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Maya Jupiter Finds a Music Community in L.A.

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By Kamren Curiel

When I first heard about hip-hop artist Maya Jupiter it was 2001 and I was studying abroad in Sydney, Australia. Honestly, I was shocked that there was actually a Latina rapper living in the country. I was literally one of a handful at the time. I was working at a hip-hop club called Goodbar when the DJ started playing Maya Jupiter's Mexica sound. I instantly started missing my roots. Fast forward 10 years. I'm back in L.A. and pick up a flyer for Self Help Graphics' annual Dia De Los Muertos event with Maya Jupiter's name on it. Word on the street is she married L.A.-based Panamanian American soul singer Aloe Blacc, who sings HBO's How to Make It in America intro song "I Need a Dollar," and moved to the U.S.

Born in Mexico to parents of Mexican and Turkish descent, Maya and her family immigrated to Melbourne when she was one, then settled in Sydney when she was four. She released her first album Today in 2003 on Mother Tongues, the first ever label dedicated solely to women in hip-hop. She later performed with Latin Jazz band Son Veneno, formed a group called Foreign Heights, hosted several hip-hop radio shows, and opened for Aloe Blacc on his North American tour before focusing on her solo career.

Today, Maya Jupiter remains an independent artist and recently teamed up with Quetzal Flores and Martha Gonzalez of East Los rock band Quetzal and Aloe Blacc to produce her second solo album, which is self-titled and available now on iTunes. The album is inspired by Son Jarocho and stays true to Maya's blend of soul, dancehall, and hip-hop. Made up almost entirely of live instrumentation, including Mexican harps, tarimas, and jaranas, the album is a welcome relief from today's over-processed sound. Maya's lyrics are powerful, vibrant, and uplifting. Think Ms. Dynamite meets M.I.A.

Maya, who served as artistic ambassador for Australia's youth empowerment campaign The Line, is currently on a mission in Ghana with Aloe Blacc and Malaria No More to raise awareness about a disease that remains the leading killer of children and biggest contributor to poverty in West Africa.

"Woke up excited this morning to be going to Ghana," Maya said on Facebook. "Keen to learn about the problems and work towards solutions."

If you're in L.A., check out Maya Jupiter at Art + Soul at The Mezz Bar in the Alexandria Hotel, Downtown L.A. on March 3.