Her family moved to Los Angeles where she was raised. According to an interview in November 2007 with Metal Underground, Otep's name came from her mother's interest in Egyptian history. In the same interview Otep spoke about growing up in Los Angeles California. Becca from Metal Underground asked Otep, Growing up in LA, what was that like for you? Otep replied: I was subjected to a lot of violence and poverty that I don't really care to focus on too much because I'm trying to get past that through art and music.
Shamaya has been featured on HBO's television series Def Poetry. Otep is featured in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies as a voice over actor for Creatures. The first printed collection of poetry and illustrations by Otep Shamaya was made available to the public in November 2006 exclusively on Lulu.com. In August 2007, the e-bookLittle Sins, her first electronic collection of printed poems and illustrations was placed in book form.
Shamaya's song "Menocide" was condemned by Robert Franklin of Fathers & Families for promoting the murder of men. The lyrics of the song suggest men are "infectious human waste" and that those who are oppressed should "give death to them" and commit "menocide". In her blog she responded to the criticism that her work was "hateful towards men" by saying: "I don’t see it that way. Indeed, I am an emotional person and I use angry words, but they are aimed (mostly) at IDIOTS and MONGRELS. Perhaps YOU equate men with the likes of those scourge. But not me. I am an equal opportunity dispenser of rage. Ha!"