Sunday, June 16, 2024

Hoops, Rap and Every part Black: Meet Singer/songwriter Maria Isabel


Welcome to a different installment of Hoops, Rap and Every part Black, a weekly column that zeroes in on the 2 basic elements of SLAM—hoops and rap—whereas threading in different points of the colourful tapestry of Black tradition. Let’s get it.

Maria Isabel, 27, is on her technique to changing into a celebrity, there’s little question about it. The singer/songwriter has been singing since she might converse, and started professionally making music about 4 years in the past. If she’s not within the recording studio or gracing a stage, there’s likelihood you’ll see her courtside at The Backyard, cheering on her beloved New York Knicks. With an enthralling voice and presence that may mesmerize any crowd, the Queens native finds a technique to captivate any viewers she’s surrounded by. Don’t blink, quickly sufficient she’ll in all probability be headlining her personal present at The World’s Most Well-known Area.

I sat down with Maria who spoke with me about her love for basketball, how the sport evokes her, her appreciation for hip-hop, what we will count on subsequent from her and extra.

CURTIS: Leaping straight into it, you carry New York with you in every single place you go; are you able to stroll me by way of your upbringing and what being born and raised in Queens means to you? How has that influenced you to get up to now?

MARIA: I used to be born in Flushing. My dad and mom are each Dominican, so we went forwards and backwards quite a bit between [New York] and the Dominican Republic. However yeah, Queens is actually my complete world. I really feel prefer it’s affected me in so some ways, simply being surrounded by so many individuals always. I imply, it’s probably the most numerous place on the planet. So I really feel like from a younger age, I used to be uncovered to quite a bit–loads of completely different folks and loads of completely different sounds. After which inside my group itself, I really feel like I used to be actually influenced when it comes to the type of music I used to be listening to and the best way I gown. So yeah, I really feel prefer it’s an enormous a part of who I’m.

CURTIS: Being uncovered to so many sounds such as you say, was there a selected second rising up for you the place you simply knew you needed to construct a profession by way of music and take away any plan B or different choices?

MARIA: I don’t suppose there was a selected second the place I used to be like, ‘Oh my God, I really like music.’ I simply don’t keep in mind not feeling that method. However I feel extra so I had a second of like, ‘Oh, that is gonna work.’ It was about two years in the past, happening my first headline tour, and particularly enjoying the New York present. I had a couple of different stops on the tour and so they all went nicely and it was actually cool, however one thing about being residence in my group with folks I didn’t know, but additionally folks I grew up with, too – being on that stage and seeing how that went was the largest second I’ve had to date that made me really feel like that is working.

CURTIS: Switching gears a bit – so clearly, we’re at SLAM and I’m accustomed to your deep curiosity in basketball. what was your introduction to the sport; the place did that stem from? Was it as a child rising up, was it an curiosity that developed extra just lately?

MARIA: I can’t actually keep in mind what age, however I need to say late elementary faculty or early center faculty. I’ve loads of cousins, and we have been all about the identical age and grew up collectively in Queens. Our dad and mom would all the time be working, so after faculty we might simply type of decide somebody’s home and hold on the market all day. One in every of my cousins, who I used to be going to high school with on the time is a big basketball fan – lives and breathes the NBA. I’d go to his home after faculty and he would actually make me watch Kobe highlights. We had a hoop in his yard and after we completed homework, he would actually have me doing drills within the again. I didn’t even have basketball sneakers. He was two or three sizes larger than me and I’d double sock and use his. I’d be within the yard operating round with my meals sliding round in his sneakers. However yeah, I don’t know. I simply had a lot enjoyable doing that after faculty. I feel that was the primary time I actually liked one thing apart from singing, as a child, particularly.

CURTIS: So, did you play at your center faculty?

MARIA: Yeah. Nevertheless it actually wasn’t severe [chuckles]. It was like a couple of groups throughout the faculty and they might simply play one another. There was no formal check out or something like that. It was very a lot so if you wish to be on the crew, you’re on the crew. Nevertheless it was all guys. So I confirmed up sooner or later and I used to be the one lady, and so they have been undoubtedly hesitant. Nevertheless it was actually humorous having that have of enjoying basketball. I wouldn’t say I used to be nice, however I had an incredible soar shot [laughing]. However I had no handles, like you can take the ball from me in two seconds. At first everybody was bizarre as a result of I used to be the one lady, so nobody needed to play protection on me, which was positive by me as a result of I’d actually simply stand within the nook, get handed the ball and make the shot. It was phenomenal till folks realized I used to be making the shot after which there was like no mercy. After that, it undoubtedly received more durable to take part when everybody’s like a foot taller than you. Nevertheless it was time!

CURTIS: What’s your favourite side of basketball?

MARIA: There’s only a completely different power there. I all the time say I really like my job, however it makes me actually unhappy that I’ll by no means know what it feels prefer to win a hoop. I don’t know why however watching that occur simply feels untouchable, no matter that feeling is on the finish of a season. 

CURTIS: Are there any components of basketball that you simply implement into your craft of singing and acting on the day-to-day foundation?

