Brazilian Teen Rapper MC Soffia Writes Lyrics That Empower Young Black Girls & Tackle Racism

Remember the name MC Soffia, because this teen girl is making a name for herself in Brazil. Since the age of 6, Soffia Rocha has aspired to be a rapper after taking a hip hop workshop offered in São Paulo where she is from. She learned to DJ, dance and do graffiti through the community-based workshop, and it was all thanks to her mom Kamilah Pimentel who took her to the event so that her daughter would learn about confidence and how to stand up to racism and sexism as she grows up.

By the age of 11 she was started to make a name for herself in her home country, and just a couple of years later started being recognized by international media, including the BBC, which listed her as one of their 100 Women of 2017. Soffia has been featured in a couple of documentaries for her music. The first is ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ for BBC about gender equality in soccer, which she wrote the song ‘Esporte’ for, and the second is Avon’s Repense o Elogio (“rethink your compliment”) all about gender roles.

One of her most notable appearances that people around the world may recognize her from was her performance during the 2016 Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony. But for other young black girls in Brazil, Soffia has become a symbol of hope and power, tackling racism and sexism in her lyrics.

“There are a lot of girls who tell me that my music has helped them accept their natural hair, their bodies, their skin color. To me, it’s really important that my work is having that kind of effect, but at the same time I’m still having fun. I’m getting that message out, but I’m dancing, I’m singing, I’m having a good time. Because I’m still a kid,” she said during a community workshop in São Paulo, as reported by Mic.com.

She has experienced racism in school, telling Women’s Media Center’s FBomb column she was teased for her hair and skin color. Eventually she learned, from her mother, to be proud of her hair and skin color and now that has become a core theme of what she sings about.

Her music literally has millions of views on Youtube, with songs such as ‘Africa’ that pays homage to famous black Brazilian women, and ‘Menina Pretinha’ which means “little black girl” also a favorite among young black girls. Soffia’s first EP was made up for 4 tracks all about powerful girls, candy, and dolls, as she explained. The first single is called ‘Barbie Black’, which examines beauty standards among women and girls.

The young rapper says the racism in Brazil is systemic, and starts at the school level. Although there is a law requiring students to learn about Brazil’s African history, this does not always happen, which leads to divisive mindsets based on race.

“Here in Brazil, people [with lighter skin] say that they aren’t racists [even when] they are. Black people face a lot of hardship. In Brazil, black people aren’t just defined by his/her origin, but there is also colorism: light-skinned blacks have advantages over dark-skinned ones. People value others based on the skin tone and not their skills. Some look down on me and don’t believe what I’m capable of,” said Soffia.

It’s what makes role models like her all the more important, knowing there is a social gap when it comes to empowering black youth. The rapper cites Beyonce, Rihanna and another Brazilian rapper by the name of Karol Conká as her inspirations. But it is one artist in particular who she says made her realize that age should be no boundary in becoming a role model for your peers – Willow Smith.

“Girls are already starting to become more empowered and accepting of themselves on their own. But having a kid talking to a kid about these things is really important. I’ve always been really inspired by Willow Smith. We didn’t have anyone like her in Brazil. So now I represent girls,” she said.

Showing her maturity and a passion for social justice, thanks to the values instilled by her mother, Soffia says observing the way certain people are treated has also influenced her to write lyrics that address inequality.

“My biggest inspiration is society. It shows who are the haves and who are the have-nots. … I didn’t start writing music because of racism, but society shows it to black girls, and that ended up inspiring me,” she said.

Inequality among black women is shown by the data, stating they make 59% less than white men in the workforce, and the illiteracy rate among the African-Brazilian population is almost 15% compared to 7% for white Brazilians.

African-Brazilians are 53% of the country’s population, yet they are very underrepresented by mainstream media. This is why MS Soffia’s presence is so important as she is showing other young women a visual reminder that they too belong.

“We are still fighting a lot for more space…Black kids are also still underrepresented. It is getting better for adults, but black kids are still a minority in the media. I sing and I’m not always on TV. More black children should have protagonist roles in kids’ soap operas. I can’t recall any black girls being in these shows besides me, and there are very few others if you look at other kids’ soap operas,” she told Fbomb.

Her mission through her music is best summed up by the quote she gave reporters before she took the stage for her Rio Olympics performance: “I’ll be representing all the black kids from the outskirts who can’t be here talking, I’ll be their voice.” Check out more of MC Soffia’s music below.

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