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Meet Missy Elliot’s New Protégé, Sharaya J

Sharaya J is a hard one to miss. The diva with the blue hair and bluer lipstick is the latest artist signed to Missy Elliot’s label, The Goldmind Inc, releasing the singles “BANJI” and “Smash Up the Place / Snatch Yo Wigs.”

Speaking of wigs, it was actually Sharaya’s hair that caught Missy Elliott’s attention. As Elliot told Jet Magazine, they were introduced at a party where Sharaya was dancing and rocking huge bangs and a bald in the back. “And I was like, ‘Wow, this makes me think about when I came out with the finger waves,'” said Elliot. “So I said I would help her because it was something unique about her. I felt like okay, she’s colorful—Missy two.”

But Sharaya’s colorful hair and her very authenticity got her into some trouble with record execs. At a meeting set up by Elliot, Sharaya performed “BANJI” with her BANJI Babes. According to Sharaya, the feedback was disheartening:

“The next day we got a call – one of the record execs – and his feedback was we like the record, we think Sharaya has star quality and presence, but the only thing we need to do is just take some of the club clothes off, put on some heels, sell them with sex, then get a weave, and then we’ll be good to go. That took me and Missy aback a little bit because our goal initially coming out was to try to be an authentic version of who I truly was.”

That meeting launched Sharaya’s BANJI movement.

“BANJI” – Sharaya J

“BANJI” stands for: “Be Authentic Never Jeopardize Individuality”, and 2013’s “BANJI” video features the obvious attempt to create a new slang word representing Sharaya’s strong stance on individuality. She’s busting dance moves while rapping, “I’m BANJI, I’m fancy, I’m so fine baby I can’t stand me / You a nominee, baby I’m a Grammy, I’m so hot y’all betta come fan me.” Not the most virtuoso lyrics in the world, but the swag is definitely there. and the style is all her own. (Seriously, who dances and raps at the same time like that?)

Sharaya J’s flow fits well under Missy Elliot’s mentorship, since Elliot also created fun, beat-driven dance songs with don’t-think-so-hard-about-it lyrics. Very hip-pop. The structure of the song is very Missy as well: chameleon and creative. Favorite part? The kiddie break down. Sharaya reminds of ‘90’s Salt-n-Pepa hip-hop, which is very refreshing. Plus, she could probably kick Ciara’s butt on the dance floor. (Hey Missy! How ‘bout a collabo?)

Fun Fact: Prior to becoming a rapper, Sharaya J had quite the blossoming career as a dancer, with cameo spots in Alicia Key’s “Teenage Love Affair,” The-Dream’s “Shawty Is A 10,” Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D. She also worked with in-demand choreographers Laurieann Gibson and Fatima Robinson.

Sharaya’s follow-up single, “Smash Up the Place / Snatch Yo Wigs,” features a quickity-lickety-split flow and more bad-ass dancing. The video is fire, and the Missy cameo is priceless. “Poison” remix is insane. (Seriously, where was the radio-airplay on this?) You can also see Sharaya J spitting girl-power bars in Faith Evans’ just released “I Deserve It.”

September 2013’s VIBE Vixen’s Magazine named Sharaya J as a “rapper to watch.” She definitely is, because you can’t take your eyes off her. Or her blue hair. Why? Because she’s BANJI Certified.


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About the Author


Mic check 1,2,1,2. Not the words you expect to bust out of Orange County, California, but that's where Deborah Jane found her funk. Daughter of Guyanese immigrants, Deborah grew up in an all-white suburb where she was one of the only black kids in her school. (Fun fact: She didn't make her first black friend until attending Stanford University). Hip-hop gave her a voice and helped her discover her roots. Now she is an emcee and writer who both spits raps and writes editorials, TV shows and films - especially hip-hop musicals!

At Stanford, she wrote and produced an award-winning hip-hop musical, Strange Fruit: The Hip-Hopera (www.strangefruithiphopera.com) - now in development as a feature film. Deborah also launched her hip-hip theatre webseries, The HOTT (www.youtube.com/TheHOTTtv), published in Urban Cusp Magazine. Currently, she is penning her first hip-hop album, Do You Love Me Deborah Jane? And do you? She truly hopes you all love her.

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