Atlanta’s Alexis Ayaana bathes in shimmering confidence as she speaks on love and lust in the visual for the second single off of Alexis’ upcoming EP Twenty One, the Drumma Boy-produced “Get It Right”. I speak with the bubbly Southern songstress she energetically talks of her album, modeling and her Afro-Latino culture as well as word or two from the award-winning Memphis beatmaker.
Shamika: What got you into singing? What was the song that made you say “This is something I want to do?”
Alexis: Really, I was just singing ever since I was 7 or 8 years old. In elementary school, I had a friend and I was already wanting to sing and stuff, so me and my friend formed a little group and we started writing songs and stuff like that, and it was something that I really wanted to do when I was young. so I just stuck with it.
Shamika: So how was growing up like for you? You grew up in both the States and Barbados.
Alexis: I’m from Atlanta, but my Panamanian family lives here, so I’m here really often. I was here 3 times last year. I would stay like a week or two here, being in Brooklyn or Long Island, but I just like being more around by Bajan family because I’ve been to Barbados in November and I shot the video there, so I stayed there for a week and just, well, not really meet, but I know who they are, but I usually be around them like that because they all live there. Yeah, it’s pretty cool having that kind of background and Panamanians are kinda like West Indians, too, so it’s pretty cool.
Shamika: How is that culture clash? Have you experienced that?
Alexis: No because they are all Caribbean, so it’s the same thing. It just they speak different languages. Panamanians are really West Indian based, like the Black ones are, so it’s really rarely where give you where you come from. My family is from Colon, so everyone interacts with each other. It’s nothing different. Same kind of food…my dad makes Latin food, he makes a lot of West Indian food. He’s a Panamanian, so it’s interesting. But yeah it’s really a language difference.
Shamika: Your favorite dish?
Alexis: For Spanish food, it would be arroz con pollo and for West Indian, it would be oxtail stew with plantains.
[Drumma Boy sighs in background]
Shamika: [laughs] I heard that. So who are your musical inspirations?
Alexis: It would be Aaliyah & Rihanna. Those two. Aaliyah for…she would just come off so cool in her music which is like tomboyish and really edgy. and then Rihanna because she is able to transfer to different genres but still stay true to, like, who she is. It’s not like she’s trying hard, so those are the two people that I would look up to as far as how I want to come off to other people.
Shamika: What other genres you would like to get into?
Alexis: Being Latin & West Indian, I would like to get into those markets when I get bigger. I want to be able to go into the Latin market, I want to be able to mess around with Soca or Reggae or something, so I would like to do those first before I would try to get into something like…I don’t know…Rock.
Shamika: I was reading your bio and you said that you would like to partner with some lifestyle brands. What brand in particular that comes in your head?
Alexis: I would really like to partner with just fashion, more high-end type of stuff. I would like to be, you know how Rihanna is in partner with Puma and she gave Puma that kind of push, so I would like to partner with Dior or Chanel or something like that.
Shamika: And you are still a model.
Alexis: Yes and I go to school for fashion merchandising too.
Shamika: So how is the modeling life? Do you have any stories?
Alexis: Well, I have really stopped modeling…I was going to modeling school. I went to Barbizon when i was in the 10th grade and I was going for 9 months there then I was starting to do some shows and stuff, but when I got into the music industry, I put more of a hold on that, so all the modeling that looks like I’m doing now, is really building it up into a story and be able to go venture off into modeling because right now, music is more of my main focus. Even though I can model, I want to focus on the music. then when I get big, then people will start coming to me because I can model too and I put that out there.
Shamika: You mentioned brands like Dior and Chanel and you have a track out called “Balenciaga“. Let’s go into that.
Alexis: Yeah…and it wasn’t even about the brand. That was just in the first line of the song and I said, ‘You know what? Let’s just call it “Balenciaga”‘. But that song was more about not needing a guy to get you anything that you want. You can hold your own and it was more of the main focus of the song, you know, ‘I hold my own, I don’t need you for anything’, not man-bashing or anything but ‘I don’t need you to buy me some Balenciagas or Jimmy Choos. I can get that on my own. I can hold myself up’ and that what really the song is about.
Shamika: So it’s more of an independent song.
Alexis: Yeah, it’s more about independence and not Balenciaga. [laughs]
Shamika: Your album, Twenty One, is coming out. Can you elaborate more on the album?
Alexis: I started working with it in May, it is executive produced by Joan Roy. It has 6 songs…and actually Balenciaga is a bonus song on it. It’s revamped and stuff. Also it will be having 6 videos. I’ve done 2 already, so we got 4 more. The first one I released was “All My Love”, that was the video that was shot in Barbados, one is out already on YouTube and then we’re gonna release “Get It Right” soon, but the track is already out on Soundcloud.
Shamika: How did you meet Drumma Boy? How did the collaboration come together?
Alexis: Well, I’m pretty shy when I first meet somebody. I always work on the quiet side. I first met him at his house. It was me, my manager, my little sister, the CEO, Wes, who actually got the whole connection, and we were just listening to some different beats and seeing if we could work with each other. And we worked at 11 Street Studios, that’s in Atlanta, and his sessions are really brutal because they are 12 hours! We could meet at 4pm and we leave, like…4 in the morning. It’s not like we’re saying “Let’s just claim extra time.”, no. You gotta be there for 12 hours. But it was probably like the second session we became brother and sister. He’s really cool. He’s actually right over there.
Shamika: Hi, Drumma Boy! Come here for a minute!
Drumma Boy: What’s up, what’s up?
Alexis: I didn’t know he was even up in here. [laughs]
Shamika: I’m gonna ask you the same question that I did Alexis.
Drumma Boy: I first met Alexis through Wes from GME (Grown Money Entertainment) and we’ve been actually politicking off of business with different artists and been talking about it for a long time, but never actually did business with and artist. So, this was the final opportunity, because with GME….we have been doing a lot of rap stuff, so this is like the first R&B serious…Wes just came to me like “Man, I’m serious. this situation is gonna be big and she got it with the lyrics.” So they were in Los Angeles and they were being approached by other people to produce and work for her and Wes was like, “Man, I gotta reach out to my boy first”, because Wes and I known each other for 10 years plus, so it was just like a situation where the opportunity finally presented itself. So I was like, “Man, I don’t care what you got, I fuck with you”, excuse my French, “I mess with you”…which ever one you wanna use… and the rest is history. Here we are.
Shamika: If you wasn’t singing, what is it that you would be doing?
Alexis: Something with fashion. I go to school for Fashion Merchandising, so really the degree that it is where I can be like a buyer for clothing stores, so I’m able to still travel…be the tastemaker, put the items into different stores. And that’s what I think I would like to do. I can still travel and make a lot of money, but music is my main thing, so that’s gonna happen.
Shamika: Where can everybody reach you at?
Alexis: You can follow me on Twitter & Instagram as @alexisayaana. My Facebook is msalexisayaana. My music is on iTunes, my videos are on Youtube, you can download and stream from Spotify, Google Play…anywhere you are able to find music.
Shamika: Oh, you too, Drumma Boy.
Drumma Boy: @drummaboyfresh, www.drummaboy.com
Twenty One drops in February 2017.