As the rap game consistently changes and grows, it’s easy to get stuck on the favorites because, overwhelmed. To make it easier, VIBE has rounded up some of the industry’s newest rappers, who happen to be women. Get to know them in our series, The New Class of Femcees.
Many have tried to respond to the call of rapper/singer, but few are chosen. With talent as the hammer, Ivy Sole hits the nail on the head with her brand of music. Uber relatable lyrics on her most recent project, Eden, take the listener to a familiar place and touches the heart. Get to know her below.
Hometown: Charlotte, NC. Currently in Philadelphia.
Craziest thing on your on rider: “Floss. Oral hygiene is important to me.”
Three words to describe the music: “Soulful, engaging, personal.”
VIBE: How you get into rap? Did you come out the womb rapping?
Ivy Sole: I definitely didn’t come out the womb rapping, I came out the womb singing. Playing instruments because my mom is really keen on all of her kids being able to play an instrument. So I started out on the violin, then moved to piano and some other band instruments. I started rapping when I was 16. A couple friends started making beats and needed people to rap over them so it just made sense for someone who was close to them to rap over them. Kind of fell in love with it and decided by the time I was 18 that it was something that I wanted to pursue full time.
How were the raps looking when you were 16, though?
Ok, so no bars. Got it.
It’s not that I didn’t have bars, but it’s so much more to rap than bars. I don’t think that people realize how much time and effort go into making your flow and your cadence right. Or figuring out which type of beats work out best for your voice or which ones you like the best. I think I’m obviously 10 times more confident at 23 than I was at 16, so my delivery is completely different. What I’m talking about is completely different. It’s a whole different Ivy.
How did you develop your sound now?
I went to school in Philly and one of the cool things about Philly is that it’s a very big college town. Like there are five to six schools in the city limits so you get to go to a lot of different campuses and they have different tastes than you. I was also in a group on my campus called Spectrum and we brought a lot of great talent to campus and being able to get put on to different music, it just opened my eyes what hip-hop could be. I think that coming from the South, I had a very specific idea of what hip-hop was and then I was meeting people from New York or have a completely different idea of how hip-hop should sound. Had people from the West Coast, people from the Midwest, had people international even coming into contact with all their different tastes. In addition to that, people who didn’t listen to hip-hop at all and them showing me the music that they loved and me falling in love with that music as well. So I think really how the sound came about is just a lot of exposure to a lot of different soundscapes. Soulection is one sub-genre in hip-hop that’s informing a lot of the decisions that I make. Jazz obviously is making a lot of contributions to my music. Also indie rock, I love rock. Whether it be electronic influence or whether it be classic hip-hop, boom-bap influence, I think that is how the sound is coming together. A hodgepodge of different sounds and hopefully its sounding good to other people.
Weren’t you just featured on Soulection?
I was. Episode 271 with Joe Kay and DJ Dahi, which was really dope. A nice little boost in confidence. I feel like it’s kind of a difficult being a hip-hop artist in this day and age. Just because there’s really no one way to do it. Ten years ago it was like, get a 360 deal. And that was pretty much it. Now it’s like get a 360 deal or become Chance the Rapper and push mixtapes or completely forego tradition and be Tech N9ne or whatever. Getting that extra bit of validation from a group of people whose music I do appreciate, enjoy and definitely respect.
What do you think your music or style brings to the game?
I think that something that me and Ethan—who is my manager, engineer, spiritual guide, whatever—we’ve talked about consistently about how rappers aren’t personable. That’s just not my lifestyle at all. I think that is reflected in the music because I don’t really have anything to talk about but my life and my perspective. One of the things that I was told as a young writer—because I think that in a lot of ways I’m a musician first but I would probably be a writer second—is that the more specific the story is, the more universal it is. So people will fill in the details themselves, people will put themselves in my shoes, but the shoes can’t look like everybody else’s shoes or they won’t want to put them on at all.
With your music being so honest, a lot is about love. How do you feel like you navigate an industry where that might not be appreciated or perceived as a sign of weakness?
