Born in Detroit, Milan Ariel has music in her veins: “I learned to braid on the cords running from my dad’s mixing desk.” Her father is Detroit techno icon Juan Atkins and Milan Ariel grew up immersed in techno, electro and funk. She also soaked up pop, hip hop and soul.
Like her idol Aaliyah, Milan Ariel always wanted to sing. “I was writing songs for myself when I was six years old.” One of these early compositions was so good her older cousin “borrowed” it to perform at a school talent show. “My aunt found out and made her bring me on stage and announce that it was my song.”
After that impromptu debut, Milan set aside song-writing to concentrate on school, but music was part of the fabric of her life. She went to her dad’s gigs when he played in Detroit, and begged to travel with him. “He never took me on the road, but he brought me back little gifts.” Her favorite was a silver ring engraved with her star sign, Scorpio. She wore it for years, then got the Scorpio symbol tattooed on her wrist.
In similar fashion, she took her father’s gift of music and transformed it into something uniquely her own. “My parents are laid back. I never had any pressure to do this or that,” she says. “It made me independent and willing to do things on my own.”
Milan Ariel hasn’t paused since. Hard-working and fearless, she started performing her original songs live at local hip hop battles. “I was nervous at first. It’s kind of like 8 Mile,” she says. “But once people listen, they’re cool.” She is equally at home dropping songs at the Hip Hop Shop, where she has a Saturday night residency, and performing to hordes of techno heads at Detroit’s legendary Movement festival.
Her goal as an artist is to combine mainstream pop with underground electronica because, “Not many people have accomplished that yet.” Milan Ariel also wants her career to be a positive example of what women can achieve through education and determination. “I love to see African American women prevailing in any industry,” she says. “I want to be able to reach out and help other women and girls who are trying to make it. I want to create a network, not a competition.”