Sharaya J is known as a rapper, Choreographer and for her singles “Banji”, “Smash Up The Place” ,“Say Less”, and her high-fashion look. Sharaya joined forces with Alexander Wang starring in his T by Alexander Wang campaign and becoming a brand ambassador for his line. In 2018 she joined the music competition program “The Four” Battle for Stardom, where she attained the title for the longest seat holder and runner up of Season 2. Before filming, she battled Stage 2 Breast Cancer, which was mentioned in the program finale. Sharaya J was also in multiple features including, BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher, Dazed Digital, Interview Magazine, Good Day Atlanta, and Entertainment Tonight. In our interview below, the New Jersey native discussed her journey to becoming successful in the industry working with Missy Elliot and more. Make sure you download her music, which is streaming on all digital platforms, and check out her visuals, and our interview below.
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Sharaya J Interview on Voice It
Tiara – Tell me about growing up in Jersey city
Sharaya J – I was born in Hawaii but I always claimed Jersey, I’m a Jersey girl. I loved that it was only a 10 minute train ride to New York, and I could tap into all the creative things that were going on in New York.
Tiara – When did you start wanting to rap and become a choreographer?
Sharaya J – I grew up in a hip hop household, I always loved music. My pops was in a 90s hip hop group. I would come home and there would be Cyphers going on in the living room, my pops would also take me on tour. My mom was also really into music. She use to put me on to old records at a very young age, but that put me in tune with the music that came before me. The choreography was always very special to me dancing was my first breakthrough into the industry professionally. I never took any dance classes, I would consistently go to New York to check out different underground dance teams that I would put myself in and be around. Then I got signed to my first dance agency at the age of 18, I had a dope dance career. As time went on I started working on my writing. I have been writing since I was a young girl, I would write short stories and films which I learned from my father. Then I wanted to start working with artists, It wasn’t an easy transition.
Tiara – Who inspired you growing up?
Sharaya J – My first inspirations are my parents, they were apart of hip hop, I was brought up in the 90s so I was exposed to amazing groups that I love, such as TLC, Aaliyah, Lauren Hill she is also a Jersey girl Lauren is still one of my favorite MCs. I was also inspired by Biggie and Bad Boy, Janet Jackson, and Michael Jackson.
Tiara – How was your experience working with Missy Elliot.
Sharaya J – That experience was dope and will go down in my career history. Missy sets the bar for a lot of us, we both came from a dance culture, she taught me a lot about the music business and she saw a lot of greatness in me so she continued to push me.
Tiara – Tell me about your single “Banji” and Banji Entertainment.
Sharaya J – “Banji” stands for being authentic never jeopardize individuality. I created a movement a while back, because of the stereotype in the music business. I remember having a meeting with a record executive, I performed for them and the executives told me I have star quality, and they loved my performance, but in today’s industry girls are not wearing short hair, so we need you to get a weave, they also mentioned that I needed to be sexier, and show more skin. So I declined that deal because I wasn’t going to change my image. I feel like if you’re not gonna stand for something you will fall for anything. So that’s why I created the BANJI platform so people can love the skin that their in, embrace your uniqueness, don’t be apologetic about expressing yourself on how you want to be. It’s important to celebrate individuality instead of trying to make everyone the same. BANJI Entertainment was created for my production company. I signed myself to my own company because I was already directing, writing the script, and producing.
Tiara – How was your experience in the Hip Hop Cypher at the BET Hip Hop Awards?
Sharaya J – I was in London, on my way back to the states and BET called me two days out, saying they would love for me to be apart of the Cypher for the BET Hip Hop Awards. While I was on the plane I started writing my lyrics, and then got directly on set. Erykah Badu was our DJ, all the females showed a lot of love for each other, I had a great experience.
Tiara – Tell me about partnering with fashion designer Alexander Wang
Sharaya J – Alexander Wang saw one of my videos and he reached out to my manager, and he asked could I come down to his showroom, and when I did we instantly connected. That season was the first time I performed during New York Fashion week for one of his after parties. After we worked on that, he reached back out to me and told me he would love for me to do a T by Alexander Wang Campaign with Chris Kattan from Saturday Night Live. So we went to New York and did a cool video for his campaign. That next year Alexander Wang did a collaboration with H&M and he asked me to come back again and I performed in Brooklyn for New York fashion week. I enjoyed working with Alexander, he showed me a lot of love.
Tiara – How was your experience on the reality competition show “The Four”?
Sharaya J – Being on “The Four” was a great experience for me that would go down in history. I met a lot of great artists, It pushed me as an artist and as an entertainer. We were putting in a lot of hard work every week, personal interviews, rehearsing, photoshoots. I was the only rapper on the show that was writing original lyrics every week, and that was another notch that I would try to overcome. I also was the longest seat holder in history on “The Four”, and we won a film and television award for the best talent show.
Tiara – What advice would you give upcoming artists in the industry?
Sharaya J – Be yourself, and try to be the best version of yourself, in this business. It’s easy to get influenced by so many different things because it is always someone trying to mold you or change you. Love the person that you’re becoming. Never give up, and if it’s a true dream of yours that you’re willing to fight for, persistence will get you to where you want to be.
Tiara – Tell me about your single “Say less”
Sharaya J – I had recorded that song before I went on “The Four”. Once I agreed to go on the show we couldn’t release any music during that time. On the finale of the show, everyone was trying to figure out what song they were going to perform. So I told the producers I want to perform my original record, and show a true representation of who I am as an artist. After the show we had released the video for “Say Less” and in the first couple of months, we had passed 1 million views.