Local Musician YaH-Ra on Taking Risks, Breaking Stereotypes, and Being the Best
The LA emcee describes her rise from 4th-grade rap shows to a deal with GoldChain Music.
On a beautiful day in Southern California, I drove to North Hollywood for an intimate interview with YaH-Ra, a female singer, emcee, and engineer. She greeted me outside with big smiles and warm energy and welcomed me into her studio space.
YaH-Ra was born and raised in San Bernardino but has been pursuing her music career in Los Angeles for the past seven years. She’s more than earned her spot in the LA female music scene by making her way in the game with her debut album, CALiFORNiCATiON: WESTSiDE TALES, which dropped via GoldChain Music on October 11. But being a musician wasn’t always easy for YaH-Ra.
YaH-Ra found maturity and independence at a very young age. She was the oldest of five in a single-mother household. “We grew up in a lot of different places, but I would say we always had what we needed. I was taught morals and manners,” YaH-Ra said. Even though the area she grew up in wasn’t always the safest, her mother set a good example for her and her siblings.
In her early years, YaH-Ra enjoyed playing sports, writing poetry, singing, and dancing. She always had the urge to perform and was introduced to rapping at a very young age. In 4th grade, YaH-Ra wrote her first official rap for her graduation performance. It was then YaH-Ra knew she had a gift.
She continued to pursue acting and performing throughout high school. After high school she attended college, but decided it wasn’t for her. “I went to college for a little bit and I discovered I didn’t want to do that, I felt so confined,” she said. “But while in college, I discovered my love for music further. I started going to rap shows more and I was like, these n****s suck, I can do this, I got much better stuff than that.”
At the age of 21, YaH-Ra worked for her school’s radio station and then began interning at a women’s business center in Riverside. There, she learned more about all aspects of business and was able to use those skills to help others. “I learned about legal stuff in business, so even though I didn’t finish business school, working there I learned hands-on, and how to mentor.”
She worked at the women’s business center for about two years. When she did not receive a promotion she desired, she took a leap of faith and decided to leave. “I discovered I don’t like school, I don’t like working for anyone, and it was time to take a risk,” she explained. “That risk being: move to LA.”
So she began taking the train from San Bernardino to LA. At first she was interested in acting because she grew up on the stage, but that didn’t last long. “I kept getting dumbass roles,” she said, laughing. “They always wanted me to play a stripper or an illegal immigrant.” She felt she was being stereotyped for roles as a Black woman.
The discrimination YaH-Ra experienced in the acting world made her want to pursue music. “I started networking with artists from LA that were born in LA and I started taking the train to go to the studio all the time.” But the music industry came with glass ceilings of its own. “N****s wanna fuck, n****s wanna overcharge you, n****s wanna play with your music, don’t send your stuff,” she said. “We can relate to that as women in a male-dominated industry.” Those experiences motivated her to teach herself how to engineer her own music. YaH-Ra went on to put out 10 official mixtapes and 17 releases in total before linking up with GoldChain Music.
GoldChain Music is a label founded by the legendary emcees Planet Asia and Dirty Diggs. YaH-Ra originally reached out to Planet Asia for a feature, and from there they began collaborating. After a year of working together, he signed her with a distribution deal in 2020.
YaH-Ra is comfortable with her place in the music industry, but still desires to have more women represented in her field. “I wish there were more girls in every lane though, right?” she said. “It’s not just about my lane as a lyricist. We don’t have a stripper rapper from LA that made it, we don’t have a street-girl rapper.” She hopes that more women can come together to make music and hopes to see more women in positions of power in the media.
“The solution is continuing to build our own platforms. The cream will rise. I wanna be the best every day if you wanna be the best every day. They can’t keep you out.”