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Lisa Mafia
By Melisa Tang

With her debut single, 'All Over', reaching number 2 in the UK charts, the "24-Carat Princess" of South London's notorious garage clique, the So Solid Crew, is set to do even bigger things for the UK urban music scene. Following in the footsteps of fellow crew-members Romeo, Harvey, and Asher D, Lisa Maffia, 23, is taking centre stage, embarking on what appears to be a very promising career as a solo artist.

Growing up with her mother and sister on a Battersea housing estate, Lisa struggled from a young age to deal with her mixed race background, (her mother is Italian, and her father, Black American). Lisa and her sister soon learnt how to defend themselves against racist taunts. "During primary school, there was always a bit of racism, people used to call us names and stuff. But secondary school was much easier; I was tougher, a bit of a tomboy. I learnt to defend and speak up for myself in just about any situation that came around."

It was through friends at school, that Lisa, who at the time was thirteen, met the boys of So Solid. "I've known Megaman for about ten years." Lisa went on to study at college, but fell pregnant at 17 with her daughter Chelsea, and moved out of the family home. Although this delayed her plans to become an architect, she remained determined to succeed, and when she was 19, she rekindled her relationship with the So Solid Crew, on and around the Battersea housing estate. Having always been into singing, her music career didn't start professionally until she recorded a track with the Crew, and received a grant from the Prince's Trust, which helped to pay for her singing lessons, bringing her to where she is today.

Taking her mother's surname, 'Maffia', at birth, Lisa rose to fame as the only female in the So Solid Crew, lacing tracks like 'Oh No (Sentimental Things)', 'No Good For Me', and '21 Seconds' with her sweet, dulcet voice. Now, with her solo album complete, So Solid's First Lady is ready to step into the limelight.

Since the release of 'All Over', Lisa's fan base has grown rapidly, receiving support from fans of Pop, Garage, Hip Hop and R'n'B music, all of whom cannot wait for her follow-up single and album to drop. Lisa's huge success has come despite the negative media coverage of the So Solid Crew, who continually find themselves being linked to gun violence, both on the streets and in the clubs. The media have blamed the Crew's lyrics and actions of certain members, such as Asher D, Kaish and G-Man, for inciting the use of guns, leading to the then Culture Minister, Kim Howell, branding the So Solid Crew as 'idiots'.

The day before this interview took place, there was yet another fatal club shooting, this time outside Turnmills nightclub, Clerkenwell, London where Maffia was expected to perform. Although she cancelled the appearance at the last minute due to illness, the coverage by the media the following morning showed the extent that some tabloids would go to, to associate So Solid with violence. It was therefore understandable that their record label and management did not want Lisa to be questioned on the subject of violence, and so, steering clear of this topic, we continued.

The Situation: You have kind of taken a back seat up until now to release your own material. Why is this?

Lisa Maffia: I've never taken a back seat, my boys are always behind me! It's just that I was playing around for six months, taking time out to actually finish my album, playing with beats and different types of singing styles. Just finding myself really, because I've never done this before, I didn't know what direction to take. Other members have come out before me, like Romeo and Harvey, but it's only because of me taking my time to get in the studio.

Do you feel pressured by the success that Romeo, for example, has had in the business as a solo artist?

No, most definitely not. Their success is my success, I'm really proud of my boys Romeo and Harvey. I mean, I got to tour with Romeo on the Ja Rule and Ashanti Tour, and other tours as well, so I don't feel pressured at all. As I said, if they were at number one and two, and I was at number thirty, I would be just as happy for them, because their success is as much mine as it is theirs.

How did the 'Solid Love' showcase come about, and when was the last time you all performed together?

The last time we performed together was at Ocean again, at Oxide & Neutrino's Five Night Stand. That wasn't actually our show, but that was the last time we got to perform with a lot of us together. The 'Solid Love' gig came about when we were asked to back the gun amnesty campaign. We are very aware of what's going on in the streets. We did it as it affects our future, and we wanna make things better, not worse.

You recently performed at ACFEST and appeared at the MTV Base, Blues & Soul Tour. Do you feel confident on stage now when you're performing solo, or do you prefer it when you have your So Solid family around you?

I always prefer to have my boys behind me, but I'm fully prepared for it, it's gonna be great. I really looked forward to the B&S Tour, just being in front of all my supporters.

Your debut single, 'All Over', was an R&B/Ragga track. Who wrote it, and why did you choose this as the first single?

We each wrote our own individual piece. I wrote mine, Mega wrote his, etc. I chose this as my first single, because So Solid haven't really been on the road recently, we¹ve just been busy working on our own albums, so we haven¹t heard what¹s pumping in the clubs, on the radio, and MTV for a long time. This is the type of tune that I would personally like to hear in the clubs, it's got that kind of party vibe, and So Solid know how to party as well! It's just something you'd like to hear when you¹re out, so that's why I chose that track.

Is this single a good indication of the type of sound the album will follow?

Yes and no really. There are so many different flavours on my album. I haven't just stuck with one type of music, because I like so many. I've gone down the R&B road, but I've got some hip hop tracks, garage tracks, slow jams...there's something for everybody on the album.

Are there any particular artists you listened to whilst recording your album, which maybe influenced the direction you were going in?

Not really. It was So Solid that inspired me the whole way through. The album is a story of my life, the things I've gone through and had to deal with so far, similar to So Solid's first album. I've been with the boys for so long, it's hard to imagine life without them, so the album reflects that side of my life. Also, other artists in the music industry inspire me too, like Eve, so it's the whole industry in general, really.

Did you have much creative input in the making of your album?

Yeah. When I had featured artists I told them the sort of thing I wanted them to write about, and then they went off and did their verse, so it was a lot of my ideas, a lot of my creativity.

Have you collaborated with any other artists, either within So Solid or outside of the group?

I've collaborated with Stush, but she's not far from being a member of the family as well, so she's the only one that I worked with outside of the group. Otherwise, everyone else that I worked with is in the camp; I didn't really need to go outside because there¹s so much talent here.

So when is the album due out?

My album should follow just after my second single, 'In Love', which is coming out in July, so my album should be out around then.

If you could do a collaboration with anyone in the music industry, past or present, who would it be and why?

Present, probably would be Eve; past would be Marvin Gaye or someone like that, because his lyrical content is so unusual compared to artists today. They wrote so differently then, I really like those lyrics.

In the light of Ms Dynamite winning the Mercury Award, what would you consider to be the most prestigious award you could win?

Probably something for my personality or something like that, because I'm quite an easy-going person. I get along with nearly everybody I meet, so something like that would be the most prestigious, I think.

Finally, what are the plans for So Solid and Lisa Maffia?

A great future, and more brilliant music for our fans.

So we can expect to hear a lot more from you in the near future, then?

Yeah, definitely. We're just gonna work so hard in whatever we do. I'll never give up, and I'll never let my boys give up either.

Look out for the new single, 'In Love' - Out July.


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