Raveena and JPEGMAFIA on Meditation, Billionaires, and Staying Offline


Raveena and JPEGMAFIA, photographed by Isha Dipika Walia.

“The more spiritual I become, it’s shown me how joy and suffering are part of the same realm,” said Raveena when she linked up with collaborator and fellow New Yorker JPEGMAFIA earlier this month. For the past two-and-a-half years, the Indian-American songstress has meditated for “two to six hours a day,” hugged trees, and passed through a Saturn Return, all while making her third album, “Where the Butterflies Go in the Rain,” which dropped last week. That sense of mindfulness is reflected in the music. The hypnotic melodies, characteristic of Raveena’s sonic tapestry, transport you to that place with her: in the middle of a forest, melting into puddles of ego-death. In one interlude, “Afternoon Tea with the Auroras,” she lets listeners in on her celebration of life. “Thanks to God,” she declares. But Raveena believes there’s something holy in all of us. “More than ever,” she explains, “I feel the power of my own divinity and the power of my words.” Last year, she enlisted the rapper to be on her song “Junebug,” and their chemistry was undeniable. It emerged once again when they got together just before Raveena’s album drop to talk about cancel culture, maintaining a healthy relationship to celebrity, and what life might look like after music.


RAVEENA: Okay. I have the heavy hitters.

MAFIA: You’ve been thinking about this?

RAVEENA: No, just since right now. What is your favorite pizza topping?

MAFIA: Oh, my god. Anything but pineapple.

RAVEENA: Wait, no.

MAFIA: Are you one of those?

RAVEENA: I like the combo of pineapple, hot honey, and onions.

MAFIA: Holy shit. That shit just left me speechless. I’m gasping for air.

RAVEENA: No, it’s so good.

MAFIA: This is a very 30-year-old conversation to have, pizza toppings. You know what I’m saying? This is a very grownup, adult conversation.

RAVEENA: It’s adult or it’s baby.

MAFIA: Let me ask. “Junebug,” when did we record that?

RAVEENA: I don’t remember. It was last summer, I think.

MAFIA: Last summer. When I recorded that, I remember you playing me the beat. The first thing I remember thinking off the top of my head was Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone.” I wanted to exist on it the way Q-tip kind of snuck in there, with a smooth verse that didn’t get in the way of the song or the beat or Janet herself. I wanted to exist and go off your vibe. My sound is usually a lot louder and abrasive.

RAVEENA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MAFIA: I like doing things like that because people think I have a default mode. I have a question for you. When you get beats from people, do you start with a demo and then build from there?


MAFIA: Do the beats you get sound like stereotypical versions of what people think you would do?

RAVEENA: No, because I work with only my best friends.

MAFIA: Oh, you got it down to a circle?

RAVEENA: They’re my band mates, so they form beats. We just jam. Sometimes the beat will come in from outside, but it’s more me requesting my publisher like, “Hey, I’m looking for beats,” and then they send me hundreds, and then I search for what I think is interesting.

MAFIA: I get what you’re saying. That’s the right way to do it.

RAVEENA: But I do get type beats, because once you get branded as a certain kind of artist—

MAFIA: Yeah, my type beat is loud and abrasive.

RAVEENA: Did you like that I sent you something where you could be someone different?

MAFIA: Everytime someone does that, I feel so respected. You respect me enough to think I’m versatile enough to do something different. When people send me beats, it’s just the loudest, goofiest shit that you could possibly imagine.

RAVEENA: But that’s cool in itself because that means you have branded yourself so well as an artist, which is another kind of feat. A lot of people can’t do that.

MAFIA: It is a beautiful thing to have an identity, to have a persona.

RAVEENA: Do you sometimes feel bound by that identity?

MAFIA: Personally, no. But I feel like people outside of me, some of my more online, Reddit-dwelling fans, they’re definitely more inclined to hold me to a persona they’ve invented for me without meeting me or discussing it with me first. You know what I’m saying?

RAVEENA: I’m sure they’d love to meet and discuss it with you personally.

