Image Source: Ito-Miguel Madriz
One of the most common struggles music artists face once they sign to a label is being able to call the shots. If you observe the careers of some of today's most successful artists, like Bad Bunny or Tokischa, their best work is usually released when they're finally given the creative freedom to express themselves exactly how they want. This is a challenge Snow Tha Product (born Claudia Alexandra Madriz Meza) knows all too well. Since parting ways with her label in 2018 and returning to the music scene as an independent artist, the Latin Grammy-nominated Mexican rapper from California has been creating some of her proudest and most vulnerable work. That includes her latest album, "To Anywhere," which was released on Oct. 21, 2022; a feature on the soundtrack for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"; and her latest video for her single "Bájala," with Santa Fe Klan, which dropped on Friday, Jan. 6. She's doing things on her own terms, and it's clearly paying off.
Snow, 35, is no overnight success — it's just taken time for her to finally get the recognition she deserves. She landed a record deal back in 2011 when her single "Holy Sh*t" went viral. But during her time at the label, she says, she got a quick lesson on how things in the music industry work, with a lot of her creative freedom being taken away from her. While under the label, her management had her split the songs for what she had originally envisioned for "To Anywhere" in half and release it as an EP. Working as an independent artist again has revitalized the artist, inspiring a lot of her recent work, and "To Anywhere" is proof of that.
"I would say it's like a time capsule of where I'm at right now and where I was when I was recording it," she tells POPSUGAR of her newest album. "Some of these songs are a little bit older, and some of these songs are newer, but it's kind of a time in my life — it's an emotional roller coaster."
The album includes a blend of everything from Snow's highest moments to her lowest, from breakups to love — with a mix of singles in English, Spanish, or both. The Californian says she followed no rules but her own in putting together this album. It was an organic process for her. She admits to recording a lot of it on her laptop: in her room at home, or in hotels when she was on the road. And being an independent artist is why she was able to pull it off so seamlessly.
In 2019, Snow connected with Bizarrap, an Argentine record producer, and went on to collaborate together on the BZRP Music Sessions. The success of the sessions boosted Snow's social media followers.
"I think me being fully independent is freeing . . . I feel like after 'BZRP,' I kind of got sucked back into that industry-type stuff because of the popularity of it and everything that comes with it and everyone's expectations after it," she says. "And I think it was a bit of a mindf*ck to get sucked back into something that I tried so hard to stay away from."
The album features collaborations with artists like Santa Fe Klan on the "Bájala" track, as well as VF7, Juicy J, Ceky Viciny, Rotimi, Aj Hernz, and a special song with Lauren Jauregui, whom Snow has become good friends with. The lead single with Jauregui, titled "Piña," is one of Snow's most vulnerable tracks on the album. It's a song she says she really had to fight for because it's not something we hear enough of — it's a very honest song about the experience of a queer woman overcoming her shyness and approaching a woman she's interested in.
Last December, Snow and Jauregui released the music video for "Piña," and the intimate and powerful visuals really drive home the message Snow wanted to convey. "I really wanted it to be honest, queer, and dope, and just a woman thing," she says. "And then we also had the directors of the video — they're women, they're queer, and they're dope videographers. I was really excited for the whole thing, and I really hope that the song grows, because I think it deserves it."
It was important for Snow to work with Jauregui, another proud and unapologetically queer Latina, to completely erase the male gaze. Snow shares how a lot of the musical performances or music videos with women kissing or getting intimate are often not performed by actual queer women, oftentimes catering to a male audience. "Because when you're actually queer, that type of behavior and songs promoting that kind of behavior is actually really problematic for us," she says. "Because girls do it for the male gaze and are doing it for male attention and they think it's funny and it's all fun and games, but there's actually a girl that could get hurt on the other side that actually loves a woman."
She adds that making the song entirely in Spanish was intentional because there aren't enough Spanish songs that address queer love. "I think this subject has been approached in English and in the English industry, but it hasn't in Spanish," she says. "I feel like the Spanish world is like 10 years behind when it comes to some of these social issues. And it's actually really problematic and it's really disgusting. But it's hard to talk about it without seeming like a hater."
Part of what makes Snow who she is is in how she apologetically leans into her culture and heritage. She's vocal about it because part of the reason she got into rapping was to create music for her community and to make Mexicanas from Cali like her feel seen and represented.
"I think the reason why it's so instilled in me and like why it's such a big deal is because when you're actually first generation and at least for me, my parents being Mexican, there's a lot of trauma that comes with it."
"I think the reason why it's so instilled in me and like why it's such a big deal is because when you're actually first generation and at least for me, my parents being Mexican, there's a lot of trauma that comes with it," she says. "My dad is one of nine, my mom is one of nine. They were very poor. Having nine children and being super poor, there's no way you could give the attention, the money, the affection, the anything to any of them. You try, I'm sure, and barely can handle it . . . I feel like I was raised with a lot of that generational trauma and had to really work hard."
Snow — who has openly discussed issues like discrimination against undocumented immigrants (including her own parents' immigration story) and coming out as queer — is also becoming more open about discussing mental health. It's something she's actively been prioritizing, especially as her career continues to take off.
"One thing that isn't talked about a lot is mental health within artists. I've seen people do it for the clout or the attention, and it's like, we don't talk about how many artists struggle with it every single day."
"One thing that isn't talked about a lot is mental health within artists. I've seen people do it for the clout or the attention, and it's like, we don't talk about how many artists struggle with it every single day," she says. "And we don't get to have that big moment where every outlet makes an announcement that we're depressed right now. No, we have to struggle with it, and we have to try to consistently get ourselves out of that or try to figure things out. To be able to have that work-life balance as artists, I think that's the next step."
While work-life balance as a music artist isn't something Snow has perfected just yet, she says it's something she's constantly working toward. A few years ago, she purchased a ranch in Los Angeles filled with farm animals like chickens and goats, where she lives with her son. She considers this her happy place, her escape from all the noise.
Still, there are changes to work through; Snow says she recently got out of a relationship of five years. "Now that relationship ended . . . and now it's more like trying to figure out like this was my dream. This is my dream and this is still for me: the ranch, the animals, and my family. I can still do all that even if I'm not in that relationship, and do my music," she says. "So, even though we go through our ups and downs and the little bit of sadness and heartbreak or whatever, I still need to get up every day — I have a child. I have to get up."
Snow's mission is to get more and more artists within the music industry, women artists in particular, to discuss mental health more openly and support each other through the process. She says she recently connected with Jauregui and Jessie Reyez, for example. "There are only so many people that are going to understand the sh*t I'm going through," she says. "Sometimes I really dig into that and really dive into those conversations with people like that because I'm trying to learn . . . and with the women in this industry, there's not many of us. More than anything, I'd like to befriend as many women in this industry as I can, so we can try to help each other navigate through this."
This goal is just another reminder that, for Snow, it's her relationships that matter. She says her family, loved ones, and fan base are who motivate her to keep going. In the end, she says, "having people that protect me and give me the space to be a human being is very important."