Been Woke: Snow Tha Product On Surviving A Male-Dominated Industry
Claudia Alexandra Feliciano, better known by her stage name Snow Tha Product, is a proud Chicana MC from the California area who's steadily carving her own path in the rap game today. Much like women who came before her—Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, and even the late Queen of Tejano music, Selena—the bilingual rapper is breaking stereotypes that perpetuate women can't go toe to toe with their male counterparts in an industry that thrives on sexploitation, no less.
Being both Latina and female, Snow says she's well aware that her versatility and unadulterated talent can weigh her down in a business set up to compartmentalize women. "Stick to your guns and just rap as good as the boys," she says in a hoarse voice on the other end of the line.
Snow's new EP, Half Way There Part 1, boasts expertly crafted production and her signature ferocious storytelling, mixed with a tinge of R&B on varied verses and hooks. After establishing herself a "dope rapper" (or someone who can actually spit beyond the hackneyed big-booty vixen and drug chronicles with virtuosity ), she says: "Now is the time I can do whatever I want as far as just making good music."
Despite her love of and passion for the music, it's crystal clear her relationship with her fans is above it all. Her YouTube channel, Woke TV, has over 280k subscribers and has become her main platform for connecting with the masses. She likes to show off her wacky, yet charismatic personality via special Q&As and viral-worthy vlog episodes centered on her day to day routines. Not to mention, Snow's "ride or die" fans lend a careful ear to the music just as well as they tune into her life.
VIBE VIVA caught up with Snow to discuss her new EP, her loyal fanbase and what it means to be a Latina MC. —Melissa De Los Santos
VIBE VIVA: What set’s the new music we’re hearing on Halfway There Part 1 apart from your previous work?
Snow: I don't necessarily think anything sets it apart, I think it's a continuation of what I have been doing just, you know, obviously with time growing and just knowing more about music, and just being a little more free on doing what I want to do. I feel like for a while I've let me being the good rapper kind of control what music I make, I'm always trying to impress people, I'm trying to make sure my fans know I'm still rapping hard or whatever. I think on this one I just kind of let loose a little more and was just like alright, I think I've established myself enough as a good rapper, I think now I can do whatever I want as far as just making good music.
You bring a sense of versatility to the rap game. What was the writing process like this time around?
It was a lot easier. In the beginning it was a little hard because I was still thinking about it like, “I gotta rap good, yeah I gotta be a good MC,” but once I really got into it and I just got into my zone it's a lot of easier to write slow or down stuff. Obviously there's less words [Laughs] and yeah it was just dope. I mean honestly it was pretty seamless and I'm excited for the next part of the project to drop, because I think it's only gonna keep going from here.
Do you have an idea of when that might be?
I'm thinking probably towards the fall because I'm probably gonna start touring again in the fall and I know I wanna be performing a lot of the new material. I'm thinking around then, but to be honest with you, right now I don't know.
On “Nights” and “Alright” you tried something new. You added a sing song-y rhythm to your raps. Was that your way of showing the world you won’t be pigeonholed?
Yeah, I do feel like on a lot of hooks before, since I started, I have been doing singy stuff, like “Drunk Love” or “What You Like” or “Feeling Bad.” So I think it's just the same thing that I've been doing, but now I kind of did it a little more on the verses, before it was just on the hook. Now it's a little more on the verses.
You also have a Spanish-language song. Tell me a little bit about that and the inspiration behind it.
Well that song was actually produced by my boy Boomba, he’s my homie. He produced a lot of my beginning stuff, and we're both Mexican. We were just kind of sitting around, when I party or I just kick it with my friends we listen to a lot of more Caribbean stuff. Like we listen to a lot of El General, a lot of old Panamanian reggaeton or like Caribbean reggaeton. I was kind of like, "I don't know why I’ve never made one of those songs," but he randomly started playing some keys and made the beat and then I just went ahead and started recording.
Is the writing process for a song in Spanish different than the one in English?
Not too much, I think it’s pretty much the same thing, because I am bilingual. So I just pretty much turned my Spanish brain on.
I bet your family was happy.
Yeah my mom was ecstatic, she was like, “This is all you need to make, stop with the rap you need to make this!” I’m like, “Oh, my god mom.”
Do you feel a sense of responsibility in putting on for Latinos?
I do, I feel a sense of responsibility to put on for Latinos correctly, and that's what a lot of people don’t understand. I think if I was just out here trying to get Latino dollars or Latino support just by waving a [flag] then that's different, you know that's what a lot of people are doing, but I wanna represent in a respectable way and in a way that doesn't stereotype us even more. Which is why I’m so reluctant to be pigeonholed, because I wanna make sure they don't ever put us back into “just Chicano rap" or “just Latin hip-hop” you know? I want it to be that we are a real voice in regular hip-hop conversation. Like if I’m speaking English in my song you don't have to give me a Latin Grammy, I mean I’ll welcome it but you don't have to give me it just because I'm Latina if I’m speaking English.
I personally loved your remix to Alessia Cara's “I’m Here.” In your verse in that song, you said, “I ain’t black and I ain’t white so I ain’t got a lane and I don’t got a Nicki budget, I don’t got a Wayne.”
Being both a Latina and a woman, how has “not having a lane” affected you?