MAFIA: No, they don’t. Do you think that your fans hold you to a standard?

RAVEENA: Yeah. I think especially for female artists, there’s a really intense standard of goodness or morality.  But the more spiritual I become, I learn that joy and suffering is part of the same realm, and that everyone is the same being. That’s helped my mind operate outside of cancel culture and online culture. I am not even thinking about getting canceled anymore. But it is funny to think about how you act when people apply those kinds of pressures on you.

MAFIA: Yeah, I think at one point, cancel culture was necessary to get people that needed to get out of here out of here, like Harvey Weinstein.

RAVEENA: It was helpful to a degree, but it also feels carceral.

MAFIA: It feels selective at this point. I understand what I’m getting into when I listen to a certain artist, and it’s like… that’s my choice. You know what I’m saying? It is what it is.

RAVEENA: Do you think it’s a rite of passage for artists to get canceled? That it’s just a natural thing that happens to everyone?

MAFIA: I think some people are thirsty to get canceled, especially people who don’t actually care about the things that they’re talking about in the first place.

RAVEENA: Right. What’s your relationship like with the internet? How have you grown with it over time as an artist?

MAFIA: I used to use the internet the way we all use it to find things, to look up cool stuff. The internet felt like a safe space that very nerdy people went to. The darker the corner you’re in, the deeper it is. Not even the dark web, just dark parts of Tumblr or websites you go to for whatever your personal needs are. But my relationship with the internet has changed. Now, I’m scared of it.

RAVEENA: Do you not go on it anymore?

MAFIA: I go on it still, but I don’t interact with social media the same way I used to. I used to post memes and show a lot more of my humor, but I started to notice that the more I do things in jest, the more people start to not only misunderstand me, but then apply those said misunderstandings to me as if it’s my personality and who I am. People were perceiving me as an alcoholic and this angry person. I’m just like, “I run a small business. I’m an independent artist. If I was really an alcoholic, my shit would be…” They were like, “You need to go to rehab.”

RAVEENA: People say that we’re small business owners.

MAFIA: They do, they really fucking do. They complain about every fucking thing. I’m like, “Bitch, I’m not Travis Scott.” That’s why it’s not the same. You know what I’m saying? Like, I don’t use social media to showcase my personality [anymore] because, to be honest, and as unfair as it sounds, certain people just don’t deserve it. Like, I’m putting that shit behind a paywall. If you want to see my personality, I’m going to rap it and you can go stream that shit. I monetize all my problems now. You’re not getting nothing from me.

RAVEENA: Monetizing all my problems.

MAFIA: I’m monetizing all my problems. If you want to hear me complain, pay me. This is Patreon now. I don’t give a fuck.

RAVEENA: For this album release, I literally looked at nothing. I just asked my social media team to send me 10 comments a week that are sweet from selected platforms. But I don’t want to see anything numerical. I just want to see the highlights of what people are feeling. But yeah, I got a new phone. I got a second phone where only three people can reach me, so that work is very separate. I feel like when you’re releasing, it’s a lot of energy that you’re taking in. Even if you’re not reading shit online, the atmosphere is very public and it’s very haunting.

MAFIA: It feels like standing outside naked.

RAVEENA: Absolutely. As I detach more from this body and this sense of ego, it’s harder and harder for me to engage with the illusion of it all. As soon as you get wrapped up in the illusion, it’s a spiral. And it feels like the root of suffering.


MAFIA: Is it like when you believe your own hype?

RAVEENA: Yeah. Or something deeper than that. When you believe that you are body and not just pure spirit.

MAFIA: I definitely feel you. It’s interesting how you filter the way you react to your own stuff being put out. It seems like a nice way to curb my attitude towards things, because when I release something, that’s usually the only time I’m actually like dead-ass reading things.

RAVEENA: Yeah, of course, because you poured your heart into it and you want to know. It’s so natural.

MAFIA: It’s so interesting because people’s natural instinct at first is just to hate it. And then usually with time, it evens out. The general consensus is more positive.