I feel like a probably get a little more leeway because I’m a woman, but I do think that’s one of the most universal stories. Everybody’s gone through a heartbreak or everybody crushes on people or everybody is concerned about how they look to the person that they care about. Everybody cares about somebody and a lot of people will lie and say that they don’t, but when it comes down to it there’s someone or something that you love. If I’m talking about my significant other, I’m talking about my mom, talking about my friends…all of that is talking about love, it just in different contexts.
Have you ever encountered any craziness as far as being a female emcee?
I don’t think people take you seriously. I think that when I walk into the room and I’m networking for example, people are talking about what they’re doing and they say oh, I’m a producer, DJ, rapper, singer, whatever. The first question [to me] is are you singer or like what other things can you be doing in this space besides rather than what I’m doing. And I’m like actually no, I’m a rapper, I produce a little, I write. These are all things that I’m doing constantly and have been doing for the past seven years. Often they’re taken aback and then I have to guide them to where they are comfortable with engaging with me. Especially because people, generally, this is also just reflective of where I am in my career and my trajectory, but people also don’t realize that my music is on Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify or Bandcamp. That I’m doing shows, paid shows. That people are buying and investing in the sounds that I make. So that when I say oh yeah, you can look up my music if you’d like on these particular platforms that you may or may not be aware of. Then it’s like oh! That little extra step validates it in their mind. I don’t think otherwise they would take me serious.
Do you think female emcees play any part in people not taking them seriously?
Not at all. I think that men get to be who they are in rap. You can be the backpack rapper, you can be a trap rapper, you can be J.Cole. You can be the finished-college-and-I’m-broke rapper. You can be whoever you want as a man in rap, but people get divided as women into two different types of rappers. You either get someone who is like a Nicki Minaj, who some people would say she is using her sexuality to kind of market herself which I think is completely up to her and she’s also an amazing lyricist. So do what you got to do. Or you’re in a Rapsody lane where people say that you’re a good rapper, but don’t want to listen to your music. Or you actually have to assume a masculine stance. I think that there are pretty of great female rappers, or rappers who happen to be women, that are making amazing music. I just want us to get to a place where there are eight, 10, 20, female rappers that you can name of the top of your head and you can name a couple songs from each of them. They might not be your cup of tea, that’s cool. Not everybody is making music for everybody. We just want to make the music.
Your most recent of project is Eden. Somewhere it says that it was put together in four short weeks?
Yeah. So I decided to make Eden after I was very disappointed and a little bit stressed about where I was not only in my music life, but in real life. I feel like I wasn’t moving forward at all. Eden started being written in October of 2015. So yes, it was recorded and a lot of the beats and everything were produced and done in four weeks, but I took some time to write it. So the producer that did eight tracks of the 12 on Eden, he had quite a few sleepless nights, lots of coffee, prayer, meditation. Had some beats that I was using to write with and none of those beats ended up making it to the project. Then I actually, wrote, recorded and released “The Vow” which is the first single off of Eden in February of 2016. I think we liked the song a lot and we wanted to put it out. We got a really good reaction to it and after that it was just go time. We got about half the project done and then those last four weeks it was crunch time. And then did most of the other recording in four weeks in Ethan’s closet.
If you had pick a track off Eden that would produce the most universal feeling that people could relate to what would it be?
Great question. I’d probably go with “The Vow.” It reflects a very specific time in my life. I think it represents feeling like nothing really is going quite the way its supposed to be going. The first verse alludes to the fact that a lot of my friends jokingly consider stripping or getting a sugar daddy. I feel like a lot of people in our age group are just very aware of how little money we have right at this particular moment. Even the people that do have money feel like either the money has a place that its going so it’s not staying with you, or that next step for adulthood like buying a house or investing, whatever these things are, are very daunting. “The Vow” is my reminder to myself that where you are is okay. You don’t have to be getting married right now like all the people on Facebook.
What’s next for you, what should we be looking for?
Mostly shows. Doing a little bit of writing and producing, a couple features. A lot of my friends are coming out with their debut tapes so I’m really happy to be a part of that. Hopefully some cool collaborations. I can’t say who or when, because they aren’t locked in.