Maria Isa

Born and raised in the Twin Cities to NuyoRican parents, emcee, singer, and songwriter Maria Isa is recognized for her dedication towards celebrating her cultural diversity through music and political activism. Read more about Maria Isa.

Maria Isa is also profiled in a Twin Cities Public Television's mn original production. View the video.

Posts about Music

You Scream? Who Screams? Little Girls Scream for the Stand4rd

Posted by: Maria Isa Updated: November 4, 2014 - 9:54 PM

St. Paul, Minnesota's The Stand4rd (Allan Kingdom, Bobby Raps, Psymun and Spooky Raps) right after their sold out show Saturday night at the Amsterdam Bar. 

It's starting to get closer to winter's song in the Twin Cities, with the fall temperatures dropping more each day into the lower 30s, but that didn't stop an all-ages crowd on Saturday night from lining up outside of downtown St. Paul's Amsterdam Bar to see the first show from the highly anticipated St. Paul boy group The Stand4rd.  

The group is made up of 4 members including the homie Bobby Raps (Rapper, Producer), Allan Kingdom (Rapper, Singer) Psymun (Producer) and the biggest internet teen sensation of 2014: Spooky Black.  

Spooky Black's famous introduction video "Without You," was released in February and struck a lightning bolt on Twitter feeds collectively inspiring the members of the Stard4rd to unify their individual sounds and join forces with a full length album released today.  

Last Thursday evening, after attending the Fine Line Music Cafe's sold-out show for Australian singer Kimbra (which was awesome by the way), I was invited down to the Shock and Audio studio with a few friends for a late-night private listening party by The Stand4rd's manager world-known producer Doc Mckinney.  After hearing a few tracks, I took a look at Psymun and Bobby Raps who proudly sat in front of the mixing board, nodding their heads and shifting around in their rolling chairs to the beats they produced as if they were in agreement that "this is it!"

Both guys in their early 20s, were humbly interested in knowing everyone in the room's honest opinion.  Especially with all of the hype lately built around the criticism of Spooky Black's name (some feel it's racially offensive) along with his FUBU apparel, gold chain and durags; many have blocked their ears and eyes due to whether the 16 year old kid and his group members should be taken serious as artists or not. They had me and my homegirl singing and dancing as soon as we heard the catchy hook of one of their songs "Pretty." 

I was able to chat with manager Doc Mckinney who has a connection with the group of young guys not only through music, but is also an alumni of St. Paul's Central High School, the same school Bobby, Psymun and Allan graduated from and where Spooky currently attends.  I have worked with Mckinney and consider him one of the most talented people I know (not being biased), but honestly in my opinion Doc has created two of the best R&B albums of the past five years House of Balloons and Thursday; introducing the world to the Toronto based artist The Weeknd.  Mckinney has had an amazing year with receiving two Grammys for his work on both Drake's and John Legend's most recent albums.  When I asked Doc (who wears the hat of not only management, but serves as an influential mentor to the group) about how he feels regarding the critics and local comments expressed in recent articles regarding the Stand4rd's talent he answered, "Look, people are always going to have something to say. Sometimes it's positive, sometimes negative, and you know that...especially in this business, but these kids are working at an industry level and are good at what they do! They're a young collective with a new sound with a member who's already a star before his first show." 

Spooky was the first one out of the group to take the stage on Saturday night.  His voice highlighted smiles and cheers from the packed crowd of under aged kids with X-marked hands and their cell phones recording every note while they recited every lyric he sang.  I must say that as the set climaxed, the impacting sultry voices by Spooky, Allan and the well-put flows from Bobby Raps turnt up the Amsterdam making kids jumping around like they were inside the Mall of America's old Snoopy Jumping Bounce House.  

Just last week CEO of We The Best Music Group, Dj Khaled posted a video online endorsing The Stand4d individually and gave props to their upcoming album with his famous shot out "We The Best!"  Khaled didn't attend the Saturday night show, but during the song Dj Khaled Is My Father, he was visually there in spirit as a video backdrop showed the label executive jumping off a boat fully clothed.

After I was finally able to hear the song "Pretty," the singing from Alan Kingdom and Bobby Raps got a little too pitchy.  I guess when you have kids screaming out your name like crazy, one may tend to get distracted of the artistic importance of vocal technique in a live performance. It was apparent that by the end of the set breath control and vocal lessons for their live presentation would be helpful.  I do want to state both Bobby and Allan's energy bounced off making all the crazy little kids in the crowd look like Muppets singing Pharrel's Happy on an episode of Sesame Street.

