It’s highly debated that Jay-Z is the best to ever do it, but that doesn’t stifle this North Carolina girl’s dreams of taking his spot on the throne. A self-proclaimed B-Girl with her sights set on longevity, she began her journey with fellow hip-hoppers Kooley High and continues to tip her proverbial hat to H.E.R. at all times. Recently, VIBE Vixen caught up with producer 9th Wonder’s protégé while performing on tour with another popular newcomer Mac Miller. Without further ado, we’d like to introduce a particluar female who’s ready to be a role model for young women, reclaim the real essence of hip-hop and, oh yeah, drop her upcoming ‘tape Thank H.E.R. Now. –Niki McGloster (@missjournalism)
Who is Rapsody?
I’m a North Carolina B-Girl. Not in the sense of break dancing, but B-girl in the sense of a hip-hop head. I grew up with a supreme love for hip-hop through MC Lyte, Tribe Called Quest and the list goes on. That’s who Rapsody is. A young female who’s like a lot of other females out in the world who don’t get represented well in the commercial sense of music. I’m a tomboy, I like to have fun and I’m all about lyrics. That’s who I am.
You’re currently on tour with Mac Miller. How’s it going?
It’s definitely a new experience that came out of nowhere; I wasn’t expecting it. Our first date was in D.C., and I didn’t know what to expect. Most of his audience range from 11 or 13 to 20 [years old], so he’s exposing me to a whole ‘nother market that I usually don’t get a chance to perform in front of or reach. You know, it was new. To have them react, it feels good to know that this is the first time for some of them seeing a female rip the mic. It was an eye-opening experience, and I’m learning a lot about how to put on a show, about tour life.
What are some key things that you’ve learned?
On this tour, specifically as far as rocking in front of a younger crowd, they like to party, and they like to jump [Laughs]. You have to keep your energy up; do different things to keep them entertained and happy and partying. I’ve learned that sound check is very important. Because my voice is so low, I have to make sure my monitors are high.
How did you link up with Mac? He rapped on your mixtape Return Of The B-Girl and you two just dropped “Extra, Extra,” so when did this relationship start?
Mac had a show in North Carolina at Cat’s Cradle during the time I was working on Return Of The B-Girl, and Khrysis [producer] got in touch with him to come by the studio to work and I was there. I hit 9th [Wonder] like, ‘Mac is here,’ and he was like, ‘Okay, hit him up and ask him will he get on the “Blankin’ Out” track.’ [Mac] was in the studio writing, and when people are working, I don’t like to bother ‘em, so when 9th got there, he was like, ‘You ask him?’ and 9th went in there and asked him. [Mac] got on it, and he left the next day. Then, maybe a month and a half ago, he came by the studio again and that night we did “Extra, Extra.” The next morning, Mac told 9th, ‘I like Rapsody a lot; I want to take her on tour with me,’ and that’s how it happened. We had only been around each other two times but I guess we had this connection through hip-hop. Mac is so humble, and he has a supreme love and respect for the culture. Like, he loves hip-hop. So we really built our friendship on this tour, really, really getting to know each other. That’s my family forever.
That’s what’s up. I don’t know if you heard, but we did a 30 Under 30 list, and Mac was number 29. What are your thoughts on that?
He’s going to have longevity in his career. He’s going to be to these kids what Tribe was to 9th; that’s going to be his impact on the culture. He is selling out shows across the nation. He makes incredible music, and he can rap his ass off. I think the list was good, and he is named with some incredible artist. To be doing what he’s doing at 19 is remarkable! I know when it’s all said and done, he’ll be one of the greatest artists to do it. He is building a legacy.
Dope. Now, how do you feel about Nicki Minaj being the only female on the list? You did shout her out on ROTB, so I see that unlike some other artists, you do respect her movement.
I have a respect for all females in the game that are doing it because it’s not easy for female artists. I think Nicki is talented; I definitely think she can rap. Is her music for me? No, but I think she can rap. Everybody has a lane in the industry. When it was Lauryn [Hill], Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, they were all about to exist at the same time but they all had their own lane. Nicki has her lane; I have my lane, and Nicki brought attention back to female emcees. Since she’s come out, everybody is asking, wondering where are other female emcees.She hasn’t done anything for me not to like her. I can choose to not listen or listen to her music, but as a person, I think everybody deserves respect. If she’s making money musically, then that’s cool. That’s why I shouted her out.
That’s definitely respect, and I agree. And speaking of respect, why did you coin the phrase “Respect Culture Over Everything”?
