Believe it: A 20 year-old strawberry-blonde from upstate New York is on her way to becoming the hottest new name in the female rap game.
Her name is Sarai, and her single "Pack Ya Bags" is earning serious airplay on stations across the country. "Pack Ya Bags" is the first taste of Sarai's Epic Records debut. The disc is packed with rapid-fire flow, intricate internal rhymes, and vivid storytelling -- the very qualities that have caused some radio personalities to bestow the nickname "Feminem" on this rising star.
About The Album
Sarai's imaginative rhymes are matched to tracks by both veteran and up-and-coming producers. L.J. "Chocolate Starr" Sutton, Allegro, Sanchez, and New York-based Ali Dee are among the newer names. Also on board are: Scott Storch, the gifted keyboardist turned producer who's worked with Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, and Christina Aguilera; and Beau Dozier (son of the leg-endary Lamont Dozier), whose writing/production credits in-clude hits by B2K and Da Brat.
Sarai's guests include Motown recording group Black Coffee (on "Mary Ann") and acclaimed vocalist Jaguar Wright, who provides the memorable vocal hook for the track "Life." "Jaguar is phenomenal," says Sarai. "When certain singers hit certain notes, it just does something to my insides. She's that kind of singer."
"Pack Ya Bags," the first single, is a classic kiss-off rap. "Being a female in this business who's trying to do something for yourselfthat's hard sometimes for a guy to deal with," says Sarai. "You get a lot of 'where were you' and 'what were you doing' and 'who were you with.' And at a certain point, I can't deal, and you gotta go! That's what 'Pack Ya Bags' is really about."
Two tracks deal with the drama of teen pregnancy, but from distinctly different vantage points. "I haven't had that experience personally," Sarai notes, "but I've lived it through my friends and other people I've come in contact with. 'It's Not a Fairy Tale' is written from the viewpoint of the girl who's pregnant, who's thinking 'how could he do this to me' and 'what will I do now.' 'Life' is coming from a woman who's with a guy who's gotten another girl pregnant, and she's telling him, 'you better go handle your business.'"
"Mary Ann," the lyricist explains, "was one of the first songs I wrote all by myselfhook and verses. That's about child abuse, about a little girl going through some things that people are not really noticing. The song follows her from kindergarten through high school."
Other Sarai tracks are just for funstatements of pride and calls to party. "It's Official" is "like a statement that I've arrived -- you know, 'it's official.' This is my flip-style, a place to show how fast I can deal my lyrical skills."
"Now 'Ladies' -- that is an anthem! It's gonna be like the summer jam. Of course, it's not really just about the ladies. It's about everybody, of every shape, size, color and class, getting to-gether and having a great time. I can't wait to make the 'Ladies' video."
About The Artist
Sarai was born and raised by her single mother in the working-class city of Kingston, New York in upstate Ulster County. While her mom listened to albums by Fleetwood Mac and various other rock groups, her older brother brought home what Sarai calls "the harder stuff"including seminal hip-hop albums by Run-DMC, Public Enemy, and N.W.A.
"I'm a straight MTV baby; I was born with MTV," she admits. "So I didn't start to fully experi-ence hip-hop until the era of Biggie, Tupac, Nas, and Jay-Z. By that time I was old enough to actually absorb what they were saying."
In grade school and junior high, Sarai tried her hand at several musical instruments. But it was the power of the word that moved her most. "Even as a young kid, I was in plays at school, I was in the chorus, and I was trying my hand at poetry. I've always felt like I was meant to be a performer, but I'd never written an actual rhyme until I was 15. I remember sitting around with some friends at my kitchen table, and we wrote this little joke rhyme about the girls in our town."
To help support her family, Sarai worked "about 50 different jobs" and made plans to attend community college in Kingston. But at 17, she and a girlfriend took a vacation to Atlantaand fate stepped in.
"We stopped at a gas station and my friend starts talking to these guys at the gas station. They tell her they have a studio, just down the street, and she says 'hey, my girlfriend can flow!'
"Now, I'm always polite to strangers but I don't normally chit-chat with them at gas stations. But she insisted so I did a flow for them;and about five minutes later, we were in their studio. That's where I met L.J. Sutton a/k/a Chocolate Starr. She's a partner in Infra Red Entertainment and later produced some of the tracks on my album."
Sarai began visiting Atlanta often, doing demos and taking meetings. In 2000, she moved there permanently. "I like the weather, and generally I like the attitude. But people do move slower than in New York -- even in Kingston!"
Rather than depleting her creativity, the completion of her album seemed to open up new vistas for Sarai. "I like to watch TV, I like to chill with my girlfriends, but mostly I've been writing a lot. I'll have the headphones on, putting words to the tracks. Or sometimes I'll just start writing a poem and set it to a beat later on. That's usually the deepest stuff I've come up with."
"Writing rhymes is just like writing a novel or a poem, you use whatever raw material you're given. You can't limit yourself to your own life story. Sometimes you have to put yourself in an-other person's place and think, how would she feel about this?
"Drugs, teen pregnancy, homelessness, broken families --I've seen all these situations up close. Success would just give me a whole new set of issues to deal with."