A District of Columbia-born Ghanian singer and songwriter, known to most as YahZarah, possesses the ability to move mountains with her music. Her voice is best recognized in groundbreaking musical compositions with Erykah Badu. In the past, she has performed live on stage with "The Roots" and traveled the world as a member of rock icon, Lenny Kravitz, eventually becoming a featured vocalist in his documentary “Just Let Go” (2015). Most recently, YahZarah released four fulfilling solo album projects, including "Hear Me,” “Black Star,” “The Prelude,” and “The Ballad of Purple St. James,” in which the latter became nominated for a Grammy in 6 different categories. Her single, “Running,” was also featured in episode 8 of Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It."

We interviewed YahZarah with a few questions about her pursuit as an independent artist, her vision on the world of NFTs, and the ever-expanding opportunities that it brings. Check out her thoughts in the interview below and listen to her music on Spotify and Apple Music!

What’s your favorite song you’ve written and why?

That’s such a hard question to answer they are all important to me for different reasons but it’s a close tie between “Star Ship” and “Ashes” songs I wrote when I was coming out of life-altering changes. When I wrote them I felt like they were channeled through me by a higher power.

What would you say was the biggest takeaway you had from working with such big artists from such an early part in your life and music career?

Learning to never be scared of change and reinventing myself. Life is layered, I’m not the same person I was when I released my first project in 1999. So chances are I won’t make the same music or tell the same stories. Working with people like Erykah Badu, Lenny, even my time with Madonna taught me that it’s okay to tell your musical story from where you are right at that moment.

I think my creative honesty is what my fans love about me.

When did you realize you had a gift worthy of pursuing in and of itself? How did you start on your pursuit of being an independent artist?

I started singing in church at a very young age. I had the type of voice that would bring criminals and the “backslidden” as the church would call them off the street. Any Sunday I would sing the church was packed with a line outside. I was so small my pastor had to pick me up so the congregation could see what that voice was coming out of. That was when I discovered that there was something inside me that was bigger than me that could change the world if I let it.

My indie journey was serendipitous as much of my career. My first project “Hear Me” was made as a class project while I was on the road with Erykah Badu. I was working with her and camp wisdom as one of the arrangers on her classic (and my favorite) project “Mamas Gun.” I was flying back and forth from her sessions sitting in the studio at Electric Lady Studios with Amir Questlove and James Poyser with them asking me what I heard on songs like “Penitentiary Philosophy” and then flying back to North Carolina and working on my record with my collective which included Phonte Coleman and chips sharing who is one of the major collaborators on shoe heels rappers delight and my professor at the time.

It’s crazy looking back on it I don’t think I knew how magical a time that was until later. Being an independent artist with something very new and only having Susan Vega and N’Dambi Gilbert who were also touring with Erykah Badu at the time as well. My professor basically got some grassroots backing, started the label, and decided that I was going to be his first artist. The record would take me around the world and have me opening on stage for Erykah Badu twice. The next time I would see her we would be sharing the same bill as co-headliners and that’s when I knew my life had gone full circle. I have managed to re-retain my independence from the last 22 years even though it’s been through collaboration with larger Indies. I’ve never gone anywhere since 2003 where someone has asked me to lose myself and maintain my own sovereignty, which I know is a blessing.

Was getting to know NFTs and the virtual community similar or an entirely new experience?

Getting to know Web3 was absolutely a step out on faith, new technology, new contract. If it had not been for the artist visionaries who came to my home and shared NFTs with me, I wouldn’t even have attempted it but in the spirit of which I believe Web3 exists, he came and shared what he knew and brought me into this community. Following this, a very gifted artist named WATA introduced me to Visionnaire at the catalog and I was onboarded. I made my first NFT called "guillotine." It didn’t sell immediately which I think was great because it helped shape my expectation. It was when I put myself out there in the spaces and started to get to know people that my NFT sold because people became the way to my purpose from the sincerity of my heart. I wanted to support that, not just my music. When I got into the spaces, I discovered it was something even bigger, a true community.


I'm inspired by this community; a place to meet real artists who are committed to giving value. Web3 made me enjoy making music, collecting music, and performing again. I admire people such as Latasha, Iman Europe, TK the legend, Black Dave, and others who are vanguards of the space.

What opportunities do you think NFTs and the ever-expanding metaverse present for artists?

I think that the NFT space offers a unique opportunity for layers of growth for artists both visually and musically. As a musical artist, I can speak on this perspective intelligently. It has offered me an opportunity to make my music with more ease since I don’t have to say yes to everything simply to survive. Not all money is good money and neither is an opportunity. It gives me the opportunity to be sovereign and not have to support myself and my family from the slave wages of streams. I can now use NFTs to fund videos, create constructs for my first music festival, or just do something as simple as using the funds to assist me in grabbing materials so that I can make an at-home studio and not be at the mercy of engineers or expensive sessions. I even have an artist who I can collaborate with now musically and it is incredibly energetic with what Web3 is offering. It is allowing people to meet, create, and support each other in many different ways.

It also gives me an opportunity to connect with people who really really want to hear valuable music and become part of my tribe. It gives me the opportunity to create more intimacy with my listeners by offering them a unique relationship with myself and my music as collectors.

What’s a concept that is missing right now from the language of how we talk about NFTs and the Metaverse, and how would you define it?

Well, there’s a lot of talk of tech and I think that’s wonderful but for someone like me who isn’t really tech-savvy, but is creative, I hope to see more spaces with people speaking about what it is that they know about music, touring, vocal health, mental health, or whatever it is the artist is navigating in life.

Real-life issues still have value and a healthy exchange about them is also valuable, which we highly sensitive artists know a lot about. We can offer our collectors and artist spaces that not only offer tech but enrich people's lives and expand matters of the heart.

I most recently did a room where I offered what I know about vocal coaching and just etiquette where 75 people showed up. Not once did we bring up NFTs and it still offered value to the space. In fact, I’ve been asked to do another and plan to do so soon. It felt good to give back to Web3 what it’s blessed me with. I was always raised to believe that when someone blesses you, you pay it forward.

Web3 allows me to do that whether it’s the spaces I hold or giving my collectors season tickets to my shows with a special discord made only for them including monthly live stream performances. It’s all about how we give thanks. I’ve been in a space that respects what we have to give and Web3 is that space.

How do you see the world 100 years from now?

Wow 100 years from now…

There is so much going on right now I can’t really say. I have a child and I just hope he lives in the world where he can afford food, gas, simple pleasures, see beautiful things and is living a peaceful life. I also wish that for everyone else here on this little blue ball called earth.

And in the metaverse, I hope we never ever give up the gift of human touch and attraction for the exclusive use of the metaverse but use its potential exponentially to make amazing things happen and to continue to be amazing makers of things.

Join the Portion Community:

Discord | Twitter | Instagram | Blog | Decentraland