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Rising Music Star Staje: “Why diversity is pivotal for music and film”

Diversity is pivotal for music and film! I mean can you imagine only hearing and seeing perspectives from only one cultural aspect? Like what if we would only have Rock music? No other genre existed. No offense, because I love all forms of art but the truth of the matter is how many stories would […]

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Diversity is pivotal for music and film! I mean can you imagine only hearing and seeing perspectives from only one cultural aspect? Like what if we would only have Rock music? No other genre existed. No offense, because I love all forms of art but the truth of the matter is how many stories would be heard through one form of anything!? Diversity gives us as fans, viewers and listeners an opportunity to learn about someone’s culture, someone’s beliefs, someone’s upbringing. Its very important for the industry to grow and prosper through the different stories that come from diversifying the field. If I can be honest, one of my favorite shows is “Black-ish”. Not because it’s mostly an all black cast but because it has the right amount of diversity for the comedy and seriousness of the show. If the show did not consist of Peter Mackenzie and Jeff Meacham I probably wouldn’t be that into it. Even when I think about Michael Jackson’s “That Girl Is Mine” I know without Paul McCartney the song just wouldn’t be the same. Sure Mike carried an anchor better than anyone but the diversity really moved this single. I mean come on, Aretha Franklin and Michael McDonald made an everlasting track called “Ever Changing Times” back in the 90s! Diversity is special and should be treated as so. Without it we are just boring and bland as black coffee.


As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Staje. Born in South Carolina, Staje grew up in a one parent household with 5 siblings. Raised in the low income surrounding areas of Columbia, Staje learned at a very young age how to take care of himself. His mother worked very long days to take care of him and his other siblings. Not having a father figure in his life really made it challenging for not only him but his mother and brothers and sisters! He eventually started writing poetry on an everyday basis until he realized that he wanted to give the words a voice. After witnessing his uncle (Willie “Kevlar” Jr) pursuing his music career at the age of a tender 12, Staje wanted to follow suit. He eventually started his career after college, crafting his first EP “Just Life” (2016). Since then, he has gone on to feature in multiple projects with rising artist and now releasing his 2nd EP POETRY.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Staje! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Absolutely! I grew up in Columbia SC surrounded by ghettos and hoods full of good people and bad people! I remember as a kid always staying inside playing videos games (Madden) with my brothers because it’s the only thing we could do that we felt we wouldn’t get in trouble. My mom worked a lot so me and my siblings were very close! When I was I want to say 8 or 9 our family split up. My sister ended up living with her grandmother and 2 of my brothers ended up separating as well. Me and my youngest brother Chris really grew close because at the time we were all we had. My uncle took care of us a lot as well as my mom served time a couple times. It was a crazy childhood! Playing football really kelp us out of trouble during those times.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have this vivid image in my head when I was about 5 years old I was performing Usher “7:00 o’clock” on top of my bed with the hat on dancing for my mom. I honestly don’t know why I chose such a derogatory song but I guess I didn’t know any better! I was a huge fan back then. From that moment on, I just always sung in the church choir, in the showers, in the classrooms! I mean music is constantly in my head and always has been. I tried out for “The Voice” and ended up losing in the 4th round but I really gained a lot of experience and knowledge from the other artists. Even after playing football in high school (All-State) and in college, I still find myself not being able to feel complete without tunes going through my head. I feel there is no true particular moment that brought me to where I am now, because it’s just who and what I am… a musician!

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Hmmm… Everyday there’s always something new and interesting going on. I guess if I had to pinpoint something I would have to take it back to 2017. I was back at home in Columbia and my best friend from college, Nick called me up and asked me to come to Los Angeles. At the time I was trying to figure out my life and was working for an airline. I use to always travel to different places on my days off because I simply just didn’t want to be home, plus I wanted to explore places I’ve never seen before! By the way, I highly recommend that anyone who doesn’t have kids, try to work for an airline for a couple months! You get to fly and travel for free! There is literally nothing better than hopping on a plane and going anywhere in America for free anytime and as often as you want! Ok, so as I was saying, Nick had been asking me to come out to LA for a couple years at that point, so I decided to just give it a try. I got up off my couch packed a bag and hopped on the first flight to LA. I figured if I didn’t like it I would just fly right back home! I get to this crazy busy city and hear noises that I’ve never heard before! The millions of conversations going on at once. It was just all overwhelming at first. I only had 50 dollars to my name but my good friend Nick let me stay on his couch for free. I did some modeling. I did some acting. Nothing really paid me well though. I ended up getting this pretty good job and just completely forgot about going back East! I’ve been “home” ever since I moved to LA.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Haha! I laugh every time I think about this! When I first started recording, I used to do everything by myself! And if you record yourself you know exactly where I’m going with this. I use to put my mic and Macbook literally side by side with the modem right there along with them. So all the cords and things are completely tangled and practically tripping me up every time I walk from the mic to the computer. It was hard man! But I learned that if you want things done right, you have to take the initiative to get them done yourself! It really taught me that there’s no excuse not to do something! There’s always a way to do things effectively.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Currently I am wrapping up my EP “POETRY”. An 8 track EP touching on a lot of personal, but yet relatable, subjects. I’m so excited about this project because for so long I felt that people just don’t get me! They don’t understand my life and what I’ve gone through. They assume I haven’t been through anything. That things have just been handed to me. No! I’ve had it rough like many others. I’ve been on the streets like many others. This project will really touch on those subjects. Songs such as “Afraid” which touches on my mother and how afraid she was to leave my stepfather. “Corinthia” which endorses the true downfall of my entire family ever since my grandmother passed away from a minor car accident. There’s “Racist” which speaks for itself! I dated this girl back in my early college years whose family was completely against me and our relationship. Even took it as far as saying they would abort our child if we were to have one. I mean some really crazy stuff! I won’t spill the beans too much but I’m really excited for this project. It’s been a long time coming.

