#06: Monique Marie

Soulsinger from the Land of the Living

von Ana Swartz

With an intro song that steals your heart and instantly makes you put some R.E.S.P.E.C.T. on that voice, Monique Marie, an actress, singer and songwriter from the Bay Area, stopped by to share her experiences with us here at The Healer Hip Hop.
I met her on Instagram (who doesn’t these days) and I instantly fell in love with her song Land of the Living. It was such a moving piece because it carried with it the weight of her experiences – some of which she shared with us today.

And like all good stories, it starts from the beginning.

Monique grew up as the only child to a young single mother as her father was not very present. Having a child at 19 and raising her with an absentee father was no easy work and so Monique’s earliest memories of her mother were of life struggles and the work her mother put in to overcome them.

From being evicted from their home when Monique was 6 to having to live in their car, Monique’s mother fought to raise her daughter with as little help from others as she could. There’s just this fierce independence among single mothers determined to give their kids a better life than they had regardless of what others could chip in and Monique’s mother definitely shared this trait.

This humble beginning formed the foundation for Monique’s career and particularly her single, Land of the Living. The title was gotten from her great-grandmother who, after losing one of her eldest sons, would always say ‘I’m in the land of the living’ which simply means ‘I’m okay’. Monique remembers the late 98 year old in her song saying, ‘I miss a great-grandmother bad’.

In the Land of the Living

These experiences and memories encouraged her to write the song 10 years ago. And we’re in awe of her because it aged really well.
In another part of the song, Monique sings about how she loves a man with an addiction. Like every other part of the song, it is based on her experience – this time with a man with an alcohol addiction who she was with for 10 years. She was so young that she thought it was okay given that he was functional enough in society and around the home. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize he was also addicted to drugs until the tailend of their relationship.

But she made it through that relationship and is glad to tell her story.
On a lighter note, we explored the beginning of Monique’s singing career. She started singing when she was 7, listening to her mother who was also a singer and chorister sing around the house, playing great music from the likes of Tina Turner. From there, she began to tackle drumming and also sang in church.

We talked about the choir in her song and she explained that she did the background voices with 2 of her friends from the Bay Area whom she calls Chocolate and Power House, among others.

From there we went down memory lane about how powerful and important the song was to her. She told us how on the day she started recording the song, her grandmother had a stroke and how a few days after the release of the song, her great grand aunt passed away. Her great grand aunt was 108 years old (such good genes!) so it was mostly a celebration of a life well lived but all these events really captured the significance and the roller-coaster of emotions that was Land of the Living.

The Biblical passage, Psalm 91

Monique explained how the Psalm encourages and strengthens her and disclosed how she went on a spiritual Fast before the release of the song by reciting the Psalm for 30 days straight. The Fast was mostly for the recitation of the Psalm but she explained that on the first day she restrained from food and only drank water throughout.
The Fast strengthened her conviction to keep writing the song and prepared her for the struggles that were imminent when undergoing such an important journey.

This led to a discussion about previous songs she wrote before this. She divulged that the first piece she wrote was at age 9 and was about a plant. We shared laughs and I also divulged how I wrote some songs but didn’t like to show people at that time. My first song was at age 9 and was written for my school teacher who I loved very much. It was an emotional memory!

Monique switched the tables a bit and asked if I could write and sing but I told her I only do them for my son and myself as I’m a bit shy. And when she hinted about me sharing my work, I could only answer that I’m still in the land of the living so who knows?!

16 Bars the movie

Monique explained that she’d taken some modeling and acting courses which her mother took her to. So she’d always had the experience but didn’t know it was something she would pursue. Her mother thought differently though and she said she could see the acting character in Monique. What did we say about fiercely independent single mothers again? Yes, they’re amazing!

Another person who believed in her is her cousin, Kevin, who shared her background with the executive producer of 16 Bars and the rest is history. We also explored the possibility of having some of the crew on The Healer Hip Hop!
I talked about how Monique reminded me so much of Ledisi especially on her 1st album and how powerful her voice was on it. Monique was really sweet about this and told us that Ledisi is also from the Bay Area. It made us wonder if we had to travel to the Bay Area to find out who hands out talent over there. They’re all so talented!

Future plans

Speaking of Ledisi’s albums, Monique divulged that she was working on a new album and she explained how it’ll be different as it’ll come with various genres. She expects it to come out at the end of the year and excitement really rubbed off on us. We talked about what could be on the song and she explained that it’ll be a mix of happiness, sadness, pain, love and most of all, the land of the living.

She explained how she could wake up early in the morning with a rift and would have to write it down so she wouldn’t lose it. It was because of this that she’d be in the studio frequently. She also talked about the possibility of touring and we were more than excited to welcome her to Berlin. We also talked about the beauty of Berin and how the state is really hungry for her genre of music and would be more than happy to welcome her as a musician on tour or a tourist.

The Healer Hip Hop

As is tradition, we asked if Hip Hop is a healer to her and as the queen she is, she explained how music is more than therapeutic to her. She told us how she loves to stop and write music or sing or listen to someone else singing and rapping – it’s all very therapeutic and touches the soul. She believes that music is made by God as part of his creation for healing.
To wrap up, we asked who she’ll love to work with and she listed all those we’ve obviously been dreaming about working with too: Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Halsey and classics such as Frankie Beverly & Maze, Ledisi, and Patti LaBelle. 

We admitted it was a mean question as she said there are so many singers and writers not listed that she’d love to work with to feel and understand where other people’s creativity comes from and to draw inspiration from them.
It was an amazing end to an even more amazing interview and it was a joy having Monique with us. Stay tuned for more!

Update: in 2020, Monique founded ‘The face behind the brand’ podcast and invited me for an interview.

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