Marcella Ariaca

Vixen Chat: Marcella Aracia Talks Breaking Into the Music Industry and What Keeps Her Motivated

Marcella Aracia isn’t a household name yet, but her music is. This vixen is responsible for helping create hits after hits for prominent figures in music like Chris Brown, Pink, and Missy Elliott. Being one of five females in a class of 170 was one of the few obstacles this engineer would face throughout her career but it didn’t discourage her—it motivated her. “I did everything with a smile, I didn’t care what was asked of me; I just did it," she says. "I didn’t want a pity party because I was a female.”

Vixen chatted with Marcella about her journey to get here, the obstacles she’s overcome, and her red bottoms. Flip the page to learn more about this boss lady.

VIBE Vixen: There aren’t many women audio engineers. What made you want to pursue it?
Marcella Aracia: I always wanted to do something in the music business. Engineering didn’t come as something that I grew up wanting to do; it actually came my way a little bit after I graduated high school. I was introduced to a school in Orlando called Full Sail by my brother. When I went to the school to do a tour, the school offered an audio engineering program, which at the time I was like I know what it is but I really don’t know. [But the] school offers a real life work environment so I got to walk into like what a real recording studio would be and I really had my moment of clarity of knowing what I wanted to pursue. So it was that moment that I said to myself that I wanted to come back, I told myself I would come back in six months. I would go back to Miami, work my butt off and save money and come back in six months, which is what I ended up doing. I started six months later and graduated a year after that.

marcella araicaWhat kept you motivated?
Just me loving what I did or what I was trying to do. But on the flipside it was so much discouragement and people didn’t believe that I would be able to make it in such a male dominated field. We had a classroom of about 165-170 students and only five of us were female. So you could kind of get an idea of what I was about to enter when I really got into the field. There were no female instructors in the program so I would just get a lot of people that didn’t believe or would think that I would get it easy because I was a female and I didn’t want that. I was like if I have to scrub these toilets, if I have to sit here and drive 30 miles to find somebody some fried shrimp because that’s exactly where they want it from, I did everything with a smile. I didn’t care what was asked of me, I just did it. I never wanted any pity; I didn’t want a pity party because I was a female. Even when it came to things in the studio like lifting heavy equipment I would at least attempt it.

Who was the first person that you worked with and how did it happen?
First person that I ever worked with was Missy Elliott. I was in my internship for two months and at the time Missy was based in Miami and she was notorious for calling the studio manager while she was en route to the studio without having a session booked like “Hey I’m on my way! I want to work today.” It was one of those instances and the studio manager was trying to rally up everybody but he didn’t have enough staff so he basically was like [to me],“are you ready?” And that was my first opportunity to be an assistant engineer in a room.. 

What’s your favorite project that you’ve ever worked on?
Working on Nelly Furtado’s album called “Loose” we did with Timbaland and Danja is my favorite. It was just so much fun; it was raw.

What was your most surprising one?
Not that I was surprised but I think my session I had with Pink, when we recorded “Sober,” went well. I always thought she was such a talented person but when I actually met her, she’s just a cool, down chick. When you see her in her videos or her interviews you might think that’s just a little personality of hers but it’s like who she really is.

Who was your favorite person to work with?
I love working with Danja and Timbaland—I love being in a room with those two creative nuts. It’s fun. It’s just so much creativity and Tim is just so out there. He’s a good time. As far as an artist, I love working with Usher, I’ve been working with him for a very long time and he’s a sweetheart and so humble.

 


Marcella AraicaWho haven’t you worked with that you would like to collaborate with? Whether they’re a producer or an artist.
I would love to actually be working on an album with Beyonce. I mixed a record for her on the last album she came out with but at the very last second the song had to be cut because the record label had said 13 songs. I didn’t get to go in the studio with her to record the record. The files were sent to me for me to mix and I sent it to her and it was a very gracious process.

Do you have any advice for females who want to get into your field or any other male dominated industry?
Yes, know that you have to work hard. Male or female just work hard at what you’re passionate about. When you work hard it’s going to show. I think it’s easy and I know it’s very cliché advice but it’s what I did and it’s what I truly believe in. Even with people that work with me now, my assistants or interns that’s all I ever tell them. The interview process or once I hire them it’s the easiest thing it’s like look, all I ask is for you to work hard and communicate, that’s it.

When was the moment you felt you arrived?
When my parents were finally proud of me; they’re middle class and they’re not from the United States, they came here and worked really hard and my father’s thing was to get a degree. He's very traditional and old-fashioned so he didn’t understand the route I took. Just because I was working with Missy doesn’t mean I was making it, I wasn’t making it for years to come so they got worried like “what are you doing? You need to start making some money, you’re not making any money right now,” I’m like “trust me, trust me.” So when things started really happening for me and I just started seeing them be able to relax and be proud that’s when I kind of realized I think I’m good.

I was reading on you Red Bottom Foundation, that’s a very interesting name. How did you come up with that?
The name came up because I would come to the studio dressed up. I think a lot of people have this stigma of feeling like when you come to the studio you have to be in sweat pants and sneakers and things like that. When I was dressed up, people said: “Oh where you going?” And I’m just like “work! I ain’t going anywhere.” Why is it that when you put on a pair of heels it’s a big deal? I’m just very confident and I love shoes. I just felt like starting this foundation and naming it something where it symbolizes the confidence of a woman.

