Sharaya J Dishes On The Banji Movement, Working With Missy Elliott, New Music & More [EXCLUSIVE, VIDEO]


She may have been a backup dancer for Rihanna and Alicia Keys, but now Sharaya J is front and center.

The Hawaiian-born artist, whose full name is Sharaya Howell, launched her music career when she signed to Missy Elliott's Goldmind Inc. label in 2010. Four years later, the blue-haired rapper is ready to be heard.

In September, the 30-year-old showed off her one-of-a kind style when she released a vibrant video – directed by Missy – for her songs "Takin’ It No More" and "Shut It Down," which features her original choreography.

Sharaya J spoke with about her music, her special mantra and working with hip-hop legend Missy Elliott.

How has the transition from a professional dancer to a rapper been?

I can't front, the transition from dancer to rapper has required hard work. Music has always been a part of my life – my father was lead rapper of the 90's group Double XX Posse so of course Rap was prevalent in my household growing up. Although the two go hand in hand, the world of a dancer is totally different from the world of the artist and that was something I had to learn, but I thank God for blessing me with a mentor who knows the difference.

What's it like working with Missy Elliott? What have you learned from her?

From the moment I signed with Missy she always made it clear that it was gonna take a different type of hard work, commitment, and dedication to be a "superstar." She was not gonna allow me to take the short cut and to be honest I appreciate her for that. I have learned so much from Missy, she's one of the most passionate people about music that I know. She has blessed me with so many jewels and wisdom about this business and life in general that I will forever be grateful for.

How would you describe your music?

The music that I make is fun, colorful, and makes you want to dance. It’s my personal spin on hip-hop and house music. I really just create what makes me feel good and hope that the fans appreciate the quality behind it.

Can you tell me a little bit about your Banji movement?

Banji is an acronym for “Be Authentic Never Jeopardize Individuality” – a movement that I created to encourage people to fearlessly be themselves. Today we need more people loving the skin they are in and attempting to be leaders instead of followers. The Banji movement promotes self love, authenticity & individuality.

Finally, is there an album coming?

I am going to release an EP at the top of the year! I’m very excited about this project and I hope you guy love it!

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