Soul Singer Veana Baby Spent the Pandemic Going Viral on TikTok

“A lot of people unburden in my comments. Absorbing that energy is a lot.”

Best New Bands 2021 Veana Baby (Wesley Lapointe)

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“Veana Baby has a warm presence, open heart and stellar voice. She’s also the producer of some of her strongest material. Over beats or live instrumentation, Veana has powerhouse moments that could bring an audience to tears, balanced with playful bars for some gigs. She’s motivated and talented; that’s a good combo.”

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For Veana Baby, Portland is more than just her current home—it’s a key part of her creative process.

That said, she knows her career is already leading her somewhere else.

“I’m a wanderer, and I feel like my next place is calling to me right now,” says Veana Baby, born Rhaveana Rockette. “But this whole city has been my inspiration.”

The Minneapolis-born and -bred soul singer–whose music recalls everything from the lyrical vulnerability of Summer Walker to the buttery neo-soul tones of Jill Scott—came to the Pacific Northwest on a whim and ended up creating a whole life for herself. In just three years, she’s built a substantial fan following and career.

Her experiences and relationships here have inspired some of her most streamed tracks. Rockette considers “Serenity” to be the first real song she wrote, about a falling out she had with a group of Portland friends. But during the pandemic, her career took off in a distinctly nonlocal way.

“I’m a master at TikTok,” says Rockette. “I’m not even gonna humble myself.”

It was her poetry, not her music, that first won her a following on the social media app. Last September, Rockette posted a video of herself freestyling a poem. In just one day, it racked up almost 2 million views.

Rockette wasn’t intending to go viral, she was just sharing a part of her creative process. Rockette’s approach to writing is a little less soul and a lot more rap than she originally intended. She produces some of her music, including beats that blend modern, slow-broiled trap with throwback babymaking R&B and neo-soul. She often freestyles over a beat, then writes a song based on what she sings in the moment.

Rockette’s so good at TikTok, she claims she started the trend where posters use an automated voice to narrate their captions. Whether or not that’s true, it speaks to a problem many other Black creators have called out, and one that’s an issue in so many other aspects of culture—white people stealing ideas from Black people.

“I didn’t really think it was real until it happened to me,” says Rockette. “White creators really do steal everything from Black creators and get way more views and followers from doing what we do. I’m seeing it everywhere now.”

That’s a big part of why Rockette, like many other Black creators, has taken a break from the platform, leaving it creatively “dry” in her words. The app has also had an effect on her mental health, as has Instagram, which she took a break from when the George Floyd protests started.

“A lot of people unburden in my comments,” she says. “Absorbing that energy is a lot.”

Still, she’s kept busy, and will soon release her sophomore album, Shit Happens, and launch her own YouTube channel.

The break from social media has been necessary for her creatively but didn’t come without stress itself. She’s back on track, though, and more prepared than ever to show the world who exactly Veana Baby is.

“I got nervous about losing followers,” she says. “But I had to train my mind to realize if I’m gonna be famous, it’s gonna happen no matter what.”

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