Name: Leila Culley, a.k.a Afrodite
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
From the transition of initially being a spoken word poet to later creating her stage name as a rapper, things have been aligning for Brooklyn-bred Leila Culley. She began writing poetry around three years ago and through well intended peer pressure began rapping under her stage name, Afrodite.
The twenty-year-old has only been recording music for about a year now, but while going through the motions of finding her sound she brings her divine energy, a carefree spirit and that signature confident yet humble New York demeanor.
Ngozi Nwanji: Tell me the background story behind your stage name Afrodite.
Afrodite: I decided to call myself Afrodite because one, I have an afro. But, it started to get deeper than that once I got into astrology because I’m a Libra sun and it just so happens that Libra and Taurus are both ruled by the planet Venus. In mythology, the Roman equivalent to Aphrodite is Venus who’s also the goddess of love, wisdom and beauty.
It was kind of just like, well that’s convenient, because my Venus placement in astrology also is in Libra. So, it’s really just a whole lot of love and beauty coming from my whole existence and I figured it was a good fit.
You’re from Brooklyn, but honestly your energy reminds me of Rico Nasty when she first started out in 2016; it’s your fun, bubbly, confident personality. Who are a few artists that inspire you?
A: First of all I love Rico Nasty, that’s my girl. But, I’ve always really liked Missy Elliott growing up. As I got a little older, like a teenager, Nicki Minaj was poppin’. I’m still a heavy Nicki fan, you know. I’m really in tune with all the female artists that are coming out too. Like Tierra Whack, Melii, Rico Nasty and Dreezy. I like to see other women that are doing their thing and defying norms especially in the music industry.
How would you describe your music style?
A: I feel like honestly I’m still kind of in the process of developing that only because I just started music like a year ago. So, I’m still kind of figuring out how to be comfortable being different or doing something I’ve never heard before. But, overall I think I’m very energetic, playful, and confident, but subtle. I kind of just have fun with it.
When did you start doing spoken word?
A: I’ve actually been doing spoken word for a good two years now, maybe three years actually. I’ve been writing poetry a lot longer than I’ve been making music, so that’s kind of where I started and also how I started performing. My friends would try to encourage me to do some poetry over music. But I always said, if I’m going to do anything over music then I might as well just try and rap because they’re kind of like cousins.
Spoken word is poetry and so is hip-hop. But, how has being a spoken word artist shaped your rapping?
A: Starting with poetry helped me get a little more comfortable speaking my own words on stage. When I first started I would look really anxious on stage and my stage presence was a lot different than it is now because I’ve grown from it.
Doing poetry on stage first helped me be comfortable with just talking to the audience. Being able to see videos of myself to see how I look on stage it helped me realize how I can control the crowd. Also, how I can engage them, how I look and how my body language might speak to the crowd. Rapping requires a little more in terms of performing and starting with poetry helped me with that.
What’s the meaning behind your song “Majestic”?
A: “Majestic” was something I wrote in the first year of me starting my music. Overall, I was in a pretty confident place. I remember being in a place where I was first starting to be really comfortable with myself and in my skin. And, comfortable with the things that I believe in and I was well aware of the things that were for me and made me feel better.
The song is to express that confidence in myself, but also give that black girl magic vibe. I show more of that in the music video though because I have some fellow queens with me. It’s a celebration of me accepting myself.
“Majestic” is your very first music video. What was the vision you had for it?
A: I sat on this idea and this song for awhile before I came up with a video idea. But, being that it is my first video I always thought it was important to keep in mind the image of myself that I’m trying to build. I wanted to stay true to who I am on the everyday basis. I didn’t want to look like I was going to a whole gala if that’s not what I usually do.
I’m very big on putting up an image of who I am, but not a fake image of who I am. I’m like, I want to do a scene barefaced without any makeup because that’s how I look six out of ten days anyway. But, I also wanted to show the opposite of me going out because if I’m not at home I’m out and about. I wanted to show that contrast of me at home writing and centering myself in opposition with me being out expressing that confidence. The video was really important for me to express that balance.
Your EP is also being released this month. What can listeners expect?
A: My EP is going to be called Pocket Sized Passion because it’s a peek at the many things that I’ve made. It’s five songs and I think each song captures a different essence of who I am. You can expect a couple different vibes. I have chill, smoke, kind of groovy vibes, but I have a couple I’m in the gym working out vibes. And, that “Today I am that b*tch, period”, this is the song you throw on in the morning. It’s a little bit of everything because ultimately it’s a test palette for everything else I’m working on.