HIP-HOP / R&B ARTIST
REVEALS VIDEO FOR POWERFUL SINGLE
“Music has long served as both a safe haven and a bullhorn for the oppressed. Rising artist MBALLA is one of those musicians using her platform to vocalise injustices throughout the world, a mission the Paris-born singer made when she decided to dedicate her life to music after the death of her father, an ambassador-turned-political prisoner in Cameroon, when she was just 18.” NYLON
(NEW YORK, NEW YORK) – Rising Hip-Hop / R&B artist and activist, MBALLA stuns with the unveiling of the official video for “Illegal,” the debut single off of her upcoming seven-track EP, Never Leave Quietly set for release later this year. The track and video exclusively premiered with Nylon and Blavity respectively.
WATCH “ILLEGAL” HERE
I felt like my message in ‘Illegal’ was a little different from the typical black empowerment record. It was personal and therefore was very much from the perspective of a woman and an immigrant woman at that. I felt only a woman would be able to both understand and showcase the duality of women’s emotions and states of being: The ability to be aggressive and still feminine — rugged but still sexy — hurt but still strong and powerful. With that said, I tapped two amazing female directors, Rebecca Ward and Mandy Padgett. Becky and I had actually been building on this concept of documenting my immigration status for over a year now — we just didn’t have the song to match until now. Mandy was interested the moment she heard about the story and hopped on board. It just felt like the rest was written,” says MBALLA of the video.
Of the track “Illegal” MBALLA proclaims: “This song is my personal experience and reaction to what it meant to be an undocumented person of color amid extreme racial tension and an upcoming presidential election in the US… Specifically, one where immigration was an extremely hot topic. I had to find ways to process my personal predicament here. The stakes were and always are really high in my situation. I was a woman of color protesting equal rights for Black people, but simultaneously an undocumented person, therefore with no rights, including the lack of a right to protest. In that moment, I felt like I had to create a voice for women like me — women of color who want to support fights for equality but risk their freedom and potentially the entire life they’ve established here by doing so. As I wrote and recorded ‘Illegal,’ it became an anthem that calls out and denounces all oppressive systems and is ultimately an anthem for all people who feel marginalized or like they’re being treated unfairly — illegally.”
Born in Paris, France as the daughter of a Cameroonian ambassador, MBALLA came into the world destined to love and absorb new cultures — to be a citizen of the world. She uses her international perspective to sing over hard-hitting, “masculine” beats with R&B influence and African and Caribbean inflections. It’s a genre she has grown to call “Tribal Trap”. In 2017, MBALLA performed in two major festivals: the Art of Cool Festival (Official Day Party) and The Earth Girls Festival.
It all started when MBALLA moved to Washington, DC as a toddler. In middle school, she indulged in the rich local arts and entertainment scene by attending numerous spoken word events all of which would inspire her future in songwriting. An unexpected fight with a rare cancer at the age of 13 changed her perspective and priorities. This put music on hold.
MBALLA’s beloved father became a political prisoner in Cameroon five days before her 18th birthday and passed away in November 2014 before ever being exonerated.
With her greatest fears having become reality, MBALLA decided to abandon any that remained, including her fear of failure. In memory of her father’s diplomatic life track, she has now dedicated herself to a music career that allows her to build a bridge between R&B, Trap/hip hop and reggae lovers of different cultures. MBALLA is also a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Look out for more music from the Never Leave Quietly EP coming soon.
Photo by: Kennedi Carter
“I sing for immigrant women with American degrees and bottom grillz.”
“I am an undocumented/immigrant woman of color who creates R&B/Hip-Hop tinged with trap elements, reggae, Afro-beats and Haitian zouk. I like to call it ‘tribal trap’” – MBALLA