Charmaine couldn’t have picked a more explosive way to barge into the hip hop scene. In her debut music video, Bold, the 25-year-old R&B dynamo is unabashed and unapologetic, counting cash and strutting through the city. She comes by that swagger honestly: her family immigrated to Canada from Zimbabwe, and music was her way to lift them out of poverty—she delivers fierce bars like she has nothing to lose. We talked with Charmaine about her musical genesis, her upcoming album (out in 2021) and how she accidentally became a rapper.
How did you start making music?
I had a really rough upbringing. At one point, my dad lost his job and then we lost our house, so my family of six ended up in a shelter—actually, not even a shelter, but a really dirty motel. I was just like, “Okay, nah. I really have to do something now to get myself and my family out of this.”
So songwriting was an escape?
Songwriting was my only sense of peace amidst all the turmoil. I loved the feeling of creating music, so I embraced it. I thought, “This is what makes me the happiest, so why not make a living, a life out of this?”
But you didn’t jump into music right away. What caused that hesitation?
I didn’t feel like I fit within society’s standard of beauty. I didn’t fit what the industry perceived to be a star. I think I just needed to take a break and explore myself. When I got to a point where I was comfortable with myself and loved myself, then I dove into music.
How did it go at first?
One thing I struggled with before I signed my deal with Warner was that there weren’t many people willing to take a chance on female artists and give us the opportunity to prove that we are capable. Every person I reached out to for a studio session or a collaboration kind of looked me over. I wish more people would invest in us because the return is so much greater than what you put in.
On your new single, Bold, you are definitely doing what you want. How did that song come about?
Super randomly, actually. I was in the studio, and when we finished the last track, we said, “What else can we do?” Somehow, we were like, “Fuck it, let’s rap.” For the longest time, I rejected it: “I’m not a rapper, I’m a singer.” But I did it, and when the producer played it back, I was like, “Is that me? Maybe I am a rapper, because this sounds pretty good!” I was so happy. I had to have at least one bad bitch anthem!
What’s one of your wildest dreams as an artist?
I want to have my own record label. I’ll make sure that 90 to 95 per cent of my artists are women. Men are not the only people who make music. Women make better music. No apologies. I said what I said. I want to be the person that gives other people like my- self opportunities to blossom and prosper and elevate.
And when you make it there, who are you inviting onto your yacht?
Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Mulatto. It’ll be an all-star bad bitch yacht party!