I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Diversity is pivotal for music and film! I mean can you imagine only hearing and seeing perspectives from only one cultural aspect? Like what if we would only have Rock music? No other genre existed. No offense, because I love all forms of art but the truth of the matter is how many stories would be heard through one form of anything!? Diversity gives us as fans, viewers and listeners an opportunity to learn about someone’s culture, someone’s beliefs, someone’s upbringing. Its very important for the industry to grow and prosper through the different stories that come from diversifying the field. If I can be honest, one of my favorite shows is “Black-ish”. Not because it’s mostly an all black cast but because it has the right amount of diversity for the comedy and seriousness of the show. If the show did not consist of Peter Mackenzie and Jeff Meacham I probably wouldn’t be that into it. Even when I think about Michael Jackson’s “That Girl Is Mine” I know without Paul McCartney the song just wouldn’t be the same. Sure Mike carried an anchor better than anyone but the diversity really moved this single. I mean come on, Aretha Franklin and Michael McDonald made an everlasting track called “Ever Changing Times” back in the 90s! Diversity is special and should be treated as so. Without it we are just boring and bland as black coffee.

From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

There’s many things we can do but to keep this interview on time I’ll just say we can…

⁃ Be more accepting of cultures and ethnicities! In this field particularly what matters most is your voice! I find that once you take away the voice of the ignorant the problems dwindle.

⁃ Put more leader examples on the airs! Give them something to stand on and stand for. There’s so many people of different backgrounds that would love to put a bigger light on this issue but cannot because they can’t truly voice their opinion or their voice isn’t loud enough to be heard by the masses.

⁃ The industry is the industry. But we as people create the mold of what the industry stands for. The industry only feeds us what we seek and want. We should want more transparency. More open minded people in charge and not those who don’t even understand culture. We ultimately have the control at the end of the day. It’s all psychological! If we want change, we have to accept that what is right now is not enough for us! We have to keep asking and demanding what we want. Eventually the lion will get tired.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story, or example for each.

⁃ I wish someone would have told me about the hate that you’ll receive for simply choosing to be an artist. Luckily I was built with thick skin, but it’s just tiresome with all the hate one gets for just creating content. Even if it’s good content with a meaningful message, it never seems to be enough. I released my most recent song “Edge” from my Poetry EP a couple weeks ago. I’m on IG and I read a comment on the post saying how trashy and stupid the song sounds. I was completely thrown off! Mind you, it’s a song explaining my entire life and how I felt at that point, when I was on the edge of life itself.

⁃ I wish someone would have told me about the long nights… It’s literally like working a 9–9 job! It’s hard work and a lot of consistency takes place when creating music and making it your focal point. It was tough for me extremely because I was working a 9–5 6 days a week. I’d come home and shower then get dressed and go to the studio every single day. There was a time where I didn’t touch my bed for 2 months! But I know how bad I wanted this! It’s crazy looking back on those days and seeing how dedicated someone has to be to never sleep but for maybe 2 hours a day for months at a time.

⁃ I wish someone would have told me not to waste my money buying bs! I remember a few years ago the highlight of buying followers/likes/comments etc. I use to buy all kinds of stuff thinking it would help me! It was during the time where everyone seemed to be cool and followed and liked. I quickly grew out of that phase but still wish I wasn’t so easily bothered by not having so much attention! Fake attention at that. I learned that 100 real fans is better than 10,000 fakes ones.

⁃ I wish someone would have told me you can’t do this kind of work alone. For so many years I would record myself and take an extra 2–3 hrs per song because I had to do all the operating. Yes I did learn how to do a lot of things on my own. I self taught myself how to produce, how to mix, how to install and use key plugins. So again yes it was very enlightening and more so useful that I did learn myself but I didn’t have to put all that pressure on myself. It’s vital that as an artist you like your own work but it’s more important that you connect with others who can help you develop into being a more polished artist.

