Miami's Anjuli Stars on VH1's The Linda Perry Project: "Nothing Was Fabricated"
Photo by Neil Dyer
Anjuli Stars has a voice that could make the devil change his ways, the sun shine brighter rays, and the ocean calm its waves.
She's a rapper, a singer, and a business woman reppin' West Kendall to the fullest who has taken the sounds of The Hammocks to the world on tracks with Pitbull, Scott Storch, and now Linda Perry.
Perry, the songwriter behind Christina Aguilera's hit "Beautiful," picked up Anjuli for a VH1 show, The Linda Perry Project, seeking to sign the next great artist for her Custard Records label. Here's what Ms. Stars had to say about TV drama, freestyle rapping, and aggressive criticism.
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Crossfade: Congratulations on national TV! How'd you get on the show?
Anjuli Stars: Well, actually, Linda found me on Twitter. It's a crazy story, but she had tweeted out that she wanted to hear independent artists and I sent her my song "Fish in the Water," where I'm playing piano and singing, and she tweeted me back like, "I like your voice."
She's been a favorite of mine for her work with Pink and Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani, so I was amazed that she said that, but I didn't think anything was going to happen. Two weeks later, VH1 contacts me and they're casting for a new show where the only requirements are that you play a musical instrument and write your own songs. They really didn't want anybody singing other people's songs and getting notoriety and fame off that. They wanted authentic artists who like that real shit. And that's how the show came about. I went through the casting process and now I'm here.
How long have you been there?
The show is done and that's all I can really say about that. You have to tune in to watch the outcome!
How much actual working on music was there?
Within the process of filming, we were constantly working on music. She wanted to see us write music on the spot. Everything was based on improvisation, and me, I'm a preparation stickler. But I stay ready. So when she threw us into situations coming off the top, I really shined in those situations. It was all based on what you can come up with right now that's going to move the people. Every day, we got up and wrote records, nothing else.
I was apprehensive as to whether the show would be more drama based, but it was not at all like that in the filming. Everybody told their story, and lived their story, and there was drama in that, but she was really clear that this was all about Custard Records, her record label, and signing an artist. If you don't know Custard, she has James Blunt with that song, "You're Beautiful." So now she wants her next thing, and she made it clear that we should only work on new music. We weren't allowed to bring any of our old stuff to the table. No old mixtapes, nothing. I did everything on the spot. I freestyled so much on that show.
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How'd you develop that skill?
A lot of people have never seen a female freestyling off the top of the dome. Some guys don't even know it can be done. But I'm used to it. I grew up doing it in Miami, in my neighborhood. I was the only girl in a clique of all boys, so over time I got really good. I wasn't intimidated to freestyle with 17 cameras watching.
Damn, 17 cameras?
You may watch the show and think it's just three or four cameras or something, but no, it's an entire crew of people with like 17 big-ass cameras on you. So it's intimidating, but I wasn't really scared 'cause I put in work and let my natural skills do the talking.
How was it working with Linda Perry?
She's worked with everyone from Pink to Christina Aguilera to Alicia Keys to Four Non Blondes. Like, that's crazy. She's tough to work with. She's not one to settle with the first thing she hears. She's very critical and very tough and she has an aggressive approach. She's straightforward and honest, I would say brutally honest, and she's a tough person to deal with who knows her shit and made hits several times in several decades. So, at that point, you fall back and take in what she's saying.
How do you like the editing of the show?
Everything that happened, happened. Nothing was fabricated. There was no drama that was made up or created or that they told us to act out. It wasn't that kind of show. It wasn't manipulative. Everybody got along and did their thing. We were in our own spaces. Whatever shit was going on with other people, my first time seeing it was on TV.
What kind of album would you want to create with Linda Perry?
If I were to get signed to her label, that's a great question ... I can't really discuss it.
How did you like intimidating Courtney Love?
She was amazing. She was a cool lady. I liked speaking to her because she's someone who had it, and she lost it, and you get to see the realness of that. Some people make mistakes. They blow up and start balling and do dumb shit when they should have been working. And they find themselves becoming irrelevant. They let success run away with them. She was really hot and people really fucked with her, and she let her ego take over. She even told us, "I had a bad attitude. People didn't wanna deal with me. Don't do what I did. Stay humble, and work hard." She gave us a lot of solid advice.
What kind of music are you writing now?
I'm writing music every day. I have a lot of stuff bouncing. I'm trying to work on as much music as possible, always.
The show really doesn't go into your background with music.
Well, I grew up in a musical family and always had a scholarly approach to it. I got a scholarship to the most prestigious music college in the world, Berklee College of Music. I always had a natural talent that I applied to a kind of structure and learning and getting dope at my craft.
And how has the show improved your process?
Linda is concerned with straight-up emotion. Even if it's just five words. She wants that deep expression so that she can feel you as an artist, and nobody had ever asked that of me. I'm used to going into the studio being prepared with what's asked of me and nailing shit on the first try. But with Linda, I had to show emotion on the spot. So that helped me grow to see that's what moves people. Anybody can make a record sound hot through production and engineering, but at the end of the day people feel emotions. So what Linda helped me to do was open my heart and soul and my emotions to making me a better musician.
I liked that "Mortuary Mary." You did on the ¡Mayday! Believers album, how'd that come about?
I wrote that hook literally two days after a breakup. They're my boys, we're like family. They invited me over to BBQ, and we were just talkin', chllin', hanging out. I was just down and off to the side and Gianni Cash played me a track and I was like, "Yo, that shit is hot." I wrote and recorded the hook right there in the room super fast and put harmonies. And then maybe like a week later they hit me back like, "Yo, it's fire!" They held it for like two years and then finally put it on Believers. We have a few more records that haven't been heard.
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