Artist name: Helen Hailu
Based in: Dallas, Atlanta
Genre: R&B, soul
Must-hear songs: My apologies
Who is this mysterious half wuman, half honey Helen Hailu?
I think too much of anything is not good for anyone. I give a lot of myself in music so whatever is left of me I want to keep to myself. I believe it’s very unhealthy that we live in a society where we consume an endless amount of anything we want.
I guess the mysteriousness comes from being underground and sort of shutting down once I put music out or get off the stage from a performance. I rather sing to you than try to convince you with conversation or gimmicks to listen to my music. My mom used honey for a lot of things, and I also feel like my skin looks like a bowl of honey. I love to play with words, whether it’s how I spell or say them. I relate to different members of Wu-Tang for different reasons and ultimately how Wu-Tang is for the children. So “wuman” comes from that.
Your EP What She Say? just released. How did this project come together?
I never force anything but, I knew I had to release something this year. The question “What she say?” was something I was constantly singing as an ad-lib in my songs. Also, I feel like that’s what most people say or think when I’m speaking.
I recorded a lot of songs from April to October then TrendzMusic (producer of this EP) and I sat down and picked our favorites. We realized I kept saying “What she say?” in the ones we chose. So the EP kind of named itself. Not to be cliche but, life inspired these songs. If I don’t feel it, I can’t sing it.
You’re based in Atlanta now. How would you describe the music scene there? Is it different from Dallas?
Literally walking around the city is a music scene. Actual musical legacy and culture run deep in this city. I worked on Edgewood Avenue, a prominent street full of Black-owned businesses. This is where I networked a lot of my music and met a lot of people who have helped me make strides in this game.
Luckily, gentrification hasn’t killed Edgewood all the way. I love Dallas with my entire body and soul. It is one of the unspoken gems that contributed a lot to Hip Hop, Funk and Soul music. My foundation comes from where I was raised but, I left Dallas when I was 17. I hear about the cons of the Dallas music scene but I can’t speak on that because I moved to Atlanta soon after graduating college.
In a couple of songs, you mention the use of your third eye. Are you spiritual?
My eyes are my favorite part of my body and at an early age, my obsession with eyes led me to learn about my third eye. Before I understood the power in it, I was in search of enlightenment within me.
I will never understand life and I don’t want to waste time trying to. I listen to my body, the temple my soul lives in. I am spiritual, and that came from growing up in an Ethiopian Orthodox house. I thank God for everything I am and the family/ community I was raised in.
My grandma and mom have an infinite amount of faith in God and move by their spirit. In college, I was not as spiritual and that was the darkest time of my life. I realized when I run from “home” and don’t listen to my spirit things end up pretty bad. But in every bad situation, I was still protected in ways words can’t explain. I envision myself being a mom and singing around the world. I value health, the time I have with my family, and honesty especially honesty within myself.
In your song Working, you sing “I’ve got to give the black babies my heart and soul, show them a different world from what they know, teach them how to fly, and not just to get by.” What message would you like to spread
For reasons we may never see justice for, countries all over the world have committed and are still committing genocide to my people. America would not exist as the most powerful country, the land of the free bull shit would not exist; My parents wouldn’t have been able to come here and succeed without what Black people endured and conquered. I can never be still or quiet about that.
When I wrote those words I was working in schools in College Park and East Point. America specifically works diligently to make sure we don’t prosper or live to our full, healthy potential. I have to show the young Black children that this country isn’t not designed for us to succeed or even live but our blood runs differently than others. Our ancestors have done the unthinkable. So I don’t want us to just get by, I want us to live how we originally lived. Free.
On your beautifully curated, food-for-thought Tumblr you write in one of your poems “We can both find peace of mind, I can teach you bout Selassie.” What would you like people to know about this Ethiopian regent?
I want people to see the resilience and discipline my people had. I feel like they conquered the impossible. I want to continue to educate myself and the people around me on the truth. I admired the ancient Ethiopian regimes for their mentality of keeping the Western Hemisphere out of Africa and preserving our culture. I want people to see Ethiopia and Eritrea for our intellect, our spirits, the trials we have overcome, and not just our physical features.