Sensitivity and its power often get overlooked and at times is mislabeled as a weakness. And while most may attempt to hide it, real strength is found in the confident embrace of one’s own skin. All which are an assortment of variables that Los Angeles-based artist Raquel Rodriguez continues to explore and share.
On the artist’s latest single “Crybaby,” feat. Ill Camille, Rodriguez reclaims the word meant to belittle, and honors the understanding as a sign of growth. The West Coast drizzled production knocks on nostalgic doors and is warmed by Rodriguez’s tone. Jagged synths harmoniously move with each bass line for a crisp inflection of self-love. It’s a seamless follow-up from “Nobody Else” in sound and concept, alluding to the artist’s eagerly awaited sophomore album, Sweet Side.
The messaging up to this point comes from an artist who took time to self-examine and craft a sound that was more authentic to her story. Sharing with LADYGUNN that the project will now be released in two parts, the first half due in September reveals more of Rodriguez’s identity and acts as a “coming of age” album. “I think the listener will get a wider spectrum of who I am compared to any of my other bodies of work,” says Rodriguez on Sweet Side.
From empowerment to self-love, Rodriguez’s introspection melts against her neo-soul production. LADYGUNN was able to catch up with the artist to discuss her live stream performances, identity, and hand-crafted merch yet to come.
First, I saw that you recently lost your dog of 17 years, Dodger, and I just want to say I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you are doing well.
Thank you, definitely doing a lot better now. We miss Dodger but we’re happy to have gotten a beautiful 17 years with him. <3
During your last talk with LADYGUNN you expressed that after The 310 Pt. 2 came out you “realized” you weren’t where you wanted to be, which came on the heels of the messaging from your track “Nobody Else” and holding yourself accountable for your own success. To now follow-up with “Crybaby,” which puts away any shame of being “overly sensitive” and as you stated, is an ode to your emotions. What made you showcase more introspective tracks?
For me, one of my biggest insecurities was always my sensitivity. I feel things very deeply and for a long time I was ashamed of that because people would call me a crybaby. That led me to make certain decisions that weren’t ultimately the best for me. Being more open and upfront is now something I’ve been proud of myself for doing. I think the more open I am and the more I own it, the more I realize there’s nothing to be ashamed of. People react to things differently and I never claimed to be perfect. So, if I need to cry, then damnit I’m going to cry. Relative to “Nobody Else,” being able to acknowledge your emotions and be comfortable with them is a sign of growth and taking responsibility.
On “Crybaby” one of my favorite verses comes towards the end and you have this line where you state: “I admit I can’t keep it all in / and you can’t keep a real woman down.” Can you elaborate what you meant here?
Well, I can’t take credit for that rap verse. Ill Camille killed this verse and I’m so grateful she was down to be featured on the track with me. If I had to tell you MY interpretation of it, it’s got some really clever word play that shows how women have often been put down for being “emotional,” so we’ve been taught to just keep it in. Real women won’t accept that anymore though. We can be emotional and full of tears, but we are also strong and won’t be criticized for showing our emotions. We are the ones that teach the world empathy.
Are there any reminders to yourself you’ve made on this album? Such as self-love and empowerment.
Oh definitely. The first half of the album that’s coming out in September has a few songs all about self-love and empowerment. It’s almost a “coming of age” album where I’m going through a lot of self-realization and learning how to be happy with myself.
Would you say that this album explores more of your identity? Coming from my definition of what makes you, you, to however you define identity as.
I’d say a lot of this album explores more parts of my identity. It’s not an album just about love, or about sadness. It’s a bit more about the complex parts of my life but without overthinking or overwriting anything. I think the listener will get a wider spectrum of who I am compared to any of my other bodies of work.
Speaking of empowerment, I noticed that you recently participated in the “challenge accepted” chain on Instagram to show solidarity with the women of Turkey who are being murdered. You quoted a very powerful line by Melinda Gates [A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman] that seems to speak louder every time I reread it. With that being said, how do you feel you, and really any woman/womxn, can use their voice for the women of Turkey?
I think first acknowledging that the black & white photo challenge was meant for something specific is a good start. Although I think women empowering women is beautiful, I think that this challenge was a little lost in translation for a lot of people. The real meaning behind the black & white photo is to show solidarity as in, “it could’ve been me.” Every time a woman goes missing or gets murdered in Turkey their photo is posted in black & white. In 2019 I believe 419 women were murdered and the Turkish government doesn’t hold their murderers accountable and it allows for the mistreatment and abuse towards Turkish women. There’s a petition I just signed to be able to help fight the Turkish government.
Officially you already shared three singles from your upcoming album Sweet Side and there is a notable amount of West Coast funk embedded in the production’s DNA. Not that funk or R&B is new to your discography, but was there a specific vision in mind when you called on the G-funk and nostalgic sounds?
It’s definitely a sound I grew up with that I felt I hadn’t touched on enough yet. That’s probably one of the most influential sounds for me, but it took us awhile to get it right. It had to be exactly the vibe, but the “Raquel version”, or else it just wouldn’t make the cut.
You’ve also been hosting The Sweet Side Show, where you premiere a couple of songs from the album every Sunday, along with requests and at times special guests, which is a neat way to interact with your audience. Has this made you realize the importance of performing live, regardless of the medium?
Performing live is one of my favorite aspects of being an artist. It’s something I feel confident doing and it’s something I’ve always really felt made the connection between me and my fans even stronger. I think having the live stream has shown me that the music listeners need music just as much as the music makers. I obviously love doing my live streams, but to be honest, I started doing them for me. I just really missed singing with my band and I missed performing for an audience. Each week that goes by, I see people returning and inviting their friends and families because it’s a way for them to get a way and relax for an hour. I didn’t realize people miss going to shows as much as musicians miss putting them on, so I’m grateful for the fans who continue to watch every Sunday.
Typically for albums or lengthy projects there is a sense of secrecy whereas you have been very open with your tracks. Why did you choose to premiere the tracks this way versus waiting until release day?
Well firstly, the whole album is all about being open with my feelings. Also, 2020! This year has thrown us all so many curveballs and I’m just trying to roll with the punches. If things had gone as planned, my album would’ve been out already and I would’ve been on my festival tour by now. Obviously, things are crazy right now so I had to pivot. These songs have been in my back pocket for the last year and I honestly just want people to start hearing them officially or unofficially, especially right now when everyone has time on their hands. We’ve actually decided to split the album into 2 parts just so I can officially release the songs that I’ve previewed so far.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Keep an eye out for my upcoming merch line that is hand-made by me! Excited to use my quarantine time to make cool customized products for my fans.
CONNECT WITH RAQUEL RODRIGUEZ
photos / courtesy of the artist
story / Janette Ayub