It’s not every day you come across an R&B singer who also is heavily influenced by bounce music. Bounce music and R&B music couldn’t be any further apart from one another in terms of style and musical content. But somehow Raqi Lily makes it work, and not only that, she creates a completely new style by infusing the two styles together.
I got a chance to sit down with Raqi and have her open up to us about some of the processes and emotions involved with creating her own musical style.
Who is Raqi Lily?
Powerful question. Raqi Lily is an artist and woman in self-discovery. I am a singer and songwriter. So much of my artistry is rooted in that question: Who are you? I’m constantly on a quest to learn who I am piece by piece, the ugly and the beautiful.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Wilmington, DE.
What or who are some of your musical influences?
My music is totally inspired by my upbringing. I was raised by a phenomenal single mother. She taught me from very early on to keep rooted in my relationship with God. She also taught me to have an appreciation for various cultures and religions. There were times where we would go to a pentecostal church one day and then hit a Messianic Jewish synagogue. Those roots in spirituality and culture have always inspired me to reach beyond the obvious in music. I’m a huge Lauren Hill fan. I love everything from Big Freedia to Dawn Richard to Tina Turner to Tiwa Savage. I love soca, afrobeat, reggae and r&b. I’m so inspired by these beautiful sounds that make you want to dance.
If you were to take our readers on a tour of where you come from, what would we see? What experiences can you share with us that led you down this path of chasing your dreams?
My hometown and experience of it were really the best of both worlds. My mother struggled to raise my sister and me, so my primary stomping grounds were the west side of Wilmington. On the flip side, my mother kept us in Catholic schools. I had this interesting experience of poverty on one hand, but then being amongst the elite. I would take you to Madison St. I would show you my old school St. Peter’s Cathedral. Of course, I would have to take you to my favorite food spots that only Delaware folks would know like Fry Corner, Minato’s, A&G, and Suki Hana. I also love that Delaware is growing. We have this awesome area called the riverfront in downtown Wilmington. I believe my experience of both sides in poverty and wealth gave me balance. The struggle humbled me and the exposure to wealth made me want to give other people that same exposure. I hope to bring that in my music. I hope to create songs that bridge that gap. I hope my music and what I represent makes the wealthy understand the poor and makes the poor push thrive instead of surviving.
How do you come up with the ideas for your songs?
With my new EP Queen – It really was a collaboration between my producer Giz and myself. I knew the theme of the EP and that I wanted to share my vulnerability, but I also wanted people to dance. I call it twerking to a message (laughs). Giz created great sounds I could move to and I would start off with following that with melody and lyrics.
Who are some of your favorite producers to work with? How do you go about finding the right producer for the kind of sound that you’re looking for?
I’m currently working with Giz of Crazy 100. I call it divine timing. I was searching for years for a producer that got me. I wanted someone that had an ear and heart for what I liked, but also not afraid to create music with a message. I knew he was the one when I said hey I want my music to feel like the aliens have landed in Africa to twerk/whine hips and bring a message. He was just like cool I understand lol. I think finding the right producer for me took time. When I first started out I would just buy beats off of guys, but then I just kept praying for God to bring me someone that could help me bring my vision alive. I was patient and thankfully God came through. I was introduced to Giz by a friend of mine who was looking to do a Gospel concert series. I think when you bring positive energy and speak into the atmosphere what you are looking for it will come to you.
The reason that I asked the previous question is because your style is quite unique as I see that there’s some R&B, Soca, and bounce music infused into some of your work. What decides for you on what kind of music you will work on today for example? Since the styles are different, do you just go with the flow or is there a specific method you use to keep the creative juices flowing?
I think every song is different and it really just depends on what is on my heart that day. My process is to go to the studio, pray, and then talk to my producer about what is at the front of my heart. Sometimes I may say hey I’m in a dancing mood and he will toy with a few drums. Sometimes I say I’m feeling heavy and we will go for slower tunes. My goal is just to always let it flow. Sometimes my mood is soca. Sometimes it’s r&b.
Who would you want to work with that’s currently in the industry?
There are definitely tons of artists I would love to work with. My motto is to say when I’m on a world tour who would be the lineup. My go to folks are Erykah Badu, Dawn Richard, Sza, Iyanya, Tiwa Savage.
What’s your favorite thing about being an artist?
My favorite part about being an artist is that for me it’s both therapeutic and worship. It’s therapy because I’m being the most honest I have ever been with myself. It’s worship because by sharing my heart I believe others will grow and be healed as well.
What’s your future plans? Anything that you’re currently working on?
I just finished my first EP. It’s called Queen and comes out late February. My plans for the future are to share this new music and definitely perform a ton. I have been locked up in the studio and can’t wait to share what I’ve been working on.