In hip-hop, the most fascinating thing next to beef is usually the â€œFirst Ladyâ€ of the crew. But few lady starlets have been as elusive as Starr, the leading lady of Skull Gang. Every now and then she would pop up on a Juelz Santana hook or on a hood mixtape and pique everyoneâ€™s interest, but then sheâ€™d disappear again. In December the 22-year-old Harlem native appeared on Juelz Santanaâ€™s â€œJingle Bellz,â€ and she also sang in Jim Jonesâ€™ Hip-Hop Monologues, leaving people wondering when she was going to do her own thing. The time has come. Her new single, â€œRockStarrâ€ ft. Juelz Santana and Lil Wayne is buzzing online and on New York Cityâ€™s top urban radio stations, but we still donâ€™t know who she is. Thatâ€™s why GangStarrGirl.com decided to get to know the woman behind the voice. Introducing Starr, the First Lady of Skull Gang.
GangStarrGirl: Who is Starr, the mysterious hook lady?
Starr: Basically, I was born and raised in Harlem and Iâ€™ve been singing since I could talk. I write all my own music [and] Iâ€™ve been doing this since I was about 12. My songs started making sense when I was about 15, and as far as where I am now, I am the first lady of Skull Gang.
GG: Is Skull Gang just a crew?
S: Skull Gang is Juelz Santanaâ€™s new label and I found my home over there about a year and a half ago. Juelz was just supposed to feature on one of my songs and I ended up going over to the studio every day playing music for him and recording and it turned into more than a feature. It turned into a home so right now Iâ€™m working on my solo album. Iâ€™m pretty much done with it.
GG: How did you meet Juelz?
S: We met through a mutual acquaintance of my manager at the time and the rest was history. He heard my stuff and was like, â€˜Sheâ€™s dope, I donâ€™t care if sheâ€™s ugly, if this girl writes [too] then sheâ€™s writing this for us. I was supposed to be on one song but like I said, Iâ€™ve been recording there for a year and a half ever since. It was almost like I willed it. I remember watching them on TV and saying â€œWhy donâ€™t they just get a girl? Sheâ€™ll soften them up a little bit.â€ I said it and meant it.
GG: Who works the magic behind your catchy hooks?
S: Me. I arrange and write all my music. I also intend on writing for other artists. I do it all.
GG: Walk me through your journey to getting signed with Skull Gang. Were you signed with someone else before you got with them?
S: I was never actually signed to anyone, it was just a bunch of empty promises. Iâ€™ve had different situations, I met different people, Iâ€™ve done a ton of different things and I think every experience happens for a reason. I couldnâ€™t understand why it wasnâ€™t going down then, but now I can actually say Iâ€™m ready and Iâ€™m glad that I didnâ€™t have a solid situation, Iâ€™d probably be in the hole right now trying to get out.
GG: Who are some of your musical influences?
S: I love Mariah, Whitney Houston, Beyonce, R Kelly for his writing, and Michael Jackson.
GG: Letâ€™s talk about your album. Whatâ€™s it called? When is it expected to drop?
S: Iâ€™m still toying with a title and I donâ€™t have a date yet for that but right now weâ€™re working on the Skull Gang project, that album should be dropping in March.
GG: People havenâ€™t heard much from you just yet, so describe your music?
S: My sound is my sound regardless of who they may compare me to, or who they may think I sound like. I write metaphorically most of the time because I have a very dreamy imagination. My mind is out there but itâ€™s not too far out there you canâ€™t catch it. Itâ€™s definitely stuff women can relate to. I just wanna bring the sexy back. These days, itâ€™s either pain or itâ€™s just letâ€™s be bubbly and not talk about lifeâ€™s issues. My music makes you wanna put it on when youâ€™re in a good mood and you just have that song that you wanna sing to that guy, or you have that song that you wanna sing to yourself about how you feel. Thatâ€™s where my music takes people. I just wanna bring music back. Not that itâ€™s not there, but like I said, I donâ€™t really harp on pain too much.Iâ€™m a dreamer but I still write about real thingsâ€”real women, real issues and independence. Iâ€™m all for girl power, being sexy, getting respect and getting my own. Thatâ€™s me, in a nutshell.
GG: It sounds like youâ€™re mother named you appropriately.
S: Actually, thatâ€™s not my real name. The reason that everyone calls me Starr is because my first name is long and in school, the teachers could never pronounce my name right. Iâ€™ve always been obsessed with the shape of a star, I donâ€™t know why, but when I got to middle school. I used to wear a star stickerâ€”the kind that looked like jewelsâ€”by my right eye everyday. After a while, people just started to call me â€œStarrâ€ even my teachers. It got to the point where if I left my star home I felt naked.
GG: I have to ask. Whatâ€™s your first name? It canâ€™t be that difficult.
S: My first name is Aqueelah. Itâ€™s an Arabic for intelligent, but people used to say Akwayla or Akweela and I hated it. But eventually, when they caught on to Starr, thatâ€™s been my name ever since.
GG: Thatâ€™s probably going to work out in your favor
S: It has so far.