I also felt the sound man needed to put Spooky's mic up at the times where the other 2 vocalist were feeling themselves playing with the crowd as if they were singing to Dru Hill in the mirror.  But, hey I had a kick of that! It brought me back to my own St. Agnes/Frogtown Jr. high school days, when both black and white boys from midway would sing 112 and Jagged Edge as the girls walked down the highways in between classes. 

After grabbing a much needed drink, I took a look at the merchandise table distributing sweats and tee-shirts. It was fitting for the casual St. Paul teen hoping on the light rail to school after waking up late.  In my world the gear fits for a red-eye flight or tour bus ride across the country, and most definitely fitting for a Zummies store front mannequin. I loved hearing the teeny-bopper fans enthusiasm. One teenaged girl right next to me grabbed her friend and said, "Hey do you think Bobby Raps will sign my sweat pants and Spooky my hoodie? I think Christy knows him!"

Another girl shouted, "Oh my God! It's like the new Beatles! They're like our Beatles!" I had to say...well I don't know about them being the Beatles, but their appearance and sound did encounter an effective young girl invasion.  It was a mix of a New Kids on the Block praising the molly popin' generation. With their sexual lyrics, I am hoping that condoms and safe sex will be a priority during the rest of the fall tour hitting Toronto, NYC, Oakland, Los Angeles and Chicago. 

First Avenue's main booker Sonia Grover was in attendance along with the hundreds of fans made up of mostly young teenagers chaperoned by their parents.  When I asked Sonia what she thought about the Standa4d  her response was simple:

"Did you hear the little girls screaming?" she expressed, "when you have little girls screaming at the top of their lungs it's a hit and it really doesn't matter what music loving adults think anymore. "

I left the show excited to see where this journey of boy band stardom and creativity will lead to.  As the MTV Diary slogan goes, "You think you know, but you have no idea." 

Follow the Stand4rd on twitter: @allankingdom @bobbyraps @spookyblack @psymun

Stream their music on Soundcloud:

Puerto Rican Salsa legend Jose "Cheo" Feliciano dies in car crash

Posted by: Maria Isa Updated: April 17, 2014 - 11:50 AM

Above: Jose "Cheo" Feliciano, Legendary Salsa singer and composer died this morning in a fatal car accident in Cupey, Puerto Rico.

I woke up to sad news this morning with a list of tweets informing me that legendary salsa composer and singer Jose "Cheo" Feliciano has passed away in a fatal car accident.  According to the Puerto Rican police reports, Feliciano was driving alone in his Jaguar when he lost control on Highway 176 in Cupey, Puerto Rico just after 4am.  The 78 year-old man who was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico is known for his Fania hits "Anacaona," "Mi Triste Problema," "Busca Lo Tuyo," "y El Raton," and the list goes on.

Jose was influenced at a young age by the bolero music of Trio Los Panchos and at 8 years old, he formed his first group "El Combo Las Latas," (The Cans Ensemble), influenced by their musical instruments being made out of cans.  Feliciano attended the Free School of Music in Ponce after finishing his primary education where he studied and became a percussionist.

In the early 50s, Cheo moved from Ponce, Puerto Rico to New York City's Spanish Harlem.  It was there in El Barrio where he was offered to play in the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra. Shortly after he networked in the Latin music scene with Tito Rodriguez, he became a lead vocal in Joe Cuba's Sextet.  His baritone voice, charm and improvisation skills made him a favorite in Latin music and opened up the doors for him to sing with the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra in the late 60s for years.  

Above: Cheo Feliciano and Eddie Palmieri.

During the 70s, Jose broke sales in the Latin billboard charts recording, composing and touring many hits for the Fania All Stars and in the early 80s, Feliciano formed "Coche Records," becoming the first tropical singer to perform at the Amira de la Rosa Theater in Colombia. Feliciano also persued an acting career in 1987 and landed the role of Roberto Clemente's father in the musical "Clemente."  Cheo was currently working on a project with Panamanian composer, singer and actor Ruben Blades, but the album's release date still has yet to be determined.


Above: Ruben Blades in the studio recording Cheo's latest work and a picture of the two singing with Fania All Stars in the early 80s.

We will miss you Cheo and I am grateful to have been raised on your music, voice and style.  Descanza en Paz Caballero. Una voz de Borinquen que canta ahora en el cielo...aqui en este mundo seguimos tocando, bailando y cantando tu musica. 

Here's a few videos of my favs from Cheo Feliciano. 

Cheo Feliciano and Santana "El Raton."

