Selina Carrera is one of the most captivating individuals I have been lucky enough to interview. Whether it be her approach to music or the smile that never leaves her face, she exudes positive energy. Philadelphia-born and raised, she has traveled the world, played in front of thousands and has a resume of someone twice her age.
From a young age, Carrera was a talented singer. Her mother still has the tape of her four-year-old self grabbing the microphone at church, much to the surprise of the other children. When she entered middle school, Carerra was selected to attend the Girard Academic Music Program which jump-started her into the study of music. Later, she attended the Creative and Performing Arts high school in Philadelphia as a vocal major. It’s a very competitive school and only accepts around 150 of it’s 2000 applicants.
At CAPA HS, Carrera discovered her ability to freestyle sing, which is when a singer creates the melody in the moment the song is being played. She and a friend would skip class and go to the sound proof rooms to sing. These truant acts built Carrera’s skill over time and led to her first encounters with being an Emcee.
“I would always write poetry,” Carrera notes, “my freestyle singing led to freestyle rapping and I started rapping my poetry”. Now having a new outlet, Carrera’s poetry started taking the shape of songs, with lines composed into bars, giving them a hip-hop song structure. The development of her singing is ten years in the making, and her rapping almost six.
As she began to perform and continue to write, Carerra wanted to offer other children in her city to do the same. In conjunction with partners Donja and De’shay Love, Lyrical Playground was born. LP is a non-profit that helps develop Philly kids to transform their poems into performances, most often musicals. Although they are currently breaking from Lyrical Playground to build their own backgrounds, it is still something Carerra takes pride in.
After high school, Carerra attended West Chester University, where she was a communications major with concentration in jazz. Within her first year at WCU, she was signed with Sony as a solo artist and and began recording her debut EP. “I would go to class, then work, then the studio. When the engineers were mixing and mastering, I would do my homework. Then I would just take a nap in the studio and go right to class in the morning”. Eventually the grind paid off and Carerra left school to pursue the opportunities music presented her with.
After releasing her first single “Energy” with Sony, she left the label to pursue work with Roy Hamilton III and his production company Monarch Music Group. She was not only to work on her own projects, but also contribute to Monarch’s projects as a songwriter, quickly gaining both experience and the opportunity to build her musical network.
“Me and Sony had just parted ways. Within the same month, Roy signed me under his production label. He had an artist house in Ocean City, Maryland. We were required to write ten songs a week to work for him, but I was so inspired that I wrote ten a day.”
While working with Roy, Carerra found herself also working with and later joining hip-hop/soul/pop group Axixs. It was made possible after an introduction to the group’s leader Pras Michel of the legendary group The Fugees. With Axixs, she toured internationally to South Africa, Kiev, Turkey, St. Barts, and France just to name a few. She notes the difference in music appreciation in other countries.
“We are spoiled in the US. We don’t realize how much dope music we have and in other countries they praise American music. I feel like the majority of people over here go off of what they hear on the radio, whereas over there they search and find it.” One of her favorite encounters with foreign fans was in Turkey. “We didn’t expect to have anyone recognize us when me and another girl in the band were just sitting in the hotel lobby and everyone was starring at us. Finally someone came over and said ‘Are you Selina and Stefi from Axixs and we were like ‘Yeah!’” The fans, of course, asked for the girls’ autographs. “It was a really dope feeling to know we were hitting an international base.”
While with Axixs, Carerra played with P. Diddy and Dirty Money in Russia, a private show with Seal on a yacht and at an Elle Magazine showcase for fashion week in Manhattan. The band did not last for very long, and when faced with the opportunity to privately audition to be Lauryn Hill’s background singer, Careera jumped at the opportunity.
“I was one of the first background singers she picked. She is one of my biggest inspirations.” Admiring Hill’s work ethic, “Most of my work for her was just practicing. We were always rehearsing. Being around her inspired me a lot. I picked up on her energy.”
When her time with Axixs and Lauryn Hill ended, Carerra was able to concentrate again on her solo work. She most recently opened for Musiq Soulchild at The Blockley in front of a packed house. “The show was bomb, whole city was there. It felt great to be on stage [playing my material] and people loving the music. I’m glad [the audience] got it.” She reminisced over the success of the show from the professionalism of her band, the set up, and her friend helping customize their look with matching bowties.
Speaking on one of my favorite tracks from her latest release Wonder Years, the album she performed at the Blockley show, Carerra gave me the inside scoop on what the tracks meant to her. She explained that the song “Only Be” is about her personal battles with fitting into an image that the industry creates for female artists. She cannot be put in to a cookie cutter package. The rest of the album comes from other various events and emotions in her life. Whether they derive from finding someone that takes her breath away, going through a heart-wrenching break up, or the struggles of life, Carerra cannot stir up art without the raw emotion that she can translate into her recordings.
With formal musical training in her studies, stage and tour experience with hip-hop and R&B legends, and the study of production under some of the best in the business, Selina Carrera is absolutely force to be reckoned with. She has traveled and experienced so much that she has plenty of inspiration to draw from on her next projects. Now is the time to get on the bandwagon, because Selina has nothing but success ahead of her.