Azriel Defining Azriel: Meet the Emerging Artist Championing Empowerment
Rising alternative RnB artist Azriel released her latest single, "Inside Me", on May 27, 2022.
Following a difficult past relationship to her mental health and personal boundaries, Azriel utilized music therapy and songwriting to rediscover her voice, not only as a musician, but also as an activist and a woman. Her recent single, "Inside Me" (released in late May to signal the start of June's black music month), and upcoming EP, Eat Your Heart Out, reflect her own consistent mental health and healing journey whilst empowering victims of sexual violence and emotional abuse. Azriel has teamed up with Cortez Bryant (Lil Nas X, Drake, Lil Wayne, etc.) for management and distribution on the project, finding a safe space within the music industry to evolve and explore her distinctive sound.
Azriel reclaims both her narrative and confidence in her sexuality with her seductively soulful single "Inside Me". The song's sultry tempo and beat work hand-in-hand with subtle swelling synths to provide the perfect instrumental backdrop for Azriel's honey-smooth vocals. The lyrical and melodic content of "Inside Me" oozes with seductive confidence, the angelic backing vocals bringing balance and new depth to the track.
The single's corresponding visualizer is equal parts sweet and sensual–a dream-like haze of flowers, corsets, and candles. As a whole, "Inside Me" is an anthem of perseverance and growth out of a broken place, projecting confidence and liberation from shame and victimization.
We spoke with Azriel about her mental health and self-rediscovery journey, musical influences, single "Inside Me", and more. Read the full interview, listen to "Inside Me", and check out the resources for domestic and sexual violence support below.
YWCA Domestic and Sexual Violence Services
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Futures Without Violence: The National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence
National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
How are you doing today?
I’ve been well–more in tune with myself as this new year unfolds.
At what age did you start playing and writing music?
I always sang… I was about four or five the first time I sang at my grandmother's funeral, however, by the age of nine I began wanting to sing and learn music on a deeper level. By 12 years old, I began to compose songs and had already gone through a handful of vocal coaches.
Describe your sound in three words.
Potent, sultry, sensational.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
My biggest musical influences would have to be Sade and Prince. I grew up being very inspired by the raw, uncut voices of both artists.
Share a little bit about your mental health and rediscovery journey and how it has helped guide your work.
My mental health was one of the hardest, yet most rewarding gifts I could have given myself. My mental health has helped me mature and take accountability for so many things, but the real beauty was in relearning myself and figuring out what I like and don’t like–what I stand for, and what I allow and don’t allow. It’s always a beautiful thing to evolve.
"It’s always a beautiful thing to evolve."
What role has music therapy played in this process?
Music therapy has allowed me to open a door of creativity that had previously been closed. It gave me so much freedom in healing through music and knowing, even as an artist, that I, too, connect through words and sounds. The more I began to create and find my groove, the more I wanted others to feel attached to me through my music.
What messages do you hope to convey with your music?
The beauty in music is that it is written for all to interpret in their own way. Personally, I would be happy to hear people attach my music to a memory, moment in time, or even a scent. Imagine it’s five years from now and someone says “I know exactly where I was the first time I heard ‘Inside Me’”... That’s the best feeling. Ultimately, I do want people to feel empowered to be the best versions of themselves when they hear my music.
"The beauty in music is that it is written for all to interpret in their own way."
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were first starting out in the music industry?
When I first started out, I had such a loud voice and had no idea what to do with it if I wasn’t singing Whitney Houston. Now, I’m happy to have found my own sound–my own lane–and I’m loving every different side of myself that I create through my music.
What is your hidden talent?
My hidden talent is that I can literally beat anyone in a staring contest.
Tell me about your latest single, “Inside Me”. Who or what inspired it?
“Inside me” was inspired by the version of Azriel you see today: confident, poised, and sensual. I told my producers, Retro and GK (they aren’t producers–they’re actually writers, but I make them engineer LOL), love was in the air and I wanted to create something super sexy and a sound that I’d never done. I had a sound in my head that I was running away from, but I just needed to bring it to life, so that’s what we did. Country man and Cashcoal sent me a fire beat pack and the rest is history.
What was the songwriting and recording process like?
I usually create in a dark ambiance or with dark shades on. I’ll always have a candle (or ten) lit, and I begin with mumbles and find pockets in the beat that I like. From there, we gut it, take what we want and replace as we go along. The melodies then become words. I love everything I create to be based on how the beat makes me feel as opposed to specific words.
What was your favorite moment working on it?
My favorite moment was writing the lines “can’t nobody do the things that I do, if they knew then all hell would break loose”. I just think it was so badass and ballsy, yet classy. Also, the shock on my face after we listened to the song in its entirety… I probably said wow 30 times that night!
Is there anything you can share about your upcoming EP?
This EP is called Eat Your Heart Out and has a tracklist of five songs. I think each song targets a different crowd; EYHO was inspired by me wanting to give people a variety of different sounds as I walk into my artistry. Each song taps into a different emotion, yet when listened to all the way through, it tells a story.
"Each song taps into a different emotion, yet when listened to all the way through, it tells a story."
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or your work?
I think my work is the definition of not putting yourself or your sound in a box. I love that my team allows me to act as a chameleon and bring to life whatever sound I desire. I am so proud of this alternative RnB EP, and I am so appreciative of my family, team, and peers that give me the space to grow and create. I’m hoping that when people hear the single and EP they feel as happy and confident as I felt when I created it. Also, a huge thank you to Intersect Magazine for covering my first project!