Rising Hip Hop Artist Reema Major: "I coulda been one of those kids"

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Reema MajorSixteen-year-old rising hip hop artist Reema Major, currently working on her debut album for G7/Universal Music Canada and Cherrytree/Interscope in the U.S., doesn’t remember much about her life in Sudan. She was just a toddler when her mother had the opportunity to come to Canada in 1998 with her six siblings.

“My mom is from the South, which is now its own independent country, but when she tells me about my early days, it was really a struggle. We lived in a one-bedroom shack in Kenya and Uganda and we were really struggling, so she was trying to get out of the country 10 years even prior to when I was born," Major recounts to www.samaritanmag.com

“So when she got the call for us to leave the country, it was like a Hallelujah, thank you God, praise Jesus. She was the first Sudanese women to be able to leave the country like that with seven kids and no support of a man. So it was a struggle: everything — the poverty, the one meal a day — things I can’t even really comprehend.”

Major was too little to remember that part of her life, but it still made an impact on her and shaped who she is today.  Her full-length mixtape, I Am Legend, provides some glimpses as to her background, particularly in the opening lines to the song “Father.”

Dear father today I was told that I am a refugee / Does that mean I can’t be who I am destined to be? / The little girl in my class says she’s smarter than me / Cause immigrants come from the other side of the sea … Love you dad keep me safe no nightmares and Amen /Those were my prayers around the age of 6.”

But most of her songs are pure fun, teenager stuff. She’s not a conscious rapper like K’Naan, Michael Franti or Emmanuel Jal, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t expect to weave more of her heritage into her music in the future.

“I still think it’s a part of who I am,” Major says. “I grew up on that. Even when my mom was on the phone, when I was 4 and 5, she’d be talking to her relatives back home about the war going on. Every second month a cousin died, someone died, a relative that I may not have met or remember, but they knew me.

“So I was always involved in it, in some way.  It was always a part of me and I feel a responsibility to give back to where I came from because it’s my birthplace and it’s also my background. So I want to have fun and I’m gonna have fun, but I don’t want to shun that either. I think I’ll bring them together.”

As she gets more and more opportunities as an artist, Major felt that World Vision was the best charity in which to get involved and signed on with their Artist Associates program.  

“I actually did my first pitch for them [at] my Big Boi show,” Major says of the November 11, 2010 Peace dot Love Festival concert at Toronto’s The Guvernment. “That’s my first charity that I’ve teamed up with. I definitely do want to expand and partner up with a whole bunch of others, but right now it’s World Vision.

“It’s cool. I have a table at my shows to get people to donate [and sponsor children], and I tell my story. Because at the end of the day, I coulda been, if it wasn’t for God’s grace, one of those kids, still there.”

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Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.