Vali is a certifiable singing, dancing and writing phenom on the path to dominating the pop charts. A princess in her own right, first lady of Rostrum Records comes from Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, and now lives in LA with plans to set the world on fire.
One would never imagine that someone so sweet and beautiful spent most of her childhood in a neighborhood surrounded by gangs and drugs. Her mother was a single mom who instilled strong values in her. She understood the game at a young age and has been on her grind since a youngin. She sang her first song at the age of 2.
She got her start writing and singing hooks for Wiz Khalifa and now she’s riding the wave of excitement with the release of her latest EP, ‘Paper Charade.’
Vali granted me the privilege of getting into her mind and learning about her struggles growing up as well as the ones she’s faced as a woman in the male dominated music industry. She is one strong, independent and extremely inspiring young woman. If you haven’t had the chance to get to know Vali, check out my one on one interview with her below. This chick definitely got next.
L: Many people don’t know but you’ve been in the game for a while now, princess of Rostrum records and writing for Wiz Khalifa on some of his earlier stuff, what was that like?
V: Well I wasn’t actually signed to Rostrum when I was writing for Wiz. I was still in school too and I was a performer working on my own music. I was writing for other artists and Wiz’s manager who is now my manager, Benjy Grinberg, wanted to hear my music. I played him my songs and he was really impressed so he wanted me to write some hooks for Wiz finally got to go to the studio for the first time and I recorded this song called “Sometimes” which is on the ‘Prince of The City’ mixtape. I hadn’t even met Wiz at this point, but I recorded that song and he liked it so he used it for his tape. I wrote a couple more songs, “Choose You” and learned how to record.
L: Being the only chick on Rostrum Records and having worked with so many men in the game, how do you feel about the representation of women in the industry?
V: Wow, I was just having this conversation the other day. Ok, so when it was like Missy, Eve, Foxy and Kim, there was a respect factor in the industry that is not really there anymore. Everything is different. Even Aaliyah, who was very sexy, still carried herself really well. There was a whole girl power thing that we lack now.
L: That’s an interesting point. Women can have just as much influence in the industry as men, especially in hip hop. I know you don’t consider yourself to be a hip hop artist, but you have that appeal to both hip hop and pop. How has hip hop influenced your style and music?
V: Hip Hop isn’t just music, it’s a culture
V: Like New York and the hip hop scene, it was about your style, your Jordans, what brands you were wearing and what music you were listening too. It was all about getting your hands on the hottest mixtapes. I remember when all of the Hot 97 mixtapes were coming out, I had volumes 12 and 13. My first mixtape was a Hot 97 tape. Its all about the history and I feel like a lot of artists today don’t know the history. It seems like they just want to re-create whats on the radio and what they heard last month, rather than creating new music. Artists like Missy Elliot and knew their stuff, they understood the history of music. Even though Im not a hip hop artist, I know the culture.
L: I love that. You got a piece of it and it seems like it’s essential to who you are as an artist. What’s something important you’ve learned about yourself in the game?
V: It’s hard being a female in the industry right now because the sex appeal is just so important. People love visuals, especially with social media being what it is now.
Even Wiz used to tell me, ‘Yo you need to post mad videos because you’re a girl and people need to see what you look like. That’s something I’ve learned. I get way more likes when I post a selfie rather than a pic from my show. It’s encouraged.
You know what really sucks about it? I’m very assertive and I know what I want and it can come across as demanding, but I know what I want. When you’re a woman and you’re demanding and professional, you come across as a diva and a bit*h. When in fact, you’re just assertive.
L: The struggle. You seem to be handling everything so well. Who do you credit as your mentor?
V: My mother, she was a single mom, never remarried. She’s always been on her grind. When I was 15, I’ll never forget, I wanted to dress cooler and we didn’t really have a lot of money. I would get made fun of cause I wore my moms clothes or clothes from Goodwill. I wanted J’s and cool stuff, so I started working at TGIF’s when I was 15. I think having that mentality made me grow up kind of fast. Having a paycheck when you’re young and knowing how to manage your finance puts you in a different mindset.
L: Dope, your mom is awesome. I’m very excited to watch you grow as an artist, you’re so refreshing.
