and hard work you all have put in.

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