That's the reason I’ve been rapping for this long and I’m barely getting any recognition. It's a natural thing for people to be like, “This is new, I don't get it.” I think it’s happened since forever, when things are different they don't get it but the beautiful thing about that is you don't get it until you do and when you do, it could definitely be a positive that I'm Latina and that I'm a female and I'm the the first of my kind doing this.
Until then it’s going to be a very frustrating process to try and stick to my guns and keep doing what I always set out to do and that's been the hardest thing, not burn bridges but still being like, "Look I’m not going to do that stereotypical sh*t." I’m gonna try to open this lane, but I’m feeling positive that its getting close to being accepted and being looked at as a good artist.
Does it motivate you knowing there’s a possibility that you will be the one to pave a way?Yeah of course, that's what I set out to do and I really want to do just for my fans that use to promote me back in the day when I had like a thousand followers. I want them to have the satisfaction of saying, “I told you so” to all their homies that were like “nah, that’s wack!” I want that so bad, like that’s pretty much all I really do it for. For that first supporter to just be able to say “I told you so.”
I notice you maintain a direct line between you and your fans. Whether it’s through twitter, Instagram or YouTube, people definitely seem to love you as an individual apart from your music. What does your relationship with your fan base mean to you?
Honestly, that’s above the music, that’s more than the music, which is why I vlog. There’s people who don’t f*ck with my music and just f*ck with me as a person, and then there's people that f*ck with my music, that don't check out the blog. I think overall I just wanna connect with people and I just wanna feel like we’ve got a real connection. That I don't have to rap, you could just see me and give me the love because of who I am as a person, and overall I think that means a lot more than being an artist that just puts on the show.
A photo posted by @snowthaproduct on
Your fans are also very supportive of your Stay Woke movement. Talk to me about Stay Woke, what’s the story behind that?
Woke has been a brand that we’ve been representing since 2010. I’ve had a website since 2007 called "Wake Your Game Up." When I use to sell CD’s out in the street I use to go up to people and in order to make them feel like they were missing out I’d be like “quit sleeping on me, you need to wake your game up!” It always kind of changed from all that and the fans just really liked it.
We made it a clothing line, everybody really represented it and people got it tattooed on them. This has been really the main thing, Woke TV has been a really big part of my career. Now recently it’s become more popular for everybody to say it. So we’ve been doing the "Been Woke" thing to kind of separate ourselves, and many people know man we’ve BEEN woke. Don't come at me with “you don't know what woke is” nu uh, you need to check google and see who was representing this sh*t way before everybody wanted to hop on the bandwagon! But at this point I’m welcoming everyone to be woke, because that's what it’s suppose to be, it’s suppose to be enlightenment, it’s suppose to be awareness.
What advice do you give to other women who “don’t have a lane” and are trying to make a name for themselves?
I would say don't let anybody make you feel like being a woman is gonna make you make bad decisions, based on emotions. I know I’ve always heard “women are emotional” but so are men! Men are very emotional! To me, I feel like the biggest benefits that's ever happened in my career, because I do handle a lot of it myself, has been—don't raise my voice, don't get too emotional, talk to these dudes like "look you're gonna respect my business ends and I’m gonna respect yours" and that's it. I think that will go a long way, more than even rapping well, just being able to have the business sense to be able to talk to dudes and still be able to keep that respect without them having to hit on you in the studio. Stick to your guns and just rap just as good as the boys and that's it.
SEE YALL TONIGHT PORTLAND!!! Then June 17th Salt Lake City, UT The Complex June 18th Grand Junction, CO Mesa Theater June 19th Boulder, CO Fox Theatre June 20th Fort Collins, CO Aggie June 21st Sante Fe, NM Sky Light June 22nd Phoenix, AZ Club Red June 23rd Flagstaff, AZ Greenroom June 25th Santa Ana, CA Observatory
In an ideal world, if you’re setting up the blueprint, what does YOUR lane look like?
Oh man, pause that’s the thing I wouldn't even know… Just what I am [really] but with actual promotion behind me, you feel me? I've never had a big feature, I’ve never had radio, I’ve never had real promotion behind me, I’ve never had anything. Sometimes people like to ask, “What are you gonna change to make you pop?” It’s like well sh*t, the only thing I haven't tried, which is all this other sh*t because as far as me, I know I’ve built this from just being me. I’ll keep doing the singy-rappy sh*t, I’ll keep doing the Spanish sh*t, I’ll just keep doing me, but maybe just do little more business.
Last question. If you were stuck on an island and could only bring with you one album, one food, and one person to journey with, who and what would that be?
Aw man, that’s hard. One person? Aw man. Food is gonna be cheese fries. Does that count as two? Cheese-fries.
We’ll count it as one, haha.
Okay so cheese fries is one! Album is probably going to be Drake Thank Me Later, or any Drake album I don’t give a f*ck. [Laughs]
One person, probably my brother because he’ll probably get us off of the island. My brother will build a fire, he’ll f*cking—I don’t know what the f*ck he’ll do. Build a bridge? My brother's really good at everything he does, so he’ll get us off the island!
Download Snow's new EP, Half Way There Part 1 here.
A photo posted by @snowthaproduct on