Muslim Born, Christian Made, Career Change, & New Lane – How Wande Got to This EXIT [Interview]
Over the years we’ll make a series of stops along this journey we call life. Every time we veer off the road to hit a new destination, it’s an exit we make to start on a new path. As the scenario flashes before our eyes, sometimes we need to just pull over and soak in what’s really happening. For Wande, it’s her time to soak in the sights, and see how far she’s come. But before we get there, the story of how she got to this place is as remarkable as the one on where she’s headed.
Wande was born in Nigeria as Mutiat Yewande Isola. Born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother, this made for an interesting dynamic. In fact, her entire family was Muslim. Her mother was not because she attended a Christian boarding school in her village and got saved. This school was the only route to go if you wanted to make it out of that village and move on. In reality, it was also her only way out to find Christ too.
However, Wande’s mom spent her entire life around Islamic people. It was all she knew. There were no other Christians she could confide in order to guide her along her faith walk. This ultimately led to marrying a Muslim man despite their faith differences.
Wande’s birth name of Mutiat actually means “devout Muslim.” Yewande, Wande for short, means the “the mother has come/returned.” She explained that it’s essentially bringing the legacy of someone who’s passed.
Despite being named a “devout Muslim,” it was something Mutiat never was. Her mom in a way grabbed the wheel and set Wande on a course away from Islam and toward Jesus. At the time, none of them knew it.
Three months later she found herself in America. Her family made the move along with her older siblings to the states. Originally, the plan was to leave Wande in Nigeria as the family settled and became citizens in the U.S. The embassy said that they had to take her with them.
Wande explained that she grew up like a normal American kid. Her siblings were usually watching her, and together they would watch music videos on MTV and BET. They would even spend time rapping with and at each other.
“I would watch the top new songs every morning getting ready for school,” said Wande. “I Used to watch 106 & Park all the time. My dream was to host the show.”
Once she got into the sixth grade, her actual musical passion started. All of the students had to pick a musical instrument, and Wande chose the flute. From the sixth grade through junior year of high school, she would study music theory, classical music, notes, and scales, and played high-level flute in the school’s band sixth – eighth grade.
She revealed that it’s something she hopes can be revisited in her production going forward, citing the Migos and Lizzo’s use of the flute in their music as inspiration.
While the music was getting along nicely for Wande. It was just a hobby and not something to consider beyond that.
“Music was never a career I considered doing,” she admitted. “My whole life ambition was to be a doctor.”
In Wande’s high school there were different academies with programs. She chose the Health & Science Academy. Weirdly enough, it was science that led her to discover her talent in hip-hop.
“I had a biology class freshmen year. My teacher wanted us to do a project where the choices were to do a PowerPoint, essay, or rap. I picked rap,” she revealed.
That was the year Young Money came out, and she saw Nicki Minaj burst on the scene with Drake. If Nicki could do it and look cool, she thought she’d give it a try.
Wande’s friends told her it was a good rap. They weren’t just gassing her up. Doing hip-hop felt natural to her. It placed her outside of her comfort zone but in a way that encouraged the young, now budding artist.
“People began to pay attention and listen to what I had to say,” she revealed.
This was definitely a change of pace because as a Health & Science student, she often found herself in the “nerd/smart kid community that wasn’t used to the attention.”
*(Scroll to the bottom to read Wande’s bio rap)
Just two years prior Wande became a Christian. With her newly discovered rapping ability, she wanted to use this music for good. She was always telling people about Jesus at lunch and now thought rapping was the perfect tool to communicate her message.
“All these years later I have friends from high school messaging me saying, ‘It’s crazy how it worked out for you’. It makes them take God seriously,” she said. “I used to be overly flamboyant with my faith. ‘I’m not stressing over this test, Jesus got me’. I became arrogant, but then I’d get my test and it was an A. My friends would be like, ‘What the heck man’?”
Her boldness in high school wound up being a powerful testimony as nearly everything she talked about came to pass. The friends saw God’s power through her life.
“I never noticed spiritual warfare until I got saved,” she admitted. “I grew up in a Muslim home and joked thatI’d go to Mosque and church, and never realized the implications of being a Christian.”
She continued, “[Growing up] At least my dad let me go to church on the weekends with my mom.”
The story of how she became saved two years prior is even more miraculous. Church was a weekend activity with her mom but at some point, she went through a phase where she really wanted to figure out who God was. One of the things she typed into the computer was, “Is there such thing as Christian rap?”
