A Look Into BANJI 

By: Krissy Lewis

Photo courtesy of Kat Morgan Jacket: Marc Jacobs Rings: Jennifer Jones
Photo courtesy of Kat Morgan
Jacket: Marc Jacobs
Rings: Jennifer Jones

As the second artist taken under Missy Elliott’s wing, since R&B’s sweetheart Aaliyah, Sharaya J makes musical advancements as the newly favored emcee.
Sharaya seasoned dance choreography opened up doors to tour with artist like Ciara, The Dream, Rihanna, Diddy, and her mentor Elliott. Sharaya has always been inspired to build a career in music far routines and gigs with Wilhelmina Models, instead Sharaya wanted to create her own music. As a child, she was introduced to a variety of music from Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke to TLC, Aaliyah, and the musical influence of her father. “It was always music swirling around at then crib,” Sharaya reminisced. “If there wasn’t somebody in there doing cyphers, [they were] playing records or writing raps, that was just our lifestyle growing up as kids.” She admired her father’s love for music. “I use to watch him lock himself in the bathroom for hours with instrumentals and just write,” she continued, “He used to call it his office. He’ll still be in the office and we’re waking up in the morning going to school.”

Her father’s lifestyle acted as was a subconscious teacher and guide for developing her artistry. Every cypher in her living room, each studio sessions, and tour she saw her dad in with Wu-Tang prepped her for what she wanted to do.

Still, there were some things Sharaya wasn’t ready to face, “we had this meeting with some record execs and they basically said they wanted to hear some joints.” She continued, “After the meeting was over, they gave us a call back and was like ‘we think Sharaya has star quality but she needs to sell a little more sex, wear less clothes, maybe put on some pumps and a weave.’” As harsh as it was, this happens in the industry. “Experience is the best teacher,” she said. So She declined the offer and  kept moving. “I wanted the world to see who I really  was.” From this day forward Sharaya created BANJI, a five-word mantra — Be Authentic Never Jeopardize Individuality – to keep her motivated and refreshing.

From her sassy lyrics to her oblique blue ‘fro Sharaya has never been afraid to express her style. Her style is hardcore yet appealing. She’s tried  different hairstyles and shades of blues to match her 90s- inspired baggy pants and crop top ensemble. Sharaya adds something new, or interesting to say the least. She draws fashion inspirations come different eras like Salt N’ Pepa in the 80s, the culture of hip-hop in the 90s. “I remember when ‘One More Chance’ dropped and I walked up and down my block with this boom box, making up routines.” She’s also inspired by the access in the 2000s. It connects artist with ways to get a voice and influence more creativity. “I have fun when I’m creating. It’s when I feel most alive,” says the rising emcee. Whether it’s in the studio or in the kitchen creating new recipes, Sharaya stays innovative.

Photo courtesy of Kat Morgan White and black trench: KTZ Glasses: Cast Eyewear Shoes: KTZ Bracelet: KTZ Rings: Jennifer Jones
Photo courtesy of Kat Morgan
White and black trench: KTZ
Glasses: Cast Eyewear
Shoes: KTZ
Bracelet: KTZ
Rings: Jennifer Jones

She came in as a student and learned the game from Missy Elliot, “You learn, you absorb, and it’s been a blessing being able to sit around in a creative space with someone like Missy. I evolved,” said Sharaya. She reached a new level of creativity, she became more understanding, confident, and aware of herself as an artist. She’s reached the point in her life where she’s completely focused.

In her debut EP, releasing next year, Sharaya focuses on her musical and personal inspirations to create a dance-worthy sound. The EP takes a different approach than what we learned of her past infidelity issues in “Takin’ It No More.” Now, she laughs at the mention of a relationship, I’m married to my music. I’m not able to take time out for a relationship.” says Sharaya. In a project so raw and relatable, the Goldmind artist. will combine all of her fashion, music, and art influences into an EP that truly reflects her. “I know that when you believe in yourself and you aren’t afraid to take risk then you have access to things you didn’t think were possible.”

Photo courtesy of Kat Morgan Mask: House Of Malakai
Photo courtesy of Kat Morgan
Mask: House Of Malakai

This is just the groundwork for what’s in stored for Sharaya J. In a few years she hopes to be on tour, running a business, releasing more music, and touching lives with personal BANJI testimonies. “We live in a world where following is a trend; we’re existing in a trendy culture and people are scared to be unique,” says Sharaya. BANJI stands for embracing you and your creativity. It’s a struggle to make a change in music, fashion, dance and the world, but “Greatness takes time,” says Sharaya, “so I never wanna rush anything. I really try to use my intuition to let things happen organically with my music, because I think that’s  what creativity is.”

Go visit @banjiraya for everything Sharaya J! 















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