You cannot be a fan of 90s era hip hop, especially of the Native Tongues variety without being familiar with the name Vinia Mojica. The singer/songwriter from Queens, New York, showed up in an impressive amount of 90s standouts, her hooks adding a purity and clarity of texture to already jamtastic jams. For instance, it’s her voice that you hear giving you a reason to elongate the day of the week as Saturdaaaaay-eyaay-eyaaaaaaaaaaaay on De La Soul’s “A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays,” and her voice that gives the Reflection Eternal (the duo of rapper Talib Kweli and producer Hi-Tek) monster hit, “The Blast” it’s essence. That sample and bassline are everything, but her voice, even laying quietly on top of the sample gives “The Blast” so much soul it’s the kind of record that everybody loves and every rapper wanted to have as their own.
Her voice is so soulful it’s no wonder she was so in-demand from the Native Tongues crew and the surrounding crews, from Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Common to even groups like Heltah Skeltah and Black Star. Her voice: it’s like butter, baby; it’s like sugar, y’all. It’s versatile enough to be used in myriad ways. For instance, on the insanely beautiful record “The Sun God,” by Common on Hi-Tek’s debut Hi-Teknology, her voice is used as an instrument but its so necessary and adds so much in the way of painting an aural picture, which is saying something, especially because the beat already tells it’s own story. Which was fairly common for her on so many of the songs I know and love. She’s in the background, dropped a little lower in the mix so as to make sure you hear her, but also to make sure that you feel her presence. Every song she has done with Mos Def sounds like it was supposed to be made. From “Climb” on Black on Both Sides to “Get ta Steppin’” from Hi-Teknology.
In college, I remember having discussions with the homies where we all named her essential to the sound of the 90s, waiting for her solo album to drop. In fact, I remember conversations with my friends about how when she showed up on a record, the record was immediately a better version of what it would be without her. I feel the same way about Kid Cudi; he adds so much to every single record he’s on that there’s almost no way to imagine those records without him. That’s Vinia Mojica for me. I hope she knows that.
Finding information on her is pretty hard. Most interviews with her happened over a decade ago and some aren’t online anymore, which leads me to believe the industry either caused her to give it up or she decided at some point she just wanted something different. Maybe it’s a mix of both, I have no idea. What I do know is that for a not insignificant amount of time, any time I read liner notes, back when that was a thing, if I saw Vinia Mojica on the record, it was probably going to be one of the first I listened to and without fail, almost as if producers saved their best work for her, the song was going to be one of, if not the best jam on the record. She’s on more classics records than she is album filler songs. If you do a search on any streaming platform for her name and check the playlists, it’s both a trip down memory lane and an impressive list of credits, even if it’s not super lengthy.
I will always wonder what happened to Vinia Mojica. I made an attempt to try to find her a few years ago to interview her or something, but made no headway. And that’s okay. Hell, she might wish I didn’t wonder; perhaps she’s living her best life. But she’s one of those artists who I felt had so much to give the world and one whose name I still search every now and then to see if there’s something new in hopes that we’ll finally get that elusive solo body of work. Selfish, I know, she owes me nor anybody anything, but when you love something and appreciate what folks bring to the table you want more of it. So much so that even though Talib Kweli has said “fuck Very Smart Brothas,” I refuse to stop listening to “The Blast,” a record so fucking good that it will be on every classic record playlist I curate for the rest of my life. I refuse to let one of the classic Vinia songs go.
To Vinia Mojica, thanks for everything you provided to music and hip hop while you felt compelled to bless our culture with your presence. I don’t say this lightly, but every single one of those records is made better by your presence and thus so was the culture. You are appreciated.
(Updated 3/3/22 with new details)