Heavy Culture: Cinnamon Babe Talks Viral Song “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Black,” Facing Stereotypes, and More

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The post Heavy Culture: Cinnamon Babe Talks Viral Song “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Black,” Facing Stereotypes, and More appeared first on Consequence.

Heavy Culture is a monthly column from journalist Liz Ramanand, focusing on artists of different cultural backgrounds in heavy music, as they offer their perspectives on race, society, and more as it intersects with and affects their craft. The latest installment of this column features Cinnamon Babe (also known as Stormi Maya).

Cinnamon Babe is the musical outlet for model and actress Stormi Maya. She recently made waves with her heavy single “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Black,” which went viral on TikTok with more than 1.5 million views. Within a few weeks, however, TikTok apparently disabled Cinnamon Babe’s account. According to the artist’s manager, the account was wiped clean of all her videos after multiple users disagreed with the song’s message and teamed together to report it simultaneously.

Heavy Consequence caught up with Maya, who spoke candidly about race, her upbringing, facing stereotypes, and the need to be true to herself. She went on to draw a comparison between being bullied in school for her musical tastes to the online backlash she’s encountered as a musical artist herself.

Read our “Heavy Culture” interview with Stormi Maya (aka Cinnamon Babe) below.

Tell me about your cultural background and upbringing.

I identify as African American. I’m a Black American with no other country connection. My family is all from Philadelphia. I’m from New York, from the Bronx. That’s basically the only culture that I have and identify with. I’m very proud of my culture, even though a lot of people try to take away a lot from African American culture and try to claim that we’re lost people, we don’t know anything about ourselves.

My song “Rock ‘N’ Roll is Black” — I like to give people an example of all the contributions that people from African-American culture have contributed [and] the entire world mimics and uses. And then unfortunately, we’re a group of people that typically don’t get credit when it comes to a lot of these things.

How did the place you grew up impact your relationship with music?

I grew up in the Bronx and in Boston. I also would visit family in Philly a lot. So I kind of feel like the Northeast in general. To be honest, I grew up in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. The kind of influence I always had around me were things that were the typical Black or Hispanic, and what’s acceptable in those communities.

That’s why I always speak about being more alternative. It kind of made me feel left out. When I got to middle school, I was into My Chemical Romance and Paramore, and had a more of a punk look. I was kind of eccentric. I used to wear bunny ears, I was very much like that kind of kid. And what I tell people is that it got bullied out of me really, really soon.

I was my true self for a while but then right before I was about to basically go to high school, it’s kind of when you really, really want acceptance. So it was the kind of music that I liked was very looked down upon. I was really embarrassed about the kind of music it just was not normal. You know what I’m saying? Everybody else listened to, like, Lil Wayne.

It’s just that when I was trying to listen to things that people considered “white music,” they would say I’m weird or “Why are you listening to that?” I felt very isolated. So, I quickly kind of just pushed away from that being my identity, because I didn’t want to be bullied anymore.

I was tired of people saying I dress like a white girl. I wasn’t dressing hood enough and then people would make jokes that I wasn’t talking hood enough or whatever their stereotypical, what you’re supposed to talk like when you’re Black, I suppose.

So it’s funny, my mom listens to The Cranberries and Linkin Park. My mom, as a Black woman, she listens to a lot of genres that are actually kind of out there. In my household, she listened to everything from Bob Marley to Jill Scott. So we had a very neo-soul house and then yeah, she listened to Creed and different things. So I kind of only felt like an outsider when I was in the other parts of my family. And then when I was in my community, like I said, people quickly label that as “white music.”

“You’re not supposed to be in that.” What most people don’t understand is, these boxes that they put us in, they extend childhood as adult and people believe this ideology. And that’s something that I constantly get reminded of is these are the social boxes you’re supposed to fit in.

If you’re a Black woman, you’re supposed to like these things and do this specifically. And if you don’t, you know, they call me everything from traitor to saying, “You like white d**k,“ and say all different things that are very derogatory to me regularly when I display that I do rock music. It makes me re-live being that middle school kid all over again. And it reminds me of why it took me this many years to basically become myself again.