What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would love to have a place where I can gather a group of women that are really trying to find a place in the entertainment business, where they can learn about the business and learn to express themselves. I just want to be able to say: “listen, we can do anything we want to do.”

What new projects are you working on? What can we hear from you in the future?
On the Chris Brown album there are two songs that I mixed on there “Add Me In” and “Stereotype.” I’ve been also working with a young talented artist out of RCA his name is Jacob Latimore. I’m about to get in the studio with Keri Hilson again so we’ll see.

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Aaliyah during TNT Presents - A Gift of Song - New York - January 1, 1997 in New York City, New York, United States.
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Fans Rally For Aaliyah's Discography To Be Released On Streaming Platforms

As another day passes without Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms, fans are looking for answers.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic appeared on Twitter in light of song battles between Swizz Beats vs. Timbaland and Ne-Yo vs. Johnta Austin. The latter opponents played their collaborations with the late singer, proving Baby Girl's dynamic relevancy in the age of modern R&B. As songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "Come Over" picked up plays on YouTube, the hashtag pointed out the tragedy of her songs not existing on platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.

Aaliyah's only album on multiple platforms is her 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. Other albums like the platinum-selling One in A Million and Aaliyah are being held in a vault of sorts along with other unmixed vocals by her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson.

Hankerson has built up a mysterious yet haunting aura over the years due to his refusal to release Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms. Reasons are unknown but Stephen Witt's 2016 investigation revealed business deals like the shift in distribution from  Jive Records to Atlantic helped Hankerson take ownership of the singer's masters. The deal was made in 1996 when Blackground featured artists like Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, then-production duo Timbaland and Magoo as well as Missy Elliott.

Sadly, Aaliyah's music isn't the only recordings lost in the shuffle. Recordings from Timbaland and Toni Braxton have been hidden from the world with both taking legal action against the label over the years. There's also JoJo, who had to break from the label after they refused to release her third album. The singer recently re-recorded her first two albums.

With Aaliyah's music getting the attention it deserves, Johnta Austin discussed the singer's impact on R&B today. "It was amazing, she was incredible from top to bottom," he told OkayPlayer of working with the singer on "Come Over" and "I Don't Wanna." "I don't think Aaliyah gets the vocal credit that she deserves. When she was on it, she had the riffs, she had everything."

Earlier this year, an account impersonating Hankerson claimed her music would arrive on streaming platforms January 16, on what would've been her 41st birthday. A docuseries called the Aaliyah Diaries was also promoted for a release on Netflix.

Of course, it was far from the truth. Fans can enjoy selected videos and songs on YouTube, but it's clear they want more.

 

Aaliyah’s music is the landmark for a lot of your favs not only was she ahead of her time with her futuristic sounds she also was a fashion Icon dancer and phenomenal actress . The future generations need be exposed to her artistry and pay homage .#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/LxZfxcqRgF

— Black Clover (@la_alchemist) March 29, 2020

Her first #1 solely based on AirPlay! She was the first ! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/BHlANZjCGZ

— (@hodeciii) March 29, 2020

Makes no sense for someone still so influential to be hidden. Many try to emulate her. On Spotifys This is Aaliyah playlist, theres some great tracks not on her main Spotify #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/vLqLTVxqO9

— Blackity Black⁷ (@ClaudBuzzzz) March 29, 2020

Aaliyah is trending once again. She deserves endless flowers. This is true impact y’all. Her voice, her sound, her music...She’s been gone for 2 decades and y’all see the love for her is even stronger! We miss you baby girl! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/ALDcT0ZQxR

— A A L I Y A H (@forbbygrlaali) March 30, 2020

Aaliyah said she wanted to be remembered for her music and yet most of it is not on streaming services #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/zwk0AWMCoE

— RJR (@MyNewEssence96) March 29, 2020

aaliyah’s gems like more than a woman deserve to be in streaming sites #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/mM2GWEg1pe

— k (@grandexrocky) March 30, 2020

I saw #FreeAaliyahMusic and IMMEDIATELY jumped into action! I can’t express how betrayed I felt when we were supposed to have all her music on Spotify by her birthday. Her discography is deeply underestimated and we need to make it right for our babygirl!pic.twitter.com/GfxBeJxUY1

— jerrica✨ (@jerricaofficial) March 29, 2020

Before Megan The Stallion drove the boat...

Aaliyah rocked the boat...

#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/iXNwssD3sY

— Al’Bei (@_albei) March 29, 2020

i think we should have that conversation #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/cGl269tuTr

— AALIYAH LEGION (@AaliyahLegion) April 1, 2020

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Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
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Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

"I don't think Adrienne wants to have live TV with me," Williams said. "'Cause she's gon' have to say, 'Yes Kiely, I did pretend to be your best friend. Now, I am not.' You were either lying then or you're lying now. You either were my best friend and now you're just not claiming me or you were pretending [to be my best friend."

The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

On a lighter note, Symonè, Houghton and Naughton have kept in contact with Naughton and Houghton putting their differences aside during an appearance on The Real. 

Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

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Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

Each episode will place three chefs against each other as they craft three-course meals with cannabis as the central ingredient. Each episode’s winner takes home $10,000. Guests will play an integral role in who takes home the cash prize. Too $hort, and El-P are just a few of this season's guests.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

“Food is revolutionary because it is the one and only international language. It’s the most human thing you can partake in,” she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “We are the only species that cooks.”

This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

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