Dounia is “Better Than Your Rapper Boyfriend”

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Dounia is the fresh new rapper our generation of empowered young women craves. Her witty lyrics and rolling beats express unapologetic thoughts of a girl from Queens who’s faced her fair share of struggle, but will inevitably “Shyne” on everyone. The bite of Dounia’s voice set to her smooth sound has made her a leader in a new wave of revolutionaries. She reminds her followers in a past Instagram bio that she is “better than your rapper boyfriend”.

Twenty-year-old Dounia Tazi was born in Queens, New York, but as a baby she was sent back to Morocco to live with family while her mother worked in America. At age eight she returned to her birthplace where she taught herself English by reading books at her public library. After failing out of high school, Dounia worked at American Apparel to help pay her family's rent. But high school was also when Dounia began to explore music. In class she’d scribble down lyrics about boys she liked and eventually began writing and recording songs. Her first musical praise came from classmates for a diss track she posted on Soundcloud that dragged her ex-boyfriend. She told Time Magazine, “He was a rapper too, but I really went off on him. I was like, ‘Your bars are subpar…Everything you’re spitting is a lie.’”

Toward the end of high school she began to build a following on social media. She became a champion for promoting body positivity, breaking eurocentric beauty standards, and supporting Black Lives Matter. Dounia’s voice currently reaches 200k followers on Instagram and nearly 50k on Twitter. She decided to take her strong beliefs and musical talents to more constructive use by hitting the studio and pursuing music professionally.

Dounia released her first single, “East Coast Hiding,” in January 2017. It can be perceived as an ode to her Queens life as a teen and the very beginnings of her music career. The track highlights her distaste for conformity and inauthenticity, two themes that come through on her feed and stay prevalent in her music. She raps, “Ain’t too concerned with conforming, fitting in is foreign to a woman like me / Barely a woman, nineteen”. It wasn’t until she released her debut EP Intro To nine months later that she began gaining recognition. What makes the contemporary R&B artist unique is that these eight-tracks were entirely independently made. The singer/rapper told Broadly she recorded all of Intro To within a span of seven days—casual. Since then, she’s toured with fellow R&B artists R.LUM.R and Jordan Rakei and racked up millions of online listeners.

Intro To is a dreamy rap that reflects her feminist energy and Queens-girl attitude. In “So Cool” she discusses relationship dynamics—the nature of young women to alter themselves to appear less emotional to men they care about. In “Status” she rejects boujee hip-hop culture and finds her flex in her perseverance and “resting bitch face.” “Casablanca,” a personal favorite, expresses her natural hunger to grind and keep sane over an almost stripped beat. Jordyn Vasquez ‘21, a fan of the artist, recounts her first time listening to Intro To and being shocked by how “empowering and blatantly honest” it was. “She doesn’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks,” Vasquez says. “Lyrics like hers are so rare, especially coming from a woman, but they’re also so important. I don’t think I can do them justice by describing them, you’ll just have to listen for yourself.”

Dounia’s authenticity, among her fresh sound, is what makes her an important new force. Her raw recounts of family struggles, hustling to pursue her passion, losing herself in romance, and navigating new success serves as inspiration to young women and men who relate. On the subject of feminism and self-worth, Vasquez stresses, “She’s using her platform as an artist to empower listeners with music that reflects a strong feminist mentality. She’s acknowledged that there’s power in that. After my breakup I started to realize how many love songs exist in the world, Dounia rewrites the narrative by focusing on herself and her success instead of a significant other.”

While the hip-hop industry is beginning to blossom with more female artists, Dounia serves as a true, relatable voice that can empower “the outcasts, the outsiders, the weirdos.” On her current tour supporting Christine and the Queens she reminds her LA audience, “We’re not weirdos, we’re ourselves. We’re on our grind.”

Illustration by: Olivia Kelliher