Melii Wears Natural Hair to Set a Positive Example

Photographer credit: Alex Loucas

HYPE HAIR: Talk to me about your Harlem roots. How did your upbringing in Harlem, specifically, play a role in your style?

MELII: Being from Harlem shaped a lot in my music; most of the phrases in my music come from just being from NYC in general. Growing up in Harlem; it really builds you to have tough skin. You grow up with this vulnerable setting [and] it made me who I am today.

HH: What inspired you to get into music? Who were some of your major influences?

MELII: On the Spanish side, my mom would play soft songs, Dominican stuff like Juan Luis Guerra and Miriam Cruz. The Spanish stuff influenced the soft side in my music, but I’d always be in the Bronx with my aunt, who was listening to Lil’ Kim’s “Lighters Up” or Destiny’s Child. Then I got older and started having my own taste, listening to Amy Winehouse, Drake, Nicki Minaj, J. Cole, PartyNextDoor, a mix of different kinds of music. My dad also always made music, and that inspired me.

HH: How does your Afro-Latina culture influence your artistry and the music you make?

MELII: Being Afro Latina influenced my music in a way where I cater to women and men in my community with the things I say or even the slang we use. It’s always good to be able to hear music and feel as if you can connect with the artist. 

HH: How would you describe your sound, and how does it differ from other artists?

MELII: My sound is unique. I don’t think I even sound the same all the time. I would say sometimes I don’t even sound like myself, but you will know it’s my flow. I usually flow in English, but my thing is throwing Spanish into a verse, and that’s what I’m usually known for. I do it pretty good. I write poetry. I’m a poet. Whatever beat that I want in the studio is going to come out as a rap, or it’s going to come out singing.

HH: When you released your debut album, Phases, did you expect for it to pop the way that it did? Were you nervous about releasing your music?

MELII: When I released my project Phases, I wasn’t really trying to go viral. I think my project was really meant to open up to my core fans, and hopefully, whoever it reached would get to know me better through my music.

HH: How did it feel when you received co-signs from Rihanna and Billie Eilish? 

MELII: Rihanna is a legend. I love her as a person [because of] all she does for women and how she’s always there for the people. I respect and admire her, so to have her enjoy my music was a surprise and an honor. When Billie shouted me out and described my music to be melancholy, it was a new word to me, and it kind of made me understand my music better as well. I was like, “she has a point.” She’s always been sweet to me, so I was thankful for her doing that and using her platform to support me. 

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