Interview

Road To Solo Superstardom: Bahja Rodriguez On Redefining Her Image

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“When I write all of my music, I write it from a really personal place. I’m always thinking about things that I’ve been through to make my music relatable…Even though I’m young, I still deal with the same kind of problems. Everyone knows what it feels like to be heartbroken, happy, sad, how it feels when people are sleeping on you; what ever it is, everybody goes through it. When I write, that’s where I write from. The heart.”

Photo Credit: Marcus Ezell

Wearing a beautiful bare face, dark hair, and dressed totally casual; Bahja “Beauty” Rodriguez is almost unrecognizable compared to her OMG Girlz alias. Although she is most known for her stint in the all-girls pop group, Bahja is completely capable of solo success and destined to build a career of her own. At 19-years-old, most of us were probably preparing for college, working, or simply planning for our next move, but Bahja has been planning for superstardom since she was a young girl and at 19, she’s debuting her first solo project, which redefines her image——showing us the real her.

Although OMG Girlz had a decent run, this year, the beloved girly girl pop group decided to cut ties. Since then, the talented singer known as “Beauty” has applied her talents towards a different goal.

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Photo Credit: Bree Holt

Singer/songwriter Bahja’s new music and style is far from what you can recall from the superficial girl group. Letting go of the colorful wigs, materialistic things, and tutu’s; Bahja is dropping her pre-mature image for something a little more personal and relatable for r&b fans of all ages. But this isn’t a “new” feat for the Atlanta native. Bahja caught up with us at the PYNK Girl club house to discuss her artistic background and the barriers that held her back from truly expressing herself musically.

With her mothers’ expert ear for music and her father——Jonathan Rasboro——being one of the leading singers in the legendary r&b group “Silk,” Bahja could not stay away from her fated vocal talent. And with a voice like hers at only 19, she can only go up from here. As a dominating young artist, Bahja is already ahead of her time, writing her own music and having the final say in everything she releases.

Speaking honestly about her experience in the 7-year standing group, Bahja reminisced on how her creative process and growth as an artist was a bit stunted by her label. Not simply because she had no control over her labels’ decisions, but also because all she had to do was show up to the studio and imitate whatever tracks her team had ready for her and her OMG sisters. Since then, Bahja has garnered a new team inclusive of her close friends, some dope producers, her manager Jullian Boothe, and most importantly her mother—who has stood by her through thick, thin and all of her choices. Bahja is embarking on a new journey where she is expressing herself in a way that OMG Girlz has never been able to——authentically.

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Photo Credit: Marcus Ezell

 

“I feel like now I am able to explore my sound and my writing and express myself for who I really am.”

The music industry isn’t all glitz and glam, but it’s certainly a difficult system to maneuver in without the proper guidance and vision. Although the OMG girlz had an amazing yet unexpected run since 2009, Bahja knows that her solo goals are in close proximity and she’s already making those dreams come true. With her newest EP It Gets Better already in the top 10 charts on iTunes downloads, Bahja is proving to her followers that she’s definitely a contender in the new school r&b game.

Continue reading to learn about Bahja’s early musical influences, the reason why the OMG Girlz broke up, the pressure of having to prove herself as a solo artist and more.

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Photo Credit: Donte Maurice

 

PYNK: What was your main focus for your music going into your first solo project?

BAHJA: My main focus was how do I break this child-like image that I have coming from the group that I came  from. Everybody’s little girl was a fan of us at one point. Everyone was wearing tutu’s and colored hair.

I was trying to transition from that to turning 19-years-old and going through real things.

I didn’t know how people would take it. I feel like when I put out my first song, I told my mom and my team that I wasn’t sure about the transition. I was debating whether it wasn’t grown enough, or maybe the cussing was too much even though there’s only like two cuss words in there. I wasn’t sure that this was the right thing to put out.  So I was talking to my mom and she was like, “if people like it, then they like it. If they don’t, then they don’t. You just have to put it out and see.” I put it out and in a couple of hours it got 100,000 plays. Now, it’s at a million. That was just me testing the waters and seeing if people would really accept me as an artist. Ever since then, it’s been really amazing. I feel like people actually like my music, so I felt like I had to put out more. I dropped another song after that called “Lipstick,” that pushed me on the top 10 list of pre-orders on iTunes, which was crazy.

Do you think the timing was perfect?

I do feel like the timing was perfect. I was originally going to put my project out in August. I just feel like if I had put it out then, nobody would’ve cared about it because I felt like I didn’t have enough momentum. For a while, I didn’t put anything out. I got into writing a lot more with this EP. On this EP I wrote every song except for one. I had to really get into my pocket and realize what I wanted and how I wanted the world to see me. This project was the perfect way.

I’m unfamiliar with the reason the OMG Girlz broke up. Could you explain what went down and how it all happened?

It was a little bit abrupt because from what I thought, the three of us were on the same page as far as moving forward. I feel like everything happens for a reason and there’s definitely no bad blood between me and the girls. I still love them and they still love me and that’s just that. We still have an amazing bond. It was just no longevity in the group for me anymore,  personally. I was getting older and I felt like I didn’t want to keep pushing this “OMG girl” thing because I felt like it was childish and it wasn’t a good representation of me right now being a young woman in 2015. We came up with the name when we were twelve, like c’mon.

It’s still love. They support me and I support them.

We all are happy doing what we’re doing now.

What else are you working on currently aside from this new EP, are you planning for an album perhaps?

