Feature: Rapsody’s Idea of Beautiful

rapsody_BGIRLIn this era of Hip-Hop, where the Hip-Hop blogosphere is brimming with articles about the shit that Chief Keef does or does not like, videos of DMX’s surprisingly accurate covers of Christmas carols, and analysis of the twitter beef between 50 Cent and French Montana, it seems almost refreshing when an artist emerges with no other motive than to make good music. No ulterior motives, no gimmicks, just good Hip-Hop.

I think that Phonte might have said it best on the Little Brother song Not Enough, rapping “When we’re on stage, the people they all front / dope beats, dope rhymes, what more do y’all want?” Sadly, it seems that the answer to this question is ‘lots.’ With the rare exceptions of dudes like Kendrick Lamar, Big Krit, or Joey Bada$$, the masses rarely seem to give people a chance until there’s a video of them on WorldStar snatching someone’s chain, or unless they have some other gimmick to attach their brand to. Juxtaposed against this subculture of ironic appreciation, the rise of rapper Rapsody, a contemporary to these aforementioned artists, seems particularly interesting.

Similar to Little Brother, Rapsody, whose love for Hip-Hop culture is anything but ironic, is a North Carolina native whose career and sound have been heavily shaped by legendary producer 9th Wonder. This love of the culture is apparent just one minute into her album The Idea of Beautiful. “I care about ‘em too much to not say nothin” Rapsody says on the song “Motivation,” an undertone of urgency in her voice. Beginning with a beautifully honest spoken word piece, the song’s lush soundscape sets the tone for the rest of the album.

True to the 9th Wonder influence, the album is filled with soulful, boom-bap beats; a callback to better times yet somehow still wholly modern. When I spoke to Rapsody on the phone earlier today, she explained “I grew up heavily influenced by that 90s era and a lot of that was boom-bap. I was a big fan of people like Mos Def, The Fugees, Little Brother, and that whole sound.  I like a wide range of beats, but the soulful beats really, really do something for me. They inspire me more.

You can’t beat the soul.” When examining Rapsody’s lyrical content, these influences become rather apparent. Drawing on the lyrical dexterity of a dude like Mos Def, she often raps with the sincerity of a Big Pooh, incorporating an undercurrent of consciousness similar to that of Lauryn Hill’s. Rapsody is no slouch on the mic.


Despite being a beast lyrically, she explained to me that she’s always looking to grow and improve, stating that “Any and everybody I’m around, I try to learn something. And I try to grab and ask questions.” This is true whether she’s working in the studio with 9th Wonder, recording songs with Kendrick Lamar, or rocking the stage with Mac Miller as the opening act on his tour. When I suggested to her that perhaps these other artists are learning from her too, she humbly laughed off the idea and simply said “I hope so.”

This sense of humility is greatly evident in even the shortest of conversations with Rapsody and it is something that makes its way into her music. Overwhelmingly, this helps make the message that Rapsody is trying to convey much more poignant. Heartfelt songs like “Precious Wings,” for example, are so intimate that it is almost like Rapsody is giving a listener a peek into her personal diary. Completely comfortable being herself on the microphone, it’s remarkable how Rapsody has been able to find such a unique voice so early in her career when other artists have had to struggle for years to find a similar level of truth. She discussed the importance of this in my interview with her.

When I asked her if she’s ever felt pressure to try and keep up with some of the other incredible emcees 9th Wonder has worked with, she said “I definitely felt that pressure at first because, I mean, it’s 9th Wonder and you want to do the best you can. But now, I realized that I have to be comfortable in my own skin and I have to occupy my own lane.” She further discussed this idea when I asked her about what she does to differentiate herself from all the other music out there. She said “it’s a branding thing, to be honest. You kind of have to be patient enough to let your brand grow and reach the masses. Especially as a new artist, you might not get a lot of clicks on your music at first but if you really focus on branding yourself the right way and making good music, that’s the basis of it.” If this is indeed the case, Rapsody is definitely on the right path.

Having the right team surrounding her seems to help the process too. Whether it’s the incredibly dope group Kooley High, with whom Rapsody got her start, or the people surrounding her on her record label Jamla, it seems that all of the creative energies around Rapsody help to make her a better artist. When I asked her about her creative process, for example, she explained that “It’s always different. Some days, me and 9th might have had a conversation the day before where he told me to talk about a particular thing. Or, sometimes something in the beat will bring a certain emotion out. It might even be subconscious and I’ll just start writing.” It is this sense of closeness between her and her collaborators that probably helps to explain the cohesiveness of her album and how every song blends seamlessly into the next. There’s definitely something to say about keeping it in the family.

