Sacramento-based emcee Moon Magic ended 2019 with consecutive releases that represented the dichotomy of the human experience. Visions 20/20, released in October of 2019, represented optimism. The second project, Leave a Message, was released in December of 2019 and touches on life’s struggles.
Leave a Message is a 7-track EP that features appearances by Nadya Terman, Michael Ellis, and Sean King. The production is handled by Sean King, Michael Ellis, Nadya Terman, Tony Gavridakis, Chandler James Conway, and Panagiotis Exarchos.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Moon Magic about her Leave a Message EP, why she left teaching to pursue rap, and her upcoming single dropping on March 20th.
TRHH: Why’d you call the EP “Leave a Message.”?
Moon Magic: I feel for especially my generation and ongoing, living in the digital tech age that we have it is important to literally disconnect. From social media, from phones, and really dive into yourself. It’s kind of a reflection piece. What happens when you look into the mirror and realize that the devil is really you? The things that are happening in our lives has a lot to do with what’s happening inside. How do you disconnect and have those tough conversations with yourself? Sometimes you gotta go in the dark and fight to find what’s happening inside, take care of those things, come out of it, and have those tough conversations. When I say “you” in the album I’m actually really talking to myself. “Leave a Message.” Is kind of like, “you can’t get a hold of me, you have gotta leave a message.” Throughout the album you hear these voicemails of very important people who have kind of been light beams in my life who have helped me on my road in my journey leaving me a message because they can’t get a hold of me because I’m doing that disconnection work internally.
TRHH: That’s a great message because it’s so difficult to disconnect.
Moon Magic: Yeah, it is. It’s very difficult to disconnect. I was a teacher for three years in south Sacramento. I taught sixth grade. One of the things that is on my mind a lot is that generation of kiddos. Kids that are 10-to-14 are really susceptible to the messaging in social media. I’m still working on a lot of parts of myself and they’re barely figuring out who they are as little kids at that age. So, it was kind of a reflection of the work that I did there and how my own inner-child kind of came out as I was teaching. I noticed it. I think it’s important and it’s ongoing work. There’s times where you will be very active on social media and there’s times when you will have to disconnect. It just depends on what’s going on in your life.
TRHH: What inspired the song “Strezz”?
Moon Magic: [Laughs] Shit talkers. That song was really inspired by shit talkers and my relationship issues. When you’re in a corner and if you ever have a situation where you’re fighting with a friend or a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and you think that you’re fighting with them, but you realize you’re really just fighting with yourself. You say that you’re stressed and you think that they’re the cause of your stress, but when you get right down to it you realize that it’s actually you and yourself that you’re fighting with and that person is just a reflection. The song is me being very sarcastic with myself like, “You say that you’re stressed and you say that you really wanna rap and make something better out of your life, but are you really willing to put in the work to do that? Are you really willing to leave a message?”
Stress and mental health in general, we don’t really talk about these issues in society. There is a lot of built up stress that people take as a natural part of life instead of identifying why we are stressed, where it is coming from, and what are the things we can do throughout our day to try to alleviate it. We live in a society that is very preventative. We kind of create the cure to sell the remedy. A lot of what people feel gets tossed to the side as not being important, which is a lot of the reasons why we have an increasing amount of mental health issues.
TRHH: That’s heavy. That’s a lot.
Moon Magic: [Laughs] This album was a very heavy project, definitely. I think it’s important that we speak voice to it because we can’t move forward from something if we’re not talking about it and doing our part to share our truths. It is heavy work, but that’s what Hip-Hop is all about – turning pain into power and transforming it.
TRHH: Why did you release Leave a Message so soon after Visions 20/20?
Moon Magic: Visions 20/20 was the first project I did. I was still in school teaching when I made a big part of that. It took me a while because it was my first project that I put out. I was still learning how to publish, what the process was – more of the logistical side of making music. Throughout that album I think I was learning a lot more about myself as a rapper – my own style and my own voice. I feel like “Leave a Message” is the shadow accompany of Visions 20/20, because Visions 20/20 is a very hopeful album. A lot of the kids knew I rapped and I didn’t want it to be something kids couldn’t listen to and hear something that was positive.
It was created during the time when Trump first became president, and I wanted there to be some sort of hope and a positive outlook on the future. Leave a Message was its shadow counterpart. It was balance, that’s why the two of them needed to go together so people could see the full spectrum of myself as an artist and the battles I go through internally. That’s what a lot of Leave a Message was – the internal struggle of that firs project and showing people the other side. There’s always two sides to a coin, but it’s a choice we make on which side of that coin we want to be on.
TRHH: Why did you decide to give up teaching to pursue music full-time?
