Niña Dioz has long been known as a powerhouse rapper in her native Mexico, but it’s only now that she is finding her power. It’s been the work of the last four years. A lot has happened since then: She moved to Los Angeles from Mexico City, entered her 30s, got sober, and completed a new album, titled Reyna, the follow-up to her 2013 debut full-length Indestructible. The rapper’s given name is Carla Reyna, so the title underscores how personal the album is, but, for her, there’s more to it than that. Speaking over the phone from her home base in L.A., she tells Remezcla, “’Reyna’ is any woman or anybody that has regained the power that they didn’t know they had inside of them.”
Reyna is an album full of self-affirmation that goes deeper than rap’s expected measure of bombast. The single “Tambalea,” for one, is an anthem of empowerment, featuring the vocals of Ceci Bastida and Lido Pimienta, that deals with standing up for yourself in the face of discrimination, whether it is based on sexism, racism, homophobia, or anything else. All of these songs, she reveals, are a product of her own healing.
“I was just going through this process of healing, of regaining my own power, [awakening] finally to my power that probably was taken away a long long time ago without me even realizing it. So, I decided that I wanted to do this album, [which] can help people with their own personal battles and especially women and people who have been marginalized,” she says. “For me this is an album that celebrates marginalized people. The theme, almost in every track, is about empowering us, is about self-love, is about healing, is about coming together.”
“It’s the power that you have to love yourself, to respect yourself, to say no, to have boundaries.”
To be clear, the kind of power she’s talking about doesn’t come from money, success, or fame. “It’s the power that you have to love yourself, to respect yourself, to say no, to have boundaries,” she explains. Having found that in herself, she’s eager to share it with others, but getting to this place was a journey.
A successful artist in Mexico, the move to Los Angeles was a way to level up her career. On a personal level, it was a chance to escape the unhealthy lifestyle that came with being an artist in Mexico City. “I was always getting into parties with VIP access and getting all the drugs and alcohol that I wanted. I needed to be removed from the situation. I needed to have a space where I could heal and process all of the things that I hadn’t processed for all those years. Funny enough, L.A. was that space where I could find myself spiritually and get sober,” the Monterrey-bred rapper reflects. She hasn’t had a drink in the four years she has been living in Los Angeles.
One aspect of Carla Reyna’s newfound sense of empowerment that is reflected in Reyna is her choice to be completely open about being a lesbian. “Just recently, like last year, I finally came out with my dad. It was something where we never spoke about it ever. With my mom, I came out when I was 15 years old, but with my dad, it took another 15 years, just because he is a very conservative guy from Monterrey. So, it was really hard to come out to him and his side of the family. When I finally did, he was completely accepting and loving about it,” she shares. She’s also decided to be more open about this side of herself in the press and in her music too.
“I’m going to embrace who I am and the love that I feel.”
On the BrunOG-produced “Magdalena,” which opens her album, Reyna spits her truth in English: “Killing Shit, yeah/Queer as fuck, yeah/Never give up, yeah/Never giving a fuck.” The blunt statement gets to the heart of her personal message with Reyna, which is: “Fuck what everyone else thinks. I’m going to do me and I’m going to embrace who I am and the love that I feel. It’s always positive to love instead of hating. So, I’m just going to say the truth about myself from now on,” she declares.
More than a place for Reyna to focus on herself and her music, Los Angeles has left its mark on her latest album musically too. She worked with L.A.-based producers Captain Planet and Futura, completing half of the songs on the album with them. Scoop DeVille, the legendary producer and son of Kid Frost who has worked on hits for Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, added a touch of West Coast cool through his production work on the title track, something that thrilled the Mexican MC, who grew up on Dr. Dre and Cypress Hill.
Her experience in L.A. shows up in the lyrics as well. Many of the songs look at life from the intersections at which she stands, first as a queer Mexican woman, and now as an immigrant. Living in the U.S. means she can now “see closely all of these issues with immigrants and everything that happens when they want to kick you out and you have your family,” she says. One of the most clearly political songs on Reyna, “América,” is a defiant open letter to her adopted country, informed by her experience of life here, and taking on its racism, its sexism and, pointedly, its anti-immigrant attitudes in piercing lines like “Nos llaman criminales pero construimos tu casa.”
Still, this isn’t an L.A. album; it’s Carla Reyna’s album. She points out that it’s shot through with Mexican musical references, chilango slang, and the border culture that she was exposed to in Monterrey. “I’m just really showing everything that makes me, you know, me,” she says. Los Angeles just happens to be where all these things came together.
Niña Dioz’s Reyna is out now via Nacional Records.