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.

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

Posted by: Maria Isa under Music, Minnesota musicians, St. Paul Central 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:

Maria Isa presents her Valleys of the Dolls Intro with video for MARUCA.

Posted by: Maria Isa Updated: May 27, 2014 - 4:27 PM

I am having a party for the World Video Premier of my single SABOTAGE this Friday in downtown St. Paul. As a gift from SotaRico we're going to give you another little teaser off my upcoming album VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.  It's an honor to present to you the Video and intro to my album "MARUCA," produced by Dan Comerchere.  Video directed by Adam Stanzak and Cinematography by Michael Parades.  

If you're in my hometown of St. Paul check out the flier below for more information on an exclusive listening party with performances by Ashely Debose, Ale Carrera, The Whales, Truthmaze and DJ Fundraiser.  After party open to the public. Hit up for more information.

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

Posted by: Maria Isa under Music, Culture 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."

Remembering the man Cesar Chavez from the grapevines, capitol steps, continuing the legacy and to Hollywood's big screen.

Posted by: Maria Isa under Culture, Holidays, Society, Government, Politics Updated: April 3, 2014 - 1:41 PM


Celebrating the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)


As a little Puerto Rican girl raised in Minnesota's first Latino community (prodominantly Mexican) on St. Paul's Westside, I can recall the first moment I ever cherished and shouted the famous Cesar Chavez quote "Si Se Puede!"  I was in my PM-Kindergarden classroom at St. Matthew's School on 497 Humboldt Avenue in 1992.  I was drawing my weekly journal assignment, in which that week the bold letters on the chalkboard asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  

I was on a mission to share and showcase my answer to my teacher Mrs Dereburger.  I remember I was seated by my childhood amigos Carlos Luis Mariani and DeMetrius Regino as we ate our fruit snacks and shared crayons out of the same box.  Mrs. Dereburger passed by us to see our work.   I held my colorful illustration with pride and said, "Look Mrs. Dereburger, I want to be a leader for my community, you know like the president, but more like my mom and Cesar Chavez!"  

My teacher looked at me and smiled, yet taken away by my statement, she starred into my eyes and those of the 2 other brown elementary kids next to me who knew we were a part of a movement where we could dream and excell.  

Growing up in the Twin Cities behind numerous podiums, strikes, political rallies, and gatherings at the Neighborhood House and Our Lady of Guadalupe's church hall; I remember the stories shared in our barrio by community leaders, educators and activist contributing time towards spreading knowledge about where our people came from, how our cultures connected, and why it is important to invite and accept diversity.  I can still hear the voices of Gilbert de la O, Francisco y Ramona Rosales, Larry Lucio, Don Luna, Celia Highland, State Rep. Carlos Mariani and most of all my mother Elsa Vega-Perez during my early childhood memories ensuring me since a child that the "Si, se puede" not only stood for "Yes, we can," but also reflected the words "Never give up!"  

Above: Gabe Rios, Hector Garcia, Willie Dominguez and Latino Veterans Celebrating Latino Legistlative Day at the Minnesota State Capitol on Cesar Chavez Day, March 31, 2014.

Those words "Si, se puede" registered on the frontlines of all those who fought to be valued, respected, and heard.  It also taught us that our oral traditions shall no longer be sheltered in a generation learning the truth of war, the advantages of peace, and the importance of standing up for our rights.  I am certain that every community leader and activist who mentored and educated me about they system and our place as citizens will agree and remind me of how far along we have risen together, but yet how much work we still have to do.  

Above: Students from Academia Cesar Chavez with Executive Director Ramona Rosales on the far right.

Below: Yolotl, Son of Felipe Espinoza Day and Tania Galaviz De Espinoza expresses his excitement to see the movie Cesar Chavez.

Last Friday in downtown Los Angeles, I attended the premier for Cesar Chavez the movie along with rising Latino star Johnny Ortiz.  We both felt appreciated that theatres nationwide were jammed packed and sold-out.  Not only did it ensure more opportunities for Latino films in the industry, but it was also amazing to see Latino Hollywood represented by strong actors such as Michael Pena, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera, Vicente Fernandez and so many others who continue to pave a way.

Actor Danny Trejo, (Machete star and someone I had the honor of working with) shared with me of the days when he was incarcerated during the famous UFW strike in rural areas such as Delano and Fresno.  He and other prisoners at the time were forced to work the grapevine fields.  Trejo stated that a large group of women stood on the side of the prison buses, and begged the prisoners not to pick, to strike with them, and in return the women would show the incarcerated men their breast for a quick peep show in honor of the movement.

