Mapy, The Hip-Hop Violinist, Talks Humble Beginnings And Performing With Rick Ross
Mapy is a proud hip-hop violinist who recently performed with Rick Ross and Orchestra Noir, under the direction of Maestro Jason Ikeem Rodgers. The collective brought the house down at Atlanta Symphony Hall during Red Bull Symphonic—“an unprecedented collaboration of hip-hop and classical symphony.”
Mapy captivated the crowd as she performed solo, stringing out a bevy of hits that included pop culture faves such as Rihanna’s “Rude Boy,” Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love, Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam,” and Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna,” and closed the show with an unforgettable execution of “God Did” that included the Sainted Trap Choir.
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The award-winning violinist is no stranger to moving the crowd. She’s not new to this, she’s true to this, and has been playing hip-hop melodies with her string instrument most of her musical career. MADAMENOIRE caught up with Mapy to learn about her journey in classical music and where’s she’s headed next.
MADAMENOIRE: It was a pleasure to be in the audience and witness your work at the Red Bull Symphonic series featuring Rick Ross, also you are incredibly beautiful.
Mapy: Thank you so much.
MN: We don’t always get to see a Black violinist, and then doubling down on that, a Black woman who is a violinist. How has that been?
Mapy: It’s been amazing, and I’m still surprised of the impact it has not only on me, but on the new generation of musicians, on just people who are non-musicians. Because when I started, let me start from the beginning. My mom comes from Réunion Island and Madagascar, maybe I was talking about it at the show. She never had a chance to go to school, to attend school, she couldn’t read or write, and she never learned music, but she always loved music. That was an escape for her. So, she raised us in France, me and my four sisters. She was a single mom. She raised us in France, in Paris, in the projects. The rate is being better than anyone else, because she didn’t really explain to you why, but she was always behind me, “like, no, work, it’s good, but you need to work more. You’re going to have to work to always work more than anybody else if you want that recognition, so keep working.”
I would just be practicing all day, all the time, not really understanding why. I graduated at some point. So, when I graduated, I realized that my dream of becoming a musician would never happen. Because I I try to get gigs to perform with other artists in all genres. And I was denied all the time, or they didn’t even look at me, or this is how I started to understand that. I mean, to think, to believe that it would be possible for me. So, I started to look for a regular job, and I was a little bit disappointed because, you know, I just I felt like I had the same degree, same diploma, like all of these people. Why can’t I have a chance to do the same job? I can play the exact same music. I can do everything like that.
MN: So let me ask you a question. Let me jump in really quickly with you kind of meaning that rejection, right. Did you understand that to be discrimination?
Mapy: Yeah, at some point, I think I was in denial for a long time, and I realized that was it after a few years. And at some point, because I worked a nine to five for a moment, and then I tried to go back to music. And this is when I don’t know what happened, but this is when I started to work with people who just say it openly. “Oh, yeah, we’re working with you because the client wants someone that looks like you.” That’s it. “Because we only work with people with…” that’s exactly what they would say. They were looking for female violinists with long, straight hair, blue and green eyes. That was the criteria.
MN: I’m guessing that contributes to your unconventional pathway to global success.
Mapy: Right, yeah. I figure like, that was the fuel to what’s happening right now, and I would never imagine that it would become so impactful. I’m just realizing it now because I just performed in Atlanta, and I talked to so many people that day and they told me the same thing. They told me that it was a motivation for them to see that someone can just push the limits as a solo violinist. So that’s why I’m just realizing it, and I’m very proud of it, and I feel like I’m just on my mission. This is why sorry—I’m faithful. I believe in God, and I feel like this is why God put me on this planet, because I had this to do. I’m very humbled, but also proud that I’m able to be this person. And I really feel like this is the most beautiful thing that could have happened to me.
MN: And by extension, the most beautiful thing that could happen to Black culture. The diaspora.
MN: On top of that, women.
MN: Because women also have the additional challenge of penetrating spaces that don’t necessarily want to see us there on top of race. Right? So, we’re proud of you, too.
Mapy: Thank you so much.
MN: For many people in my generation growing up with hip-hop, to see classical music, a violin in particular, not a horn, not a drum–but a string instrument introduced to what we traditionally associate with hip-hop–disrupts the space, but beautifully. It bought a certain elegance to hip-hop that’s not always there. So, how did that happen for you? How did you get into the hip-hop space?