And now comes the part that everyone is waiting for; the gender part of the article. Because it would be impossible to acknowledge the fact that Rapsody is a woman in Hip-Hop without devoting a significant amount of thought and analysis to it. Of course, this is said in an effort to be satirical. During our interview, I asked Rapsody what she thought about this hyper-emphasis on gender in Hip-Hop and she had this to say; “I definitely think it puts us in a box. And that’s why I hate doing female panels. It’s okay to have a panel with all females on it. But then what happens is that all the questions become about being a female emcee. It’s just so limiting and it puts you in a box and it separates you so much. That’s what I hate about it and why I hate the term ‘female emcee.’ It’s used to separate you from everybody else. It’s just like ‘white rapper’ or ‘backpacker.’ It’s just another term used to separate and divide.” The thoughtfulness of this answer was something that struck me greatly. A wise answer from a rapper who is wise beyond her years, and miles ahead of her peers.

If inertia is any indication, Rapsody’s career trajectory seems to be indicating a future filled with many more successes to come. If you are still unfamiliar with her music, I suggest you make yourself aware immediately.

Check out Rapsody on Twitter.

source:  http://boi-1da.net/2012/12/19/artist-profile-rapsody/


Davey D Top 21 & Music Notes: Good bye Ms Melodie.. Brother Ali Gets Arrested ..Miller vs Finesse

Davey D’s Top 21 Music Chart:  07/19/12

01-Killer Mike– ‘Reagan


03-Lupe FiascoAround My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)

04-Jasiri X & Elon James  ‘10 Frisk Commandments

05-I Self Devine w/ Brother Ali  ‘Living Under Seige

06-Cihautl-CeWe Need U on the Front Lines

07-Yasiin Bey, dead prez & Mikeflo– ‘Made You Die (Trayvon Tribute)

08-Brother Ali w/ Nikki JeanShine On

09-Public EnemyI Shall Not be Moved

10-Georgia Ann Mudrow  w/ DeclaimeThe Few

11-Jasiri X– ‘Do We Need to Start a Riot?

12-D-Sharp Lightweight

13-B-DolanWhich Side Are On?

14-Dregs OneLetter to the President

15-Tiye PhoenixSkybound

16-RDACBX w/ Rebel DiazStop! Stop and Frisk

17-Aesop RockZero Dark Thirty

18-Hakim GreenMy name is Hak

19-Anita TijouxShock

20-El-PDrones Over Brooklyn

21-4Two7Butta on Ya Muffintop


Ms Melodie

Music Notes: First we wanna pay respects and offer condolences to the passing of a Hip Hop legend Ms Ramona Parker aka Ms Melodie. Sadly until yesterday she was written out of the minds of many Hip Hop fans who forgot her being one of the first commercially released female emcees.

She was a powerful figure who rolled w/ the BDP (Boogie Down Productions)Crew. Some suggested she was put on because she was married to Blastmaster KRS-One, but Ms Melodie could spit flows with the best.

Her best shining moments was the bars she spit on the landmark song Self-Destruction and her signature song ‘Live on Stage… My personal favorite was off the Diva album.. the Soul Train inspired  Remember When ? .Ms Melodie will be missed..along with icons like Donna Summers, MCA and Chuck Brown who we also lost this year..

Brother Ali got arrested over some real beef.. Beef with bankers

Props go out to Minneapolis artist Brother Ali for getting himself arrested a couple of weeks ago. No Ali wasn’t doing the Chris brown/ Drake number and tossing bottles in a club. He got arrested for standing up and helping Occupy a House that was scheduled to be foreclosed on by greedy bankers. That’s who we need to be tossing bottles at. bankers who have made record profits and yet still insist on fraudulently foreclosing on homes.

In this recent case, the Cruz family in Minneapolis attempted to make a payment online, which the bank refused. This triggered the bank to impose a two month fine, which the family couldn’t pay which then led to foreclosing proceedings. Such tactic are not unusual and in this particular case, lots of folks came out to help the family keep their home. One of them was Brother Ali who wound up being charged with trespassing when he refused to walk away and let the bankers keep the house.

This week we have a couple of joints featuring this hard-hitting Rhymesayer including ‘Shine On‘ featuring him and singer Nikki Jean and Living Under Seige‘ featuring his label mate I Self Devine.

Since we’re on the conscious tip, I wonder if San Francisco rapper Dregs One will show up at Oakland’s Fox Theater this Monday and perform his song ‘Letter to the President‘ which is a scathing critique of the president and some key issues he dropped the ball on. Dregs has been making a lot of noise both as a rapper and a commentator. He goes around with a camera and gives these great on the street commentaries called the Wake Up Report, like this one he did on gentrification.


Lord Finesse

Moving along, many of y’all have heard about the beef between legendary producer Lord Finesse and Mac Miller, the up and coming superstar out of Pittsburgh.. For those who don’t know, Finesse is suing Mac Miller for $10 million because Miller used the beat to his song ‘Hip 2 Da Game‘ for a mixtape song he titled ‘Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza‘.

I gotta be honest, I ain’t feeling the lawsuit.. In fact I think it’s wack for a number of reasons. We can start with how the music industry got lawsuit happy when it came to Hip Hop artists and went way overboard with licensing, regulating samples and just being anal over who owns a particular beat or riff. At the end of the day the music industry established a lucrative cottage industry that made a whole lot of non-music makers rich, while really short-changing and many cases handcuffed not just Hip Hop artists, but musicians in general.

