Having proven herself to be one of the elite wordsmiths in Hip-Hop, a genre historically dominated by men, Rapsody has become a beacon for women looking to beat the odds and compete at the highest levels of their respective fields. The Grammy-nominated rapper, who released her debut studio album in 2012 after spending the latter half of the aughts sharpening her sword and paying her dues, has spent the better part of the past decade extolling the virtues of women empowerment.
Critically acclaimed releases like her 2017 sophomore album, Laila’s Wisdom, and her most recent effort, 2019’s Eve, showcased her refined skillset as a songwriter as well as her proficiency in conjuring clever couplets—all while possessing the underlying air of a woman triumphant. Rising above adversity and relying on the lessons she’s learned while relaying her own, Rapsody is emblematic of the continued progression of women. Not only in entertainment but in society as a whole.
Wednesday (May 4), the North Carolina native hit New York City for an appearance at the espnW Summit NYC, where she gave an enthralling performance of her new single, “Dust To Diamonds.” The song was handpicked by ESPN as the anthem for the network’s Fifty/50 initiative. Honoring the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, legislation that opened the floodgates for female college students to pursue athletics, the Fifty/50 initiative “will feature 50 stories at the intersection of women, sports, culture and the fight for equality,” according to ESPN Press Room.
“This is my first espnW Summit,” the MC told VIBE just before her performance. “So, to be there celebrating one, women in general, but two, women in sports around this initiative, that’s gonna be amazing.”
Rapsody’s role in the espnW Summit NYC and the Fifty/50 initiative is a perfect fit for the rapper. Not only because of her background as a former athlete and unabashed sports fan but also because of her passion for breaking down barriers.
VIBE spoke with Rapsody about her performance at the summit, her new single, her plans to release a new album this year, and more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
VIBE: How did the opportunity to be involved with the espnW Summit NYC as part of the Fifty/50 Initiative come about?
Rapsody: Actually, my Roc Nation team. We have Roc Sports over there. They’re very supportive of athletes, especially doing things that are in support of women and a bunch of causes. So, they sent me the opportunity to submit a song, which was [in celebration of] Title IX 50 years [ago], which is a monumental passing of legislation for women athletes. And I used to play sports, I love it. So, I had this song, which had totally different lyrics, but the energy and what it represented, I felt like it could be a fit. They liked it, they asked me just to reclass the verses to really highlight women in sports. I did that and boom, we have “Dust To Diamonds.”
What was the source of inspiration while you were making this song?
Well, one thing is Faouzia is the singer on the hook. When I got it, it was the beat and it already had to hook on it and the main part of the hook is “Dust To Diamonds,” and I felt that was powerful because we all have a “dust to diamonds” story. I definitely do as an artist in this industry and a woman in this industry, which has its own hurdles. And to tie that into women that made strides in sports, that’s how I really wanted to approach it.
With me, I always have fun with lyrics and creativity and just playing with words to make it a double meaning. These women were representations of things that we can apply to our own life, so that’s just how I approach it. I was like, “Yo, who are some women?” Kristi Yamaguchi, Serena [Williams], Don Richardson. Billie Jean King, Simone Biles. Legendary women who have erased the gender line, to me, in sports. And just amazing athletes regardless of gender, and I thought that was important. So, that’s how I approached it. I wanted to make a statement in that way.
In 2019, you also penned a song for the New York Liberty titled “Liberty Loud,” which makes “Dust To Diamonds” your second sports-related anthem. How does it feel for these organizations and brands to view you as an ambassador for women in sports?
Man, a lot of gratitude. To be able to do something that’s so important to teams in an important time in history for women. That I can be a voice for so many, I don’t take that lightly. So, it’s a lot of gratitude that comes with that. I’m just grateful for the opportunity just to shine light and to be a very, very small part of their stories, which is dope. Women’s movements and rights [are] super important to me as a woman, so anytime I can attach to anything like that, no matter if it’s in entertainment or sports or film or whatever arena, I think it’s dope and I’m always excited to do it.
Speaking of sports, what are some of your favorite teams that you root for, college or pro?
I’m a big fan of Dawn Staley right now, so I love watching [the South Carolina Gamecocks] excel. I mean, I gotta shout out the New York Liberty, I did the theme song. I think it’s important that we really support women in sports as much as we can, so I don’t have one particular team, but I just love to see all women excel at what they do.
It’s been nearly three years since the release of your last album, Eve…
Two years and eight months. That’s what somebody tweeted at me the other day.
Okay, so you know the exact timing (laughs). Was there any reason for the hiatus? This has been your longest break.
I mean, several reasons. One, as an artist, when you’re creating something that means something to you, there’s no need to rush it. It’s gotta feel right, so I took my time with this to grow, to figure out what I wanted to talk about. The pandemic definitely had a part in it. It was a little bit harder to create that first year when we were all isolated. You know, you can’t just go and pop up at a studio and work with somebody like you want to.
But I think that time was needed. It was needed for me, anyway, just to sit still and regroup and relearn myself and just figure out where I wanted to go next. So, I don’t call it a hiatus, I’ve just been in a process of growing and creating and sometimes that takes time. That’s all. But I hope that it won’t be too much longer [and] when the music comes that people can hear the growth and appreciate the time that it took to make it.
Definitely looking forward to it. Do you have a timetable for its release?
I’m shooting for 2022, but I don’t put any dates on it until it’s completely done. So, we’re super close. I’m not far from being done. Then we’ll figure out the rest of how it goes down, timetable-wise, but I’m coming back soon. That’s all I know because I miss it. I miss connecting with people in that way.
What’s next for Rapsody, musically or otherwise?
This song, “Dust To Diamonds,” for one. I really want to push that and what it’s attached to and hope it inspires people just to really take a moment back and celebrate women, especially women in sports. And pour attention and money into that because of what that does for little girls and women all around the world. It gives them the ability to dream and it makes space for them to create in an athletic way.