Twenty-five-year-old Felisha George is a hip-hop artist from New Jersey who recently starred on Netflix’s music competition series, Rhythm and Flow.
The show, which was dubbed “Netflix’s first talent competition” by Cosmopolitan, included Cardi B, T.I. and Chance the Rapper as judges. The 2019 series looked for undiscovered hip-hop artists and aimed to turn them into stars.
The Emerald spoke with Felisha George about her experience on the show, running for office, and the inspiration for her music.
FELISHA GEORGE ON RHYTHM AND FLOW
Felisha George made it into the Top 16 contestants of the show. Her time on the program ended before she could place in the competition. Now, nearly one year after the show premiered—George described how grateful she is for the experience.
However, she said, “I feel the show in general [and everything] kind of happened really fast. There was no time to process what was happening.”
“It was, ‘okay I’m going to be in a Netflix show, okay no we’re recording the show, okay now I got into the top 16, okay this is going really fast,’” George explained.
Although it happened quickly, she said she built a “family-like” bond with the other members of the show.
“Leaving there was very sad […] because we created so many close relationships,” she explained. “You really get close to people when you’re in a position like that.”
After being home for awhile, George reflected on her time and realized that, “millions of people wanted to be in that position,” she said. “So many people auditioned, and sent submissions in, and for me to have gotten that opportunity to showcase myself and what I stand for, what I believe in on such a huge platform, I was really grateful for that experience.”
George said that performing just felt natural to her. Though she admitted to being nervous during the audition, she managed to gain her confidence.
She especially praised Cardi B for bringing positive energy during her time in the show.
HER BACKGROUND ON RAP
Late of last year, she managed to get her first album out, Wash Your Soul, which has 10 singles in it.
Felisha George describes herself as someone who is “learning, growing, healing.”
“I also want people to understand that I’m still cleaning, I’m still healing, I’m still growing, I’m still figuring out, I’m still on a journey. Nothing is for sure right now,” said George, as she described her album and reflected on herself.
But her journey in the hip hop industry began long ago.
“My parents are extremely big on hip-hop,” George said, as she described her childhood. “Ever since I was a baby, my dad has this huge sound system and we’d listen to Biggie, and TLC. We listened to a lot of Left Eye, we listened to a lot of Lauryn Hill.”
Felisha George recounted the moments when her family would often ask her to rap, and the times her sister and brother asked for her to rap about McDonalds, “so Mommy and Daddy could take us to McDonalds.”
When Goerge reached high school, she knew she wanted to rap, but she wanted to do it differently.
“I want to actually rap what I’m feeling, what I’m experiencing, what I see on a day-to-day basis,” George said. But back then, “I didn’t have a lot of examples of that, I kind of sheltered myself.”
She refused to make raps that would only be a hit because it talks about sex.
Only in college, she decided to take rap seriously. Determined, she knew that, “this is what I want to do. I feel great when I rap, I feel great when I perform,” she said.
Back then, George didn’t call herself a rapper, though she would perform at lounges and small events to kick-start her career. Amazed with her natural talent, people around her convinced Geroge to start recording. Soon after she started recording, she began to post videos of herself rapping on social media — that’s when Netflix’s Rhythm and Flow got a hold of her.
HOW POLITICS INFLUENCED GEORGE’S MUSIC
Confident and bold, George is committed to using her platform and music for the better.
KultureHub mentioned how her music touches upon police brutality, the KKK, mass incarceration, and even her own experience running for office.
“You better watch how you talk here, in the land of the gun,” the very powerful line which came from her single, Wash Your Soul.
In the midst of becoming a rapper, Felisha George ran for office, specifically to be in the Board of Education in her hometown, Maplewood, New Jersey, between the year 2017 and 2018.
It was during her campaign that she said she, “experienced so much racism [and] hatred towards me. At the time, I was probably 22/23.”
She was confused about the hate she received during her campaign for office. It then inspired her single, Wash Your Soul.
“When you put it in a music form, people kind of understand it better,” she said. “This is what I experienced on a day-to-day, this is what my friend experiences on a day-to-day [basis].”
“And it’s really a message for us. Wash Your Soul is for us because we experience all these things [everyday]. But how often do we really look inside of ourselves, and do the work within ourselves to be better?” she asked. “How do we do the work within ourselves, and wash our own souls, and wash [off] what everyone puts on us? Because it’s not ours to carry,”
“We have to learn how to also heal from negativity. Because if we’re never healing, we’re just carrying anger and we’re carrying all this sadness, and we’re carrying all these experiences of our ancestors,” George explained.
Though George didn’t win the election, she knew many were impacted by the things that she said and did when running for office, from the marches, to the sit-ins.
MUSIC FOR HEALING AND CELEBRATION
As Felisha George aims to heal through music, she also hopes that her music could be a celebration.
“I feel my music isn’t for me,” George said. “It’s for the listeners, it’s for the audience, it’s for whoever needs to listen to it. I wanted it to help you heal. I wanted you to see yourself in the album.”
“I want people to celebrate themselves — that’s EXACTLY what it is!” George exclaimed.
A unique celebration of diversity indeed, as George mentioned that she is a queer Black woman.
Though she doesn’t think there are many challenges for her and never received backlash, she said it is mainly because, “I feel I appear as a straight Black woman.”
“Now that I’m realizing that, it’s also something that I want to speak more about,” George said as she realized that some are not as
fortunate as her.
George maintains a low profile about her love life, even during Rhythm and Flow. George felt that it was none of their business, as she quoted, “When you’re on shows like that, they ask you a lot of questions to see what your story is,” like “What are we gonna market her towards?”
“I just didn’t want my sexuality to be that thing. I didn’t want that to be what they’re holding and running on because also in those spaces you’ll never really know how they’ll spin it,” George said.
Outside of show business, “everyone who knows me knows that I’m a queer Black woman,” said George. “I love that I’m a queer Black woman. I love my queer community. I love how we come together and support each other.”
For George at least, “I’d say it’s been really a great experience. I definitely haven’t had a super bad experience just because I’m ‘passing’ as a straight woman.”
As a matter of fact, George dedicated her single, Moonlight, to her partner.
“She’s also a dancer. Whenever I perform it live, she dances with me,” George added. “The whole song is just inspired by her. I talk about dance in that song because she’s a dancer. And just how she’s helped me to love myself more.”
GEORGE’S UPCOMING PROJECTS
When asked about her future projects, the first thing George mentioned was her new single, released this August, with Noriko Shakti, a music producer from Japan, and Lady Skavya, a musician from India.
“The song is absolutely amazing. It’s gonna be a beautiful release,” George disclosed.
George’s upcoming projects do not end there as she described, “people are going to be receiving a lot of fun things, a lot of visuals.”
“We just shot a video to Sweetest Treat and to Wash Your Soul — which is going to be an underwater video, so I’ll give you that,” she hinted.
As to what the future holds, she wished to perform and collaborate internationally as she spreads joy with her music. “I just wanna fly, I just wanna spread my wings, in ways that I wish,” George said.
As we wrapped up the interview, Felisha George described a message to people around the world, especially to Black Americans, “We have to heal. It’s important for us to heal, whether we see ourselves as hurt or not. Or having experienced an awful life or great life. It’s still our job to heal — to do the healing work,” Felisha George said.
This article was published in The Emerald Magazine’s 2020 People edition.
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