interview by: iman n. milner
Introduced to Baiyu through a string of her popular videos, we were first impressed by her fearless and in your face style. She may seem sweet and reserved but there’s nothing sugar coated about this singing diva! Influenced by hip hop and R&B culture and yet true to her roots, she blends the likes of Mary J Blige with the creativity of MIA…and it WORKS. Her current single “Take A Number” is heavy hitting and continues to brand her as the next not-so conventional star in pop music. The coolest thing about Baiyu is that her strength doesn’t end when she steps out of the booth. She knows exactly who she is and holds herself responsible for making music that not only entertains but that brings us all together. It’s our great pleasure to introduce our readers to Miss Baiyu!
Who is Baiyu?
Baiyu is the lovechild of a blade wielding daredevil and her shaman healer. Baiyu is at the same time a catalyst for change and a traditionalist in the most romantic of ways. Baiyu is both a story teller and a story maker. Baiyu is a singer-songwriter and creative spirit who is dead set on not only making good music, but making history.
Tell us about your journey thus far in the industry?
The two words that keep repeating itself throughout my journey thus far has been “overcoming” and “breaking through.” Yes, there is the matter of being in the right time at the right place, but I truly believe that each of us takes part in creating our destiny.
My mother‘s a singer and my father‘s Chinese bamboo-flute player, so growing up, I was surrounded by music. It wasn’t until I came to the States, that I was so deeply drawn in by the soulful depth of artists such as Mary J. and the late Whitney Houston who had sounds that were very rarely experienced in the Eastern world. I’ve always had a deep voice, and I believe myself to be an old soul, so R&B triggered something in me that I still can’t really describe, even today.
Choosing to follow my dreams was certainly not an easy decision seeing that my traditionalist parents wanted me to finish college and go on to a more “sensible” profession that guaranteed financial stability. I indeed graduated at a top-tier university, but the years before, during and after that college experience were very much drenched in my musical pursuits. I’ve been in a girl group, worked with some of the most renowned producers in the industry, met with top executives of my time but at the end of the day, it all comes down to choosing music, and making music first.
Describe your style.
My style is my personal evolution. It’s ever evolving based on the influences and triggers of my past, present and future. At the current time, I would say that my sound is akin to new school funk honey dipped in old school soul. Think of it as Maya Angelou having a dance with David Guetta.
Why was it important for you to finish higher education though you had dreams of the entertainment business?
I actually deferred my admission to Princeton for two years in order to pursue my music career. I guess the thought at the time was that I would “get it out of my system”, and then whether or not it worked out, I could then decide if I wanted to fully immerse myself in higher education. It turns out that you never really shake off that feeling of wanting to chase after that thing that you’re most passionate about.
Part of the reason for me wanting to go to Princeton was because it was a shared goal between both my parents and myself – as a sort of pinnacle of triumph in the immigrant dream. Another part of the reason for going was because deep down, I knew that this incredible institution would provide me with a college experience that would make me so much richer as an individual.
What sound can we expect from your upcoming projects?
Actually, you can not only expect a “sound” from me, but you can also expect sight, experience, and a slew of other stimulants. After having released my EP “Fan Fair”, I’m currently working on a full length LP entitled “Hunter”, that’s paired with a book of poetry by the same name. I feel that in this new LP, you’ll really get to see me settle even more into myself as an artist, and the poems that come along with that project are all tidbits that I plan on sharing with students across the country who need a little bit of motivation.
I also have a graphic novel in the works and couple of independent films that are slated to be released this summer as well. I think that given the technology of today, and all the different ways that an artist can connect with her fan base, you’re only cheating yourself if you don’t provide them with a fully immersive experience.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be one of catalyst and change. What continues to push me forward are the fans and friends who come up to me and tell me how important and honorable it is for me to take the road less taken as an Asian American. Growing up, I didn’t have someone in the music industry to look up to that looked like me. I didn’t have someone whom I could point to and say, that’s the person who I want to be when I mature as a singer and entertainer. I want my legacy to frame me as a pioneer of sorts. In the golden age of Obama and Linsanity, wouldn’t you agree that it’s time for an Asian American female to step into the spotlight of music and deem herself worthy of being a Western icon?
If you had to use an icon in Chinese American culture to describe yourself who would it be and why?
That’s kind of tough because there aren’t a lot of Chinese American cultural icons to pick from within Western culture, but if I absolutely had to pick one, I would say Jeremy Lin as a sign of the times. He is one smart and talented cookie. I admire the fact that he, like myself, doesn’t like cutting corners, and is out to show and prove. A Harvard educated athlete, Jeremy made his talents and his presence undeniable. His being Chinese American just made it that much more unique and noteworthy.
What does living a life on the Edge mean to you?
Living a life on the Edge, to me, means sticking to your gut and not letting anyone tell you anything different. Everyone approaches music, and especially this business of music in a different way. If you’re too greedy; if you’re not careful; if you’re too hungry for fame, then you may find yourself doing things for the sake of everything but your music and your craft. Living a life on the Edge for me means making my craft, my music, and my story the very epicenter of who I am as an artist. It means letting my passions guide me along my journey while keeping faith that if I stay true to myself and my beliefs, what is meant to happen will indeed happen.
Photos: Ashley B. Nguyen
Stylist: Kameron Simpson
Hair Stylist: Rianna Devine
MUA: Nacomi Gutierrez