By: Hope Chookazian
Cnspracy, aka Mya Forbes, sporting a purple hoodie, sits surrounded by bubble gum pink walls in her bedroom, which doubles as her studio, in St. Albans, New York. The vibrant and happy colors emulated her personality, as positivity oozed out whenever she spoke.
Forbes may be a self-proclaimed lover of making sad songs, but she said she was the happiest she has ever been creating her first album, “cnspracy theories,” which dropped in late July. “I love music that makes you feel,” she said. “I don’t think too much about it. I let emotion be the driving force.”
The music for this album flowed out of her organically. Her sound, usually a blend of hip-hop and pop, could be credited to her upbringing.
Reminiscing on her younger years, she remembered music as the backbeat of her everyday life.“I come from a Jamaican background, so music is a big part of the culture,” she said. “I remember always hearing music playing in the background. It's been in me forever.”
She grew up listening to artists like Bob Marley, Nicki Minaj, and Whitney Houston, but she credits her grandma as a significant musical influence on her. No one in her family was ever classically trained, but she recalled how her grandma was always singing or humming a tune.
Forbes, 22, remembered her mom getting her an iPad Touch around age 11, and that was when she began creating music.“Fun fact, I cracked the iPad Touch the next day,” she said with a laugh.
Life wasn’t always bright and happy for Forbes. She was born with a physical disability that later required her to be in a wheelchair around age 11 after fracturing her ankle.
Forbes has a condition called Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SEDc). SEDc is a rare genetic disorder that results in short stature and skeletal anomalies that primarily affect the spine and long bones of the arms and legs. It can also impact vision and hearing.
“From there, the dominos kept falling,” she said. “My disability progressed, and I got really weak. Before then, I didn’t use a wheelchair, and that prompted me to.”
Depression and suicidal thoughts crept into her mind around that time, and she described feeling like an outcast. After feeling like she couldn’t create art as usual, Forbes sought help from a school counselor. She soon realized she might be living with depression.
“I just didn’t like this body I was in,” she said. “I didn’t care to live this life that God has chosen for me to live.”
It was a struggle for Forbes growing up and seeing no one else with a disability like her. She even tried to hide it as a child. “At some point in my life, I was like, why am I trying to hide this part of me?” she said. “I can't hide it, so I might as well accept it and be proud of my disability. Whoever doesn’t like it, that’s their loss.”
Navigating life with a disability in a world catered to non-disabled folks is hard, but figuring it out as a child is even more difficult. “Any child is figuring out who they are, but that’s 100 times harder for a child with a disability,” she said. “I didn’t know who I was, and I just had people telling me what I would accomplish in life or that I wouldn’t accomplish much.”
“90% of people in this world will think someone with a disability won't achieve much and definitely won’t become an artist,” Forbes said about the conception of her artist name cnspracy. “The idea is, some may not believe in me, but I always will.”
While hearing comments like she wouldn’t accomplish much was incredibly hurtful to her, music and faith were always an outlet to express her feelings. “I really think music is a gift God gave me to really lean on and get through that point in my life.”
Around age 15, Forbes started crafting her sound while also trying to navigate school life. She had to leave her school in Glen Oaks, New York, once her disability progressed since it couldn’t meet her needs. She would end up doing a year and a half of home instruction, where a state-provided instructor came to her house to teach her.
“That totally sucked,” she said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t recommend it.”
After this, she attended The Henry Viscardi School in Albertson, Long Island, a specialized school that provides a New York State education to children with physical disabilities.
“I’ve never really had other peers or friends that had a disability like me until then,” she said. “Going to that school changed the course of my life.”
Starting her college search, she knew she was going to pursue music, but looking for a good music program wasn’t her number one priority. Accessibility of the campus was.
She chose Purchase College, and while Purchase wasn’t perfect, she felt the community was welcoming and provided a bunch of resources for her.
The Conservatory of Music also stood out to her. “Everyone was really open arms to me,” she said. “I wasn’t seen as Mya with the wheelchair, they saw me as Mya, that cool producer I want to work with, and that's something I never experienced with people who didn't have physical disabilities before.”
Professor John Jetter, who is also, a producer, recordist, and mixer, remembered Forbes's dedication to her craft. “She came in ready to work and learn,” Jetter said. “She had motivation from the get-go. I don’t think my classes or teachings can take credit for that.”
