Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"The Beat" Q&A: Selau

Island girl beauty mixed with hip-hop soul talent, that's what makes Selau a unique fixture in the Bay Area rap landscape.

The 25-year-old singer has a hot radio single, "A Man That Goes" and is on the verge of signing her first record deal. She started out singing hooks for Keak Da Sneak and The Team. Now, she's set to take the spotlight for herself.

Selau took time to talk to "The Beat" about her music, her ethnic background, and the times when she's caught herself starstruck. She will perform a free concert Friday, March 9 at Club Octane, 321 Alvarado St. in Monterey. The show is part of a promotion for Salinas radio station Jammin 97.9. For more info, visit the Web site

How long have you been singing?

My whole life. My dad was a singer. It was something I did, just watching him. I guess it was in my genes. You see your dad do something, you want to do it.

He was a reggae singer?

Yes. It was mainly on the islands (of Samoa). I was born in the islands. When we came here, he had a studio in the house.

When did you come to the United States?

I moved to the states when I was 7. We moved around a lot. It's kind of weird. I lived in both San Francisco and Oakland. It kind of works for me, because sometimes the city and the town are so separated here, but I got the best of both worlds. Both of them get mad respect.

When did you start getting serious about your music?

I always was very serious about it as a kid. I used to enter every talent show. I always secretly signed myself up for it. It kind of was something my parents didn't want me to be, so I did it undercover. I knew it was what I wanted to be. Nothing could stop a kid with motivation.

I think it was in junior high, that's when I started. When you do a lot of talent shows, they start to say “Oh, that's the girl that sings.” That was my label...
Everybody has a cousin or friend who is a producer, and has their own label, and I've done it all. I've done my work. I've sang on some of the, let's just say, not so hot beats, just to do it and have a part in music.

How did you get your break?

From local rappers around my neighborhood. Just singing hooks for them. It escalated to being not just my neighborhood, but to the whole city, and to the whole Bay. That's how I got my start, was singing hooks. I got my big break with Keak. From there, it was like "Who sang that hook?" It escalated to that point, from singing one little hook.

Have you been starstruck?

It happened to me twice. I did a show with Slick Rick. I mean, come on, he's one of the founders of what I do. When I met him, I didn't want to talk because I didn't want to say anything stupid. I was silent the whole time. It was great to see him because he was so humble, even though those songs are older than me, he still rocks the house. He didn't have the fancy stuff around him, no hype man or back up singers. It was him and the mic. I told him, "Man, I want to do music like that. I want to do music that 20-30 years down the line is still hot."

For this dude, who has hits and hits and is a founder, to be so nice, he did not look frustrated one time. Me and my girls were bugging him and he was so nice.

I did a show with my band - I'm in a band too. Chico DeBarge was in the front row. I mean, come on, he's right there. I had to look around, I was like "Oh my gosh."

After the show, he was walking straight to me. I kind of looked the other way, I didn't want to get moded and assume he was coming to talk to me. But he came up and talked to me! It was really nice because he also had some good advice. He said basically, you have such a sweet spirit, I can tell. He said don't let the game ruin that for you.

Do you use your Pacific Island heritage to help project your image?

I don't think that I use it because it's already who I am. It's not anything I intentionally put out there. My name, when you hear Selau, you have to know that's not your average name. It was important to keep my name, because I was asked to change my name so it would be easier for people to pronounce. They were like "I can't see people calling in to request Selau." I said "If people can pronounce Schwarzenegger, and he got to keep his name, then they can pronounce Selau."

As soon as they hear that name, they know it's an island girl. I have a song that's been getting some burn, it's called "Island boy." I mention all of the islands in there, just to show some love, to let them know who I am. I'm not trying to be anything other than who I am.

Every performance, there's always a Polynesian in the audience. We have our little island things. We scream certain things when we see each other. When they tell me that their little sister or brother loves me and looks up to me and they know they can make it because of me, I take it very seriously.

As an island girl myself, there wasn't anybody I could identify with growing up. Now, it's like, Oh my gosh, there's a Samoan girl singing, I can do that.

After shows, we'll have meet and greets, and someone from the islands will be out there. It's like mad love and I feel it. I definitely want to make sure I do them proud. I think about everything as far as image. I have little island girls looking up to me. I want to make sure that their mom and dad aren't ashamed of me and want to buy my album.


Anonymous said...

I love Selau. She came out with A Man That Goes and me being from L.A., I was like no way, this chick is not samoan! I'm livin' in the Bay Area now and I can tell you, this girl is HOT... her hooks was one thing, but i'm glad and proud that she's duen her own thang now. Much love n props Selau!

Anonymous said...

She representin!! Lovin it!

Anonymous said...