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When the femcees came: Rapsody, the emerging queen takes the throne

in Ark Weekender/Highlights by

Years of grinding and putting out great music leaves Rapsody sitting on the throne. Will her Roc Nation ties be an issue?


Throughout much of hip hop’s existence, key roles in the subculture became synonymous with maleness, masculinity and manhood. In particularly, the emcee, which is from the acronym MC, a gendered term for master of ceremonies.

The mic rocker, the one who moves the crowd through lyrics and interactivity and various forms of call-and-and-response, commands power on-and-off the stage. So much so, the emcee’s role has evolved into a belief that the one who controls the microphone, ironically, a phallus symbol in itself, has power over almost everybody.

Of course throughout hip hop’s short, but vigorous life, there have been female emcees. Nonetheless, their presence has been an ebb and flow; and unfortunately, more ebbs. This summer, however, shows that there are more women who push themselves to the fore — and representing different approaches and styles. The range shown is a reprieve from the one-note, predictable rap that created the calloused and uninspiring works rotating on major stations. Now, hip hop heads hope it continues.

Rapsody

Once every 80 to 150 years, the Queen of the Andes plant blooms over 8,000 flowers on a 40-foot-stem. The rare, extraordinary flora thrives in some of the harshest conditions—high altitude and dry weather. Metaphorically, Rapsody became this generations giver of lyrics and creative life; especially, after the terrain of commercial hip hop for female emcees roughened and cracked since the years that Lauryn Hill, Foxy Brown, Missy Elliot and Rah Digga cultivated fertile opuses.

Rapsody has been steadily spreading her seeds of wisdom and dopeness since 2004, when producer-Duke professor, 9th Wonder, was impressed by her skills as a member of Kooley High, a group that had just changed their name from H2O. Multiple EPs, collaborations and video directorships later, Rapsody’s latest creative work pierces the monotonous themes rotating amongst emcees on the mainstream airwaves.

Fresh from her third studio project, “Eve,” the intricately woven album in which she takes the first of names of Black women to play with ideas from skin tone to domestic violence, Rapsody’s work and brilliant approaches to every piece is getting the air and attention it deserves. Never in the history of hip hop has an artists honored 16 Black women, and in between, pays homage to those who paved the way for her to rhyme fiercely, like Roxanne Shante.

A poet-turned-emcee from Snow Hill, North Carolina, Rapsody spins, thoughtful savvy prose over superb beats and rides tracks masterfully. Her words and ideas are more than wordplay, they have insightful meanings like spoons of poetry from the depths of a woman’s heart.  Her stunning delivery is decadent, but that is to be expected from an emcee who was on par with Kendrick Lamar in two previous collaborations, “Power” (2017) and “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” (2015) as she tithes to those who came before here with honor and praise.

On many of her interviews, Rapsody insists that she is a continuum of a culture during time, where there was more room for female emcees, yet not enough, so they broke down doors and studio walls. Overall, she is lover of putting out immaculate pieces.

On “Eve’s” breakout track, “Ibtihaj,” honoring Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim American women who competed in the Olympics wearing a hijab, D’Angelo provides his signature soulful, groans in a sing-song that this time, we understand, while GZA offers rhymes for a solid collaboration. The song provides entree into an album that is not only creative and profound, but refreshing.

While Rapsody’s album is on rotation, her legacy is wrapped in the recent Jay Z and the NFL controversy. Self proclaimed drug Dealer-turned-rapper-turned-businessman, Jay Z announced a partnership with the NFL to produce live pregame and halftime events. As well, he will oversee their social justice arm of the league called, “Inspire Change.”

Many have openly disagreed with Jay Z’s venture, saying that it was in direct opposition of his support of players who protested at NFL games for social change, and artist who refused to perform at NFL games when the league locked out athletes such as Colin Kaepernick. Now Jay Z, who said that it is time we move toward “actionable goals,” announced that rappers Meek Mill and Rapsody will be performing live at the NFL, along with Megan Trainer.

Added, reports came out that the NFL game money to certain non-profits they saw align with their new, “Inspire Change,” initiative. However, the founders of one of the groups, Crusher’s Club, who was given $200,000, is documented as supporting mass incarceration, All Lives Matter movement and cutting the locs of African-American participants as a way to have “better life.”

If you are a purveyor of Rapsody’s lyrics, her ideas of the world seem to be in direct opposition of Jay Z’s business dealings. We have yet to know, but one thing for sure, she is on the Roc Nation roster and is contractually bound. Hopefully, her art and currently, being the dopest emcee with a current project out, can withstand the possible bumpy road ahead.

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