Rapsody recently sat down with HipHopDX to discuss the position of women in the hip-hop/rap industry, her competition, musical influences, and more. Read a few excerpts from the interview below.
HipHopDX: Obviously you being a female emcee, I mentioned before a lot of times the choices females have to make that maybe weren’t around 10 or more years ago. Back then to be an emcee, female or not, for the most part you had to be dope on the mic. A lot of people, especially these days, even females don’t think women can rap as well as guys or aren’t taken as seriously. Do you feel that women are maybe nudged away from being an emcee to being a sex symbol?
Rapsody: Oh yeah without a doubt, the scales are very tipped in that area. It’s kind of like they’re trying to make, nowadays what I see is they’re trying to make female rappers like a character, all of them are characters. I don’t wanna bring anybody up ’cause I don’t wanna turn you away but it’s really like we’re supposed to be characters or sex symbols whether it’s the Barbie doll or something else. There’s nothing wrong with that but when you try to do it for every female emcee that you push like, who’s that? I remember earlier before I signed with [Jamla Records], when I was first signing like really serious and stuff, I had went to see a manager, I had just got off work and I worked at Foot Action so I had on some working clothes and I walked in and he didn’t ask to hear any music. He just looked at me up and down, well he heard one song and then he looked me up and down and he said, “We just got to put you in a skirt with some heels.” And I was like, “No. Flat out, no.” And I think that’s what it is especially with the videos and TV and what you look like, having to do with your music nowadays. Even with male rappers, worse with females but even with males you kind of have to have this whole package. You have to dress a certain way. Like Kendrick [Lamar], he can rap his ass off but Kendrick likes to wear button-ups now and the slick shoes, it’s kind of like you have to have a whole brand with it but, like you said with the females, the brand has to be sexy and I’ve definitely had to struggle with it and I think that’s why it’s taking me a lot longer to feel the progress that I wanna feel. I had to drop three mixtapes and an EP to even make this much noise where men, they could drop one mixtape and they’re on. Like Joey BadA$$ dropped one mixtape, and he’s on so it’s a struggle but at the end of the day you play the cards that you’re dealt. So I just make the best of the situation and just stick true to myself because at the end of the day 9th always told me good music will move itself and if you keep pushing it, it might be hard but if you eventually stick with it, you’ll get there and that’s what I’ve always tried to focus on.
DX: You’re a part of the Jamla Army. I know, back at the beginning you were just excited to just be rubbing elbows with 9th Wonder, Phonte, etc, and now you are not only a part of the team but someone they admire too. Has that sunk in to where you want to compete and become a leader of that camp and not just geeked to be there?
Rapsody: Oh definitely. It’s good, healthy competition. Growing up, like you said thinking about working with 9th and meeting Phonte especially for a North Carolina artist, they were huge for us. We don’t have a lot of people to look up to that made it where they were so they were huge for us. To be honest, I still haven’t lost the awe. When I’m in the studio watching 9th make a beat or we’ll be on the road with Phonte and I’ve done I don’t know how many shows with him and been in his house and kicked it and it’ll just hit me like, “How in the hell did I get here?” 9th makes beats a million times and it’ll just hit me like I’m really blessed to be in this situation because a lot of people want to be where I am and they can’t be so I definitely haven’t lost the awe of it but it pushes me. When I get a Phonte feature, I try to write the best verse I can and be like, “Man what is he gonna do?” Like you put him on a pedestal but at the same time you do want to compete. I wanna rap, I want him to call me and be like, “Yo that verse you spit was nuts.” It’s not like I think I’m better than him but it’s definitely a push and a drive. It’s the same thing with Kendrick, when Kendrick came and we did the “Rock The Bells” joint. Kendrick is known for destroying features so it’s like I can’t let him destroy me and make me look bad. If he beats me, he beats me but I want people to say she hung with him, she stood her ground on the record and that’s just good healthy competition and that’s why I like working with other artists so much cause they push me to be better and I definitely still have that drive when I get a 9th beat. Early on when I first signed with 9th, every time I got a 9th beat, I would think, “Oh my God, I have to kill this joint.” This isn’t just going in making songs, this is a 9th beat, I cannot fuck it up. [Laughs] I’ve lost that stress part a little bit but I always wanna do the best I can because like you said, we are who we are.
DX: I know Jay-Z and Lauryn Hill are your two favorites but who do you try to maybe emulate and not biting styles but who do you kind of compare yourself to as an emcee?
Rapsody: That’s a good question…to be honest, it’s Jay, man. [Laughs] I study his music so much. We don’t sound anything alike but I study a lot like how he says his words and the setup and where he breathes and I really try to study that. As far as how we structure the songs, that’s a lot of 9th and showing me really how to produce. There are beat-makers but producers come in and put drops here and move things here, put the hook here and double the hook there song structure-wise, that’s more 9th. I’m still learning and playing with different things. But just the music of it and just the sound I represent it’s just a lot of [Jay-Z] and Lauryn mostly.
DX: So with your career progression, going from 9th’s girl or that girl who toured with Mac Miller back on The Most Dope Tour to now, you’ve come a long way but yet this is only your first LP. Is the path you’ve wanted to take from the start and now do you see your future really coming together?
Rapsody: I didn’t know how I would get there like growing up and being a fan of other artists, before you really get in and know what this music is and how it works you have this idea, “Aw, I’m gonna make this music, I’m gonna drop one maybe two mixtapes, this label’s gonna call and they’re gonna give me all this money,” but it’s not like that. [Laughs] It doesn’t work like that at all so if anything I am more than happy at the path and how it’s unfolding and turning out because at the end of the day above anything I just wanted to make music for a living cause I love it and I’d get paid for it to tour the world and to be able to do it on my own terms and make the music I want to make and still be able to work with all these artists that I grew up loving and the peers in the game that I admire and I respect and I am a fan of too, I’m very happy. Even though it took me a little longer than most people, I enjoy the journey and the experience and I learned so much from it and I think that time was good for me because it really helped me grow. I had time to really sit and marinate and just grow and take it all in and really find out who I am as an artist cause I think when you come in really young, you don’t know who you really are as an individual. You kind of have to sit and grow and figure your way out and I think it’s perfect timing. I’m experiencing life and it shows in my music. It was just like, going back to Jay, when he did Reasonable Doubt and he did all these other records but you really saw Jay come into Jay around Blueprint and [The] Black Album ’cause he kind of found his way and matured and really mastered the song-making part of it, it was on a different level. So that’s what I’m happy about with this journey. I didn’t go through a major label, I stayed independent and just really grind and learn the business and just really grew as an artist so I’m very happy with it, very happy.
Read the entire interview here. Be sure to purchase The Idea Of Beautiful on August 28th.