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Flowers in the Pavement: Sharifa Nadine (baebnae)

Disclaimer: mention of recreational drugsI’ve always had a bittersweet relationship with NYC (or how most of us call it, the city). It is my home, and I wouldn’t be from anywhere else, but the more we progress the more chaos takes over an already crowded place. Daily life can be overwhelming, and you’ll have more racing thoughts than all the trains in the city. But something I will always appreciate is the art. Whether it’s photography, studio art, film, or music, I love to see how the artists from the city express and interpret their unique life experiences. I also believe that living in a place like NYC forces a certain kind of creativity since most of us don’t have the space to be in complete solitude and create. Peace of mind doesn’t really exist there. Nonetheless, the way people express themselves in the city is truly beautiful and I will always have a deep gratitude for being able to be surrounded by so many different perspectives and forms of expression. In this piece, I was able to interview Sharifa Nadine. I went to high school with them and since then they’ve started releasing music on SoundCloud. I wanted to write something that highlights all the undiscovered talent, specifically coming from women and femmes, that lies hidden in the cracks of the city. Fortunately, Sharifa agreed to answer some of my questions and I’m appreciative that they’ve allowed me (and now the audience) to get a glimpse into their mind and creative inspirations. At the time of writing this, Sharifa only had two singles out, but since they’ve released an EP that I more than encourage everyone to listen to!  For a brief introduction Sharifa Nadine, using the stage name bæbnæ, is 20 years old and from Jamaica, Queens. They attend Ithaca College and use she, her/they, them pronouns. Unfortunately, I was only able to interview Sharifa through email, so I’ve listed my questions and their responses in a Q&A format below. Meet bæbnæ: Q: What is your favorite uniquely NYC experience? A: My Favorite NYC experience is riding on the 7 train towards flushing and being completely indecisive about which side of the train to sit on, because once you go above ground the view is gorgeous from either side. My dilemma is I never know which one is better, so I switch sides every time I get on that train. Q: Did growing up in NYC inspire your music in any way or influence your music style?  A: Growing up in such artistic diversity made me appreciate all different genres of music and it encouraged me to explore genre bending which is something I strive to do with my pieces. I am also constantly inspired by the musical influences from the city specifically queens like Nicki Minaj and Nas. Q: Is there a specific moment you decided you wanted to pursue music, or has it been something you always knew you wanted to do?  A: I think I always knew I was a songwriter, I decided for sure at the end of the first semester of my sophomore year in college when I picked up a ukulele which was the first instrument I taught myself. Q: What/who are your biggest musical inspirations?  A: My biggest musical inspirations are Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rico Nasty, Arctic Monkeys (Alex Turner is an incredible song writer), Willow Smith 100%, Mitsky, Abra, All-American Rejects, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Tame Impala, Rihanna, The Cranberries, SZA, Lauryn Hill, and so many more. And I am inspired to write music for and about those who are confused and feel a little bit lost because their minds don’t exactly work the way our society requires them to. Q: What was your coming-of-age album (or song) and why?  A: My coming of age album was untitled unmastered by Kendrick Lamar just because that piece opened my eyes up to so much as a lyricist and as an activist. Q: Does being in college make your creative process easier or more difficult and how so?  A: Being college gives me less time to indulge in my creative processes in terms of composing actual music, but I find lots of inspiration from the growth and knowledge I gain from it. Q: Do you see yourself sticking to one genre of music or sampling multiple genres? A: I definitely dabble in alternative R&B and Indie pop rock. I find that sampling and bending genres is the only way I can actually make music I like because of my eclectic taste. 
Q: What is one message you want to convey with your music?  A: I want to make sure that people understand that they don’t have to have everything figured out, that life isn’t supposed to be cookie cutter and linear. EVERYTHING is a learning process, our careers, how and who we love, even how we love ourselves.  We are constantly growing and we deserve spaces and opportunities that allow us to reach our full potential as beings outside of all the restrictions we face.  Q: Your songs – “Somnus AKA (buss anotha fit)" and “brownlicker” – are both beautiful while utilizing different styles and techniques. What was your inspiration behind both songs and what made you decide to use a produced beat/melody for “Somnus AKA (buss anotha fit)” and a ukulele melody for “brownlicker”?  A: I wrote brownlicker the morning before my first shrooms trip. The ukulele melody had been in my head for a while like musical composition usually is. I find that my subconscious cooks up the chords and progression long before I can actually get the chance to hear it out on an instrument. I woke up that morning turned to my partner at the time and said we gotta trip today then proceeded to reach over for my ukulele and fleshed out the chord progression. After an hour or so I had the rough lyrics as well. Then I took a break ate some shrooms and at the peak of my trip I revisited the concept and it sounded completely different. My inspiration for the lyrics of the song are just to highlight what it’s like to see love through a rose-colored lens and expect that the brown skinned girl you’re in love with will always be yours. As for Somnus I wrote the song purely for manifestation purposes. I wrote it with my closest friends in mind, the ones whose families have struggled, the ones who know what it’s like to have huge dreams and be a poor kid in the united states. My friends and all the other kids in that position who are extremely talented and intelligent and are just looking for a way to express that, contribute to the world, and make their mothers proud. I chose a produced beat for that song because I really liked the way it flowed with my lyrics and I admire producers and love to support their work.  Q: What do you want your music career to look like in 5 years?  A: In 5 years I’d like to have a larger fan base and be on tour, performing across the world and sharing my art to those who are willing to experience it. I’ll be making my mark the way I know how. I also hope to have a or two songs in a couple films and commercials.  Q: Let’s say you’re only allowed to listen to one music artist for the rest of your life, who would you pick and why? A: I would pick Beyoncé because her discography is enormous and she has range. :) 
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