In part one of our interview, Stella Mwangi dished on her Eurovision dress and why she wanted to compete at Eurovision 2011. In Part 2 of our interview below, the queen of Norwegian hip-hop explains why she can’t do gangster rap and admits that she’s been taking some singing lessons ahead of Eurovision.
You’re known primarily as a rapper. Was it difficult to learn a song like “Haba Haba”?
In “Haba Haba” I’m not rapping. I’m actually singing and it was a huge difference for me. It’s rapping that I do best. But it’s just part of being an artist. I didn’t want to just have the title rapper. I want the title of artist. I feel as long as you actually mean what you’re saying, people will respond more to that than if you sing like Celine Dion or Rihanna or whatever. I just said, “I have to sing as best as I can and just hope that people will get the message.” I’m really meaning the lyrics. Those words are from my grandparents. It was hard to begin with. When I started writing “Haba” I was like, “Am I not going to rap in this song?” I wrote the song and I was like “Oh my god! I have to have a lot of singing lessons to do this!” When you want something so bad you actually take the extra hard work and that is just to teach yourself to sing, teach yourself to walk that way, to talk that way.
Who are the people with you on stage?
Back in ’97 my parents took us in an organization called African Youth and they taught kids how to rap and sing and know all about black history. I met those two black girls back then. We had already sung and danced together… We hadn’t had that much contact because I don’t live in Oslo. I live in Lillestrom, and I’m always in the studio. I’ve always been away. When I wrote the “Haba” song I knew that the chorus had to be huge, and it had to come a point where someone entered with a fresh voice. That’s when I called Suzanne. She said “Of course!” When I met the Melodi Grand Prix people they asked me what kind of dancers I wanted to have. I told them it’s pretty normal that I have two black girls on stage. It could look funny if you just see a bunch of white people screaming “Haba”! That’s when they called Samantha, the other black girl. I actually didn’t know that they had called her.
Listen to Stella’s single “Smile”:
Who are your musical idols?
I’ve always been in love with this reggae group called UB 40. My parents, as soon as we moved to Eidsvoll, only played UB 40 day in and day out. I loved their music. The music makes me come in a good mood. I love UB 40. My dream when I was younger is that by the time I reach 25 I will have UB 40 play at my birthday. But I think they’re retired now.
I also love Lauren Hill. It made a big difference in my life. When I started listening to hip-hop there were only male rappers. But as soon as I heard about Queen Latifah and Salt ‘N Peppa I was like, “Yes I can really do this!” What I love most about Lauren Hill is that she took it to a whole other level in ’98. She really proved that she could take, like a male game, which is hip-hop and transform it into something universal. I saw her in Oslo when she had a show here in ’98. I fell in love with her. She was standing there with singers, dancers, and it was a big stage, and I realized that hip-hop is huge. I want to stand on a stage like that. Who says that hip-hop only has to be with one deejay and a back up artists? I want to have the band, the singers, the costumes. The show that Beyonce delivers–I want to do that in hip-hop.
Did you watch Eurovision growing up?
The big Eurovision, that’s what I loved. I got to see all the different countries and how they did their songs, all their culture. That’s what I fell in love with. I saw all these different cultures. They’re all like one. That’s when I realized music has no color, and no look. It’s just one thing. And that’s beautiful.
How would it feel to be the first African woman to win Eurovision?
To tell you the truth that’s a very tricky question to answer. The only thing I can expect from myself is that I do the best that I can. I need voters to vote for me so I can win, and I can’t expect people to vote for me. I don’t actually allow myself to think of that, to dream away with that fact of winning in May. But what I do dream about everyday is what I can do and how I am going to deliver this song. Me, me, me all the time. Growing up I’ve been expecting people to give me a chance, to give show me the way. But I realize that’s not the way it works. The only thing I can do is me, me, me all the time. How I can make people smile? I just try to think about what I can do.
Watch Stella’s video for “She Got It/Kool Girls”:
Does Norway have a big hip-hop scene?
It’s really huge now. It has grown. Back in the ’90s it was small. Everybody knew everybody. Back in the day Norwegians were only rapping in Norwegian. But now Norwegians rap in English and sound like Jay-Z.
Besides “Haba Haba,” are there any other songs from your repertoire with important messages that you want people to hear?
The next single. Now that I have a huge audience, I want to keep the fans that I got through the “Haba.” The next single will come out in April in Norway and so I think it will be out in the world by the end of May.
Of your old songs, what are your favorites?
They are all my babies. If people check out the song I released last year called “Smile,” they will get a clue about the whole picture of what I love doing. It’s not that I do gangster rap. I grew up in Eidsvoll in Norway so I don’t do that. But what I love is expressing myself and expressing good positive vibrations. That’s why I call my songs “Happy,” “Dance in the Rain,” and “Smile.” I love those songs because you’re actually dancing for a reason.
Anything else you want Europe to know about you?
What I’ve always been doing is rap. It’s very important that people know it isn’t gangster rap. It’s me. It’s still “Haba.” I’m just having more words on the song. And, like, my aim has always been just to spread good positive vibrations. Good vibes. That’s all.