I think many Black and brown people who like heavy genres can identify with being judged for liking heavy genres of music by their own family and people outside of family.  When you first saw someone who represents you in metal and rock, who was it and what did that mean for you?

I feel like I come into this space and I feel like I’m constantly telling people the history of this music, the history of us being within it. I get hit with a lot of backlash from white people that feel like, “Oh, you’re being racist. Why are you bringing color into this? Why are you talking about who made it? Why does that matter?” And I’m like, it’s a privilege to say, “I’m color blind. I don’t see color.” You don’t see color because you’re a person that no one constantly announces your color to you.

When I came into this space, I didn’t say, “Hey everybody, I’m a Black person. Look at me.” No, I just came in this space peacefully to do what I wanted to do. It was a daily reminder of like, “You’re Black, this is white music.” I had to keep bringing up facts because I felt like I had to explain to people, I’m not this traitor. I I’m a proud, I’m proud of my culture. And I’m trying to explain to them I have a place here. And then I get turned into the bad guy, like I’m trying to put color on things.

It is my own community — that really is the main people against me, sometimes. And that’s what kind of disappointed me is when I put the song out, but rock and roll was Black. Everyone thought it was this Black versus white thing. The whole world doesn’t revolve around white folks. I didn’t just sit here and dedicate a whole song to you guys. That’s part of the issue.

But a lot of it is my own community has limits on me and tells me what I should be able to do as a Black person. Yeah. Even now the response is, well, you’re not making the kind of rock music that Black people made. “You’re making that devil music that the white people started making.” So it’s, like, I can’t win.

Representation is extremely important because since I have put myself out there, I have had countless people come to me and say, “You have inspired me to now feel comfortable in this space. You now have given me someone that looks like me and I feel comfortable in this space. And yes, there are a lot of great Black people and brown people who have been in this space before. Unfortunately, a lot of people, unless they are really big into the genre, aren’t really aware.

And so most people tell me they never even touched the genre or bothered to look that direction because as they put it, they always felt like it was something for white dudes. They didn’t see themselves represented. So they just, they just didn’t go towards it.

For me, it was actually Alexis [Brown] from Straight Line Stitch was actually the main person that inspired me to be in the space and be comfortable putting myself out there. It wasn’t just that she was Black, she was also a woman and a lot resided with me and her. Also artists like Rico Nasty and Willow [Smith], even though they’re not necessarily heavy. Just the fact of seeing alternative people in this space that are also women — it’s refreshing and it makes me feel comfortable.

You had a video talking about being hesitant about joining metal and rock because you thought you wouldn’t be accepted. How you’re feeling about the whole acceptance thing right now?

Let’s be honest, I feel like my first mistake I made coming into this genre is that I was somehow trying to seek some type of validation. Then I realized the whole reason that I make this music is because in life, in general, I feel like I don’t have a place. So why would I come in here looking for this acceptance? I don’t care about anyone’s acceptance at this point. This is a platform for my voice, for my stories, for the things that I want to say, whether you like it or not. It’s just my outlet.

I’m at a point where I don’t give a damn if the metal community loves me, likes me, or accepts me. Even though I’m making music in this genre does not mean that I’m here trying to be a part of your bandwagon. This is just my personal journey and this is the genre I chose to do. If I sat around and really wanted the validation of this community, I would probably go crazy.

I am technically a solo artist and I don’t know many other solo Black women in this genre. I work with different bands, but I technically am a solo artist. I can’t hide behind a white band and be the Black member. I just kind of have to go out there and just do my thing. I have a lot of strikes against me — I’m a woman, I’m Black and I have a very sexual appearance that I have put out there to the internet and the world. That alone makes people have a perceived notion of who I am as a person.

