She’s been called the “queen of bass,” and with good reason as seen in her latest video for the raw single “Alive,” featuring hip-hop DJ/producer P Money. But who’s the woman behind the fierce persona?
VIBE finds out in an exclusive interview with rising singer/radio show host/label owner Ayah Marar to see what it’s like to hang out with Calvin Harris, what she looks for in recruiting new talent to her Hussle Girl label, and how she balances three successful careers. Also be sure an exclusive video of Ayah on the road with Netsky below.
VIBE: You’ve been called “the dubstep queen.” Does that title do justice to your sound/music as a whole?
Ayah Marar: It’s a very generous title. I’ll take it though, I’m not complaining. I’ve spent a long time in dance music as a writer, performer and singer so my love and devotion to it is unconditional – much like a queen should be with her subjects. On a real though, it’s very flattering and I’m honoured. Will have to make sure I hold on to the title!
You and Calvin Harris have been friends and collaborators for many years, since you first met him in a record store and let him crash on your couch. What was the best piece of advice he’s ever given you?
Calvin has an incredible way of making me realise it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks as long as I’m happy. I love him to pieces, and am so glad we embarked on our individual journeys while still cross-referencing.
What was the craziest thing you both did together?
If I told you I might get in trouble. Let’s just say what happens on the road, stays on the road.
Which DJs or hip-hop artists would you want to collaborate with in the future?
Oh so many! I’m currently trying to lock down Drop The Lime, Dillon Francis, Rack’N’Ruin and a few others. Sean Paul has always been a dream though, not sure how that would come about!
Describe your new radio show on BBC Radio 1Xtra. What sets your show apart from others?
We want to bring the BASS. Also it is very important to me to represent new and emerging talent since there is so much out there.
What do look for in recruiting new talent to your label Hussle Girl or is the label primarily just for your music?
This is the first year I’ve been able to properly think about the direction of it all. It will primarily focus around dance music, but it’s important that whoever I bring on board realises that they have to be more than just an artist. It’s a business, and we need to change the way people approach and subscribe to music. Big task, I know!
Which festivals are looking forward to performing at most this year?
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been holding off from asking my agent what’s on the cards as I want to stay focused on the upcoming gigs. Glastonbury would be a dream of course!
You have your second album coming out this year. What was the goal going into it? What’s the message you want to get to fans who listen to it?
I feel like I need to let loose a bit more for this album. I love everything about THE REAL, so this is me trying to take it a step further and bring some experimental vibes to the table. I want to take producers out of their comfort zone and challenge the sounds, for example, using sounds familiar to one genre but with the time signature of another.
What is the song “Alive” in reference to?
It’s a tribute to Jim Morrison. I’m a big Doors fan and was reading their manager’s autobiography at the time.
How do you come up with the energy to take on all these commitments?
I ask myself that a lot but I try not to question it too much. I’m supremely hyperactive so music is the best outlet…I’d probably have got myself into a lot of trouble otherwise.