That came about on a song I did on Return Of The B-Girl. It’s the title track “Return Of The B-Girl (Mara Jade).” To me, it’s about culture more so then money or anything. The commercial side doesn’t represent hip-hop. 9th talks about it all the time. Hip-hop isn’t for everybody to understand and consume or for the masses to get. I make music for the people of the culture we’re in; that comes first. If you touch the people first, the rest just falls into place. That’s what it means to me, just preserving and respecting the culture.
That’s dope! What drew you into the culture of hip-hop in the first place?
First, it was Michael Jackson [Laughs]. I was a retarded Michael Jackson fan, and then I got exposed to hip-hop via my older sisters, my cousins playing music. Me and my dad would sit and watch videos, so I’d be sitting Indian style in front of the TV and Mc Lyte’s “Poor Georgie” would come on. That was one of the first videos, as a little kid, of me seeing a female emcee do that. That really captured me. Then, it was Queen Latifah, then it was Lauryn Hill and Bahamadia and Jean Grae and so many other rappers. When I got to college, I started writing spoken word, and we started a hip-hop organization [Kooley High]. For me, that was a way for me to do these first couple of songs I had ever done without really being judged because we were just having fun. 9th heard them and he was like, ‘You have a lot of potential. You have a dope voice, you just have to work on this and this.’ To have somebody like him tell me that, it was all the confidence I needed just to go give it a shot.
I’m glad you brought up 9th Wonder again because I want you to tell me more about your rapper-producer relationship with him.
We met in the Fall of 2005. Right after I recorded those first two songs, one of the guys in our group had an internship with 9th, and he asked him to come by the house. That was my first introduction to him and him to me and my music. Through the years, he just continued to coach me. He’d give me homework assignments; ‘Listen to Tribe, listen to Jay-Z’s Black Album and memorize it.’ It wasn’t so much me memorizing the words; he wanted me to listen to how he said it. And in 2007, I got a manager and was like, ‘What are your short term goals?’ and I was like, ‘I’d like to sign independently to 9th Wonder; I heard he had a label.’ So we had a meeting, and the rest is the future. 9th is a teacher first and I like to learn, so our relationship works out well for that reason. I absorb every bit of knowledge that he gives me.
I peeped that at your Southpaw showcase. It’s really awesome that you have that connection in this game with someone like him. In a previous interview, you’ve stated that you want to be the female Jay-Z and that’s a bold statement. What are your reasons for having such huge aspirations?
I say I want to be the female Jay-Z in the sense of him being 41 now and from The Blueprint 3, he still had a number one spot on 106 & Park which caters to 11 to 20-year-olds. To have that longevity in the game, it’s crazy! MC Lyte is probably the closest. Lauryn dropped one album, Queen doesn’t rap like she used to, so I want to longevity in the game like Jay and branch out and have businesses and make timeless music. He has more classic albums then any hip-hop artist I can think of. So that’s what I mean. I want classic album after classic album.
Which of your songs means the most to you or is the most classic in your eyes?
I’d have to say right now “The Intro.” That’s really where it all began for me. And you know, the beat that 9th made with the Jodeci song, it has so many emotions in it. That one tells my story; that’s my beginning.
I really rock with that. I have to admit, I ran that track back a few times [laughs]. Now, your album Thank H.E.R. Now drops on June 21. First, what does the title mean?
The “H.E.R.” comes from Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R.” which stands for Hip-Hop In Its Essence Is Real or Hearing Every Rhyme. It’s like, I’m thankful to have hip-hop in my life. Hip-hop is my foundation, and I’m always going to thank H.E.R. It’s really just a representation of me and Jean Grae, Nitty Scott MC, Queen, all the B-Girls. I’m thanking H.E.R. for a role model and all these little girls.
How will this mixtape be different from Return of The B-Girl?
I’m rapping hard, it’s a lot more personal, there’s a lot more storytelling about my personal life and it’s still lyrical. We have a lot more features and I’m working with other artists and building that chemistry. It’s good music. It ain’t no gimmicks in my music; it’s life music, something a lot of people can relate to. To have somebody like 9th Wonder and the Soul Council on your music, I can’t front. 9th is a living legend, so I have great production.
That’s awesome. I’m excited to hear what’s next. And lastly, why should people rock with you?
I’ve worked day and night and night and day on being a better artist, working on my cadence and my flow and delivery. I’ve fallen into that range where I’ve got it, and I’m making good music. Especially for little girls, it’s important to have a role model. You have Nicki, but there also needs to be a balance to Nicki. I just want to give these girls a choice of what being a female is to them and what they want to be.