Bahama pop comer Angelique Sabrina won her first talent competition with an original song when she was eight years old. Now 14, she's already been recognized by the Bahamian senate as an important island mover and shaker, and been labeled by American bloggers as "the next Rihanna."
This is kind of weird for her.
"I'm very honored," Angelique giggled to us over the phone last week, "Rihanna's a very talented performer, and she's from the island as well, so I completely understand the comparison. But I don't think I'm the next Rihanna at all, and I'm definitely not trying to replace her. I think I'm the first Angelique Sabrina, if anything."
Angelique is definitely one of a kind, and for that she thanks her crazy-creative family. Her brother Tristan, with whom Angie learned to salsa, is a professional dancer, her father is a swaggin' producer renowned for signing the hip-hop collective Arrested Development in the '80s, and her mother/video co-star has home-schooled Angelique so comprehensively that the island-hopping starlet is set to graduate high school a year early.
Recently, Angelique introduced a song and dance routine so insatiably catchy in her breakout music video, "Pull-Up," that the NFL decided to teach it to all the cheerleaders. We called up Angelique right after she finished schooling them in Atlanta to ask her about growing up musically, eating donuts with the Baha Men, and recording in Michael Jackson's shower.
(Note: it's important to read the following responses aloud in a cute Bahamian accent. Watch this how-to "Pull-Up" video if you don't know what that sounds like.)
Hey Angelique! It sounds like you're part of a very creative family. Were there always a bunch of musicians around while you were growing up?
Actually yes, but I never knew that! I knew that when I was in a studio it was kind of different, but I would usually just sit in the front and watch TV, or I would be back there with them while they were playing piano. But I never knew exactly what was going on; it was just a weird environment that I was used to. So I grew up in the studio around a lot of artists and watching the process without even really knowing it. Most of the time it was the Baha Men.
What do you remember about hanging out with the Baha Men?
Well eventually the guitarist, Pat Carey, ended up becoming my guitar teacher. But mostly I remember being in the studio goofing off. Like…do you remember the frog song? The one that goes brrring-ding-ding-ding dinga-dinga-ding-ding...
Haha, yes. I think so.
When that came out I was really little and that song was really big. Everyone in school was singing it. And I was in the studio one day playing it on the piano, trying to find the notes of it [laughs.] So I remember running up to the Baha Men and singing it to them, and them just laughing at me. I also remember eating donuts with them—we'd get donuts all the time, because there was a store right next to the studio and I LOVE glazed donuts.
So how'd you go from sitting around kind of obliviously in the studio to becoming a recording artist?
You know how older people ask you what you wanna do when you grow up? I decided to actually think about the real answer. I kept being like, "oh, I want to be an astronaut!" but then I was like, "that's silly, I'm not gonna wanna be up on the moon!" [laughs] So I decided to really think about it, and I didn't have an answer apart from what I always did with my family, which is music. I didn't know what I would be if not a musician. So I told my parents, and we haven't stopped since.
What's one lesson you learned from your dad?
Well, there's a lot of important ones, but one would be to make sure your atmosphere belongs to positive people, people that care about you first. Make sure there's no negative energy in there, because that really molds who you become as a person and where you go as an artist. So make sure you're surrounded by positive people that care about you.
What's your favorite subject to study with your mom?
I like to study a lot about my inspirations—people who I think have been pioneers in anything creative. I like to study and read about people like Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, and Charlie Chaplin. Sidney Poitier, as well, because he's from the Bahamas and has some amazing accomplishments! And when I say read, I mean I'll get like 20 books on one person. Last night I just finished the epilogue of Quincy Jones' autobiography, Q. It was so good! I was upset that it was finished.
Off the top of your head, what's the best quote from Q?
Oh, gosh, let me see…something like, "The people who are most likely to get the call are the ones who are most likely to do it, even if it wouldn't be paid." I thought that was really important. Because it's not about the money. It's about passion.
You recorded part of "Pull-Up" at Westlake Studios, the same place where Michael Jackson recorded "Thriller." What was that like?
Oh, yeah. That was emotional. I was reeeally excited because Michael Jackson is my number one inspiration (I didn't show it on my YouTube tour, but I was also wearing a Michael Jackson shirt that day!) It was cool to get to see everything I had been reading about him. Like, there was a little room there that was a shower, and the shower is where they recorded most of the singer snaps, and they'd echo, and that's what they used in the songs. And they showed us where he stood and recorded in the shower, and it was the SAME SHOWER I saw in this book! I was so excited.
Did you snap in the shower?
Yes, my dad did. It sounded amazing.
My favorite part of the tour is when you show the little nook where Bubbles the monkey would hang out.
I know, right! That's where bubbles would sit! That's so coool!
Do you ever think about getting a studio pet?
If I did, I'd get a dog. I LOVE dogs. I have like seven at home. We have a few shih tzus, and I also have a potcake—y'all call them mutts, but we call the potcakes—and we also have a Rottweiler. If you put them all next to each other, you can see the growth—tall, taller, tallest. And we always end up with dogs with personalities. We have one dog that's SO grumpy, and no one likes him. It's so annoying. He just growls all the time. And there's this one who's literally the life of the party—always jumpy, and happy, and everyone loves him! Then there's one who's like quiet and almost an outcast, but happy with himself. Then there's a diva.
It sounds like your dogs could have their own TV show.
Really! They could have a reality show. I'm serious, especially if you do the voice-overs. We get some celebrities to do the voices.
What's your geekiest habit?
Oh my gosh, my geekiest habit…There's a few. I like putting French dressing on everything. I will take meat, and drown it in French dressing. I don't know if that's okay, but I do that all the time [laughs]. And also, I cannot walk around with shoes on. I don't know what it is—I think it's a gene from being an island girl, but I have to walk around barefoot everywhere.
Are you barefoot when you perform?
No, I have to look a certain way onstage, and I have to wear shoes. But in the studio I'm barefoot half the time. I just get comfortable and kick off my shoes. My whole family is like that, actually. I think that's why we all grew up just walking around the house barefoot, and taking walks outside barefoot. It's just our way. I think it's kind of a thing about getting closer to nature. Shoes just feel like a separation. Why wear them?
What advice do you have for teenagers trying to make it as artists?
I'd say to anybody, of any age, that if you wanna do something, and that's your passion, then don't let anybody take that out of you. You can do something else, but you wont be happy, and you'll know that deep inside of you. So do what you want, and get started early. If you're a busy person like me then use Sparknotes to help. [Laughs.]