The first thing that popped up was Lecrae’s song “Prayin’ For You” from his 2006 album After the Music Stops. She soon became a fan of the 116 Movement.
“My church went to Discovery Camp every year but since there was a divide in the house I could never go. My mom told me not to push it, ‘You’re dad lets you go on Sundays, don’t try to go to this camp’. I asked my dad anyway and didn’t tell him it was Christian,” Wande shared. “I applied for the summer internship with a friend and then got saved at that camp. The intrigue to learn about God became a reality. I was on fire for Jesus.”
The groundwork of Wande’s future was happening right in front of her face. That year, 116 was at the camp. It was Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, and Sho Baraka at the time. There was a meet and greet but she missed it, due to hanging out with other interns and not making it back in time.
“I thought I missed my chance to meet them,” she stated. Little did she know they’d one day be her coworkers.
The year was 2009 and the theme was Red Alert, “read the red and do what it says” was the motto. She would follow the motto all the way through even though her path was uncertain.
“I wasn’t trying to be a rapper. I just wanted to know God and did so by serving.”
On the surface, everything seemed great for Wande. At home, it was a different story. There was a tension between her and her dad because of becoming a Christian. “My life has changed, I’ve seen people get healed,” she told him upon returning home.
“His demeanor changed. He said they were brainwashing me, and that those things weren’t real. ‘No one is going to want to marry you – boys don’t want to hear that’, he told me.”
Still quoting her father, “‘It was okay when you were going to church, but this is too much. Morals and being good is fine, but this spiritual stuff needs to be shut down’.”
“I was 13 and I didn’t go to church for a full year. I had to have faith on my own because it wasn’t being supported, and began waking up at 5 a.m. to read the Bible. Every other weekend I would go to work with my mom and my uncle would take me to church,” said the rapper. “It was hostile but I was adamant to get to know God. I kept having ridiculous blessings and my dad couldn’t say anything at that point.”
Although “devout Muslim” was a tag she was born with, she didn’t let it define her and the pursuit for God. She recalls visiting Nigeria and her grandma saying, “You’d be a great Muslim, come join the team” and Wande saying, “Nah.”
Fast forward on the timeline back to Wande wanting to pursue rap in high school, now she had big decisions to make.
“I was doing the Health & Science Academy and had an internal struggle with the whole rap thing. Africans don’t really mess with creative careers. You either become a doctor or a lawyer,” said the 24-year-old.
She even got her license to be a nurse’s aid and excelled in all her classes. That’s when she hit the brakes and realized it was time for a u-turn. The medical field was not her calling. She wanted to divert her attention from saving lives to saving souls.
“I can’t do this for the rest of my life. God didn’t call me to do this and if I did, it would be for money and for only a year.”
All her teachers were very confused about the want to switch majors. She ended up in journalism and public relations because if she studied music it would have to be back with the flute. She didn’t want to do business because you couldn’t centralize the focus. The choice of journalism would allow her to be around artists, do interviews, and attend concerts.
“I figured the more interviews I’d do with musicians, the more I can learn and be informed,” Wande said. “I was plugging myself into places to be successful.”
In her pursuit of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, a friend encouraged Wande to contact Rapzilla about possible writing opportunities or an internship. She was already a fan of the site, enjoyed Christian hip-hop, was studying journalism, and trying to rap. This was really a no brainer for her.
While with Rapzilla she did interviews and music submissions. At one point she was even doing the weekly news recap. People were starting to attribute Wande as a figure in Christian hip-hop. They may not have known about the rapper yet, but they certainly recognized her face.
“I did Ty Brasel’s first interview ever. He just became a rapper and got saved. It’s a little joke we have now,” she said. “I learned about music pitching, streaming, and it just helped set up artist life.”
In addition to this, she was also helping out RMG with anything they needed that she could do.
Little by little Wande was making connections and making moves. She’s traveled down quite a long number of roads to get to this point. Each stop has been an exit to her life with a destination turning point.
– Birth name (Exit 1)
– Coming to the U.S. (Exit 2)
– Music class (Exit 3)
– Discovery Camp (Exit 4)
– Biology rap (Exit 5)
– Switch to communications (Exit 6)
– Rapzilla (Exit 7)
So where is this next exit going to take Wande? It’s going to bring her to an office in Atlanta by the name of Reach Records…
Find out about how she got there next week in part two of this article and watch the journey come full circle.
Wande’s debut album EXIT drops tomorrow April 24th. Take the week to digest the songs and meet us back here on Rapzilla.com to finish up her story.