INTERVIEW with Hempress Sativa – April 2014
This Interview is recently published in Irie Magazine, the 420 Issue which is available here:
IRIE. Hempress Sativa is such an IRIE name. It commands respect. Tell us the meaning behind it?
Hempress represents she who sees H.I.M Empress Menen as the epitome of a Virtuous wombman. As H.I.M Haile Selassie I the first described her character as one who ‘Is such that, apart from goodness, there is no evil or malice in her’. She was instrumental in advocating for he country during the war period, being the voice of many Ethiopian on the world stage in absence of the King Haile Selassie I the first. I applaud her feat and aim to follow in her footsteps. Thus I needed a name that would speak to my Rastafari background, the admiration I have for the Queen of Queens Empress Menen and also to the fact that I am an advocate for marijuana. Therefore Hempress Sativa (The strain responsible for uplifting and making ones feel energetic or focused) manifested which represents I to the fullest!
IRIE. What was your journey like in becoming Hempress Sativa?
Foremost I am grateful for the Spirit of H.I.M Haile Selassie I the First Power of the Holy Trinity, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah Elect of Himself Light of the World for he has truly blessed I with a creative mind and for giving I the courage to pursue my destiny. The journey indeed has been an enlightening one filled with ups and downs but from which I’ve learnt a lot and will continue to do so as I move from strength to strength. I’ve always known from wise words of my elders that ‘weh nuh kill yuh mek yuh stronger’ and even from experience that I’ve learned to be strong, to be focus, to forge ahead dispite all obstacles and to overcome. So the journey has been that of I honing I skills, a journey of growth throughout UnconqueRebel.
IRIE. You were raised by parents who were Rastafarian. What does Rastafari mean to Hempress Sativa?
Rastafari is i livity and it is everything that i stand for. The way I carry I self to the way I interact with ones to the way I write even. It is a divine conception of the heart with that said Rastafari people govern themselves by the principles of H.I.M Haile Selassie I the first. Up holding themselves with integrity and great nobility adhering to the creed that the hungry be fed, the naked clothed, the sick be nourished, aged be protected and the infants cared for’. Because of our spirituality we are a peculiar set of people chosen by the Most High Himself that His Irits dwell within I heart manifesting in flesh his goodly works.
IRIE. I’m sure you hear this often but I have to ask, what was it like growing up as the daughter of Jah Love selector, Albert “Ilawi Malawi” Johnson?
A blessing to have the world’s greatest selector as my father. It’s his love for music and him exposing I to music at such a tender age that to this day I am in love more with music and sees it as a soundtrack to life. My father would give my siblings and I the microphone and record anything that came out. So I have on records what I sounded like at age 4 and older. I grew up knowing Dennis Brown calling him uncle, and many to avoid name dropping. He’s knowledgeable about everything and everyone pertaining to music and from him I’ve learned at lot. My father a Singer, song writer, musician, producer and Selector and I am very proud of my musical foundation its strong.
IRIE. You are a truly gifted chantress with the extraordinary ability to word and rhyme. When did you first discover your gift for music?
From I was little girl age 4 singing on my fathers sound. Then the later years singing every Fridays at my school showcase. At the age of 13 I performed for the very first time at King Ben I Lawn at a Twelve tribe of Israel showcases and mash it up along with my sister’s who sang harmony while I sang my rendition to Erykah Badu’s call Tyrone. I’ve always been a lover of the arts and for a period my sole passion was to become a choreographer as I was deep into dancing.
IRIE. You have been performing since the age of 13. Who were some of your influences?
Albert Ilawi Malawi Johnson(Father), Ifetayo(Sister), Burning Spear, Ijahman Levi, Sizzla to name a few.
IRIE. Can you share with us your song writing process?
Simple—herbs, water, food and a quiet place to write.
IRIE. What is the message behind your music?
Self awareness, Spiritual upliftment and Glory to H.I.M Haile Selassie I the first.
IRIE. What it was like to perform your music on stage for the very first time?
I was absolutely nervous but once on stage, I conquered that feeling.
IRIE. In listening to songs like ‘Jah Have Mi Back’ and ‘Ooh La La La (The Weed Thing)’, the influences of hip hop and rhythm and blues are present. How would you describe your style of music?
I describe my style as UniverSoul its not limited to any one genre as I believe in expounding my creativity.
IRIE. What we can expect from your upcoming album, UnconqueRebel Lioness?
You can expect spirited music for the mind, goody and soul. You’ll ear the growth and depth of your Highness. Expect satisfaction!!!
IRIE. You were part of the first Jah Ova Evil (JOE – named after Likkle Joe) movement, alongside Chronixx, Kazam, Infinite, Gideon and Selah. What was the experience like to be part of this positive movement that brought new light to roots reggae?
Jah Ovah Evil Movement initially included Jahnoi and Aijah Nunes (Selah and Gideon ) who are brothers of Alty ‘Lil Joe’ Nunes. The movement was initiated to carry on the Legacy of Joe and to provide financial support for Joe’s son Kai. It was Selah who was instrumental truly in the careers of all the ones mention in the question. He saw a vision for the movement and we aided in its execution. The experience was enlightening to say the least.
