ST PAUL, Minn. — Twin Cities music lovers have known María Isa for a while now. She started her hip-hop career as a teenager and has since shared the stage with major artists including the Wu-Tang Clan and Bad Bunny.
Now, she joins 133 state representatives on the Minnesota House floor and says she's the first ever hip-hop artist to serve on the state legislature. The artist known as María Isa is now also known as State Rep. María Isa Pérez-Vega, her full name. She represents House District 65B in St. Paul, where she was raised.
"I'm Puerto Rican, born in Minnesota, hence I call myself SotaRican," Rep. Pérez-Vega said. "That's the name of the label that I've had since I was 22 years old … The sound is hip-hop. The sound is soul."
Pérez-Vega says the music doesn't stop when the session starts. In fact, 12 hours before she was sworn in at the Capitol Tuesday, she dropped an album, "Capitolio," by her label SotaRico Records and partner, Perfect Noize Entertainment. As a mom to a three-year-old girl, Pérez-Vega plans to balance all of her roles.
"I had my mom with me on the floor and my daughter seated on my lap when I was sworn in and my father overlooking on the balcony, and it just meant a lot," she said. "A lot of folks are questioning on, 'Are you still going to make music?' and I say, 'You don't tell a doctor they're going to close their clinic or a lawyer if they're going to close their firm when they're legislators' … After you clock out of a House floor or a committee session, you're going to want to listen to music and reflect on that."
She says "Capitolio" reflects on her journey as an artist on the campaign trail. It begins with a message U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders shared as they traveled the state, followed by songs in her own voice, rapping in Spanish.
"The album is also a fun topic of equity for women's rights," Pérez-Vega said.
They are topics tackled through song lyrics, and now her writings may lead to legislation.
"Definitely passing driver's licenses for all," she said of her priorities this session. "When you have 18 states in this country, including Washington D.C., and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where my ancestors are from, have driver's licenses for undocumented folks, why doesn't the progressive state of Minnesota?"
Pérez-Vega says she also plans to support the Teachers of Color Act and will serve on a Housing Committee.
As María Isa the artist, she'll perform as headliner at the governor's inaugural ball Saturday, Jan. 7, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
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