Black Irish by Empire Status

Posted by: Maria Isa Updated: March 17, 2014 - 8:00 PM

After a long fulfilling week at SXSW with over a handful of showcases and being an original St. Pauly girl, I only feel right to post a song honoring St. Patty's Day.  Take a listen here to a song I was honored to collaborate on rappers/producers Muja Messiah and Bobby Raps for their Empire Status project.  The Empire Status album was influenced by the prohibition-era gangster drama Boardwalk Empire. 

While slamming your shots of Jameson and chasing it down with a tall glass of Guiness, enjoy and sing-a-long with the hook while you dance with the luck of the Irish, and ignore or participate in the crazy drunkeness happening all across American streets tonight. 

"We run boardwalks to whisky in Ireland..

Started a fire with what we're blazing call a fireman...

Hear the grand piano, pistols, baby doll....

The world is yours and you can have it all!"

Muja Messiah and Bobby Raps (Photography by Tony Nelson). 

Muja Messiah and Bobby Raps (Photography by Tony Nelson)

Empire Status album available now on itunes

Follow Muja Messiah and Bobby Raps on Twitter:

Nazeem: The New M.P.L.S Rap Rifle

Posted by: Maria Isa Updated: March 15, 2014 - 12:51 AM



The Twin Cities has a strong history of local musicians making their mark and taking over the SXSW Music Festival and this past Wednesday evening 18 year-old, South Minneapolis rapper Nazeem took charge of every minute he had on the mic.  

Nazeem, who leaked January 1st,  the first song off his upcoming mixture produced by Spencer Joles, was definitely a crowd favorite at this year's SXSW MN Hip Hop Showcase presented by Dante Entertainment at the 6th street Austin venue The Blind Pig.

"Performing at SXSW was a goal I had set 2 years ago, after releasing my first project The Coliseum at the 2012 Soundset," states Nazeem. "I was glad to have my family there supporting me and the crowd was really cool too."




Growing up on the Southside of Minneapolis, and graduating from Southwest High School last June, the rapper and songwriter born Nazeem Jalees Cunningham is now a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College , and for 5 years has been working at Youthfarm, a non-profit organization focused on building youth led food movements in the Twin Cities.  He was recently promoted as the Harvest Coordinator at his job, all while writing and recording his new mixtape produced by Spencer Joles.  

His name is being heard around the Twin Cities as a best kept secret.  With a feature on his father, veteran rapper Muja Messiah's upcoming project God Kissed It The Devil Missed It  and this May's release of Atmosphere's Southside album, the new kid out the booth is bound to collect a fan base while educating a new generation of hip-hop fans through revolutionary bars set to shake your mind and tell a story.  

"Nazeem killed it at the MN Hip Hop showcase here at SXSW! He had the crowd focused and responding to his catchy hooks like his songs were already a billboard hit on the radio," expressed Twin Cities producer, rapper and friend Bobby Raps of Audio Perm who took part in DJ-ing Nazeem's debut set at SXSW. 

Nazeem performs at the SXSW MN Hip Hop Showcase. (Video by D.Potts/T.Mortenson)


I am proudly looking forward to hearing more from my favorite new Minneapolis rapper and seeing his career as an artist and activist grow on stage as well as in the hip-hop community.


Party and Power to the People y'all! -M.I.


Nazeem backstage at the SXSW MN Hip Hop Showcase in downtown Austin's The Blind Pig venue. Photo by Judy Hanks
Nazeem backstage at the SXSW MN Hip-Hop Showcase at downtown Austin's The Blind Pig. (Photo by J.Hanks)

Be sure to check out Nazeem's music available at


and his latest release "January 1st"


Follow Nazeem on Twitter @NazeemMusic

Spreading Jazzmine Love at Hollywood's Xen Lounge

Posted by: Maria Isa Updated: February 25, 2014 - 8:54 PM

Maria Isa performs her song Jazzmine Love at Tisha Campbell's R&B showcase at North Hollywood's Xen Lounge.  Following up the Grammy weekend last month, Isa had the opportunity to perform right before platnum singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton and in front of diva-vocalist Faith Evans at the popular Studio City venue.  Isa is currently working on her upcoming album Valley of the Dolls off SotaRico and In The Groove Records with production by Andrew Bergen, Bobby Raps and Truthmaze.  Be on the look out for the first single Sabatoge to be released in March honoring Women's History Month.  

Isa will be performing in Minneapolis this Friday February 28th at Aria at Jeune Lune 105 North First Street for the Heart of the Party presented by CD5 -DFL hosted by State Senator Bobby Joe Champion with special guest including Congressman Keith Ellison and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.



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