“My sisters and I would regularly make up songs together. I was good at quickly thinking of words, but it was always just a game for us. Our definition of success was definitely on the academic scale. However, everything changed in Galway; we were walking down the streets, chatting with my friends, when we randomly turned onto a street and saw a group of guys performing rap. They were freestyling, and I was in awe. I looked at my friends and said, ‘I need to try this!’ We literally walked up to them and asked if I could try. They were really cool and let me freestyle, and it turned out to be really good. I didn’t even know I could do this on the spot; it just all came out of me. That was the first time I realized that maybe I could be good at rap. I decided to join their collective, and opportunities began to open up very quickly. I was good enough that even before I ever recorded or stepped into a studio, I was already doing gigs all over Ireland. Just to give you an understanding of my background, my family is hyper-focused on studies and achievements. My parents are from the Ivory Coast, where the only way of getting ahead is by having a higher diploma. So, despite my whole family loving music, as a black girl growing up in Galway, I never considered becoming a musician. I was just doing a science degree in biochemistry, but music and gigs began taking up so much time that it was obvious I would have to choose one over the other. I was still looking for a future in sciences but then, out of the blue, I got the opportunity to play at Longitude. I was like, ‘What??? Is this really happening?’ And that moment changed my trajectory. After that performance, I started to get recognised and ended up getting so many other gigs that I had to make a decision to take it more seriously. I genuinely believe that things happen for a reason. So, when I was selected to be the voice for GOAL Next Gen’s song, I wrote the lyrics from my heart, and it became the number one song on the day we launched it. Have you listened to it yet? It’s called ‘SPARK’ It’s very catchy!”Mai is a rapper, artist, and collaborator of the @goalnextgen Youth Network. Find more in the comments.