Snow Tha Product got a wake-up with this month's presidential election, even though, like most of us, she's not entirely sure what she's waking up to.
Being a Mexican-American rapper in the Trump era — even with millions of YouTube views and Atlantic Records' major-label backing — isn't necessarily an ideal situation. But the Latina hip-hop artist still isn't shy about commenting on American culture and politics.
Take, for example, the video for her recent single "Despierta," which finds a newly elected Snow in the Oval Office, insisting to a Latina television interviewer that she doesn't speak Spanish.
"Of course not, do you see me?" she scoffs with Trump-like derision. "That's so rude, by the way." But once the TV camera is ostensibly off, Snow switches to fluent Spanish as she raps about gardeners and maids, the need for Latino unity, and Donald Trump blowing up the world.
Prior to adopting her stage name (a nod to Disney's Snow White, Hollywood marketing, and an illegal drug), Claudia Alexandra Feliciano first stepped onstage at the age of 6 to sing in her grandfather's mariachi band. By the time she was in high school, her family had relocated from Northern to Southern California, where she became fascinated with hip-hop.
Now, at the age of 29, she's performed at SXSW and the BET Awards, been featured on singles with Tech N9ne and Lupe Fiasco, and released her own video hits like "Drunk Love" and "Fuck the Rent."
We caught up with Snow a week after the election to talk about recording her latest EP, divisions within the Latin community, and the drunken-uncle qualities of our new president-elect.
Indy: On your "Despierta" single, you've got that line about Trump ending the world. Did you see the results of last week's election coming, and how do you think it happened?
Snow Tha Product: I felt to some degree that it might happen, because there were enough people buying what he's saying. I was doing a show in Houston, and we canceled the after-party because we were all glued to the TV, watching in disbelief. It was just like, "Is this really happening?" Like having an out-of-body experience, watching ourselves watch this election as the results came in.
I don't think Trump himself is gonna be as bad as people think. Because honestly, at the end of the day, Obama had a lot of things he wanted to do, and he ended up not being able to do them. We all know that the president isn't gonna do too much, but I think that some of the ideology that's behind the brand of Trump is what's causing these divides and leading to this racial chaos. He's like a drunk uncle, just saying all these crazy random things. And I just hope he doesn't say some very drunk uncle-ish things to the wrong person and just end the fucking world.
But other than that, what's he really gonna do? Is he gonna build the wall? I mean, even if he does, Mexicans know how to do everything. We'll figure it out.
You've rapped about Obama deporting more people than any past president. Do you think there's a connection between that and Clinton capturing less of the Latino vote than Obama, despite all of the hostile things that Trump has said?
Honestly, I think that goes more to show the divide within the Latin community. That's really the reason I dropped "Despierta," was to speak to Latin people and just say that, if we don't get it together and realize that we are all the same, this guy is gonna win. And obviously people don't think we're all the same. There are certain Latin people that don't like Mexicans, you know what I'm saying? And there are certain Latin people that think they're better than other Latin people. Which is almost even worse than other types of racism, because it's among ourselves. So at the end of the day, it's sad that somebody can say all these things about building the wall and Mexicans being "bad hombres," and people still support it.
In New Orleans, back in the early 1900s, there were black social clubs that would have a brown paper bag test. And if your skin was darker than the paper bag, you couldn't be part of that club. It's as if our society is somehow set up to create that kind of conflict.
Yeah, definitely. And I think that whoever is actually running it relies on that separation. Why else, after you have a black president, would there be such a crazy turnout for someone who's saying the most racist things? There are a lot of people relying on there still being racism in this country, and I don't really know how we can end it. Because going out there and looting, or protesting in a way that's not peaceful, is gonna have the reverse effect.
I understand you went to college to become a social worker before pursuing your musical career. Why did you decide to go with music?
I had barely started college when I started getting into the music thing, and one of the first things they had us read was College Is a Waste of Time and Money by [feminist author] Caroline Bird. And it was like, if you're here to make your parents happy, or if you're not here for the right reasons, you might as well just leave because it doesn't make any sense. And I was like, I really am just here for my mom. Like I could do whatever I want to do, regardless.
How did your mom feel about that?
She hated it. My mom didn't understand. [Laughs.] And she only recently started understanding. So, yeah, she definitely was very angry. But I think it paid off. Every once in a while, she still makes one of those little comments like, "Well, if you had gone to college..." But I'm like, "It's alright, I'm doing alright."
So, once you started getting a huge response from YouTube, did you tell her about that? Did that help out with making your case?
Yeah, I brought her out on tour, actually. And I would make all my fans scream while she was out there dancing with me. We would dance to Mexican music, and it's definitely been really cool. She understands now. But, you know, I feel like Latin moms are always kind of hard on their daughters about school and stuff.
What was the community where you grew up like?
I've mostly lived in Hispanic communities, but for a while my mom was able to live in low-income housing that was kind of in the suburbs near a lot of military housing. So that was mostly white and Asian people, but I thought I fit in perfectly. You know, my best friend was Heather, and we played soccer, and we just did normal things. I've never been like, "I'm a Mexican, I'm not like you."
Your last EP [Halfway There... Part 1] was pretty diverse. There's radio-friendly rap, reggaeton, a track in Spanish, even some EDM and trap influences. To what degree would you say that's a change for you, and what brought it about?
I've always been affected by those kinds of music, and I've always had some Spanish stuff in there, some EDM-ish trap-style party music, from the beginning. And then there are songs like "Drunk Love" that are kind of singy. But I really only dabbled in those things, because I know that most of my fan base really wants to hear me do the real aggressive rap and stuff like that. I just felt like this time, what if I do more than just dabble? What if I immerse myself in those sounds and those genres, and just see what my fans think? And they've gravitated toward it really well, so I'm pretty excited.
How much freedom does Atlantic Records give you these days?
I'm on tour right now, and they've given me a lot of liberty. I think radio is gonna be the next phase, and that's really where they'll step in. But we agreed that, until then, they kind of just let me do what I do, because obviously it's been working. You know, if it wasn't working, and I wasn't getting enough fans, then maybe they would step in. And maybe we would have an issue. [Laughs.] But as of now, I feel super-happy that I can kind of handle it on my own.
You've got a lot of fans at this point, but it seems like you're still not getting very much mainstream press. Is that the case?
Yeah, I do think so. But you can always find a way to get that later. I think the biggest thing is trying to get the fans first, and then you go for the mainstream press. Because I see a lot of people with mainstream press, but they don't have any actual fans. And that kind of sucks, because then you're out there trying to sell out a show with fans that don't exist. [Laughs.]
I'm not as wide-eyed as I was when I started, but we're still selling out shows and the music hasn't gone stale. And I'm very appreciative of that. I'm still here, I've been working for a very long time, and my fans haven't given up on me.