- Part of the legendary La2thebay crew
- Vicious emcee
- Talented artist
For those who don’t already know, please tell us a little about yourself.
Well, as far as music goes, I go by the name of Neila. I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii but have lived all over the United States. I got into the underground hip hop scene in 7th grade in Hawaii and started to put out cassette albums in 95 after high school when I moved to Tempe, Arizona. So far, I have put out four solo cassette albums, three solo CDs, and one full-length vinyl release. I have also done many collaborations and have had two European vinyl single releases.
You seem to be a bit of a jack of all trades. Apart from music you’re also painting, skateboarding, doing yoga and writing a book. Where do you find the energy to do all this and is there anything of the mentioned that you like more than the other?
More than anything now, I believe that life is what you make of it. Without yoga though, it would be harder to accomplish everything else that I do. I love to paint because it makes me very happy and is very calming. I have been skateboarding since I was a young child but I never got good like my friends. It still is a big part of my life though and I have made paintings for Daewon Song, Rodney Mullen and Chico Brenes because watching them skate makes me smile. I would love to paint for Gonzales though because he is the hippie flip master. My book is a children’s book and it is written and I am working on the illustrations at the moment. I am very excited about it because it features my yeti character as a young yeti facing school on a new planet…I love all the things that I do as they help to keep me grounded and feel alive.
You have described yourself as somewhat of a hermit. What does a typical day in the life of Neila look like?
A typical day, I wake up at 6am for work. I teach special ed at an elementary school. Every hour I teach different grade level from kindergarten to sixth grade. After work I go to the gym and do yoga, run, and lift weights. Then I come home and paint or play scrabble online because I am severely addicted to it. Then I cook dinner and draw and read until I pass out…On weekends I go to the farmer’s market to get food for the week…I think maybe I like my solitude but one day I may be up to sharing…maybe…
You have been around the scene for quite some time now. What influenced you to pick up a microphone to begin with, and what kind of groups or affiliations have you been a part of since then?
It’s been over a decade and it’s more than a scene to me. It is my life and the friends I have made have become my family. I picked up the microphone because it was what we did to have fun and to express ourselves. So I would say my friends influenced me because it was what we did. In Arizona, I lived with Fluid of the Supermarket and we freestyled all night into the karaoke machine in the living room cause it was what we did for fun, it’s how we blew off steam, it’s how we communicated. I started off working with Vrse Murphy of Sacred Hoop and Mantis Claw from Supermarket and we all were really good friends when I lived in Arizona. I used to sell underground tapes back then and that is how I met Rob One (RIP), Orko, Jizzm, Awol, Global Phlowtations etc. When I moved to Los Angeles in 1998-1999, I already had good friends to help me assimilate. I met the Acid Reign crew my first week here and we all lived in West Covina at the time and that’s now the Missing Link album came to be. Throughout the years, Deeskee, evs and Joe Dub have been my rocks, my brothers, and my light. Xinco, Avatar, Omid, 2mex, Matre, the Top to Bottom crew, and so many more are people I consider family….I cannot imagine life without them…
As been mentioned before, you have been struggling with vocal cord cancer. Your condition must have been a major chock to find out about, but also to fight. Would you mind telling us a bit about it? How might your personal struggles affect your professional career and your music?
Well over the summer, I was diagnosed for mouth cancer. After lots of positive affirmation and exercises, it went away naturally. Although I had no mouth cancer, I noticed my voice was slowly deteriorating and since I had quit smoking, I thought the deterioration as due to it. However, in November I ended up in urgent care from an allergic reaction (I am allergic to a lot) and there the doctor referred me to a head and neck specialist for my voice. It all happened to fast, the doctor found a tumor on my right vocal cord. I found out on Christmas Eve that it was cancer and it had taken over my right vocal cord. It was hard to take the news as I teach and rap and both of those things require my voice. Personally, I had to make big choices and fast as to how I wanted to fight and treat the cancer. Along with the holistic route of affirmations, yoga, and diet. I had to choose between surgeries the removal of most of my right vocal cord, which would damage my voice forever. Or chemotherapy for six months five days a week but with a better chance to save or improve my voice. I chose surgery because of my age and because if I did do radiation and the cancer returned, I would have to have my whole voice box removed and never speak again. I am slowly starting to talk again. It hurts and after two months of total silence it’s very hard to talk. We take it for granted and I will never take it for granted again. The universe gave me cancer as a gift. It was a wake up call to slow down and appreciate life and honor my body and soul. I needed to wake up. The doctors said I got it from smoking and drinking and since I rarely drank, I knew it was from the combination of smoking for recreation and smoking cigarettes. I had quit ironically and I am glad that I did because it would be a lot harder to recover if I was still addicted to tobacco. I also would love for other artists and fans to learn from my experience and learn to love and nourish themselves without having to endure the trauma I have lived through. I am happy to be alive and blessed and indebted to all my fans and friends who have helped me be positive, laugh, and SEE how beautiful life really is.
You just released the album Only This One Counts. Was that album planned before you got your diagnosis?
2010 was when I hit rock bottom. I almost died four times from allergies that put me in the ER, I lost my job, I lost my home, I was stalked, my heart was broken, and I was diagnosed with cancer twice! When Rezult and I started the album, we were initially going to do an EP. But things kept happening to both of us and it was like therapy. Over two to three weeks he would send a beat, the next day I would send him the lyrics, and then over and over and the next thing we knew, we had ten songs. Everything was recorded by me alone and everything he did was mixed, produced, and mastered by him alone. It was how we both got through a crazy summer and the title came out fitting or self fulfilling prophecy-ish. I didn’t think my year could get any worse and when everything happened in November, I was in shock, I still am, but I am okay and happy. I have a new home, a new car, a new album, a new voice, and a new outlook on life…I am truly blessed.
Do you have a purpose with your music?
My purpose has always been to express my interpretations of life. I have always said, if I helped one person in this world, I have achieved my goal and I have definitely attained that. I have two lovely girls of fans and friends named after me and have been immortalized in tattoo form on fans bodies so I am so honored and stoked that people feel me and I love every one of my fans and believe I am the luckiest rapper alive because I have such a diverse fan base of all ages.
I’m a bit curious about the status of your old group Record Players. You guys haven’t released anything since 2003. Are there any upcoming records from you in the future?
Well, we never really were a group group but we are still family. I bet if we harass those guys enough, they would be down for a new album. I am always ready…As of now, no nothing is planned but Joe has a bunch of unreleased songs of mine….
Where would you like to be in ten years? Any dreams or goals?
I want to fully and unconditionally continue to love myself and enjoy every moment. I would like to be a children’s book author who raps and does yoga. My goal is to find love in all that is life and to own my own house by a beach one day. My only dream is to keep dreaming. I hope that one day the universe smiles on everyone and all the fighting stops as we are all ONE.
Do you have any final words to sign off with?
I truly LOVE that I am alive and I am blessed to have the fans, friends, and family that I do. I would not trade anything about my experiences or me with anyone. I have had a great adventure thus far and will continue to do so with a smile on my face. Life is TOO SHORT…If you have a dream…take it, live it, and love it…My favorite quote still is, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it…”