After having Erykah Badu, Will Smith, and Diddy repost one of her raps, Neelam Hakeem has been taking off. Neelam was already making a name for herself but after being credited and shown love from some of the most well known heavy weights in the game, we can only imagine what’s up next for her. Neelam recently released a song titled “I’ll Be the King” which is a stan for any “Queen that has had to step up and function beyond her so called role. Bossing up!” We had the opportunity to chat with Neelam about her new single, being part of the cypher at the BET Hip Hop Awards and so much more. Check it out below.
1.Tell us about yourself where are you from and how was your upbringing ?
My name is Neelam and I was born and raised in Seattle Washington. I lived in my Christian house hold in my predominately white neighborhood going to predominantly white schools. So moving to south central LA in 2001 and going to a predominantly black and Mexican school was quite a culture shock! I loved the since of belonging and lack of racism that I experienced. Even though I witnessed it a lot with the LAPD and certain “rich/white” areas. You can’t completely escape it. My father came home one day with the book Message to the Blackman and that’s when we converted to Islam and got rid of our slave names. Started my journey to true knowledge and understanding and the rest is history. I’m now connected with my Muslim brothers and sisters all over the world, my black brothers and sisters and the human family. The feeling of belonging has never been greater!
2. Entering the music industry did you have any challenges you had to face that you had to overcome.
The challenge is just being so different. Representation, inclusion, and diversity is so important however in this particular industry there isn’t a lot of it. So carving out my own lane and staying to true to myself without conforming is an uphill battle. I will continue to fight this battle.
3. What inspires you to use your platform to speak out on social injustice.
I believe it’s important to use any platform you’re blessed with for good. I also believe music should reflect the times we are in and what’s going on around us. Or at the very least uplift people and give them strength to be the best version of themselves they can be. So looking at so many oppressed people all over the world from different walks of life with no voice, I strive to be the voice for them. Even if I can make a little difference in this world instead of doing nothing at all , I’ll be pleased.
4. I seen that you were picked to do the BET Cypher this year. How was that experience?
The BET Hip Hop Cypher experience was insane. After Erykah Badu, Will Smith, Diddy, and so many other posted my Ghost remake rap, BET reached out to me and asked me to be apart. I was so nervous but so excited about a chance to show more diversity in the rap game and represent as a Muslim woman. I also thought it would be a great chance to speak on social injustice on a larger platform. When I found out Erykah Badu was our DJ I was shook! All of the female rappers did their thing that night and it was such an amazing experience.
5. Talk to us about your most recent song you released “I’ll be the King” what is it about and what was the inspiration behind it.
It’s about any Queen that has had to step up and function beyond her so called role. Bossing up!
Sometimes we let other people take leadership over us before we become the number one person in our own life.
In a ranking the king is the number 1 spot and the queen is number 2 and you should be number 1 for yourself before you give someone even if you are going to relinquish that position
Sometimes you find yourself in a position where a guy knows you have to depend on him. Some guys take that responsibility and own it with strength in honor and dignity, but there are many cases where this dependency can be used to take advantage of you, belittle you and suppress you into like a form of bondage or slavery. Sometimes you have to let yourself know that you can do for you what you think you need others to do for you, and just like it is positive when a man is balanced like strong but in touch with his feminine side the same is when you can be a feminine being who knows how to King up when necessary.
My husbands mom was a single parent raising 5 children. She was a Queen running a Kingdom. She was forced to dig in herself to still maintain her femininity but know how to function in a Mans world.
I have family (women) who have good men that are in jail (whether guilty or not) and these Queens are holding down everything for themselves, him and there family. They are doing his functions and their own.
This is in no way a threat to my Kings out there. I don’t have to say I’ll be the king to a king. It’s a threat to Niggas, which I prefer to say the ignorant who haven’t found the King in themselves yet so they don’t recognize the Queen in you and sometimes when you boss up like a King he sees a true Queen because in many ways they are one in the same
6. Where do you find inspiration?
My inspirations are the need for diversity, inclusion, and representation from people of all walks of life. I’m inspired by the continuous injustice that is inflicted on the oppressed that we need to fight and speak up about. Also the void in the industry for an artist like Lauryn Hill who inspired me so much.
7. A lot of times in the industry you hear the word “NO” or just in life in general. why do you think it is important to keep going?
Because the answer is automatically no when you don’t ask. So you keep asking regardless of all the closed door. Sooner or later preparation meets opportunity and a door fly’s open. Just keep failing your way to success! When you make it, no one remembers the bad, they just rejoice in the good. Most successful people are just people who never gave up.
8. What advice do you have for young women entering the music industry ?
Just be your authentic self. Regardless of whatever is “trending” or “mainstream” be yourself, love yourself, and people will rock with you.