OneDa: ‘I was a rebel without a cause – now I’m a rebel because no one can tell me shit’

With a new track, ‘Vibes’, out now, OneDa wants to put all the self-belief she’s come to learn into the world. We speak to her about her journey into music, her spiritual awakening and her future plans.

ONEDA wearing glasses copy

With a new track, ‘Vibes’, out now, OneDa wants to put all the self-belief she’s come to learn into the world. Her signature line, ‘Manny on the rise’, embodies both her determination as an artist and the love for her hometown of Manchester, where she also runs a project for aspiring female rappers.

We speak to her about her journey into music, including a brief detour of doing an MA in Social Work, her spiritual awakening, and her ambitious plans for the future. When there’s gigs on the moon, you can expect OneDa to be there.

You had quite a musical upbringing – was it always certain you’d do music?

Yeah, my mum started a choir; my dad, my sister and my brother were in the choir. I started playing trumpet as well, from the age of about 5 to the age of eleven. Then I gave it up. I think music provided escapism. For me, being younger was hard. There was a lot of abuse and poverty and stuff.

I got kicked out of two of my high schools. But the only thing that kept me going – the only thing that people look at me differently and cared about me for – was my music. So I drew to music because music made people listen to me. And it made me something else than just being a poor, naughty kid. I could then be more me – because that wasn’t me, that was just my circumstance.

OneDa rapper

It gave you an outlet…

And somewhere I could escape to. As a rapper, as a musician, I could say whatever I wanted; talk about whatever I wanted, and people would listen. It made people stand up instead of dismiss me.

When did you start getting into rapping specifically?

In high school. So probably when I was about 11 or 12-ish. And that’s the first time I got kicked out, because I was just rapping in class. I used to bring my little stereo in and rap; I’d rap in class, in the playground, everywhere. I was basically being too disruptive. Everyone used to gather round, put their CD on and I’d just spit.

I used to not do a lot of work – so maybe it was that too – but I was good with lyrics. I think that helped me later in life. I believe to be a sick lyricist, you have to have a certain level of intelligence.

And you did an MA in Social Work at one stage. What made you want to do that?

That was the time in my life, a few years ago, where I’d given up music because I’d been trying; I was putting music out now and again, but I had zero belief in my actual self and had zero love for myself. I think that stemmed from my life growing up.


OneDa leaning forward

So I gave up because I thought it wasn’t for me. Then I thought, “okay, what’s one thing I’ve always done?” I believe I’m a very good-hearted person, I love helping people, so I thought I’d go into social work. Youth workers were the ones who helped me when I was younger. So I went to do a Masters; smashed that, got a distinction.

And what brought you back to making music again?

On the last year of the two-years Masters, my friend sent me a YouTube video on The 12 Laws of the Universe. I wasn’t sleeping that week for some reason. I was waking up like three in the morning and every day I couldn’t sleep. On like the fifth night he sent me that video and within five minutes I started to cry. It hit me. I got out of bed, got a notepad, rewound it, and watched it all night.

I don’t know how to describe it but my whole body was shaking; shaking from the inside, like it was vibrating. I was crying – even as a baby I’ve not cried like that. It was happy, but it was weird. It was like elation; like someone had just opened the doors to my whole life.

So now, because my love for myself and my belief for myself in what I can do is sky high, my dreams have come true – but only the second I decided to believe in myself. Why didn’t it happen then? Because I didn’t have love for myself. I was a rebel with no cause, a rebel with no love for themselves. Now I’m a rebel because no one can tell me shit. I don’t listen to anyone.

OneDa with two women

OneDa wearing a necklace

What do you think that experience was? And what did it show you?

It was literally an awakening; it was me finding out what I’m actually about, what my purpose is for this world and what the world around me is about. Once I’ve done 10 years rapping, I want to go around and spread this shit because I believe there’s so much power in our mind, so much power within us that we don’t let loose because society limits us. If you change your mindset, you can daydream all day about the glorious shit, about where you want to be – and I swear down, you’ll get there.

That sounds just like the intention of your latest track, ‘Vibes’, which is out now. So what vibes are you trying to put out?

Powerful vibrations. I’m trying to put out vibrations to show people you can actually go out there and do it yourself. Every track you hear from me, that’s gonna be the foundation of every track. That’s how I live my life – on vibrations, energy, and power. Because raising your vibrations raises everything in your life.

I used to have so many inhibitions because it used to be what everyone else thought. If I liked something, and then 100 people said it was shit, I’d think it can’t be that good. But now, when I like something, 10 million people could say it’s shit and I’d still think it’s sick. And that’s how it is. If you don’t like me, I ain’t changing; you must be crazy, because I’m sick. So that’s how I live my life now. I’m no longer changing myself for anyone else. And that keeps me bouncing.

OneDa with glasses

Let’s talk about your signature line, then: ‘Manny on the rise’. How did that become your signature?

I’ve been saying ‘Manny on the rise’ since I was a kid. It’s my line, I’ve kept it throughout. It’s about me being on the rise because I believe I’m a part of this city. The city I was born in. Manchester is me and I am Manchester. So when I say ‘Manny on the rise’, it’s me on the rise. I’m the city on the rise.

You’re very much part of your community too and have set up a project for female rappers in the community. Can you explain what it is and what the motivation for setting it up was?

‘Herchester’ is a female rap and hip-hop community. I had a goal where I wanted a base for female rappers; like a support group, but just a community where they can build themselves up, and there’s other female rappers they can bounce off because being a female rapper in this game is kind of lonely.

And that makes it a lot harder to break in because you don’t see anyone like you – so it’s already going to be a lot harder to think you can then step into the industry. So that’s what we do: we support female rappers. I think we’re up to about 17 members now, which is mad because I only knew about three female rappers in Manchester before.

We’re trying to make a pathway for them really – like chopping down the weeds that are in front and building a path so other female rappers can walk that path as well. That’s what it’s about. I provide shows for them, they also get onto my shows, we give radio slots, make tracks, write tracks, perform in sessions, build the confidence.

OneDa with a guitar

All good stuff. Speaking of good vibes, how excited are you about ‘Vibes’ being out now?

I’m so excited about ‘Vibes’ being out – excited for how everyone’s going to receive it because I know it’s sick. I love it. When I make my music, the same vibration I’m feeling at the time is what I put into the music.

How far do you want to, and believe, you can go?

Worldwide. I want to tour Japan, Australia, USA. I want to go everywhere. I want my name to be known everywhere. I want my message to spread everywhere. I believe I’m a very unique rapper; I have to be because there’s no rapper like me, there’s only me. There’s only one OneDa. So I want to go as far as my mind can take me. So when they have concerts on the moon, I want to be doing that as well.

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