Maria Isa is a singer, songwriter, actress, rapper, activist and international recording artist born in Minnesota to NuyoRican (Puerto Ricans from New York) parents. Raised on St. Paul’s West Side, Maria soaked in the melting pot of Latin American culture and channeled it into performing arts and activism at an very early age. Her first foray into performance was through the El Arco Iris Center for the Arts program in St. Paul where she quickly transformed from student to teacher as she honed her craft at an early age.
After receiving the SASE/VERVE grant for spoken word in 2007, Maria acted as the Artistic Director for El Arco Iris from 2009-2013 where she shared with young children her passion for Latin music, percussion and dance and taught them the importance of preserving and respecting their culture. At 15, she had already formed the AfroLatino ensemble Raices, whose mission was to conserve ancestral Puerto Rican heritage through folkloric music and dance.
Along with Raices, Maria cofounded SotaRico, LLC in 2009, which serves as a launch to help develop, promote and represent Latino Hip-Hop emanating from the Midwest. Maria Isa under SotaRico has produced and distributed over 10 projects since its creation. Maria has been nominated for and received multiple awards and recognitions as a performer and activist; most recently for Best Breakthrough Performance at the TC Film Festival for her film debut as Angie Garcia in the Latino Independent Film Strike One (2014), with Danny Trejo which premiered in Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre.
In 2010, Maria Isa received the National Hispana Leadership Institute's "Rising Latina Star" award for her outstanding work with Youthrive on behalf of working and educating incarcerated youth throughout the Twin Cities. She has also been honored for her involvement with Youthrive on behalf of hosting several Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and dedication towards presenting motivational performances and Hip Hop Activism workshops to over 10,000 youth across the country. Isa also received the Univision 13 Best Urban Artist Award for her album Street Politics, along with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Governor of Minnesota for her outstanding songwriting and contributions to the Latino Community; and the David Laffyette Award for her dedication towards youth and the peace movement through the Hip-Hop and the Performing Arts.
Maria received grand reviews for her role as Mimi in the Broadway Musical Rent, at the Guthrie Lab Theatre, and whether she's selling out the historical First Avenue Mainroom to dominating New York Cities' S.O.B's BMI Publishing Latino Alternative Music Conference showcase, Maria continues to spread a message and create contemporary music fusing Latino rhythms, R&B Soul and HipHop to create a catalog of work which has been featured on numerous of National network shows to name a few: ABC’s The B in APT 23, Love and Hip-Hop, Sisterhood of Hip-hop, Starz's Power, MTV’s Punk’d, The Paulie D Project, SNOOKI AND JWOW; E’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Oxy's The Bad Girls Club, and the Fast and Furious video game allowing her music to reach audiences around the world.
In addition to winning the National Target "Mis Sazones" song jingle competition, Maria Isa received the Cedar Cultural Center's 416 Club Commissions grant provided by the Jerome Foundation in 2013, where she executive produced and directed the Latina Ritual Project, compilation and concert dedicated towards the recognition of the Latina arts movement in the Twin Cities. Her 2014 album, Valley of the Dolls, is the manifestation of everything Maria has experienced on her musical and spiritual journey leading into her 2016 mixtape The Dragon Lady which introduced her self-production piece Driving Black Riding Brown allowing Isa to create music for theater as she debuted her playwriting in Mark Valez's DJ LATINIDAD.
Never one to bite her tongue, Maria isn’t afraid to express her personal view point through her music on a number of social and political issues such as technology, voting rights, racism, sexism and police brutality among others. Her 2016 releases of the Dragon Lady and The Blood Wedding Soundtrack inspired by Federico Garcia-Lorca's Boda De Sangre have been viewed as her finest work to date. Isa is a writer for the Star Tribune Voices column and is 1 of 3 artists documented in the film We Rock Long Distanced directed by Dr. Justin Schell explaining her story of being a hip-hop artist from Minnesota with Puerto Rican roots.
Maria has shared stages with a “who’s who” list of international musicians (The Roots, Plena Libre, Tego Calderon, Los Pleneros de la 21, and Semisonic to name a few) and has recorded with some of the top producers in the industry. She was the only performing artist featured in Chicago’s Latin Fashion Week, the New York City Viva Latino Film Fest and shared a stage with Grammy-Award Winning Chilean recording artist Ana Tijoux at the Cedar Cultural Center. And whether it is wowing an audience with her passionate vocals, attitude infused raps, virtuoso percussion work or astute sociopolitical commentary, she continues to leave her mark. Her performances captured the art of a woman who wears many masks, but each mask is a representation of who she is and where she came from, and Maria is unwilling to compromise those core values as they are attached from her music to her soul.
As of 2016 Maria is instructing and serving on the board of the Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project, working with Grammy Award winning producers Andre Fischer, cowrote and featured a rap performance with Grammy award winning songwriter Kenny O'Brian of Mantra for Good People and is the co-host and co-creator of Latina Theory: A Spanglish Podcast distributed by audioboom.