Working with Selah I was given the opportunity to hone I craft, produce positive music and also given the support needed to thrive in this industry. Overall I am grateful to My Jah Ovah Evil family and UTH Music Ja family collectively for giving I the Strength when many denied and tried to break I as a woman in this industry.
They are my brothers and I love them to life. Its truly a blessing being able to impact the roots reggae genre but even more divine to take on this feat with I Real to life Idrins and Sistrins. Tetra, Chach, Gideon, Shaat yaad, Sheppy don, Zion, Tuff, Yezer, Sa’nia, Craig, Nikki, Zeka, the Thelwells, the Youngs and My parents for truly being there … I thank all of you for being true lovers of Roots Music and for giving I strength and support.
IRIE. As a female Rastafarian artiste of roots reggae, do you feel you get the respect and support of your peers?
I have earned my Raspect from peers and supporters because of what I represent in my music and as Rastafari dawta. And if this is not the case for some I am none the least concerned. I govern I self with principles and integrity which will never waiver.of your Highness. Expect satisfaction.
IRIE. You are extremely vocal about marijuana, in particular, the decriminalization of it. Do you consider yourself an activist for the legalization of Marijuana?
I would be an activist for the legalization if I thought that it would be beneficial to the people of Jamaica but I am not convinced that’s the case as yet. I advocate for decriminalization as far too many families have been affected by members being incarcerated or even given criminal charges for using marijuana. This is utter madness and in my opinion needs to stop. When you give a youth a criminal charge for using a plant yet make it legal for ones to smoke cigarettes and drink liquor (which are harmful to health) is a clear case of double standard and begs the question of whether the government is really for the welfare of the people?
IRIE. I commend you on your mission to educate the masses about the benefits of Marijuana use. What else do you think can be done to break the negative stereotype of Marijuana?
More education ones need to be more aware of the medical purposes and products that could be made from plant. Propaganda was the means by which marijuana was deemed as harmful plant and the only way to reverse the ignorance is to re-educate the masses of its benefits. Even doing some type of a workshop demonstrating the potency and potential of the plant.
IRIE. In January, Colorado became the first state to legalize, followed by Washington State. Do you see Jamaica following in the same footsteps anytime soon?
Where legalization is concerned I don’t think that Jamaica has any leader who is revolutionary enough to go against world police United States of America’s policy. And should there be such a leader to legalize I’d hope its for the benefit of the people of Jamaica. With that said I’m more for the decriminalization versus it being legalized due to the tax which might be incurred by the farmers.
IRIE. Irie has been watching and supporting the Occupy Pinnacle movement. Pinnacle is regarded as the birthplace of Rastafari. What do you feel should be the correct outcome regarding protecting the legacy of Rastafari at Pinnacle?
The correct outcome would be for Pinnacle to be declared a Heritage site and that it be occupied by Rastafari people restoring it to a self sufficient, self reliant community and its rightful owner. Indeed it represents the manifestation of the Irits of Ras Tafari crowned H.I.M Haile Selassie I introduced by Leonard Howell amongst ones and ones in Jamaica. Pinnacle was home to 4,000 members including men women and children who worked in one accord, one aim, one H.I.M Haile Selassie I, one destiny. We cannot allow I-story, heritage and traditions to go to waste when our fore parents fought so hard. And this is also a charge for ones to keep up the momentum and seek justice for Coral Gardens survivors.
IRIE. Just recently, an artist came out at the grammy’s expressing her dislike for reggae. What do you say to people who don’t understand roots reggae or straight out disrespects the genre?
Reggae Music is Rasta Music, it’s music of a higher consciousness of a higher thought. It speaks to the plight, to the struggle it represents the voice of the people so for ones to straight out disrespect the reggae genre I can’t help but feel pity for their lacking in knowledge of the impact that Reggae music has had on all other genre from dancehall to hip hop/rap to the very Rock genre. If you dont live Reggae how can you really love hip hop or pop or Rock??? These are all of a result of Reggae Music!!!
IRIE. What is on the horizon for Hempress Sativa? Touring? Music? Causes?
Greatness is on the horizon. The release of the long awaiting album UnconqueRebel Lioness which is slated for summer. Promotional tours right forward so ones could look out for Hempress Sativa in a town near you!
IRIE. How did Hempress Sativa come about signing with UTH Music JA?
I was introduced to Craig Thelwell by my sister Tamian Young in 2011 but didn’t actually started working with the team until 2013. Granted Unite the Heart (UTH)Music has been instrumental in the careers of Richie Spice and Etana with that said I needed to align myself with a team that was consistently producing good quality music.
Working with UTH Music is like working with family. The team is very close we’re on the same page at all times and I can genuinely see that they have the best interest at heart and its more about Love and Positivity than anything else. Nikki, Jamie, Trudy are like my older sisters and Craig is like a big brother their mother is my mother. It goes far beyond just the music and I am truly grateful for all that they’ve done.”
IRIE. Any last words you would like to add?
I LOVE MY FRI-AN-MILY (My friends, fans and family)… Thanks for your love you time your honesty your unwavering support. I appreciATIVE each and everyone of you. And to those that don’t support my music its still love. Love and Light to My Son Lidj Jahfari who’s has been my inspiration and my main purpose on Earth to be a Mother to such a beautiful soul. Give thanks Irie Mag for the opportunity I’m truly grateful.