RAVEENA: Yeah, especially for the kind of albums we make, albums that are thoughtful and layered with weird textures and sounds. Compared to most people, it needs time to sit.

MAFIA: That’s smart. It seems in line with something about you. You seem to keep peace very well, and you know how to explore that thematically in your music as well. 

RAVEENA: Thank you. It’s so human to be negative and to stew and to feel doubt, and I have that all the time. But more than ever, I feel the power of my own divinity and the power of my words, and I feel like if I speak negativity out of my body, then I’m just inviting that in. I believe that we’re all God, that we’re all divine, so we have that power to call it in and we have the power to call in positive experiences, too.

MAFIA: That’s interesting because I do not employ any of these tactics, but I should.

RAVEENA: I wish that men had more resources on how to deal with that. I really do.


MAFIA: Men have resources. I’m not going to say all men have resources, but I think that men are socially taught to not expound in their feelings in the same way that women are, so it ends up popping out in stupider ways. Whereas, if you talk through things and have a better understanding of why you feel them, you’re less likely to flip out.

RAVEENA: How do you feel now?

MAFIA: I’m definitely in a place where I can process stuff. I still get upset at things like a normal person.

RAVEENA. Of course. 

MAFIA: I feel like I won a lottery being in the music industry and being able to do this as a job. I think it’s a privilege.

RAVEENA: Yeah, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been getting pretty comfortable on the farm, though.

MAFIA: You’ve been doing farm stuff? I’m definitely going to stop by the time I’m 40 or something. I don’t feel like rapping anymore. I think people want me to rap about things that are very personal to me in a way, and I do, but if something’s really personal to me, it’s hard for me to put it in rhythm and make a bouncy song to it.

RAVEENA: But that’s also the funny thing about age. Sometimes we think we’ll be doing something by a certain age and then as you get older you realize, “Wait, I’m still so vital, so excited, still want to create so much.”

MAFIA: If I still have the energy, I’ll keep going. But I see myself producing, just not rapping.

RAVEENA: I see myself being really devoted to children.

MAFIA: I’m going to spoil my kids, unfortunately.


MAFIA: They’re going to be the brattiest, most annoying ass kids because they’re going to have everything.

RAVEENA: I’m going to be like, organic, super healthy, cooking all the time. I really want to teach my kids the concept that they’re part of the trees and part of the ocean and part of earth. I want to teach them ego dissolution from a really young age. I want to teach them how to meditate from the day they’re born, because then they’d just be like ninjas by the time they’re 14. They’ll be levitating in the sky.

MAFIA: It’s good to put good habits in them early.

RAVEENA: What are your thoughts on billionaires?

MAFIA: I think in order to become a billionaire, you have to have wanted to do it on purpose. You don’t accidentally become a billionaire.

RAVEENA: Oh, no. I feel like they’re the manifesting gurus. They’re going crazy.

MAFIA: I’m not someone who’s all “fuck the rich” just because they’re rich. I judge what you do with your money, because you could be rich and use it for something good. But I guess I just have very old school values. If I was a billionaire and I had as much money as Elon Musk, yes, I’d give a large portion of that to help shit because I could. I mean, it’s a lot. It’s so much disposable income.

RAVEENA: You just don’t need it. And it’s also like, what exploitation and what horrible effects on the climate did it take to get there?

MAFIA: I don’t like to be up in people’s money. But I do look at people with a side eye if they have an obscene amount of money and they’re not giving anything. I’m very aware of evil. And as a Black person, I’m just built to just know there’s all these things obstructing me from doing things that I have no control over and I have to work around it.

RAVEENA: I’ve recently been exploring the school of thought that we’re just empty space funneled into these creations of the divine, and that suffering and the joy is all an illusion. Then you start to sink into that place of pure energy and you’re like, “Wait, this is actually beautiful.” You feel high. I genuinely feel like I’m on drugs sometimes when I’m that deep into meditation.

MAFIA: I should definitely look into it.

RAVEENA: It’s cool. If it calls you.