V: This is just the beginning. I’ve been working on some really good stuff. I’m excited too, I have a great team and great producers. I know it’s gonna take time, it took Wiz seven years to really get to where he is
L: You got it though. You mentioned some great producers, who have you been working with lately?
V: The Stereotypes, they’re really amazing, I also started working with Kyle Townsend, he’s one of Diane Warren’s big producers. He also arranged the ‘Dimes Acoustic’
(we posted the video a couple weeks back, but here’s the link just in case you missed it)
L: All amazing producers. How would you describe your sound ?
V: Urban Pop, cause it’s the easiest way for people to understand it. Cause it’s different. It has an urban feel, but my voice is pretty pop. Sometimes you can go too pop and I’ve done that and sometimes too urban which I’ve done as well, So I play a fine line.
L: I think it’s a great lane for you and you’re going to be very successful. Since we’ve defined your sound, what influences your style?
V: I usually just wear what attracts me, but I love Nasty Gal. I would describe my style as classic urban and my hair is like a 50’s pin up vibe. I was also really fascinated with Audrey Hepburn growing up. I read her biography, she was homeless. Her story inspires me, so my hair is like a modern day version of Hepburn’s, I call it, Urban Hepburn.
L: Along with your awesome hair and style, your videos are always super creative and super dope. Do you ever get the chance to creative direct your videos? One video you had pink swings and I thought that was so cool.
V: Yea, actually that was all my concept. I knew I wanted black, white and pink. I wanted pink swings, girls with black veils, an alligator and a bed with pink sheets. I knew exactly what I wanted in that video and it was one of the first I got to creative direct myself. I want to do it more, that way, no one else manufactures me.
L: Wow, ok so visually, who inspires you most?
V: Missy Elliot, Lady GaGa and a little bit of Madonna.
L: All awesome women, and I get a little bit of a Nicki vibe too with all the fun colors . Didn’t she go to your high school?
V: She did, so did Bridget Kelly, Wynter Gordon and Azaelia Banks.
L: You remind me of Bridgette a little.
V: I’ve gotten that a lot. In high school, people said we were sisters. I get Keyshia Cole a lot too, it’s so weird to me. *Laughs*
L: *Chuckles* That’s interesting, I guess I can see it a little. What is something people may not know about you from listening to your music or following you on Twitter?
V: I’m really into food. I love food. *Chuckles*
L: *Laughs* me too. What are some of your favorite dishes ?
V: I’m really into this Japanese fondu place in Downtown LA, it’s called Yojie. Basically, you cook your own food right there. I especially recommend it for a date.
L: Speaking of dates, who’s your #MCM?
V: *Laughs for a moment* I have a crush on someone right now but I’m not gonna blast him like that.
L: Ok I respect that, does he at least know that you might like him ? Is this crush a secret ?
V: He knows now
L: Good luck wit that. Ok let’s talk about what kind of music you like. What are your top 3 favorite albums of all time ?
V: ‘Writings on The Wall’, it brings back so many memories. That’s when I first fell in love with Beyonce, she’s the best singer in the world. ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ , one of the best albums ever made. My last choice would be the ‘Loud’ album, it was amazing. I’m a real big old school fan too.
L: Who’s your favorite west coast artist right now?
V: Jhene Aiko is f*cking dope. I like her. I remember her mixtape from 2 years ago, it’s like Cassie mixed with Aaliyah and Drake. If Drake and Cassie had a baby, it would be her.
L: That’s funny but yea she’s pretty dope. So being so affiliated with Taylor Gang, have you worked with Ty Dolla $ign yet?
V: No I haven’t. It’s crazy cause I did this Q&A panel for songwriters at the Musician’s Institute like 2 years ago. Ty was one of the writers on the panel with me. I didn’t know who he was and he wasn’t big yet, but he was really cool. It’s inspiring to see him go from that to where he is now. Anyone can make it.
L: So maybe there will be a Ty Dolla $ign collab coming soon?
V: *Laughs* Yea that would be tight.
L: Didn’t he say he had a bad light skin from the Vali?
V: Thats funny, whenever we’re around each other, he calls me “Light skin from the Vali”
L: That is pretty funny and we can’t wait for a collab between you two.
Thank you so much for talking with me today Vali, you’re extremely talented and passionate and we wish nothing but the best for you.
V: Thank you Lizzy