I have something stupid, like, 12 credits, to graduate.

I would say Tracy Chapman was the first time I obsessed over an entire record. I knew every song; I knew the exact amount of seconds between each song. That's the level of obsession that I had.

As a black woman, there's so much pride and communication through hair. It's naturally something that you are excited to embellish on and be creative about.

A lot of people of color in the music industry are still more interested in embracing things that are considered white canon, and looking radical. Like when people point to punk in the indie world: If you point to the history of punk as what you see as your legacy, that's more prized and praised.

The assumption is simply that I hit on all the things I've hit on so far by accident, that my talent is just this raw thing that pours out of me, and then white people feel like they have to come in and contain it, refine it, and bring it to the place where it can been released.

In Maryland, I didn't grow up around poor white people. Where I grew up, the white people were middle class or upper-middle class. It's interesting how screwed up it is in reality, because most people who receive assistance from the government are white, but not in my head or in my experience.

I think I'm taking risks and putting myself out there.

I do like things the way that I like them. But I'm trying not to be - I don't wanna be that way. I'm not a control freak; I wanna protect my agency. It's a weird question as a black woman.

As it pertains to my black womanhood, there's just a lot of ground to cover. There's a lot of stuff to say.

It's such a challenging time, and in my small way, I will make it so that other younger women, and maybe older women, will be able to do the things they want to do, and accept themselves and their experience.

My music sounds like one synergised thing, one message.

Growing up in an Ethiopian household allowed me to feel like I had an audience before I had an audience.

It definitely feels different to perform to people who know your music. Because people's feedback is not just, 'Oh my God, that was amazing. Who are you?'

Sometimes I learn by someone giving me warnings and giving me advice about what to do next. And other times, a lot of times, I have to put my hand into the fire.

I just want to live in a world where I can tell a guy, 'This is the deal: I really want this. I really want you. But it's also not that deep.'

I'm interested in bridging and filling in space that hasn't already been filled, so when it comes to making music, I've just always wanted to be able to reference things that producers in the big pop major label context do, without compromising the entire sound of the record.

I remember the day I first heard what Timbaland and Aaliyah did - that intersection of her pretty voice and his weird, resonant production. I remember where I was and what I was doing. It was a major situation. We're trying to continue that legacy.

It is very rare that I am just coming up with melodies off the top of my head. I usually am responding to something - it could be chains dragging on the floor - but I am usually responding to something.

I'd like to change what people expect. I want to evoke something that's not nameable, for people to go, 'Huh?'

I like smart rappers who aren't necessarily trying to be deeper than you, like Danny Brown.

I like to try out different methods to get to good songs.

I know deep down I'm a star.

When it comes to melodies, production, and sound in pop music, people try to be formulaic and solely concerned with what's resonant in a way that is so cheap and ugly. It actually just devolves culture, ultimately.

Even on my most angry song, I'm also still saying, 'Thank you for helping me to learn.' I've always wanted to give voice to that complexity in our experience.

I'm just trying to soundtrack your real life. I'm just trying to give you a place to feel safe in all the parts of your experience.

My first reaction to being pigeonholed or pushed into certain confines is to be like, 'No, I'm the opposite,' you know? Like, don't put me in a stereotypical black-girl category, because I'm not like that; I'm doing this thing over here.

After it became clear that I was not going to graduate, I had this moment where I was like, 'I need to not sulk. I need to pursue - at least try - to pursue music. But if I don't try, I'm going to be a really bitter middle-aged lady working in a cubicle.'

Anyone who understands anti-racist work, a white person specifically, understands that it is not black people's responsibility, or any person of color's responsibility, to dismantle the structures that keep white people in positions of power. We do our job to thrive, to survive. To protect ourselves, to sit together and feel better and to heal.

I'm pushing back against the white, misogynistic, heterosexual establishment in the music industry. Like, literally, in all its forms.

How much closer can I get to the common ear, the mainstream, and how much it can still be from this other world, this other place? That's the line I keep trying to tread but have my wings extend more on both sides.

Self-care is a requirement.

Growing up, Missy Elliot and Janet Jackson were definitely major references.

I've always had this commitment to not being in one thing.

I really do like Solange, sincerely. I'm down for her, and I trust her judgment.

Most artists are going into the studio for a fixed period of time, and they say that's their album. I can't relate, because I've never made music in that way. I come from a culture of editing and remixing.

That's pretty much how every song of mine works - I start with gibberish and melody and phrasing. I speak it naturally first. And then I think about lyrics that fit into that.

I want to speak in the tradition of rhythm and blues and soul music, but also push how it's dressed and how it's delivered to the audience. And hopefully that gets embraced by as many people as possible, but the goal isn't necessarily to speak to everyone. The goal is to get it out as exact as it is in my head.

The whole thing about 'progressive R&B' blows my mind. Black music has always been progressive.

I'm finding out what part of punk culture or white indie culture I actually still want to hold onto - What are the values? What are the contributions that I actually like? - and it not coming from a place of desperation or wanting to be embraced or wanting approval, essentially.

For those of us who make music together, I think it's important to realize that generosity on both sides is actually going to produce the biggest possibility.

I am your homegirl, at the end of the day, but I also feel very... outside. So if you're finding solace in feeling outside with me, then we're good to go.

I don't write lyrics. I hear the track and sing in gibberish over it, then I try and fit words into the phrasing and melody that I already have set. Everything is left to chance.

Something that I think extends to a lot of African cultures is that the line between performer and audience is blurry. My mom would lead the wedding song regularly, and she isn't a professional singer. Even as an audience member, you're expected to clap and sing the response to the lead.

I want to empower.

Sounding like I have agency in a song is important to me. I want to feel empowered by the music.

The most rewarding thing for someone like me is for someone else to find solace through my music.

As much as we like to pretend we're just getting on stage and whatever, it's like, no, I practiced in front of the mirror my whole life.

When I called 'Cut 4 Me' a mixtape, I was thinking about a few elements: One is used instrumentals. The project is more centered around introducing you to an artist; it's not meant to be seminal. It's 'Hi,' 'Hello,' a thing that you first hear.

I was in school studying International Studies and Sociology. I was really into what was going on in school. I was affected by the ideas and engaged as a student, but not disciplined or motivated enough to do the work. That was a fear of mine for a while, that nothing was motivating.