Professor Jetter teaches an assortment of classes, but the small group production class, which they call Production Master Classes, is the most prominent. This class consists of three to four students, and they learn to produce, mix, and critique.
“From early on, she was able to approach her interactions in an authentic and empathetic and, therefore, a really musically constructive fashion,” he said, describing what it was like to work with Forbes in class. “Her ability to take charge of a production process and keep all the stakeholders happy and artistically invested, that's rare and unique for someone as young as she is.
Kayla Cariaga, a collaborator on one of Mya's songs, “Late,” which dropped in June, and details the aftermath of a breakup, described their collaboration process echoing Jetter.
“She’s so sweet and amazing,” Cariaga said. “She bursts with so much creativity. The best part of working with her is she's always open to any ideas and is very welcoming.”
Even though they weren’t friends until the COVID-19 pandemic, they started talking through Instagram, and that’s how the collaboration began. “She sent me the demo for it, and I was like; ‘this sounds so sick,’” Cariaga said. “She wrote the chorus and her verse, and I wrote my verse, but I was super happy to be working with her.”
Their collaboration flowed effortlessly, but Forbes expressed fear about working with others. “I was a bit shy when It came to my music. I felt pressured, and so many students had these different [musical] backgrounds,” she said. “It was overwhelming for someone like me, who just picked up a computer one day and started making beats.”
Since Forbes faced that fear, she encouraged current students to get out there and collaborate. “Jump in the pool, meet as many people as you can. There are many great artists out there.”
In August 2021, Forbes dropped her first-ever EP, “The Path,” which was inspired by her life. “I feel like I had so much to get out on that project,” she said. “I did that project after my grandmother passed away, so it's close to me.”
The EP delves into her faith and issues like misogyny. In songs like “Reach the Sun,” a piano backdrop frames the lingering sadness and uncertainty in the lyrics. “I don’t know if the stars are aligned for me. I just talked to God he said he’ll let me know when it's time for me, to pick up and go, ” she sings, “he said this life was designed for me. I trust him with my whole heart, he wouldn’t lie to me,” she continued, “Today is misogyny, thinking women can't be who they desire to be, it feels like a lottery, it’s starting to darken inside of me.”
Misogyny is one thing Forbes has experienced entering the male-dominated field of engineering and producing. “Women are the minority in those fields,” she said. “I’ve had my experience running into the boys club. They don’t want you to mess up their flow or think you have nothing to offer,” she continued, “But I let my work speak for itself, and once I did that, the boys had nothing to say.”
Cariaga, who graduated in May 2022 with Forbes, reflected on that. “Being a woman, especially a woman of color, in the music industry is another thing that makes her badass,” she said. “She was one of the first people I saw my freshman year. I saw her rolling in being a freaking badass, and I was like, ‘you go bitch!’ I didn't even know her, but that's one of the reasons I was drawn to being her friend.”
She has never been one to let these obstacles cut her down. From creating a full studio in her bedroom due to lack of accessibility in other studios to joining the Conservatory of Music despite feeling like an outsider for not being classically trained, she always pushed through and went after her dreams.
“It's incredibly inspiring to watch her carve out her own path and sound as a composer, artist, and producer,” said Professor Phillip Joly, who similarly to Jetter, teaches Production Master Classes. “On top of that, she handles the visuals to best display and promote her work. It's rare to see someone cover all that ground and do a great job across the board.”
Forbes was in one of Joly’s first Studio Production Masterclasses when he started teaching at Purchase College five years ago. Joly reflected on the time he spent working with Forbes in class. “Mya is a great communicator, which is important in our line of work, she has a great sense of humor and had a warm presence in class,” he said. “Mya is one of the most driven and inspiring students I have had the pleasure of teaching. Go listen!”
Currently, Forbes is working on a few collaborations with other Purchase students and promoting her album “cnspracy theories,” which still has her floating above cloud nine. “Some people describe happiness as floating on cloud nine,” she said. “But I like to go beyond that. I always say the sky is not the limit. There are areas beyond the sky.”
Be sure to check out Forbes on social media and on streaming platforms @cnspracy and YouTube @cnspracyvevo