On Tuesday, Neena Roe, an independent singer-songwriter and Detroit native, released her newest song “TRUST,” featuring fellow Detroiter Gabriel Duran.
“It’s basically a song that talks about this sort of like cyclical nature of a toxic relationship where it’s like, ‘you’ve been in it for so long,’” Roe says. “And sort of just that habit of it is what makes it hard to leave even though you both know that you guys have disrespected the foundation of the relationship.”
The song has a salsa-inspired feel, and Roe says similar to salsa music, she specializes in making sad songs feel happy. She says many salsa songs have sad lyrics, but the music is what makes people dance.
“It’s a very upbeat, summery, happy song, but you’re also talking about the death of a relationship,” Roe says.
Although she categorizes her music as alternative R&B, Roe says she feels less pressure to maintain one category as genres are being challenged every day.
“Some of my favorite artists are R&B singers, some of my favorite artists are like Bossa nova jazz musicians,” Roe says. “It’s really across the board. I listen to so many things, but if I had to pick something to listen to forever, it would be like late-’90s to early-2000s R&B.”
As a person of Iranian ancestry, Roe says her culture is very poetic and music-oriented. Her grandfather would recite Rumi and Hafez poems, her mother would sing Arabic and Persian prayers, and her father played the Persian drums.
As well as her family and culture, Roe says she is also inspired by singers like Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse.
“I think who they are as people inspires me and like the ways in which they weaved social commentary in activism and speaking on experiences that are sort of tough to talk about,” she says. “I think the way that they weave that into their artistry is really inspiring and beautiful and brave.”
More of Roe’s favorite artists include D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Cleo Sol, Nai Palm/Hiatus Kaiyote, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, SZA, Charlotte Day Wilson, and more.
In addition to being an independent singer-songwriter, Roe is also a music journalist and hip-hop reporter for Billboard magazine.
Roe says being a music journalist benefits both herself and her subjects.
“I wanted to be able to use myself as a tool and instrument and use my privilege as a tool and instrument for underrepresented communities in media,” Roe says. “You know, just coming from Detroit and growing up in the city and seeing disparities that exist across the race lines and across class lines was something that like always informed me in terms of what I felt like my purpose was.”
One of her most recent and prominent projects in her early writing career was a Gucci Mane feature and cover for Billboard in May.
“I wanted to really accurately represent him and his journey because I think it’s a really compelling story,” Roe says. “I also am a huge Gucci fan, so to be able to like, sit with him in person was so cool.”
Roe says her biggest goal is for her life to continue to revolve around music.
You can stream “TRUST” here and watch the music video below.