Music is empowering. Whether it’s the music you listen to, or the music you write. Jessica M Wilkes knows. You might recognise her as @momma_rapper on BandLab, and she has a way with words, poetry and music. For her, music was and is more than just an outlet for expression, it’s a struggle, a journey and a restorative.

“Music is healing,” she says, “having others that appreciate your word, that is healing.”

Jessica tells us her heartfelt story and the big part music plays in her life.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into music?

Two years ago, I left an emotionally abusive relationship. I was homeless, sitting at a rest stop. Finally realising that I no longer deserved to be treated disrespectfully because of the fact that I carry insecurities, I reflected on myself and started working on myself over the past two years.

Growing up my brother was taught to play the guitar and sing. I on the other hand never understood music notes, and my voice carried no confidence so it did not sound good. Never in a million years did I ever think I would sing. I was never really interested in singing, only rapping.

I was tired of always being in pain, so I started walking and changing how I eat. I have dropped another 80 pounds this year, bringing my total weight loss to 230 pounds. Well if that doesn’t boost your ego, I no longer want to feel like a caged soul and I am driven to do just that. My daughter saw that I was finally comfortable being myself. Something we kept very private and never shared with anyone but her was my writings and poetry. I like to make my daughter laugh, so I take the hurt, give it a spin, and bam – the lyrics of a survivor.

This August, I posted my first video with me talking through poetry – a long, unedited and very rough take. It had quite an impact on a few of my friends and they sent me a few messages. That’s how Lunch Break Lyrics was born – these are my one-minute segments of me speaking my poetry.

So then about a month on, I remembered this new story about a man who made a song on his phone. I was like “okay Momma DIY queen, let’s check that out”, what do I have to lose?

So I jump on the Google Play Store and find BandLab. I was just playing around at first, but the more I practised, the more I realised that I have some confidence through self-love, and I do have a voice. I can remember sitting in the bathroom and singing to the dogs. I forgot to turn off my recorder from doing a poetry piece, and when I played it back I was like, wow… that doesn’t sound bad at all.

And guess what? I do have a choice and a voice!

What kind of musician do you want the world to see you as?  

I feel that I have a universal voice, and I love all genres of music. I want the world to see me as free. My music is a struggle and survival.

Who are some of your biggest music influences?

Eminem and Russ. I have been calling them out on every outlet. They will hear my voice.

They carried me through some of the hardest parts of my life. Eminem helped me through “Not Afraid” – that is how Finally Standing Up was born. I stood up because he gave me the strength. Russ helped me understand that I can do it myself, and that even standing alone, you can be strong.

“You can feel it (my music) because my life is much like the rest of us out there trying to survive.”

In your bio, you state “I might be raw but the words, they are my life.” Tell us more about your way with words and how it shapes your rapping.

I am new to the music industry. I don’t understand a lot of the lingo. The lyrics are true and raw.  These aren’t some made-up-in-my-head words. I know I do not have any formal training, and I don’t know how to read music, but that doesn’t mean my music can’t be felt.

You can feel it because my life is much like the rest of us out there trying to survive. Ramen noodle life isn’t for the weak, but our financial setbacks do not mean we can’t make it. I may not understand these beat spots but I have always been a music lover. I don’t even watch TV so I feel like I have on the job training.

Could you walk us through what writing a song on BandLab looks like?

I am what I consider a fly writer. I write on the fly. I will think of something and like clockwork, it just starts flowing. The caveat to that though is I have a serious short-term memory. I have to grab a pen and paper immediately and lay down the music however I want. It is powerful and empowering, and that is freeing in itself, even if no one listens to it.

I then will Fork a beat. I take my writing and walk the song with it. I then take my phone, plug in my headphones, play the beat and record off my other phone. I then upload that to BandLab where I layer the voices, utilize the FX tool and play around with it till I feel it. Then I upload and publish!

“…yes there will be some negative people – but you put blinders on, you bleed your word, and you heal.”

What are some of your future musical goals?

To be heard.

To help women and men alike know that they have a voice, and they have a choice. BandLab gives you that outlet. It helps you find other people with the same interests – and yes there will be some negative people – but you put blinders on, you bleed your word, and you heal.

Music is healing. Having others that appreciate your word, that is healing. And we will all rise together.

You can listen to Jessica here, and you should definitely get in touch with her for a collaborative effort!