Sirah

Sirah

To try and hold Sirah down would be unwise. What the chameleonic Los Angeles artist lacks in stature, she more than makes up in spirit. Attempt to slow her roll and get rolled over, laid out by a pint-sized powerhouse who holds court at the intersection of fizzy pop and swaggerful rap, clutching a rhinestone-bedazzled mic with a steel-studded punk rock heart. Everything Sirah has, she's hustled hard for, leaving her native Long Island as a teen to cut her teeth in the West's storied hip-hop underground. Now, with a hotly tipped mixtape on the way and a handful of Skrillex collaborations under her belt, Sirah is forging her solid gold crown in a much bigger arena.

Sirah has made a habit out of slaying expectations. Born to a bluesman and an artist, she moved with her dad to Washington State at 6, into a trailer in a community that had its own sweat lodge and medicine man. But colorful beginnings eventually gave way to darker realities as she lost her father to drugs, and was forced to return to New York. There, she struggled with her own demons and after a series of arrests, chose to relocate to L.A. on her own rather than face foster care at 15. She'd begun rapping with friends at parties a few years earlier after memorizing every line of Big Pun's Capital Punishment, so it wasn't long before Sirah discovered her new home's emceeing epicenter, the legendary Project Blowed open mic.

She made her name in the shadow of local stalwarts like Dilated Peoples and Freestyle Fellowship, and booked her own tours across Germany, Romania, and the U.S., raising money from fans and sleeping on floors as she went. In L.A., lodging wasn't much more secure. Sirah called Union Station home for some time, then lived out of a Jeep Cherokee while managing a café by day and recording her debut EP at night. Clean Windows Dirty Floors (2007) showcased a winning mix of wit, humor, ability, and perspective, and people took note. The industry flirted heavily, but also wanted her to change—to starve herself, to dumb it down, to fit a mold—and so Sirah pushed on without 'em.

Her sweet tooth for pop developed in the meantime. Sirah was battle-tested on all counts, but she saw the opportunity for more. She'd found a home base a downtown arts colony anchored by her newfound fan and friend, a gifted producer named Sonny Moore (later, Skrillex). Her live show had grown into a visceral and vicious thing with Sirah backed by live drums and keys, rolling on the floor or on top of the crowd, barefoot and feral. In the studio, she'd been working with seasoned writers to align her sound with her ambition. Then came setback: Mere weeks before the release of her debut LP Smile, You Have Teeth, Sirah and her management team had a disagreement and decided to part ways. Hoping for a fresh start, she gave up the record, cut her losses, and moved on.

But 2011 brought rebirth with "Double Yellow Lines," produced by Sirah's go-to collaborator Mighty Mike. The effervescent single—a combination summertime BBQ jam and rap-fueled electro-pop anthem, portrays a strikingly upbeat look despite some tough odds. But taking a cue from her earliest inspiration Joni Mitchell, our heroine has always been as scrappy and self-made as her hand-embellished thrift store wardrobe. And every challenge, from caring for an ailing father to overcoming her own addictions, from persevering through homelessness to wrestling with bad business, has only spurred her onward. That DIY sticktoitness and undefeatable sense of worth follows Sirah wherever she goes.

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Take Me Back