Above: Latino Actor Danny Trejo

 "Shoot, we were down for the movement regardless," stated Danny. "And Cesar Chavez's leadership encouraged me to study law as soon as I was out of prison. It was deep!  We wouldn't be able to or be here doing what we do if it wasn't for strong people in the movement." -Danny Trejo

I continued to pay homage to not only Cesar Chavez the man, but also towards the movement he, along with many men, women, and children of Mexican and Filipino backgrounds represented.  I drove up north and spent Sunday-Monday visiting those fields in Delano with acres of land full of grapevines and other produce.  I walked over the footprints of Cesar and gave thanks to the spirits of the strong women, men and children who encourage me everyday to speak for our derechos.



 Filipino American farm workers initiated the Delano grape strike on September 8, 1965, protesting for higher wages. Cesar Chavez eagerly supported them and six months later, Chavez and the NFWA led a strike of California grape pickers on the historic farmworkers march from Delano to California state capitol in Sacramento for similar goals. (Photography by M.I. Perez)

We've came along way mi gente and as a Latina from the great state of Minnesota, I feel proud that this generation's children can see stories of our people's movements on the big screen nationwide and in schools.  However, there was so much more to the UFW movement than the movie dipicted. However, let us cherish what was and continue to support creating more movies about the historical stories of our gente's accomplishments and struggles.  

Let this be a reminder of the times we were told our people would never amount to anything, because of our last names, the language that we speak, the color of our skin and our financial struggles in this society.  For all of these issues amongst many more are still relevant in the present as citizens, men, women, youth, elders, and veterans struggle with our countries divided viewpoints, man-made diseases and lack of healthcare.  

Please read quotes of members who celebrate Cesar Chavez week and work everyday on continuing the legacy and pride of Cesar Chavez right in the Twin Cities.  Let us build and continue to grow together in peaceful tactics through the arts, celebrating our elders and youth outreach by speaking up and listening to one another.  

Si Se Puede! - Maria Isa

Cesar Chavez, the movie, showed that farm workers could bring about transformational change in their lives and the lives of their families through non-violent means and by having the courage to fight for civil rights. It will serve to educate new generations of people about what Cesar achieved, and what is yet to be accomplished in the struggle for Latino's rights in our country.  Yet the greatest legacy Cesar left behind is seen in the continuing work of those pushing ahead the Latino movement for empowerment, drives licences, and legal residency in the US today.

-Maya Santamaria 

CEO, Santamara Broadcaasting Inc/ La Raza 1400 am/1470 am 

CEO, Midwest Latino Entertainment and Talent, Inc/ El Nuevo Rodeo Nightclub & Restaurant & 27th Event Center. Minneapolis. MN

(Photography by Marina Castillo).

Over the weekend I had an opportunity to take my family to see the new Cesar Chavez movie.  It meant the world to me to be able to take my kids to a movie and have a teachable moment with them.  To explain where our people come from and the struggles that we've had to go through.  For the kids, it's a movie that shows them a leader that looks like them!-


-Felipe Espinoza Day

Cultural Arts Director, Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc



It is important to rekindle the memory of Cesar Chavez primarily because Latino youth in the United States need role models to emulate. Latino education gaps must be bridged. Our students must carry on the “can do attitude” that has led this nation to achieve international distinction for so many years.  Cesar Chavez inspired Latino and other farm workers to effect dramatic economic changes in the second half of the 20th century with his message “Si se puede!” He can inspire our students to make a difference in the 21st century with the same words; they are his legacy and are now a part of our Latino culture.


-Hector Garcia

Executive Director of Chicano Latino Affairs Council




I felt that the film  Cesar Chavez provided a narrow view of the farmworkers movement and  the United Farm Workers as an organization. While America Ferrera attempted to claim agency as a strong Chicana, her limited role left her with few opportunities to illustrate the importance women played in the Movement. The lack of complexity around Chavez's negative feelings towards undocumented workers, as well as the lack of Filipino representation, left me overall disappointed. Yes, it's a victory to have a hollywood film represent Chican@ stories and have Latin@ actors on screen. But we deserve to see more than numbers. We deserve to hear a history that encompasses the numerous people involved not just one iconic hero.  ¡Viva la huegla!


-Jessica Lopez Lyman

 Performance Poet, Chicana and Chicano Studies Teaching Assistant, and PhD Candidate. UCSB.




A film about the UFW, the farmworkers' movement, even about Cesar Chavez himself, has the potential to be powerful, truthful, complex, and leave a legacy. This, unfortunately, is not that film, despite the fact that it focused on an important chapter in Latin@ (&, to an extent, Filipino) history.


-Emmanuel Ortiz Activist, Spoken Word Poet/ Member of Minnesota's Latino Spoken-word group Palabristas 

Listen here to Maria Isa's Derechos 



Dolores Huerta signs up members at the National Farmworkers Association founding convention, Fresno, California, 1962 (Photography by Joe Gunterman).


Black Irish by Empire Status

Posted by: Maria Isa under Music, Holidays 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:


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