Moon Magic: It doesn’t really feel like a choice. I’m a very, very spiritual person. My faith is very strong and it’s something that has helped me through a lot of parts of my life. In 2016, aside from Trump becoming president and how traumatic I felt like that was for me, especially for my own family and having difficulties with them and my upbringing, Trump reminded me of many of my own personal relatives who I felt my whole life were crazy and I had many hardships with. To see that person voted into office and the nation kind of validating that, that person should lead, that was a lot for me to deal with. I feel like it wasn’t really a choice. There were a lot of things happening within myself and I got very depressed during that time. I was a first-year teacher and I moved to a brand-new city. I’m originally from southern California and I was placed in northern California though a teacher program.
I just remembered the one thing throughout my life that always made me feel good and that was writing and being able to express myself. I walked into this place called Rhythm & Poetry and the person who leads that venue was like, “You have something to say. This is your path.” They took me under their wing and showed me that being an artist is a true path that you can do. It was very much led by spirit. It got to a point where mentally I was sick and I couldn’t not do it anymore, because at this point it’s the only thing that makes life worth living for me, as drastic as that sounds. I know that it’s the only thing that helps me to continue to move forward, and it has throughout my life. Since I was very small and started to learn how to write, rhyming has always kept me here, kept me sane, kept me going through my problems, kept me working through it, and made me feel good.
TRHH: Who inspired you to want to be an emcee?
Moon Magic: Eyedea, hands down. I grew up in a predominately Latino and African-American community, so Hip-Hop and rap music was always around me and within my community and the culture that was around me. But being European and white I struggled a lot to fit into those groups as a kid. I went to college in L.A. County in Pomona and there is a huge underground Hip-Hop scene all throughout Los Angeles. My friends in college all came from the L.A. area and we would go to Hip-Hop shows and do things that felt good for our souls and our healing. Hip-Hop is healing. It’s medicine for a lot of people because of the power of the words, the power of the beats, and the power of the messages that are being spread. During that time, I got First Born by Eyedea and it was something about that album and where I was at that time in my life that spoke to me so deeply. It was the first time in my life where I said, “Wow, I don’t know how to do this, but I want to do this.”
I started writing when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I had little groups that I would make. I re-wrote over this song called “Dreaming of You” by Selena with my friend in sixth grade. That was the first time that I knew I wanted to be an emcee. I wanted to learn how to do it and immerse myself in it. I wanted to be Hip-Hop. Once that happened a lot of teachers came into my life and lot of people who inspired me. Living Legends inspired me a lot, and Visionaries. During that time, I didn’t know who all these people were that I was meeting, but I was watching them perform and I fell in love with their music and their message. I fell in love with the power of what I go to see Hip-Hop do in my life and the lives of those around me. It increasingly became, “this is it, this is it.” Because there’s not a story like mine being told in Hip-Hop I feel even more drawn to it. I know that the perspective and the lens that I bring is unique and different. This is one of the only arts that I know of where I can really express it in that way.
TRHH: How did you come up with the idea for Word Wizards mixtapes?
Moon Magic: That came out of the Rhythm and Poetry venue. Rhythm and Poetry was like the first open mic venue spot that really brought me into myself as an artist. It had a lot of very strong mentors and teachers who have either been in the rap game or the spoken word game within the Sacramento art scene who were actually full-time artists. That to me is just so inspiring to see. Being a rapper, a lot of people say, “Oh, that’s not a real job” but to see these people be so serious about their art it was just such an inspirational space. It started with me being like, “Whoa, all of these people are dope and have amazing things to say. How do I get more people to hear it?” I bought a mic and just started recording these people and put it all together. It just kind of formed itself after a while. These are our stories. These are the stories of our community.
It was cool because every single person that I was working with had a very different story. They represented a different identity, whether they were a different race, a different gender, from a different city, or from a different background, yet you could see the similarities within their stories of hardship, pain, struggle, and different things they had to overcome. I was like, “Whoa, if you put us all together imagine the power of people being able to see that on one united mixtape!” No matter what, they can find themselves and even if they can’t relate to someone’s story they can have compassion and understanding. My goal is through these projects people become more open to things that aren’t their own experience and things that they identify with. I hope that they see themselves in more people and understand that we’re all connected to a bigger human story.
TRHH: What’s next up for Moon Magic?
Moon Magic: It’s kind of under wraps right now [laughs]. You saw I put out two projects back-to-back. I wanted to take a step back and see what’s next for me. I think we continually grow as artists, so there’s been a lot of evolving in my sound, my cadence, and my style. I got a project in the works right now. I don’t want to speak too much about it, but you will see something coming out on March 20th, which is the first day of spring. I will drop the first single from the next project. I’m not sure if it’s going to be an album or an EP yet. I have about six tracks or so in the chamber getting everything polished up, mixed and mastered. I really want to be very intentional about how I release them and the messaging around them. You’ll see more in the works soon. We’re definitely going to release more singles and sprinkle it throughout the year. March 20th is the big day. Look out for the next track that day.
Purchase: Moon Magic – Leave a Message.