it girl

Vayda Knows All the Tea

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Harrison Cosby “Mr. 201”

In April 2023, New York Magazine celebrated “It” girls: who anointed them, what it was like to be them, and where they are now. Follow along as we continue that celebration by interviewing musicians across genres who we think have “It.”

In the last calendar year, the Georgia-based artist Vayda has dropped no fewer than six projects, in which she has pumped out deliciously funny speedrunning raps. “My heart gets me in a lot of trouble,” she tells the Cut, “so it be fuckin’ me up, especially because I’m a loyal person. I just be loyal to the wrong shit.” A young adult who is extremely online (she came up on SoundCloud), Vayda transforms those mishaps into two-to-three-minute short stories, where she mows over snakes attempting to test her backbone while still keeping open the possibility of adoration. It’d be a difficult balance to strike if the underground “It” girl couldn’t retell them with a smirk, giggling at the absurdity of it all.

Vayda grew up a shy kid in DeKalb County and kept herself at arm’s distance from her classmates while teaching herself how to play piano by ear. After receiving FruityLoops production software as a gift in high school, she taught herself how to use it via YouTube University and produced a number of records chopping up underused samples for fast-paced TikTok remixes that would go semi-viral on SoundCloud. In the studio, though, she realized the artists she was working with couldn’t see the vision, so in 2021 she finally hopped on the mic herself.

She hit the ground like Gucci Mane in the mid-2000s height of the mixtape era or NBA Youngboy in the mid-2010s: putting out heater after heater, month after month, showcasing her ability to turn a song around in a matter of minutes. One week it was shade, a shoulder-shimmying EP about picking oneself up following heartbreak, the next it was “sprite,” a dancey comeuppance anthem about triumphantly restocking her roster. By December 8 of this year, she released her debut mixtape, Forrest Gump, wherein she blends her best ingredients, anxious anthems like “adele” and fistfight-ready cuts like “hood zendaya,” into a rap-girl roux. If the last year is any indication, 2024 will be her most declarative one yet.

Do you consider yourself an “It” girl?

Okay, so what does it mean to you?
I-T. I know all the tea. It’s more like intuition. I be knowing what’s going on and I think that makes up a lot of my music because I be talkin’ about it and people don’t be thinkin’ I be knowin’ what’s going on, but I be knowin’. So I-T. “It” girl, I know the tea.

Who is an “It” girl to you?
I think an “It” girl is anybody who worries about their own life. So I think it’s a lot of “It” girls. I feel like whoever is handling their business and worrying about their own life. I think they the “It” girls, as long as they are the main character in their own life. A lot of people be playing sidekicks in other people’s life. That’s not an “It” girl.

Is that something you try to maintain in your own life? Because it kind of seems like you just do your shit, push your shit out, and then mind your business.
Yeah, I used to be messy when I was younger. So then after you get your ass beat two times in a row, you learn not to be messy no more.

I fuck with your music for two reasons. The first is that it feels like you’re a true yearner, you know?
Yeah, desires.

Desires. And then the other one is that you really be talking your shit. So the yearner part, it’s like on “ulovemequestionmarkwinkyface” when you rap, “Tell me you’re thinking about me, tell me you love me, baby,” I’m just like, Yes, absolutely. But the other reason is the shit-talking. Does that feel accurate to you? 
That’s just how I am sometimes. I be wanting to go with my heart and stuff, but my heart gets me in a lot of trouble, especially because I’m a loyal person, so it be fucking me up because I’d be loyal to the wrong shit. My brain is like, “Why would you deal with this? What is wrong with you? Leave that nigga, go do something else.” So I’ll be having to balance it out. You can’t completely close off your heart or else you’re not gonna enjoy even the good things. You might not feel the bad things, but you’re not gonna enjoy the good things either.

Okay, so something that I think people are going to recognize pretty early when they look at the track list is the naming conventions, like you’ve got Zendaya, Adele, Oprah. I feel like you mentioned Stevie J; was there any reasoning behind that?
Those were the buffer names until I actually named the song. But this project was just all the original file names. I don’t know why. I think maybe their names stood out most to me when I recorded the song. So I named the songs that, but it really just was to kill time before I changed the name to something else. I just kept it as the names that I saved it as the first time.

Do you seek out other art forms, movies, television shows, whatever for inspiration and stuff like that? 
Not really. I feel like I have enough drama in my own life to keep me inspired. I look at shows to relax. I’ll watch Baddies or South Central Baddies if I’m really feeling reckless, but I’ll watch those shows just to laugh at somebody else’s pain for a minute instead of dealing with my own shit.

And so music is the general way that you deal with your shit to really work through it?
Yeah, it’s been like that since I was young, but rapping is new. I feel like rapping made me more confident and I used to be really shy. I wouldn’t talk to anybody that I didn’t know. By the time we met for the fifth time, maybe then I’ll start talking to you, but I would not talk. So when I started rapping, that made me talk more and set boundaries and be more confident in being myself. But even before that, I always played piano. I was producing, I was in band. It was always music.

How did you get into piano?
I play by ear. So I used to want to go to a music school and stuff, but you can’t just do it playing by ear. You need to know how to read all the sheet music. They literally put a sheet of music in front of you and you need to know how to read it and play it in three minutes. So I could never go to a music school. I just learned by ear. I could hear it and replay it, but I never had lessons to the point where I knew how to read sheet music and all that type of stuff.

It seems like you’re more in solitude, but do you go out clubbing, and if so, where?
I’m becoming more like that. I used to love to party, but now it be getting kind of weird. And then now I don’t really got friends. So I’m becoming way more of an introvert nowadays.

How’s it been touring with Veeze?
It was real cool. It was kind of like, I was nervous as hell. It was my first tour and then it wasn’t my audience either. Usually I throw my own shows. I’ll get the venue, get the DJs, get the opening acts, put everybody together, throw a show. So it was uncomfortable, but it was still a good experience. I learned how a tour works. I learned how to even just build up my confidence. Introducing yourself to a whole new audience. You have to be really confident to do that. Nobody in the crowd knows your music. You got to just stand up there and do your shit. So I feel like I’m way more confident now. It was uncomfortable, but I feel like it helped me grow a lot.

Your speaking voice and your rapping voice are very different.
Oh, for real??? [Laughs.]

How did it come about?
I really don’t know. I think when you get on the track you want to sound sexy. It’s like you talking to somebody you’re trying to get some money out of, you gon’ try to sound sexy when you talking to ’em. I’m trying to get money out of the music industry, so I’m going to talk sexy to the music industry real quick.

What is it about sampling that gets your artistic ear’s attention? Is it a production hack or is it just more these are just songs that you knew and listened to that you loved?
Yeah, mostly songs. I would listen to Kem while my mom was getting me ready to go to school in the morning type shit. She would play that on the radio while getting me ready in elementary school. So I went back and I was like, Yeah, this makes me feel calm, so I’m going to sample it. I listened to a lot of old music growing up, so it’s just bringing it back and doing it in a different way.

Vayda Knows All the Tea