MEET THE UNDERDOG: INSIDE SANDRAHHH’S STEADY RISE

MEET THE UNDERDOG: SANDRAHHH'S STEADY RISE

Rising Artist Sandrahhh straddles Hip-Hop and R&B with a consistent stream of releases, 

including her latest two-pack R&B EP Keep the Peace.

This story appears in HYPE magazine #30, available here.

At HYPE, we check for the underdog, and in our latest Meet the Underdog feature, we shine the light on rapper and singer Sandrahhh and her journey to Keep The Peace. The Kenyan-born, South African-raised artist, Sandra Ngunjiri, stage name Sandrahhh, has had a pretty consistent rise. Sandrahhh’s latest R&B two-pack EP Keep The Peace comes after her first hip-hop album, Eating Good, dropped in 2022. Her first official single ‘Doja Leaves’ was dropped in 2021. The song has a sensual R&B sound that recommences in her first EP For Real This Time, dropped in 2021.

Sandrahhh, who was born in 1997, works with producer Nash for his label, FTL Radio, which houses artists like Keeme and 2AM. “Nash and I connected over Twitter in 2020 during the hard lockdown,” Sandrahhh says. “He was looking for a vocalist via the FTL Radio page, and with me being a fan of his mixes, I reached out to him, submitted some rough music I had recorded at the time, and he said we’d connect once lockdown restrictions were eased. He kept his word and pulled up on me one day in July 2020, and we’ve been making music ever since.”

Sandrahhh holds a digital music production and composition qualification as well as a music business qualification from Boston Media House. She states that one of her reasons for taking those courses was to formalise her love for music and to study something she loved after previously dropping out twice. “I also wanted to be able to have informed conversations with industry professionals and know exactly what they do because I knew this was more than a hobby for me, and in order to play the game, you need to know how to play it, what your role is, and what the roles of others are, so that everyone sticks to their jobs, and I don’t overwork myself or end up being shortchanged. The entertainment industry can be weird, but I refuse to not know how to move,” she says.

KEEP THE PEACE IS AN EXTREMELY PERSONAL PROJECT. I WANTED TO FOLLOW EATING GOOD UP WITH SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, AND THESE TWO SONGS FLOW WELL TOGETHER. EVERY TIME I THOUGHT OF ADDING MORE SONGS IT TOOK AWAY FROM THE SHORT AND SWEET VIBES I WAS GOING FOR. THEY ARE LIKE TWIN SISTERS WHO DON’T WANT ANYONE ELSE IN THEIR CREW, LOL. I HAD THESE SONGS SITTING IN THE VAULT, AND THEY JUST KEPT SCREAMING AT ME TO BE LET OUT, AND I LOVE THEM AS IS.

PARENTS’ SUPPORT

GREEN AND PURPLE

Sandrahhh is lucky to have had her parents’ support in her chosen career path. “My mother was definitely the more conservative parent, given her strong Christian background,” Sandrahhh says. “My father was, in many ways, more liberal than she was. As I grew older, I think they started to accept the fact that their daughter was something of a wild card and started to embrace my love for extreme self-expression through my clothing, personality and love for music.” Her mother, being a music lover herself, ignited Sandrahhh’s love for music. “My mother’s influence is beyond legendary. I see her singing in the church choir and all that, but my fondest memories are of her singing us ‘out of sleep’ when she would wake my brother and I up in the morning when we were growing up. I still remember those songs, and we’ve laughed about this before because she was simply expressing her love, and I have never forgotten that. I don’t know of many moms who did that for their children.” Although her mother was the inspiration for her love of music, her father, who passed away in 2018, about a year before she started her studies, provided the knowledge and freedom Sandrahhh needed. “He definitely was the one who would see me singing YouTube covers after school instead of doing my homework. He would buy me all the CDs I wanted and let me play them as loudly as I wanted in his car on a Friday; he also put me onto the music he was on and would tell me who sampled what from songs I loved,” she says. Her musical inspirations include the likes of IAMDDB, Filah Lah Lah, Marcus Harvey, Drake, A-Reece, Jay Jody, Riky Rick, FLVME, AKA, Rouge, Kanye West, Tyla, Nanette, Blxckie, Uncle Waffles, Teyana Taylor, Kamo Mphela and Mac Miller, “to name a few, and they are all artists I dream of collaborating with.”