MARIA: Completely. Going to the health club and being in that house assembly completely different athletes, and clearly watching basketball, I get impressed by them simply when it comes to how they deal with their our bodies and prep for seasons and video games. Singing is actually related. Being on tour and stuff isn’t any straightforward feat. My first tour was a 60-minute present and I feel folks underestimate how a lot prep there may be for that – even when it comes to lung capability. For those who aren’t prepared, you’re operating out of breath up there for positive. Even when you’re prepared, it’s nonetheless laborious. So, yeah, I feel the extra I study from hoopers, the extra I attempt to take that into my very own expertise of simply staying prepared so I don’t must prepare.

CURTIS: Are there any particular basketball gamers who come to thoughts if you consider those who have impressed you?

MARIA: Yeah, I feel when it comes to love for the craft and dedication to it, I feel Kobe’s the largest one. He was actually my introduction to basketball, but additionally I feel everybody, no matter being a basketball fan, you’ve heard of the Kobe mentality. So I feel the identical dedication of the place it’s like, that is my life and doing no matter it takes to be the perfect. After which after I suppose typically, identical to icon sensible, it’s AI. I imply, he’s only a legend.

CURTIS: Switching gears as soon as extra to hip-hop. From what I’ve noticed of you, you might have a reasonably expansive palette of music you take heed to. As an R&B singer, are you able to converse to the place hip-hop falls into that?

MARIA: Rising up in Queens, I actually couldn’t open my window with out listening to Jay-Z or Nas coming by way of the window. Sonically, hip-hop is actually impactful. Even making R&B, loads of the sonic parts nonetheless get pulled from hip-hop. And clearly, my technique of singing over it’s softer, however even within the sense of somebody like Lauryn Hill, type of making an attempt to go down that highway is tremendous influenced by hip-hop. But in addition, I feel a giant a part of why I really like hip-hop a lot is as a result of I really feel prefer it was folks like Jay-Z and Nas who have been talking to the expertise of rising up in New York. So, I used to be listening to different artists and all the time being influenced, however one thing about that simply all the time felt like residence.

CURTIS: A few of your manufacturing is unquestionably hip-hop influenced. Is that intentional going into it if you’re creating, or is it extra so a pure development of constructing music for you with hip-hop being so embedded within the tradition?

MARIA: Yeah, I feel it’s a extra pure factor the place I don’t even notice I’m doing it. We’ll begin a tune off softer and I’ll simply really feel like one thing is lacking. There’s like a push lacking. And that’s often the place hip-hop is available in. Even writing my final single – I used to be within the studio with the producer, Illangelo, and we have been listening to A Tribe Known as Quest and loads of Q-Tip earlier than even starting to consider the tune. I really feel just like the tune flowed naturally from the affect earlier than I began making it. Rap and hip-hop are really like poetry.

CURTIS: You referenced your single “I Drove You Loopy,” so I’ve to ask. Does that imply we will count on a challenge quickly? No strain [laughing]. I do know you in all probability get this query on a regular basis.

MARIA: Yeah, I’m ending an album proper now, which I’m actually enthusiastic about. I’ve undoubtedly been writing for the final yr and a half or so. And truthfully, loads of that was identical to experimenting with new stuff and making an attempt to develop from the place I used to be and assembly new folks and making an attempt new issues. However yeah, it’s coming collectively. 

CURTIS: As we’re approaching the vacation season and new yr, what are some issues that you simply really feel are subsequent for you when it comes to your progress as a human, as an artist and simply the place you need to take your profession?

MARIA: New music is clearly the largest factor. I feel R&B was my past love when it got here to singing. However I’m Dominican, I’m from Queens, like we stated. So loads of Latin and hip-hop influences, and I actually need to simply maintain increasing on all of these issues. My music is my most trustworthy illustration of myself. So, I actually need to make it possible for I type of hit all these contact factors as I develop. So, new sounds for positive. After which I actually need to return on tour within the new yr, hopefully within the spring, and see extra locations, see extra folks.


Curtis’ Nook

Hoops: Hoop followers in every single place can rejoice! Bronny James was cleared to return this week, 4 months after he suffered cardiac arrest at a summer season exercise. He’s one step nearer to returning to recreation motion, which implies we’re possibly one step nearer to seeing the primary father-son duo grace the identical courtroom in an NBA recreation. It’s really easy to root for Bronny; most significantly, I’m simply glad he’s wholesome.

Rap: Latto is considered one of my favourite rappers, male or feminine. She bodied her verse within the all-women cypher that was launched this week on XXL. For those who haven’t listened but, you’re doing your self a disservice.

Every part Black: Former five-star recruit Mikey Williams discovered himself in a world of hassle with the legislation earlier this yr. He was given a second likelihood this week after his 9 felony fees primarily changed into one misdemeanor (given he satisfies an inventory of necessities). I’m simply grateful he’ll have the chance to proper the ship. Hopefully, we’re in a position to see him swimsuit up for Memphis earlier than the season is out. Greater than something, I hope he’s in a position to put this behind him, study from his experiences and transfer ahead to dwell out his desires and fulfill his potential.


As all the time, right here’s the official Hoops, Rap and Every part Black playlist. It’ll be up to date weekly with every column. Add the playlist to your library to remain within the know, and you should definitely comply with SLAM on Spotify.



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