Hot off the November release of her mixtape Crown, the Jamla Records/ Roc Nation rapper, who combatted the at-times piercing rain drops by wearing a stylishly puffy iridescent jacket, performed cuts like “Oohwee,” “Crown” and “Gonna Miss You,” with her backing band The Storm Troopers and DJ 9th Wonder. A special appearance by R&B/Soul artist Heather Victoria got the crowd hype, and Rapsody got personal by bringing a fan named Moses on stage to rap and two-step to “Take it Slow” with him.
“This is hip-hop, we make it happen, rain or shine,” she laughed.
Much like in her mixtape, the native North Carolinian also aimed to inspire the audience. She made sure to tell the female fans in the crowd that they can do “anything a man can do… if not, ten times better,” and her thought-provoking lyrics brought attention to some of the current social issues we face today.
The artist spoke to VIBE after her fire set to discuss her reaction to the positive feedback from her 2016 mixtape, the importance of artists to speak on certain topics as well as some of her thoughts on her collaborator Kendrick Lamar’s latest LP, DAMN.
VIBE: What has been your reaction to the positive feedback to Crown?
Rapsody: Oh man. It’s been fulfilling because before that, I hadn’t put out a project in two years, so we put that out just to see where we were, but also to show how much I’ve grown. We didn’t have a crazy big push, we had the Crown campaign to see how everyone could attach themselves to it and relate to it, and they loved it. It was really fulfilling, and I was excited. It’s so dope that people were inspired, especially with the Crown theme. I’ve had parents sending me IG videos and pictures and texts of their kids singing to it. My friend hit me one day and was like “my daughter got out of school, and she was like ‘daddy, I had my crown on today.'” That was the whole purpose, to inspire and for people to know their self-worth. It’s hard to put that into words, when you inspire somebody like that.
Your song “Fire” from Crown got a lot of people talking as well. What’s the importance of artists speaking about certain politically-driven issues, especially with the climate we’re living in today?
That’s what artists are supposed to do, tell the time. Nina Simone has said many times that it’s an artist’s duty to tell what’s going on and tell the time. Whether those times are good or bad, it’s up to us to report. It goes back to negro spirituals and slavery. That’s how we communicated with each other, the master didn’t know we were planning to run tonight. You get into the music, and you hear that we have to keep everybody aware of what’s going on. Also, to give them [listeners] a way to release those emotions, to have something to listen to that they can relate to and get that feeling out. That’s why it’s important. For the good times and the bad times, the hard times, we’re here to tell what’s going on and we’re being truthful about what’s going on, because we can’t always depend on media and television to do it. We can only tell our story. That’s our job.
Are you working on new material, or you’re still riding high off of Crown?
I’m working on my sophomore album! It’ll be out this year.
Can’t wait to hear it. What’s your favorite thing about performing?
I think no matter whether it’s a festival or a room with 100 people, it all feels the same. Just connecting with the people through music. It’s really fun performing with the band because you can take that music and take it a little bit further. You spend all that time in the studio perfecting it, getting it right, then you get to be on stage, perform it live, look at the people and see them interact, mouthing the words and clapping. Even new fans who haven’t heard of me, you can see their impression, like “wow!” That’s really dope to have that one-on-one experience, even when I brought the guy on stage [Moses]. That’s what I love!
I love when artists do that.
It’s great to have those moments. We might inspire them to do something, it’s really dope!
You were featured on Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp A Butterfly [“Complexion (A Zulu Love)”], so what are some of your thoughts on DAMN.?
DAMN. [Laughs] Amazing. I always expect whatever album was last, the next one to be totally different, you never know in what way it’s gonna be different. I like how [Kendrick] is able to experiment and still stay himself. The concept of DAMN. about talking about God and the fear of God is amazing. The songs are really dope, and that’s the beauty of Kendrick. He can be super lyrical, but he also knows how to make jams, songs, and you know, he’s really having fun. He’s at the top of his game. He is one of the greatest rappers of all-time. I’m always excited to see him and TDE winning. They’re our homies! Any chance I get to cheer for him is amazing. He sold 610,000 in the first week, going platinum already. I’ve been bumpin’ it nonstop.
What are some of your favorite cuts?
“DUCKWORTH.” is one of my favorites. What 9th [Wonder] did with those beats and the switches was bar none, and the story itself, the story is crazy!
Having it end that way? Perfect.
It was! Any one thing could have gone different, and the whole feature could have changed. “FEAR.” is another one of my favorites. All of us had parents that were like “I’ll beat yo’ a**,” so it was relatable and dope. Then the third verse, where he talks about how he deals with fame, I think all of us artists at some point have felt that and could relate. “DNA.” is like on a sunny day in summer, sunroof open and getting hype, then when that beat switches? It’s nuts. “LOVE.” is a favorite, “YAH.” is on another wave. The melody in it? That’s my nighttime riding joint, I’ll sit in the car and play it five times in a row and drive to it. The whole thing is amazing.