Exploded, Deconstructed Soul
Taylar Elizabeth White is in no hurry for anyone. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter-rapper who goes by Taylar Elizza Beth has just finished dinner with her mom and is helping clean up before she’s ready to take on our interview. This is a young woman who views her downtime not only as necessary for rejuvenation, but a vital component in learning how to simply be.
“People always pressure themselves to be a certain something or someone,” White says. “You don’t have to be anything right away. Invest in self-care. Invest in community. You’ll grow into who you’re supposed to be eventually.”
Her 2014 debut, The BLK EP, showed glimpses of promise from an artist beginning to discover her voice. Last year, her one-off single “Daisies” blurred the lines between rapping, singing and whispered vocalization, marking the maturation of a fully formed artist coming in to her own. “Stop Calling My Phone,” which dropped in February, is an exercise in righteous indignation, with White dressing down an ex who refuses to respect boundaries: “You have lost your rights/ You have lost your mind/Thinking I have all this time/to be wasting my time/on what’s no longer life.”
White’s cautious individualism stems from her upbringing in White Center, navigating between the white and Black sides of her family. Attending all-white schools where her dual ethnicity went unrecognized didn’t help bridge the two sides of her identity.
“For all intents and purposes, I’m a Black woman, but that was always submerged under the guise of ‘colorblindness,’ which is just another form of racism,” she says. “It was through hip-hop that I learned to own my Blackness.”
Diving into Missy Elliot and Kanye West, White began writing poems as a teen. As a self-professed theatre geek, she found poetry and rap music to be a natural progression from the characters she portrayed on stage during high school productions.
“I love performing in front of people,” she says. “It’s where I feel the most free. With music, people tend to forget the need to categorize and just go off what they feel.”
Coming later this spring, her EP Fresh Cut Flowers further expands her artistic palette, involving a bevy of Seattle producers. On the first single, “Free My Mind,” White’s exhortations sound like a careworn traveler seeking liberation from the prison of her own mind: “I can’t feel nothing/My mind’s all mushy/I’d give up everything/to love again/To trust in something.” It’s a theme that repeats itself throughout White’s work: the ruminations of a light-bearer trying to find purity while humming in the darkness.
Taylar Elizza Beth plays Upstream Music Fest on May 13.
Photo by Kelly O