When I heard Finesse wanted to sue Miller for using his  15-year-old song for a mixtape, I couldn’t separate his actions from that of record executive Aaron Fuchs of Tuff America music who came under fire when he went after the Beastie Boys in a lawsuit for music used in their landmark album Paul’s Boutique just days after MCA passed. many of us thought his behavior was mad shady.

Mac Miller

One would hate to see Finesse as shady, but its hard not to when it appears he’s going for a big payday vs defending some sort of egregious violation of his art..

From what it appears Finesse is upset for a couple of reasons. First, he wasn’t credited for his creation and two, even though it was a mixtape which was given away for free, Miller was able to make money off the song via his Youtube account which had 20 million views.  I say tough shyt.. Unless folks rapping over the beats to your song is a big issue, then I say brush it off and move on….As Hip Hoppers I say lets find another way to work these things out..

With respect to Lord Finesse, one might ask ‘did he give proper credit and share money with the late Oscar Peterson who he sample?’ Did he have Peterson come on tour, play live on any future creations?  Did he shout out his name and make his music known to folks far and wide back in ’95 when he dropped the song?

I’d be the first to argue that Finesse did what good musicians have always done.. He took a creation, flipped and made a name for himself off it. I understand that and accept it as a being part of Hip Hop.. However, over the years I’ve come to know and see the discomfort and unhappiness many musicians from past generations felt when they heard their music sampled and they didn’t get not even a handshake.. Many in my generation have been pretty callous and have literally told those elders, they ought to be happy because they were having their music exposed to new generations.. ironically, that’s pretty much what Miller been about when it comes to Finesse. He feels he’s exposing the DITC producer  to a new generation of rap fans..Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t..

Both Miller and Finesse owe Oscar Peterson some props

At the end of the day, I think Mac Miller’s fan got to know about Lord Finesse about as much as we who came up on Lord Finesse got to know about Oscar Peterson and any other music great he sampled. In other words we didn’t.. The name of the game for both Finesse and Miller was to create something for themselves. Finesse being a producer, flipped Peterson’s work and made a tight beat that he later used on his album. His end game was to show off his producer skillz..

Miller used Finesse’s beat for a mixtape where his goal was to show off his rhyme skillz. He wasn’t making beats. he was showing off his lyrics. so its ridiculous to somehow expect Miller to have flipped the beat like Finesse. Now if Miller bit rhymes from Finesse or Big L who Miller admired, then I could see the beef.

As for folks making money off the song.. In 2012 both Miller and Finesse have access to Youtube to exploit their works. Just so happens Miller got 20 million fans who probably could care less about the beat and were interested in what Miller had to say.. Yes, Miller may have gotten money from Youtube, but it’s not like Finesse doesn’t have access to the same outlets where he could post his work and get paid. In Hip Hop we have long jacked beats for our own come up projects.. We can’t get upset when someone snatches a 15-year-old song.. same way we didn’t want Peterson or any other artist upset with Finesse when he used their 15, 20-year-old songs.

In any case I think moving forward artist should develop some sort of code of conduct.. It would’ve been nice if Miller shouted out Finesse, included him in a video or had him produce a future track.. That’s a way to pay homage and give exposure. It’d be nice if Finesse did something for all the musicians he sampled. Maybe do a song with them or very deliberately expose them and their works to his wide fan base. Perhaps do a project with Peterson’s family..Don’t emulate and become like the industry executives who messed up the industry by suing everyone.. Miller and Finesse can come up with innovative ways to resolve their concerns and set a standard for others to follow. That’s my 3 cents..

Nas has just released one of his best albums ever..

As for this week’s chart, other highlights for the week are Nas‘ song ‘Daughters‘. His new album..Life is Good delivers on so many levels.. Nas is by far one of the best of the best and this is one of his best albums ever.. Songs like Stay produced by Large Professor and Where’s the love are works of brilliance.. Nas keeps improving his flow as he gets older.. .

Jasiri X of Pittsburgh is on fire with two songs we featured on this week’s chart including a great remake of Notorious BIG’s classic cut 10 Crack Commandments .. This is called 10 Frisk Commandments . The other song making noise is a militant anti-police brutality song called ‘Do We Need to Start a Riot?

If you’re not up on Chilean born emcee Ana Tijoux you need to be..Homegirl routinely sells out shows and kills it on the mic with every song and every performance. She’s been on the east coast in New York and Boston wooing large crowds.. She’s also been keeping her finger on the pulse by addressing key social issues. For example, in Chile there have been huge student led protests around the issue of education and proposed cuts.. Ana gets busy with this video and song called ‘Shock‘ The song is big in Chile..

She recently went to Arizona and was appalled at whats been going on around the issue of immigration and SB 1070. Hence Ana did a an acoustic reworking version of her hit song to address the issues facing Brown communities in Arizona.. props for stepping up and representing..

written by Davey D