I’ve made a couple reply videos to “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Black” trying to explain to people I’m not trying to have people think I’m this anti-hero of metal. I’m not trying to troll people, as some might see it that way. I would be extremely overwhelmed if I expected those people to understand what I’m saying when they haven’t been in my shoes.

Why do you think there aren’t more women of color in heavy genres of music?

I think it boils down to people. They stray away from things. They feel like they’re not welcomed. I think that it’s very scary being a person of color period and then going into spaces that are majority white, because typically they’re not safe for us. It’s bigger than, “I don’t feel like I fit in.” A lot of times those spaces have not proven to be safe for us. I think that we still have a lot of trauma from history and also current day.

When we don’t see ourselves somewhere, that rejection alone is really hard. It’s already hard being an artist, because people already might not like you and criticize you. Having your race be the focus is a very stressful thing to go through. if you criticize my music, if you hate my music, I can always improve my music. I can change my music, but if you don’t like what I am, I can’t change that.

I think that being called white, whitewashed, wanting to be white — I tried to explain it to white people before, they don’t really get it. But you definitely understand that in our communities that being called “white” is an insult, because they’re trying to say that we’re traitors, we’re not proud of who we are. That, you know, we’re basically out here trying to pander for white approval. And I think a lot of people are afraid of going into spaces where they’re going to be accused of that because we want our friends and our family and our peers to accept us as well.

I think if you are a Black woman or a person of color in this space, you feel alienated from your original culture and you feel alienated from the people in the metal community. It takes a while to find friends and people that support you in that space and you’ll find them, but it takes time.

You also have to think about the gate keeping and a lot of the fans aren’t as accepting because they have an idea what they think rockers in their space should look like. So they’re already going to look at you with a raised eyebrow. I think when you’re an artist and you’re already coming out with new music, that’s hard enough. But then people already doubt you before you walk in the room, because you don’t look like what this looks like.

What have been some positive responses that encapsulate what you wanted to convey with the single “Rock N’ Roll Is Black”?

I look at it as all positive because number one, it’s opened up a huge discussion. The song went viral on TikTok. It’s going crazy on Instagram. Even when I see other pages posted, I see the comments and the comments are opening up a huge discussion. Discussions from who made rock? Why does this matter? Why does stating where things come from matter?

A lot of the Black community and the brown community are really embracing it. It’s really dope to see so many people have so much joy from something that you made. And the thing is when I made the song and I played it back – it’s just the message itself. You know? It made me feel dope when I heard it. It made me feel like I was responding to all those people, whether it was growing up or in adulthood that said, “This is not for you. You can’t do this.” [The song] made me feel powerful.

What do you have on the horizon as far as new music and other creative projects?

I’m actually going to be filming a feature film with Irv Gotti. He’s directing and producing this movie and I’m going to be in Atlanta focusing on that. I don’t have any idea about releasing an album or full project yet for the simple fact that my management has suggested that I wait until I have label support. I’ve had a lot of label offers but nothing has really been enticing or great yet.

I know that I’ve lot of eyes on me since that song [came out] and I don’t want to disappoint people. So I’m trying to reach out and get help with songwriting, better production. I’m trying to basically just push up the quality, before I just jump and throw things out there. What it showed me is since there is not a ton of representation in this space, I don’t want to be a bad representation. I’m really taking my time to really put together something that’s actually really good that people can be proud of.

Despite what people think like, “You just put this out there for clout” or “You just want to race bait. You just want to get attention.” That’s act number one, I didn’t know the song was going to go viral. I didn’t know people were going to respond the way they did.

I do know that since I do have at least new followers and supporters, I don’t want them to be disappointed in me. Right now, I’m taking a step back and I’m really trying to get a lot of good teammates around me. As a solo artist, I basically have to kind of put everything together, myself as far as producing the tracks and the lyrics. Everything kind of falls upon me. I’m realizing that if I want to be at the same quality as a lot of the people that I look up to, I’m going to need some extra hands in here.

Heavy Culture: Cinnamon Babe Talks Viral Song “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Black,” Facing Stereotypes, and More
Liz Ramanand

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