Aja did not come to play, henny.
After shooting to stardom on season nine of reality show behemoth RuPaul’s Drag Race, and later returning for her well-deserved redemption arc on All Stars 3, this queen has planted herself firmly in the drag hall of fame, crown or not.
But despite her success as a drag artist, Aja tells Gay Times she sees herself as a musician first, drag queen second – a sentiment that’s clearly backed up by her brilliant debut EP In My Feelings, which sees her spit witty bars and sprinkle effortless pop culture references over some of the fiercest beats you’ll hear all year.
To coincide with her first proper assault on the charts, we caught up with Aja to talk about the songwriting process, her love of feminist witchcraft, and how she really feels about being denied a second chance on All Stars 3…
How excited are you for the world to hear your new EP?
I’m so excited for everyone to get to hear my music, and to be able to share this moment with my fans, I’ve been waiting for this for a really long time.
It’s called In My Feelings, which sounds pretty emotional. What kind of issues are you addressing on it?
Well, I’m definitely going to be tackling a lot of different things, but I mostly do it through metaphors. So it’s not just like, ‘Hey, I’m crying!’ There’s a lot of comparing my life situations to different things and topics. I really wanted to take a referential route in my writing, for example there’s a track on the EP called Art God where I compare difficult times in my life to famous paintings, and I compare myself overcoming those difficult times to famous painters and artists.
There’s a lot of pop culture references in your work. Does that come naturally to you?
Have you ever seen Slumdog Millionaire? You know how the kid just had all these memories and he ended up winning that millionaire game show? Well for me, I’ll just be writing and I’ll think about a time in my life and it’ll just kinda come to me. I don’t know, it’s almost as if it was just meant to happen.
Some drag artists make music for fun, while others pursue it as a serious career. Where do you fall on that spectrum?
For me, I’ve always wanted to be a musician, even before I was a drag artist, so I really want to eventually be known more as a musical artist. I don’t consider myself a drag queen who makes music, I consider myself a musical artist who does drag.
Would you ever make music outside of drag, then? As your boy self?
Well, my EP isn’t actually written from my drag perspective, it’s written from a multiple standpoint view of me in drag, out of drag, and in between. It’s basically me blurring that binary of what I think drag is. It’s definitely a new thing for me. But then I’ve always kind of just been one with myself in drag, so I guess it’s not as new as it seems.
You’ve just released the music video for Brujeria, where did the inspiration for that come from?
The inspiration for that one comes from my love of witchy pop culture, and at the same time growing up with such a spiritual background I was always exposed to these Afro-Caribbean practices, and they’re all different forms of what people would call witchcraft. So I think it was just a way for me to take what the world thinks of these practices – because simple-minded people always think it’s devil worship or satanism – and challenge that. Especially in the music video, I’m dressed as the devil but then I rip off the horns and throw them on the floor and I’m dressed up in all white. In that moment, I’m taking all the preconceived notions that the world has on these practices and throwing them to the fan and saying, ‘No, let me show you what these practices are actually about’.
From what I’ve read, witchcraft is also a very pro-feminist belief system, which is really cool…
Yeah, and I think it’s always important to give light to those practices and religions that give women the power and freedom, because since the beginning of time the feminine energy has been super oppressed. So I feel like there are practices and beliefs where the women do have some say and power, and it is the unfortunate truth that in our society – for some reason, I couldn’t even tell you why – women are not treated equally. But you know, we could always try to show people, ‘Hey, look, it’s an old idea that women are not equal, even though they are, but there’s also belief systems we can follow where women are just as badass’.
Your looks in the video are straight out of American Horror Story. Would you be up for a cameo?
Yes! If I were to be on American Horror Story, I would definitely want to be a witch or a voodoo princess, it would fit my character so much.
There’s a Murder House/Coven cross-over coming soon, so maybe we should start a petition to get you on that…
Yeah, I’m so down for that. Let’s make it happen!
Looking back to All Stars 3, many fans felt it was unfair that BenDeLaCreme didn’t bring you back to the competition. It certainly felt like you’d done the best up until that point. How do you feel about that moment now?
Well, honestly, going back into Drag Race, I thought there would be some repercussions. I didn’t know exactly how it would go for me. But at that moment I was just like, ‘Okay, I got eliminated, it’s cool’. I don’t know, I did think I was gonna be able to come back, but I wasn’t upset when I didn’t, I was more like, ‘Oh well, I got my screen time, I’m super happy to have been on the show, and I appreciate my experience regardless’. I don’t know, I think for me it was more about building a platform. I’ve never really wanted to be the best drag queen in the world. For me, drag is more of a way to channel my other talents and energies, and I think that’s when I have the most fun doing drag, because not all drag is about being fully a drag queen. I can’t even call myself a full drag queen, to be honest. I don’t even like the big hair!
In My Feelings is available to purchase and stream now. Listen on Spotify below.