Songtrust Spotlight: Mista Strange

MISTA STRANGE made history with his Blackbox Freestyle in January 2020. Rather than just tired braggadocious lyricism, Strange would defiantly reveal his sexuality to the world. This revolutionary act set the internet alight, and pretty soon afterwards Strange was appearing on National TV, talking candidly about his experiences as a gay rapper in a hostile homophobic industry. But the story did not begin on Good Morning Britain or Sky News. 

In order to fully understand the arduous journey that Strange has been on, we need to sojourn to the far corners of West London, where Mista Strange’s penmanship was first awakened. Strange first began putting words together in school, where he would write poetry, and frequent the ubiquitous rap cyphers that popped up to further sharpen his skills. Eventually, he recorded his first track, aptly titled “The Beginning” released on Soundcloud in 2015. 

But like so many other young men growing up in London’s forgotten boroughs, the allure of fast money saw Strange become a cog in the capital’s economic underbelly, which before long resulted in his homelessness, as his line of work put too much strain on an already difficult relationship with his mother. 

Music had understandably fallen by the wayside at this point, as the burden of living a lie had become too much to bear. The revelation of his sexuality came at a huge personal cost to Strange, as he lost many of his childhood friends leaving him with few people he could trust. Refusing to be defeated, Mista Strange distilled the chaos and unleashed the unapologetic track Open The Gates” on his 19th birthday. 

Now, finally free of the shackles which held him back, the resilient Mista Strange threw himself headfirst into music, and this was when he was able to pen the two life-changing tracks that graced the Blackbox platform in early 2020. Since then, Strange has lived up to his name and been an anomaly who’s been single-handedly spearheading a change in an antiquated industry. 

His new single “DSTNY” sees a complete elevation of his sound and lays to rest the claims that he’s simply a “gay drill rapper.” Directed by Mista Strange himself, the music video will be debuting on GRM Daily on 4th June. 

If that wasn't enough, Strange has also recently become a brand Ambassador for Zalando (think ASOS, but European), where he wrote an exclusive track “Be Yourself”, and starred in their most recent advert. 

Mista Strange’s vignettes tell a story of a young gay Black man’s trials and tribulations growing up on the cold, unforgiving London streets, a rap Omar Little if you will. His music brings together the two worlds in an uncompromising fashion, comfortably standing alone in a scene awash with carbon copies. Strange calls it "Angel Music," as it’s music that speaks to your soul; not just the good parts, but the rebellious parts too. Duality is the very essence of life, so it’s almost as if we all have a bit of Strange in us. 

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What or who inspired you to get into music?

I think just constantly being surrounded by a plethora of music is where my inspiration was born.

Music was always a big part of everything that I did as a kid, almost like a never-ending soundtrack to my life, whether I was being driven to school or waiting for dinner to be made there were always some tunes playing in the background.

How would you describe your style of music and performance? How would you describe your philosophy and style as an artist?

I would describe myself as a rapper, however, my artistry goes deeper than just rap itself. I would much rather like to say “I make music” because as time goes on my style changes and I don’t like to stay in one box for too long but the one thing all my music has in common is that you’re always getting the authentic Strange.

I try to use my music as a way to spread my message. Sometimes I do this very directly whereas other times you may have to pick the lyrics apart to fully understand but it’s all open to interpretation and I think that is the very essence and beauty of music and what makes it so personal to the listener. 

What drives you to create, and how do you define success for yourself in music?

I think just living life gives me my "creative juice," you have to live to be able to write because as artists we speak mostly about the things we’ve seen and experienced.

I stopped measuring my success a long time ago, I find it easier and much more beneficial to just live in the moment but to answer the question more directly I’ll quote one of my own tracks called ‘Hood Music’ made a few years ago: “So if my music changes like two lives… cool, then it only needs like two plays” and that is still how I feel to this day. If I were to measure my success, it’d by the lives I have impacted, so if I can inspire even one person I have already succeeded.  

What have you learned from your time in the music industry, and do you wish you had done anything differently?

I think in this industry you never stop learning and you constantly face new challenges and hurdles, but the one thing I’d say I’ve learned is to never give up (as cheesy as it sounds), and also there is no right or wrong way to "make it". People like to act as if they have the blueprint but in all honestly no one really does, we’re all just wingin’ it.  

At this point in my career, I can say there’s not really anything I would have done differently, not to say that I haven’t made any mistakes, but the thing with mistakes is they only feel that way until you realise you are where you are today as a result of those mistakes.

Hopefully, I never do anything I’ll later go on to really regret, but, even if I do, I am a strong believer in our biggest mistakes being an integral part of our biggest achievements. 

Have you ever written a song that no one else believed in? How did you deal with that?

Oh for sure, this is almost guaranteed as an artist. You come across people that just don’t get it, don’t care, don’t listen, or sometimes just get it wrong, but that’s ok. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and some people just don’t see what you see in yourself. The important thing is not letting how others see you become how you see yourself. 

I always say “if you don’t believe in yourself why should anyone else.”

Many people in this industry will tell you no, but you have to tell yourself yes and know that they’ll all come around one day, they always do. 

How can individuals help the LGBTQIA+ community succeed in the music industry, or what can the industry do to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ individuals?

I think primarily just keeping an open mind; we are just people, artists, and individuals like any other person within the industry and should be treated as such. So if you’re wondering how you can include LGBT people, do exactly that… include us!  

What advice do you have for up-and-coming LGBTQIA+ artists?

They will hate you only until they love you and they will love you only until they hate you, so keep doing you baby; go slay, be bright, be beautiful, be fearless and most of all be you. 

Don’t be afraid to be hated on, the mission is to be heard. The most hated people are usually the ones who invoke the most change. Progress is forged in fire, so put your oven mittens on baby it’s about to get heated! 

What's next for you? Any upcoming projects or plans for 2021?

I have my debut EP ‘Strange Faces’ dropping later this year and it’s my best work yet. With an eclectic mix of sound and emotion, it’s sensual, delicate, fierce, and thought-provoking. There will be a track for everyone and each song will touch you differently. The aim is to showcase all the different sides (faces) of my personality in the hopes that the listener will feel like they know Mista Strange that bit better afterwards. 

#strangefaces2021

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