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Rising Bronx-Based Rapper $avannah Hannah: ‘I Have No Urge to Be Anything Other than Myself’

By Cynthia Gross

Bronx-based artist $avannah Hannah is one of the hottest rising talents in the area rap scene. Her high-energy, hard-hitting lyrical flow is magnetic and captivating, commanding the attention of industry heavyweights Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, T.I, Chance the Rapper, and more. A proud product of “the hood,” the grittiness and cultural underpinning of Hannah’s lived experiences inform her music, and what you see is what you get – no fronts needed.

Learn more about $avannah Hannah’s exciting journey with contributing writer Cynthia Gross, including the heartbreaking circumstances that led to her start as a full-time musician; the most important thing she learned as a featured artist in the inaugural season of Netflix’s breakout rap competition, Rhythm + Flow; and her special message in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month.

$avannah Hannah - Photo by Roe Visions
$avannah Hannah – Photo by Roe Visions

$avannah Hannah was destined to be an artist and cultivated her love for writing from an early age. She lists an all-star lineup of rap and hip-hop artists as influences, many of whom hail from New York: Dipset, Styles P, Jadakiss, DMX, Nicki Minaj, Missy Elliott, and Remy Ma. “As someone who lives in such a busy city, the Bronx in New York has a huge influence in all that I create,” she explained.

It was not until tragedy struck several years ago, however, that $avannah Hannah committed to pursuing a full-time career in music. Hannah lost her mother to breast cancer, and creative expression was one of the only ways she knew to process her grief. “After my mother passed away, which was a super unfortunate event, I took my pain into the studio,” she said. “I always knew how to rap, and I took my pain into the studio and never left it.”

In 2019, as a promising newcomer to the rap scene, $avannah Hannah made a grand entrance to immediate standing ovation. She was featured in season 1 of Netflix’s first-ever original music competition, Rhythm + Flow, in which unsigned rappers compete for a $250,000 prize. Hannah notes that when she applied, she was simply “hungry to be a part of something,” but unaware that she was in the running as a contestant. After Rhythm + Flow judge Cardi B announced the competition officially, Hannah visited the submission page and realized her information had already been auto-filled, and the rest is history.

“They picked me up, and my life changed,” she noted. “Being around Cardi B, T.I., and Chance the Rapper as a fresh new artist, I was in the ocean with the sharks. It was like, you rap, but do you really rap? I was a rookie, and that experience molded me into a more confident, disciplined woman.”

$avannah Hannah - Photo by Painfully Gifted Visuals
$avannah Hannah – Photo by Painfully Gifted Visuals

Mid-way through the competition, $avannah Hannah experienced a crushing loss, where she was sent home. Before she left, Jadakiss, a guest judge for Rhythm + Flow’s New York auditions, told Hannah that there was something special in her and recommended that she return to the studio. “What’s the saying – make lemonade out of lemons?” Hannah reflected. “I went home, put in the work, and I’ve been ready ever sense.” Take one listen to $avannah Hannah’s latest tracks, including “WYW,” “A Bronx Drill,” and “Free4all,” and you realize that the Rhythm + Flow upset challenged Hannah to step up her game in a big way. The results showcase her most impressive work to date.

Hannah notes the biggest thing she learned from Rhythm + Flow is the importance of believing in yourself despite the circumstances. “You have to be confident even if you don’t know if you’re confident,” she encouraged. “That’s number one before anything. If you feel for a second that you’re not ready, and you get cold feet, but you know it’s your opportunity to take it, you have to fake it until you make it.” Hannah encouraged up-and-coming artists to build their confidence in private among a trusted inner circle.

Shortly after Rhythm + Flow, $avannah Hannah achieved another major accolade, placing first in Nicki Minaj’s “Megatron Challenge.” Hannah’s entry was chosen over thousands of submissions, bestowing upon her the title of “the girl on the bike” to adoring supporters. When asked what makes her stand out in a saturated industry, Hannah noted that her ability to engage with fans transparently has become her signature.

“A lot of artists put up a front, a version of themselves that they put up to the world,” she explained. “I am who I am. It’s not about money. It’s not about the fame. I have no management and no label. I came up from the ground alone, and I have no urge to be anything other than myself. This differentiates me from those who chase after fame and diamond necklaces. I love my cheap clothes and love to be where I’m from.”

$avannah Hannah

With her unapologetic stance and seductive allure, $avannah Hannah has become a role model for young women and members of the LGBTQ community, empowering them to be colorful, vibrant, and comfortable in their own skin. “I am a queer Black woman,” she said, noting that her identity is controversial, which she welcomes. Hannah lists Young M.A. and Saucy Santana as artists at the forefront of shifting the perception of LGBTQ people of color.

“I think it’s becoming more of a thing that’s being honored,” she explained. “Love is love. If it was up to me, there would not be any labeling. We’re like everybody else. More and more queer people are coming up front and demonstrating what’s always existed. You can’t ignore us. We’re it. The colorfulness is being embraced, and I’m really here for it.”

In recognition of Pride Month, $avannah Hannah encouraged audiences everywhere “to be who you are freely,” a message that her late mother instilled in her growing up. Hannah noted that being true to yourself is crucial to happiness, and ultimately success, since it creates the environment necessary to pursue your goals. “It’s not easy, but appreciate the moments when you’re molding into the beast you’re going to be.”

And for $avannah Hannah, this freedom extends to artistic expression. In May, the New York Senate passed the “Rap Music on Trial” bill that limits the extent to which song lyrics can be used in court, representing the first legislation of its kind. While Hannah considers the level of violence that permeates select rap lyrics to be “unfortunate,” she views the overall bill – backed by Jay-Z, Meek Mill, and Fat Joe – as a step in the right direction. “As an artist, I like to have my freedom to write,” she said, noting this allowance is one that should be granted impartially.

Representing the future of the rap genre, $avannah Hannah is an unmistakable legend in the making. She continues to push the boundaries of the rap scene, and she’s just getting started. Be sure to follow $avannah Hannah for the latest on her upcoming EP with Los Angeles-based sync company Lyric House, personal mixtape, live shows, and more.  

Cynthia Gross

Maryland-based singer-songwriter Cynthia Gross seeks to inspire an awakening to all we are and all we can become. With a passion for language in all of its forms and more than a decade of experience as a professional ghostwriter, she is a light seeker who understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.

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