⁃ I wish someone would have told me about the anxiety this industry can cause! It’s kind of crazy because I use to not understand a thing about people who claim they have anxiety issues. I just couldn’t comprehend the meaning that someone can be so anxious. Well, that is until I started stressing myself out about deadlines, finishing songs, writing new material, no one’s listening to my music and so on. This caused me such heavy stress in many ways. I distinctly remember when I was writing a song called Twin about a year ago I was sitting on my couch just listening to beats. Out of nowhere I felt my heart racing like crazy! It never happened before so I was a little startled. It got worse and worse as I just sat there thinking it would go away. I called 911 and they came to my home, checked all my vitals and concluded that I was fine. They left and an hour goes by and it’s happening again! I get in my car and drive to the hospital. At this point I felt like I was just going to pass out. I mean my heart was going nuts! The doctor finally sees me, puts me through scanning/xrays/blood drawn. I mean they did everything. Everything came back negative. They connected me with a psychiatrist and through those meetings I learned that I had generalized anxiety disorder.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I would recommend anyone in this industry to make time for themselves. Go experience the depths of life. Try not getting to consumed with the chase that is constant in this industry. It’s ok to go enjoy yourself and enjoy the hard work you put in to get to wherever you are now. Maybe go to your nearby beach or take a flight to another city. Just do something unrelated to the industry. It will reboot and refresh your entire state of being.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like to see less one household family homes here in the US. I understand it’s an epidemic everywhere in the world but you have to touch home first before you can step outside and help your neighbors. I just feel like we have a lot of cowards out there! Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of stubborn people as well. My mom raised us all by herself! My father never was in the picture. I first met him when I was 15. I touched on my relationship with my father in my single “Nightmares” which sampled Erika Bidu “on and on”. By the time this releases we will have released our first billboard touching on single parent households in America. There’s roughly 13.6 million single parent households in the US alone! I’m just trying to shed awareness on something I feel touches so near and dear to home. The slogan will be #Parent⬆️.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am and will always be grateful for everyone involved with my growth as an artist but even more so as a man. My mom means so much to me. We have had our ups and downs through the years but I know that no matter what, she always has my back! I’ll never forget the time back in Gaston, SC as a kid, when this white older lady saw me walking home from the bus stop where they drop all the kids off. She walked up to me and just blatantly called me a N**** Boy. I didn’t really understand it but I know when I got home, I told my mom and the first thing she said was “Where is she!” We drove up to the nearby place where she called me that name and waited until we spotted her. Hours go by and there she was! My mom jumped out the car and didn’t say a word. She walked up to the lady and beat her up in front of everyone to see. Then got back in the car, still not saying a word and drove me home. Later that night she said to me “I don’t care if they’re your boss, your wife, your family, you don’t ever let anyone disrespect you!” I have been standing by that motto ever sense. She just taught me how to stand up for myself in many different ways. I’m not saying I condone violence but I’ll never let anyone disrespect me or my family. Throughout all the things that she has been through I can easily say that I admire this woman who raised 5 kids all by herself.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never stop reaching.”

These are the last words my uncle (Willie “Kevlar” Payne) said to me. I was on the phone with him at the age of 12 and he was back at the hospital where we just left seeing him. He was in such good spirits. We talked for about an hour just about life, girls, becoming a man. Those types of things. After a positive long deliberated conversation he told me to never stop reaching. No matter what happens in my life, never ever stop reaching. I was young, so I heard him but again didn’t fully grasp the concept. The next day we got a call that they had to put him on life support. A few hours later the plug was pulled. My uncle was my everything! He was an All American tennis player. Very smart individual who only wanted the best for his family. He actually did opening shows back then for Cash Money Records artist Juvenile. I always wanted to be him. It sucks I lost him so early in my life because he was my true inspiration. I dedicated every touchdown I ever scored to him, pointing up into the skies saying “I love you Unc”. I dedicate my entire music career to him now! He motivates me even in death. I love you Unc.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

This ones easy! Jay-Z all day! He is such a pioneer for literally any new hip hop artist! I don’t consider myself for any particular genre but he’s the GOAT. Who better to learn from than someone like him? I’ve watched many of his interviews and listened to him speak. He’s just embodied with knowledge that I would like to pick his brain on. Plus he’s the greatest entrepreneur and music artist of my time. He built his empire solely by himself! Sure we all have a team that helps us evolve but you’ve got to give the man his credit, he’s a genius with the music and with marketing. It would be a blessing to be in the same room.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

⁃ Facebook: STAJE

⁃ Instagram: STAJEOFFICIAL

⁃ Spotify: StaJe

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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