By Carlotta Mohamed
SONI withanEYE is an artist from Flushing who is mixing genres of hip-hop, rock, funk, soul, new wave and more in her debut album “Rebel,” which was released in April.
The Puerto Rican singer/DJ has worked with various artists in the industry such as Timbaland, Louie Vega, Austin Brown, Natalie Albino of Nina Sky and many more.
“Rebel” features appearances from music legends Raekwon, Questlove, Mobb Deep, and Tony Touch. The overall message is to encourage the listeners to be themselves.
“Rebel’s message is to follow your own lead, dreams and heart as well as defend them,” SONI said. “Have confidence, self love, speak up for what you believe in, be passionate, love hard, and enjoy this borrowed time we have while we can.”
Standouts from the album include “As I Am,” — featuring Austin Brown; “You’re Gonna Miss My Love,” which showcases SONI’s raspy vocals and jazz flair; and “Coming From Queens,” featuring Mobb Deep, which shows off SONI’s hometown pride.
“It felt amazing to finally be able to share a full body of work,” SONI said. “Timing is everything and had I released an album years ago, I may not have been as confident to put something so diverse in genre together.”
Growing up, SONI’s parents took her to auditions for roles that required acting and singing. She has appeared in the leading role in a few citywide productions and plays, and eventually became a part of two female singing groups called Euphoria and Dymze while promoting at nightclubs to gain access since she was under the age of 21.
For SONI, music is inspiring because it brings people of all walks of life together. When Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico in 2017, she collaborated with different independent companies, donating her performance time and promoting services to raise funds for the island.
On June 15, she traveled to Isabella, Puerto Rico, to perform at The Rock Steady Festival, hosted by a longtime friend, Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon, the creator of the festival and president of The Rock Steady Crew.
Aside from producing and managing her own fund-raising events, SONI quickly became involved with The Rock Steady Festival, which has partnered with Waves For Water and Red Bull to use all available resources to help the island. Colon has also created a rscforlife GoFundMe page to raise a total of $150,000; To date, they’ve received $138,944.
“People these days are hesitant to donate to places like the Red Cross, but with the rscforlife GoFundMe, I knew exactly how that money was being allocated and I trust them 100 percent,” said SONI, adding that a lot of work needs to be done in Puerto Rico.
“The power constantly shuts down; some places still have no electricity. Schools have either been destroyed or closed,” she said. “There are plenty without the bare necessities such as clean drinking water, medical supplies, clothes, toiletries and are homeless.”
SONI has made sure loved ones have been in contact with their families in Puerto Rico and that they are receiving donations via video updates sent from a friend.
“I myself had the same issue with my family who live on the island, as well as visiting the island at the time,” SONI said. “I have friends who have families without homes and have lost loved ones as a direct result following the tragedy.”
In addition to performing, SONI has also collaborated with the British website “Glamourous” to donate 50 units of clothing as well as the non-profit “It’s From The Sole” on sending footwear to the island. She plans on taking another trip to supply books for education.
A recent college graduate of Borough Manhattan Community College (BMCC), SONI is working on producing music for her next album and other artists. She is also planning to launch her own record label and booking agency.
“I’d like people to get to know me as a versatile artist whose open mind, multi-genre, experimental, passionate, adventurous, outgoing, tough, caring, humble, appreciative individual whose work ethic and goal chasing never quits, enjoying and living life to its fullest potential,” SONI said. “When it comes to my work, I always want to surprise listeners expectations.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha