A true Tampa talent and overall gem. Not only is Zhalarina a rapper, she is also a playwright, actor, music composer, and so much more. Being a creative has always been a part of who Zhalarina is—and where she comes from. Her mother is a writer, her father a visual artist, and her uncle a rapper. She developed an interest for the genre at a young age, having seen Da Brat and TLC on TV.
Soon, the multi-talented artist wrote her first rap at 11 years old. As her writing progressed, she ended up entering a slam poetry competition and winning. This introduced her to a whole passion that she would not have discovered had she not taken that leap of faith. She soon learned about the University of Wisconsin-Madison's First Wave, a theater program that integrates hip-hop. There, she ended up creating The Light
, with PBS Wisconsin, an autobiographical story told through three music videos. She wrote, acted in, and produced the whole show—and her hard work paid off. She ended up winning an Emmy in the Chicago/Midwest region.
That's not the only acclaim Zhalarina received. For NPR's Tiny Desk Contest she submitted her song "Lala."
Although she didn't win the contest, NPR highlighted her and her song as a "stand-out entry."
Zhalarina's raps are witty, quick, catchy, and make you want to jump out of your seat to bop around. She likes to have fun with the content of her music and since is wildly imaginative—you never know what to expect. A year ago she released "Good Yawning," a song in which she impersonates 12 female rap artists and their respective styles. She nails the styles of MC greats like Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, and Lauryn Hill, but also aces the new-age mic queens like Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Chika, and Rico Nasty. Another impressive record was "Tampa," a bouncy 2019 hit dedicated to her hometown. Her confidence on the track helps to crack an inevitable smile, and her rhyme work is slick and smart, integrating a Southern accent and lyrics that talk about being from the "flirty dirty, that scurry dirty." The song has over 5,000 plays on Spotify.
"It was my most ambitious song at the time—I got to celebrate women in hip-hop, past and present," Zhalarina says. "I shot, directed, and edited the music video myself. It was a passion project and I was proud of how it came out."
She just recently dropped her first album, Again
, which features the three mentioned tracks as well as 14 other songs. But don't think that that's all for the busy artist, she's eyeing a summer release for her second album.