Mapy: That’s also a good question, actually. I grew up listening to hip-hop. I was in France, but we were listening to hip-hop on the radio. We also have French hip-hop, it’s like American hip-hop but in French. And what it has in common is that it talks about the issues; social issues are mentioned in the lyrics, this is what we have in common. And so that was the soundtrack where I grew up. And me just working after school, walking in the middle of the buildings to catch the bus, to go to the conservatory, my little violin, it was just me. I felt like I was just going to a different planet, because the conservatory was a different world with different people. It didn’t look like the projects. Where I was living was completely different people, a different social class. We were mostly playing classical and listening to classical music.
So especially me as a violinist, we were only playing classical music. No jazz, nothing. I just liked practicing. I like just working and to be good, to be better, and to have good results. I was just a challenger since a young age. But then when I was home, I was never listening to classical music. I was listening to hip-hop or reggae music. I felt like having two personalities. But the reason why I started to really enjoy the violin is when I started to learn that I could play by ear. Any song that I would hear on the radio, and specifically one song that was “Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G.
When I listened, that was my song. I was listening to the song, and I tried to play with my violin. I was trying to reproduce the note, and I was like, wow, but I can actually play. This is amazing. I never knew I could play by ear. This is when I realized that I could play hip-hop. And this is when I made the decision that one day, I would become a hip-hop violinist. But when I made that decision, at the same time, I had doubts because I didn’t know anyone who was a hip-hop violinist. Also, I was scared that people in the classical world would judge me. This actually happened. They actually judged me at some point. But now, I don’t really care anymore.
MN: Exactly. You call yourself an island girl. Your album is titled Island Girl and for those who don’t know, Madagascar, which you have close family ties and roots in, is also a small island off of the mainland of Africa. I think the first thing that comes to mind when we say island girl is the Caribbean.
Mapy: Yes, right.
MN: It’s associated with the Caribbean. But Madagascar is an island. So, how has Madagascar influenced your music?
Mapy: I am from Réunion island and Madagascar. Réunion Island is in the southeast of Madagascar. It’s a very small island and my mom lives there now. Most of my family lives there. And the thing is, Réunion Island is a French colony. The story is similar to the French Caribbean mass, unique weather loop. So just French people, Portuguese people and European people came and colonized. There was also a history of slavery. Unfortunately, people were brought from Africa, then from India, because when slavery was abolished on the paper, they first stopped them to bring slaves from Africa. So, they booked places from India.
So that was very complicated. So, this is where I’m from. There is a lot of African people, Asian people, it’s a lot of people mixed and also a big population from Madagascar. That’s why we have this root too and my grandfather was born in Madagascar. The thing is, we are very Réunion island, Guadalupe, these islands are in the Caribbean, not mine. But we are very close. We are still in 2022, we are still called French departments. This is how they called us. We have a French nationality, but we are still just islands, and the station is the case. So, a lot of people from these islands moved to France to get a job and a better life. Until this day.
When we are in France, we all stay together. I grew up with a lot of people from the Caribbean and we are just one family. We are very, very close. I also forgot to mention French Guiana. It’s not an island, but we have Ghana and French Guiana with Cayenne. There are more French territories in the Pacific Ocean to other islands. But we are the island people, and our cultures are very similar.
We listen to the same music; we listen to Caribbean music. We also make Caribbean music. We have a lot in common. I used to live in Guadalupe for a year, where I was working as a violin teacher. And then we went back to Paris. This is why I’m very attached to the island culture. It’s me, it’s how I was raised.
MN: I heard the Soca music, the reggae influence in the music and I was really curious about it. So, thank you for that education. So, what’s next for you?
Mapy: A lot of beautiful things. I’m also a composer, I’ve been working on writing music. I’ve been in the studio. I’m still recording music. And I hope in 2023 that the album will be ready. But I’m releasing my own original music now. It’s going to be my first original album. And I’ve been working on it since I don’t know, it’s been a few years. I’ve been working on creating music, but I just hope I want to create something that really looks like it sounds like me. Something very authentic. So, I’m very happy to see that. A lot of people enjoy my music, even if it’s violin, but they enjoy what I do because the music that I compose is exactly like that. It’s just me. It’s for us.
MN: Thank you so much. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. Thank you to your mom, for pushing you and encouraging you so that we can claim you as ours.
Mapy: Thank you.
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Mapy, The Hip-Hop Violinist, Talks Humble Beginnings And Performing With Rick Ross
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