FROM THE CHURCH TO DIVISON 1 CHERLISE USES HER VOICE TO CONNECT TO YOUR SOUL. THIS HOLLYHOOD SINGER/SONGWRITER IS NOT RESTING ON THE FACT THAT SHE WORKS WITH RICO LOVE, FAT JOE, AND LIL WAYNE. SHE’S PUSHING HERSELF TO SOLIDIFY HER ROLE AS THIS GENERATION’S FEEL GOOD ARTIST. YOU CAN JAM WITH HER OR SLOW IT DOWN WITH HER BUT YOU’RE GUARANTEED TO FEEL HER. SHE’S THE GIRL FROM YOUR BLOCK PENNING MUSIC TO SATISFY YOUR R&B FIX. THEHIPHOPDIVA SPOKE WITH CHERLISE ABOUT BEING A PREACHER’S KID, HAVING NINE SIBLINGS, AND HER LINKING UP WITH MUSIC INDUSTRY HEAVYWEIGHTS.
HHD (THEHIPHOPDIVA): You grew up singing in the church with both parents serving as pastors. Your music today has come a long way from there. When and why did you make the transition to secular music and what do your parents think about it?
CH (CHERLISE): Wow. Well I grew up singing in the church. But for me, and even if you go back to the meaning of the word gospel music, it means good music. That’s the Greek terminology for it. I don’t really feel like I totally made a transition. I feel like a lot of my songs are a form of ministry. I had a very good friend of mine call me the day before yesterday, when the mixtape came out, and she was like, “Oh my God I woke up this morning feeling so sad and I listened to the mixtape and music really heals the heart.” For me, it’s more of getting that message out there than gospel music versus secular music because I do both.
HHD: I read in your bio how your mother was very supportive of you pursuing a music career. What do your parents think about your music and your career so far?
CH: I try not to go too crazy. My mixtape, I forgot I had sexy songs on there and my dad was in the car and I wanted to disappear. They’re supportive. Obviously my dad is like he wishes I would sing gospel. That’s just the story of a preacher’s daughter. My family’s very, very supportive. Obviously some songs he’s not a fan of, but those songs I try not to let him listen to and just keep it moving.
HHD: What was it like growing up in Miami with nine brothers and sisters?
CH: They knew not to mess with us; if one of us fights all of us fight. Growing up in a family like that you can imagine…my parents started off young. They got married when they were 19 and they were together since they were 14. They didn’t have a lot so it was a lot of hand-me-downs and we had to click up together and form that union. On my block they kind of knew what time it was. But with that many siblings it’s definitely a humbling experience. To this day they’ll still be like,” I don’t care you still can’t sing”. I don’t care if I win 15 Grammys that’s just how it’s going to be with them. They definitely definitely keep me humble. I have six sisters so you gotta have your catty, sassy swag up in the house because otherwise they’ll just eat you alive. I have a very loving family.
HHD: You’ve been singing and performing since very young and a lot of artists, if they know music is what they want to pursue, they typically forego a formal education to pursue their music career. But you chose to go the opposite route. Why did you make that choice?
CH: Education is important to me, it always has been. I’ve always done well in school. But I knew I wanted to go to a HBCU and get the full college experience and be in a sorority. I wanted that “Different World” experience. I grew up seeing that on TV. I wanted to experience it. When I went there, I’m a stickler for not putting your eggs all in one basket, and I wanted to make sure I had my education locked in. Everybody today wants to be a rapper, everybody wants to be a singer and I didn’t just feel comfortable leaving my future in the hands of the industry. I wanted to make sure I learned the business of music and then go into the music business.
HHD: Over the course of your career you met and developed a relationship with Fat Joe. How does it feel to have a veteran and such a respected member of the industry support you?
CH: Well, I and Joe are really, really close. It’s funny because he’s been blowing my phone up about this mixtape. I’ve known Joe for like three and a half years now. He’s always known I can sing. He’s always known I could write. But for some reason with this mixtape he’s just a believer. It’s a very humbling experience. It’s funny because when we did the song “I’m So Ready” on “Groundzero” he texted me about how much he loved the record. I had to text him back and say sometimes I think I forget who I’m dealing with because I’m so close to you. But I’m really dealing with a legend. When you’re around somebody all the time sometimes you forget that. He really makes me forget it because he’s so humble and down to earth. I’m so thankful for him.
HHD: You pretty much have a coveted position right now – you’re with Division 1 working with Rico Love. A lot of people would want to be in your shoes right now. What is it like to actually work with him day in and day out?
CH: I think a lot of people want to be in your shoes but they don’t always know what being in your shoes entails. My grind and my hustle is almost as if I don’t have Rico. Rico actually told me that. He told me to act like I don’t have access to him. It’s kind of created a monster because I go so hard for myself. I rep my team in terms of Division 1, a team of great producers and obviously Rico Love who’s incredible. But working with Rico has created a monster. It taught me to depend on me. It taught me to really make it happen for myself and not to really rely on anybody else’s success. It was important for me when I was working on “Groundzero” to write my own mixtape. Working with Rico is a constant push to do better.
HHD: How did you hook up with Lil Wayne for “Love You Right?”
CH: I can’t even take credit for that. Joe actually made that link. He played the record for Wayne and he loved it and hopped on it and Joe brought me the record. I was very excited.
HHD: Using one word describe your music.
CH: Honest or gimmick-free, I know that’s kind of like two words. It’s no clichés in the music. It’s no in the box like I’m going to be the hood chick or I’m going to be the sexy sex kitten, none of that. If I want to relate to the average person nobody feels any one of those emotions all the time. You’re never happy all the time or sad all the time or sexy all the time. So for me as an artist I just really want to be gimmick-free.
HHD: Talk to us about your mixtape. When we listen to it what will we experience? What are you trying to convey? When we have listened to the entire mixtape what do you want us to think about it afterwards?
CH: I want the energy that you get from it to be the same energy that we got from Aaliyah’s “One In A Million” and “Rock The Boat” and “Waters Run Dry”. I want that feel good music that you can experience. People don’t really do interludes no more. Everything is like the next hit for radio and potential crossover. That’s not my aim. I just really want to make music that feels good and connects to the soul but at the same time not neo-soul and so deep that you can’t put it in your cd player and play it on the way to the club. I shouldn’t have to go to Drake to get my R&B fix. I mean that in the nicest way possible. I want people to tap back into when music really did mean something.
HHD: What is your definition of a hip hop diva?
CH: Just being comfortable enough in your own skin. Learning to love you so that it makes it easier for everyone else to love you. It’s not even about being confident because no one’s confident all the time. Just loving you.
Find Cherlise at:
Follow her on twitter @cherlise101