As a little girl growing up outside Detroit, Queen Naija started singing in church at the age of three and writing her own songs in third grade. Although she kept up with her singing and songwriting as she got older—and even cut a few records in a local studio—her focus shifted when she and her former husband found fame online with their wildly popular YouTube channel. But when their marriage fell apart last year, Queen returned to her lifelong passion and released a powerfully unapologetic single that shares her side of the story.
Premiering just hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, Queen’s breakout hit“Medicine” is a slow-burning R&B track about discovering her ex-husband had cheated on her—and her elaborately-detailed plans to get back at him. Part tender breakup ballad, part ruthless revenge fantasy, “Medicine” finds Queen’s smooth and soulful vocals moving from vulnerable to fierce with undeniable ease. But while the song was an instant smash Queen never even intended for “Medicine” to reach beyond her devoted following on YouTubeand Instagram.
In fact, as Queen recalls, the recording of “Medicine” was completely serendipitous.“I was in Atlanta and ended up going into the studio with my brother and said to him, ‘How about I just record my song here?’ It kind of happened out of nowhere,” says the 22-year-old artist. “I wasn’t even thinking about trying to get the song on the radio or anything. I mostly did it because I knew people wanted to know what was going on with me and my ex, and I wanted to tell them myself why I wasn’t with him anymore.”
Queen is now at work on her debut EP for Capitol Records. Joining forces with A-list producers like No I.D.(Jay-Z, Kanye West, Vince Staples), Queen is set to deliver a selection of songs that showcase her magnetic vocals, down-to-earth lyrics, and timeless yet edgy artistry.“More than anything I want my music to be heartfelt—true, heartfelt soul and R&B songs that people can relate to their own lives,” says Queen. “There’ll be some heartbreak songs, but also some songs about getting over the heartbreak and falling for someone new.”
On tracks like “Medicine,” Queen shows the natural vocal command she first began honing through all those years of singing in church.“Even when I was really little, I knew that music was what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. “I didn’t know when or how it was going to happen, but I always knew it was my purpose.” Along with singing at weddings and recording the occasional song, she gradually built up her songwriting skills throughout her childhood. “At first I mostly wrote love songs about boys—I was really boy-crazy—but after a while, I started writing from my own life,” Queen says. “I wrote about not having money and struggling through that, and about growing up without a dad. My music came from experiences I had personally gone through.”
In 2014, Queen auditioned for American Idol and made it all the way to the top 50. Two years later, she started her YouTube channel with her now ex-husband and soon found their vlogs going viral, with some videos earning upwards of 9 million views. While Queen also posted a number of videos sharing her original songs (as well as her remixes of tracks like Tory Lanez’s “Proud Family”), her music was mostly put on the backburner as Queen and her ex-husband’s popularity grew. “During that time I felt really held back and discouraged about my music,” she says. “I didn’t have the support that I have now.”
After parting ways with her ex-husband, Queen launched her own YouTube channel, which now boasts 2.6 million subscribers (in addition to her 3.5 million followers on Instagram). When “Medicine” dropped in December, Queen was startled by the wide-reaching response to the track. “I had no idea it would go as far as it did,” she says. “To me, it felt like a typical song from my own experience, but it turns out that a lot of other people have had this kind of experience as well.” Indeed, it’s exactly that uncompromising honesty that’s made “Medicine” so irresistible to listeners and gained acclaim from outlets like Billboard (who noted that “Queen imagines the actions of a bolder, empowered alter ego, a 2018 variation on Beyoncé’s ‘If I Were A Boy’”).“Girls tell me they play it in their car when they’re trying to get over a breakup, or they got done wrong by their man,” says Queen. “Women are usually so scared to talk about wanting to get revenge on a guy,” she adds,“but I think it’s something we’ve all thought about.”
As she gears up for the release of her debut EP, Queen aims to channel more of that real-life emotion into each song.“A lot of people make music just to try to get a hit or win Grammys, but for me, it’s about changing people’s perspectives and letting them know they’re not alone in whatever they’re going through,” she says. “I want to make music that captures people, that gets into your soul—the kind of songs you need to keep playing over and over.”But for Queen, the most rewarding element of her runaway success lies in finally fulfilling her childhood dream. “I’ve always known that this was a gift given to me and that I need to use it to help others,” she says. “When ‘Medicine’ came out people were like, ‘Oh, wow—I didn’t know Queen had it in her.’ NowI’m going to show everybody that there’s way more to me than ‘Medicine.’”
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