For her cover art, she displays her face in various states of emotion. One easily notes that Sandrahhh has a love affair with the colours green and purple, and sometimes a touch of red. It was crazy to find out that she didn’t intentionally do that, as she says, “I honestly did not even notice that For Real This Time and Keep The Peace are both predominantly those colours. It must be such a subconscious thing because I can’t even tell you why. It just so happens that both times those were the prominent colours during our cover shoots. My jaw is actually on the floor as I answer this question because I really did not even notice that.” The single cover for her first single, ‘Doja Leaves’, featuring producer Swizz Khaley, who now goes by the name Kiyan Khaley, was a glimpse of what’s to come from Sandrahh. “His beats were played for me, and I immediately knew that we would pair so well together musically. I was still trying to establish my name and sound, and the ‘Doja Leaves’ beat spoke so deeply to who I was at the time that after recording it, we all knew it would be a good single to introduce myself with.” The song ‘BigDawgCypher’ is where she started introducing herself as a rapper over a Yolophonik lo-fi beat with 2AM as a featured artist. “‘BigDawgCypher’ is a product of me playing around with a sound other than singing in the studio. I wanted to give rapping a try, and after the boys (2AM, Nash, Ally and Yolophonik) heard it, we knew we had something good on our hands.” In 2022, Sandrahhh dropped her album Eating Good. “Hhhm, Yahhh!”, from the album, appeared on HYPE Sessions #93. The album is not only slightly juxtaposed against her first EP, For Real This Time, but it also has a different cover art palette with the black and white picture of her body with her face cut out. “Eating Good was definitely made to be different from the rest of my discography – from the audio content to the cover. It wasn’t planned, but that entire drop is all black and white. It was definitely the most difficult artwork to choose, though. The artwork even changed after we had submitted it for distribution because we were so undecided.

MOVING UP

Sandrahhh just signed a distribution deal with SlikourOnLife’s SOLDistro distribution company that aims to give upcoming artists a better platform to get their music out on major streaming platforms. And it also provides them with support to have access to other annuities around dropping music, like promotion on their website and on social media, and organising listening sessions, among others. “One of the writers, Ofentse Phukubye, from SlikourOnLife got put onto my music by a family friend of mine, and he kept on the pulse of all my drops since For Real This Time. We then formed a solid relationship both in and out of the music as industry peers, and he let me know that SOLDistro was interested in handling my distribution. We had a meeting at their offices, and we and FTL Radio loved the culture of their company, their transparency, and their willingness to help push me forward in this industry. I love the creative freedom they allow me to have as well as the services they offer as part of my contract, and we signed the deal.” Given that a pattern in how she chooses to let listeners know which musical direction she is taking stems from her cover arts’ colour and photoset choice, it isn’t surprising to hear the heavy R&B elements in Keep The Peace as the cover art is a portrait of her with green eyeshadow, a flower with green leaves and purple petals. “My friends Phuti and Aphiwe, who are qualified fashion designers and creative directors, helped me conceptualise the shoot after I told them that I would like to embody the fullness of my femininity for this drop. We went to the local dog park by my house, and Aphiwe did my makeup. Phuti styled me and was literally plucking flowers and shrubs from a nearby bush and told me to hold them towards my face and look down. Nasi Tautona/Snaps by Allen shot the cover, and when they sent back the edited pictures, we all agreed that this one was a win. The plan was to get my friend Babs’s dog on the cover, but Thor just wanted to play that day, so he and Buntu ended up just bringing the vibes and playing the songs while we shot some pictures. Once again, the colour scheme of green and purple is such an unconscious thing, and I am going to investigate within myself to find out why. Purple is my favourite colour, but that doesn’t even come to mind when we are conceptualising. It must be divine.”

She keeps it short and sweet, offering two songs on her latest release. It starts with the song ‘Keep The Peace’, about trying your best to see the good in any situation or type of relationship in your life through difficult situations, where she sings, “If I decide to stay the night then you gotta keep the peace, yeah.” It is followed by my favourite from this two-pack, ‘No Explanation’, a beautifully knitted song about Sandrahhh’s state of mind about her future endeavours and her current feelings. She sings: “Ya’ll call it luck when we both know that fair and square that I won/ I really run this sh*t, you n*ggas had your turn/ If you been sleep, that’s fine, there will come a time you’ll learn.” “Keep The Peace is an extremely personal project. I wanted to follow Eating Good up with something completely different, and these two songs flow well together. Every time I thought of adding more songs it took away from the short and sweet vibes I was going for. They are like twin sisters who don’t want anyone else in their crew, lol. I had these songs sitting in the vault, and they just kept screaming at me to be let out, and I love them as is.” She currently has a lyric video for the single ‘Keep the Peace’ out on YouTube and is planning a music video for ‘No Explanation’ which should be dropping soon. “Big, big, big things are up next. I have a lot of features lined up with artists such as Mellow Don Picasso, Mo$hpit Cindy, Ecco and Yolophonik, to name a few. We’ve recorded some songs over FLVME’s beats too, which I am excited about. I have some brand collaborations in the bag as well so I am excited to continue growing in this industry and making my name one that people do not forget and love to hear about and listen to. I have some other features, but I am keeping that a secret because I love the element of surprise.” We end the interview with Sandrahhh thanking everyone who’s believed in her thus far. One of her best qualities, and one that I believe will take her far, is her gratitude. Keep an eye and an ear out for her

This story appears in HYPE magazine #30, available here.

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