I actually started working on my other project already. I’m working on putting together my own label. I want to start signing other artists eventually. I feel like major labels aren’t really always that fair, so I kind of want to make it a safe haven for artists like me to express themselves that really want to do it their way on their time. We’re also working on some merchandising. In 2016, I really want to do clothes. We’re shooting my video for “Ride Or Die” next month. At the top of the year, we’re trying to put together a tour. I think it’s going to be great!

Since you guys broke up, how long did this project take you?

This project probably took me about 9 months. I recorded my first song by myself in April. Everyday when I would go to the studio, I was just writing and cutting things out. It wasn’t that good at first, I’m not going to lie. My mom loves me so she was like, “yea it’s cool,” but my little sister is super honest, so if she didn’t like something she wouldn’t really say anything about it, but now she’s always asking me to send her my newer music, and I know it’s good. It did take me a while to figure out how to write and develop my writing. I was so used to just coming to the studio and everything was already done for us. This time, my whole creative team was taken away from me, so I had to go find producers and engineers, and figure out where I was going to record. But once I got all of that together, it became simpler. It was interesting to see what I could do because I never thought that I could particularly write. I remember one time I came home and I was crying telling my mom that I sucked and I couldn’t think of anything at the studio. My mom asked me why I left, so I ended up going back and I think the first song I wrote was “Chill, Turn up and Party.”

Photo Credit: Bree Holt

 

I realized that I have to believe in myself more than anyone else believes in me, so now I’m super confident.

Do you feel like you have to really prove yourself because you are coming from the OMG Girlz?

I definitely do. I feel like this time is the only time. If I don’t get it correctly on the first time, the second time people aren’t going to be receptive and I’ll have to go 10 times harder to prove that my music is actually good. I definitely feel like I have to prove myself, but I feel like I’m ready and I feel like this project is really good. It’s super personal. Whether or not you know, you’ve definitely been through a lot of the things I’ll be talking about on the project and I feel like that’s what makes it good. After this week and me listening to it in my car, I am super confident in it and it’s been doing really well. It went to number 9 on pre-orders so I’m excited to see where it’s going to go on the release date.

What do you want people to learn or understand about you with this new project?

I want people to be like, “I didn’t expect this from you.” Coming from the group being so flashy and colorful, I wanted this to be more relatable and I wanted it to have a theme. I picked “love” because you can be angry in love, happy in love, sad in love, you don’t really know where you’re at in love. I’m talking about all of that.

No more pink wigs?

Oh, no. I was so tired of those wigs, I was like, “we need to switch this up or something.” I’m getting older. I was going to older parties and nobody wanted to talk to me because they thought I was like twelve. People would be like, “oh, you look like an OMG girl,” and I’d be like “I am.” It was just terrible, I’m done with the colored hair.

I feel like you were drawing in a very young audience, but now we’re all 20 plus in here and we’re relating to your music. You’re doing something right.

Thank you. A lot of the kids who are fans of me, grew up with me. I’ve reached out to fans before and a lot of them have been following me since they were like 12 and 13, so it’s awesome to see how many people are still following me and listening to my music who were fans of the OMG Girlz. I feel like I really grew up with these people. Especially in New York. My NY fans are so lit! Sometimes we would meet up with people who would always come to our concerts and hang out with them afterwards. My mom didn’t like it, but we had their numbers.

“The beauty about this whole thing is that I have my mom, my manager and my best-friend is my photographer. And everyone is really doing all of it because they believe in me.”

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Photo Credit: Bree Holt

Who are some of you musical influences?

I LOVE Brandy so much! When I was learning about music, Brandy was the best thing to me. That’s all my mom would play. Britney Spears made me really want to sing, but my mom would always play female r&b singers in the car and the house. When I was younger and learning how to sing, I would just imitate whoever I heard. The first album I heard from Brandy was the “Aphrodisiac” album. I used to put it in my CD player. I would sing every song on that album until I got it right. It took me so long to get it, but once I got it I was so excited! In school, I would always stare out the window and think about singing and other things.

Does your family have a musical background?

Yes, actually. My dad is in the group Silk. I guess that’s where I get it from. It was pretty weird because everyone in school used to like them and I never understood it. I talked to my dad before I came up here and he gave me really good advice. I never really asked him for advice because we honestly did speak that much, but once I turned 18, I wanted to let him into my life more because if something happened to him I would be upset, so I let him in. I played him my EP and I wanted him to tell me his honest opinion from a musicians perspective and not from a dad’s perspective. And he started telling me his favorite tracks. He told me, “Smokey Robinson gave us the best advice that he ever heard by saying,

“Always keep love in your music because that’s what’s going to sustain no matter what.”

He told me I sounded very mature. I was telling him that I was so nervous about how people are going to perceive me and he just kept saying how he thought it was great and that people are really going to like it. I never really talked to him about music like that. I listen to my dad’s music all the time now because he can really sing. So now I fully understand where I came from musically.

Being super young in the industry, what has your experience been like?

This industry is a business. I always used to wear my heart on my sleeve, but I’ve learned—over time—not to take things personally. Thankfully I have my mother and Jullian to stand by me and make sure I’m making the proper decisions. It was a hard lesson for me to learn at first and accept some malicious things that have happened to me, but I had to realize that the only thing that will grant me success is faith and my dedication to my craft.

“This moment is really a blessing in disguise. I really feel like god does work in mysterious ways. I feel like music is my purpose because it’s always been in me. I’m never going to stop making it. Nothing and nobody is going to stop me from doing this. This industry grew me up really fast. I’m learning how to be a real life adult already. So I’m making sure that I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve anymore.”

Keep up with Bahja on social media @BahjaRodriguez

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