2016 is the year for the ladies, and powerful women are quickly becoming the new normal. In the mainstream, female musicians have been taking back their lives and even their names, during the most amazing time to be alive in this country historically. Women everywhere are creating life, creating businesses, owning their sexuality, and liberating themselves artistically each day, and our latest subject, Polly A., wants to provide the perfect soundtrack for the journey.

We were able to catch up with Polly A during her first Philadelphia performance at Boot & Saddle this over the weekend. Given the season, we thought it would be fun for Polly A to share some back to school memories, as well as a few hot topics concerning women, including the message in her songwriting, natural hair at Pretoria High, and how she feels about Alicia Keys‘ “no makeup” movement.

Growing up to the sounds of Bob Marley and Yellowman on her mom’s stereo, Polly A — aka Meleni Smith — moved to New York City, and immediately immersed herself in music. She began to craft a hybridization of her inspirations over the course of penning countless songs and has collaborated with some of music’s biggest names including J. Cole, who she co-wrote the gold-certified “Crooked Smile” with, as well as Alicia Keys and more who would go on to record her music. Now, Polly A has emerged with an unpredictable and undeniable style of her own, reflecting everything from punchy lyrical poetry to an island swagger.

Check out Polly A‘s latest tour dates with Selah Sue below. Purchase the Ghetto Gold Dream EP available on iTunes now.


DTS MEDIA: How’s the tour been so far with Selah Sue?
Polly A (PA): It’s been great! We did Canada, which there were bigger crowds (laughs). Not that that’s a problem, but there’s just more energy in a larger room, ya know.

DTS MEDIA: And you mentioned on stage that this was your first performance in Philly?
PA: Yeah! I had fun, though. When my mom first came [to America] from Jamaica, this was her first city before moving to New York.

DTS MEDIA: So, we know you have Jamaican roots. We also know firsthand how foreign parents can get with school clothes, so did your mom ever embarrass you when it was time to go shopping? What was your first day of school outfit like?
PA: I was in private school for most of 7th grade on, so it was like the corny skirt and uniform. My mom, she always kinda let me express myself. She always knew that I was one of those kids that was just like (waves arms) ya know?

DTS MEDIA: Did you have a crush in school? Can they see you now, and if so what do they think of you?
PA: Aw man, I did have a crush (laughs). I don’t even think he even knows. We were always friends, though. The thing is, all my crushes, they’re still on Facebook! (laughs) They never go away, you know? High school never leaves, elementary…they’re all pretty happy for me; they’re kinda surprised.

DTS MEDIA: Is women’s empowerment something you try to convey in your music? That’s sort of the theme we get when we listen to songs like “The Brooklyn Sun.”
PA: Sure, definitely. I consider myself an alpha female. I think it’s very important as women because I think we’re underestimated and undervalued, since the beginning of time, even though we started this gangsta shit! I always make it a point to make music [because] I know women will be my biggest fan-base. I want us to sing songs that will uplift us, that make us feel powerful and strong, and remind us of that and not to let other people dictate or define.

DTS MEDIA: What do you think of Alicia Keys’ “no makeup” trend?
PA: I think it’s beautiful. It’s crazy that there’s a negative opinion about it.

DTS MEDIA: People attack her Instagram account like crazy!
PA: Yeah! It’s ridiculous. I guess everyone wants to do this Instagram makeup trend with the same contour, and the same eyelashes, it’s like come on! You all look the same! She’s doing her own thing, and inspiring other women to embrace their natural beauty, too. I personally think the more natural look is better; I like women with less makeup. I applaud her.

DTS MEDIA: Another thing that’s going on is the controversy at Pretoria Girls High. What do you think when you hear of things like that, but then you see people in other races, like The Kardashians, be praised for the same thing?
PA: I’m definitely team natural! I would never tell anyone how to live. You wanna do whatever makes you happy, do it. I do think that there’s a lot to be said about people who seek to change themselves to such an extreme level in order to love themselves. I think there’s a deeper self thing going on that they need to explore. I think a lot of it is what I’ve said before, that [a woman’s] self-worth is often dictated by men and by male standards. That’s what’s showing with the Kardashians being so relevant and everybody thinking they’re they center of beauty. It’s just crazy.

I heard about the Pretoria Girls, and I was like ‘Is this the Twilight Zone? Is this real life?’ Like, the hair that grows out of their bodies naturally, you have a problem with that…in Africa?! (laughs) But maybe [white people] just don’t understand because they’re so detached, and they don’t understand [people of color] the way we were forced to understand them, so they look at us like we’re aliens or something? I don’t know.

DTS MEDIA: We know that a big influence on your music is Bob Marley, but we see a lot of Prince’s artistry in you. How did Prince’s passing make you feel?
PA: I was devastated! People who knew me were calling me that day and weeks after, because I was like abnormally devastated. Like weeks after, I’m still crying heavily. I was just like ‘Why am I so hurt by this?’ He just played such a huge role in my love for music, my love for performing; he was like a master teacher. He like like our long-lost uncle. I even had a crush on him, I don’t care! (laughs) But I loved Prince. He’s a great, and we’ll never have somebody like that again, on that level of mastery. I saw him live, thank God, and it was spiritual. It was definitely a spiritual, godly experience. You felt God in the stadium.

DTS MEDIA: So just to wrap up, what all can we expect from you in the future? You’re always giving us something fresh.
PA: We’re going to release the music video for “Like We Used To” very soon. I’m opening for Maroon 5 on New Year’s Eve in Vegas! We’re finishing up the official album, and I’m going to be working with Boi-1da very soon, that’s in the works. I’m just trying to end the year strong! Do as many shows, and just be as creative as possible.

Sept 12 – Toronto, ON – The Great Hall
Sept 14 – Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre
Sept 15 – Quebec City – L’Imperial Bell ***
Sept 18 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
Sept 19 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
Sept 23 – Washington DC – U Street Music Hall
Sept 24 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall