Chetta makes her debut “in a cold but familiar place”

The MC and UW-Madison student discusses her new single, “Sometimes.”

The MC and UW-Madison student discusses her new single, “Sometimes.”

Photo by Courtney Gurlie.

Photo by Courtney Gurlie.

Is there ever a right time to not love yourself, fully? Love is almost like renting space. It lasts and it can hold some of the baggage but it won’t be home. Things, much like our taste in the latest hype song, will change. On her debut single “Sometimes,” Atlanta native and UW-Madison junior Chetta uses hip-hop as a way to see herself through a different lens. Here, she debuts herself as an artist, a free queer black womxn, a dancer, a rapper, and a visual artist, but ultimately just human. (She’s also in UW’s First Wave program, and is studying art and dance therapy.)

Chetta, real name Janetta Hill, spins a Frank Ocean-like lyrical web as she explores a mix of emotions, describing what anxiety and depression can do when the enemy is the reflection in the mirror. The production, by Chetta and fellow rapper JAHLEiGH, complements the fraught lyrical themes with its James Blake undertones. Looking for ways to cope within the vices or the music, Chetta finds herself battling both her mind and the idea of love from the first line: “My mind is a lover and an enemy.”

Self-love is a seasonal script. It is meant to always be a guideline and serve as shelter, but what occurs when it feels like an asylum with no way out? To think of the war that takes place once the sun rises and settles is familiar and oddly consuming. Chetta (who, full disclosure, is a friend of mine), talked with me recently about the new song, which she plans to follow up in February with another single, “$TACKS.”

Tone Madison: What mentally prepares a person to write a song this close to home?

Chetta: [Laughs] I was in a very cold but familiar place, seeking myself and warmth. I was struggling with all the intersecting identities of being human, of being an artist, of being a black womxn in a space that predominantly excludes me and keeps me hidden.”

Tone Madison: Why do you feel this is the right or necessary time to release this song?

Chetta: Because things are changing, consciousness is shifting internally and externally. I know so many people that have felt they’ve been forced to move without their best self in mind. We’ve been forced to accept a lot of the self-doubt given or told to us. I know what it feels like to be unsure and doubtful about everything, including myself.

Tone Madison: What does this song mean to you?

Chetta: It means that it is okay for there to be a duality of things. That there is God in the darkness, everywhere.

Tone Madison: A line that really stood out to me was this: “God-fearing, so I’m scared of myself” Can you explain what you meant with that line?

Chetta: Fear. I think I was extremely fearful this past year. I think I was very skeptical of my gifts, and my power as a lover and creator. My friend Hiwot told me this quote: “The ultimate gift to give back to the Ultimate Creator, is to create.” And when you know you have a gift and a passion for art, you can’t be fearful of what you’re meant and called to do. You have to move with faith, especially in a society where I am taught fear and to hate myself as a queer black womxn. It’s hard, but it is not impossible. It’s a journey, it’s a process.

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