Heavy Culture is a monthly column from journalist Liz Ramanand, focusing on artists of different cultural backgrounds in heavy music, as they offer their perspectives on race, society, and more as it intersects with and affects their craft. The latest installment of this column features Cinnamon Babe (also known as Stormi Maya).
Cinnamon Babe is the musical outlet for model and actress Stormi Maya. She recently made waves with her heavy single “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Black,” which went viral on TikTok with more than 1.5 million views. Within a few weeks, however, TikTok apparently disabled Cinnamon Babe’s account. According to the artist’s manager, the account was wiped clean of all her videos after multiple users disagreed with the song’s message and teamed together to report it simultaneously.
Heavy Consequence caught up with Maya, who spoke candidly about race, her upbringing, facing stereotypes, and the need to be true to herself. She went on to draw a comparison between being bullied in school for her musical tastes to the online backlash she’s encountered as a musical artist herself.
Read our “Heavy Culture” interview with Stormi Maya (aka Cinnamon Babe) below.
Tell me about your cultural background and upbringing.
I identify as African American. I’m a Black American with no other country connection. My family is all from Philadelphia. I’m from New York, from the Bronx. That’s basically the only culture that I have and identify with. I’m very proud of my culture, even though a lot of people try to take away a lot from African American culture and try to claim that we’re lost people, we don’t know anything about ourselves.
My song “Rock ‘N’ Roll is Black” — I like to give people an example of all the contributions that people from African-American culture have contributed [and] the entire world mimics and uses. And then unfortunately, we’re a group of people that typically don’t get credit when it comes to a lot of these things.
How did the place you grew up impact your relationship with music?
I grew up in the Bronx and in Boston. I also would visit family in Philly a lot. So I kind of feel like the Northeast in general. To be honest, I grew up in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. The kind of influence I always had around me were things that were the typical Black or Hispanic, and what’s acceptable in those communities.
That’s why I always speak about being more alternative. It kind of made me feel left out. When I got to middle school, I was into My Chemical Romance and Paramore, and had a more of a punk look. I was kind of eccentric. I used to wear bunny ears, I was very much like that kind of kid. And what I tell people is that it got bullied out of me really, really soon.
I was my true self for a while but then right before I was about to basically go to high school, it’s kind of when you really, really want acceptance. So it was the kind of music that I liked was very looked down upon. I was really embarrassed about the kind of music it just was not normal. You know what I’m saying? Everybody else listened to, like, Lil Wayne.
It’s just that when I was trying to listen to things that people considered “white music,” they would say I’m weird or “Why are you listening to that?” I felt very isolated. So, I quickly kind of just pushed away from that being my identity, because I didn’t want to be bullied anymore.
I was tired of people saying I dress like a white girl. I wasn’t dressing hood enough and then people would make jokes that I wasn’t talking hood enough or whatever their stereotypical, what you’re supposed to talk like when you’re Black, I suppose.
So it’s funny, my mom listens to The Cranberries and Linkin Park. My mom, as a Black woman, she listens to a lot of genres that are actually kind of out there. In my household, she listened to everything from Bob Marley to Jill Scott. So we had a very neo-soul house and then yeah, she listened to Creed and different things. So I kind of only felt like an outsider when I was in the other parts of my family. And then when I was in my community, like I said, people quickly label that as “white music.”
“You’re not supposed to be in that.” What most people don’t understand is, these boxes that they put us in, they extend childhood as adult and people believe this ideology. And that’s something that I constantly get reminded of is these are the social boxes you’re supposed to fit in.
If you’re a Black woman, you’re supposed to like these things and do this specifically. And if you don’t, you know, they call me everything from traitor to saying, “You like white d**k,“ and say all different things that are very derogatory to me regularly when I display that I do rock music. It makes me re-live being that middle school kid all over again. And it reminds me of why it took me this many years to basically become myself again.