IN honouring Denzel Washington at the 47th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Gala Tribute this year, actor Mahershala Ali said “…your influence, your reach transcends race without ever denying it…” Fitting words for a thespian who’ll go down as one of the best to ever do it. Rapsody’s latest album EVE, and her other previous work in fact, displays how much this black female’s art transcends gender, without denying it.
Something rappers who are female tend to get tripped by is the novelty of females in the rap game. You find sisters only rapping about being females who rap, which more often than not, comes off as a homily- not music. Like how the typical “underground” rapper would bog you down with how the mainstream is being manipulated by a secret society and that the biggest artists are actually aliens in human form-all of this without telling you their story and making actual music. But Rapsody has mastered the art of music making and storytelling. When listening to her music, what’s between her legs isn’t relevant and you’re there listening to a dope ass kat. But her sex is unquestionably significant to everything and very much unmissable.
Poignantly titled EVE, Rapsody’s third album is more special because she titled each of the songs with names of powerful black women. From Cleo (the character from the movie Set It Off played by Queen Latifah), Oprah Winfrey to Nina Simone. She paid homage to these women and all others in the globe in the best way she could.
Till this day I think her previous album Laila’s Wisdom is universally underrated. I couldn’t fathom her returning so quickly, with something so rich in sound, lyrics, and concept. Plainly put, I didn’t think home girl could top Laila’s Wisdom.
Ibtihaj is named after Ibtihaj Muhammad, who was the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab while representing the US at the Olympics where she took silver in fencing. Rapsody gives nods to strong female emcees that came before her on the song, like Lady of Rage and Roxanne Shante- and taking a leaf from their book, she shows her bravado and says ain’t an emcee on this earth that make me feel afraid. GZA’s verse has that nice old school feel, thanks to his flow…with D’Angelo vocals complementing both rappers.
There must be something about Rapsody’s chakras because whoever she features, the genuine chemistry is always palpable. Whether it’s Sojourner with J.Cole, Oprah with Leileki47 or even Iman featuring J.I.D and SiR. In an interview with Sway, she said she wanted Cardi B to be on the track Whoopi. The bouncy beat produced by Khrysis would’ve suited Cardi’s energy. Rapsody’s beat and collaboration selection is like that of a producer; she’s quite decisive in that space.
The opening keys to Hatshepsut took me to church and even when the beat comes on, the warmth of the song remains. It would be wrong to say Rapsody got chowed on this joint because of all the love in the song, but hearing Queen Latifah rap is hella refreshing and inspiring. Her verse was on some Big Sis’ tip not only for Rapsody, but the youth.
Even living single we connected by the tribe Was raised by a Queen, know how to be one And love one and raise a King When he’s older I’ll describe how to love ’em Queens come in all shapes and colors Though we sit on thrones we don’t look down on each other I learned how to rule from my mother and my aunties Got the blood of the Asante I could be Cleo or Ghandi to protect mine It’s peace of mind, word to Jersey I’m a giant, a Queen’s pride stronger than the lions Connected by alliance, sisterhood The day you try to test me, look homie I wish you would Open doors for the ladies as a Queen like I should That’s why I’m Queen Latifah in every village, every hood And I’m good, and every city worldwide And why I been reigning for the last twenty five So all hail the Queens and the next ones to arrive Came out of Jersey with naughty dudes and hella drive Just another day above ground working my thighs, we runnin’ it Member the days me and ‘Pac, we had some fun with this When I would bust you dead in your eye, that’s called humblin’ Been holding the torch, I don’t fumble it I’m a child of God versus son of men, tellin’ ’em
I enjoyed Rapsody’s heartfelt letter to black folk, especially us black men on the track Afeni. It’s a timely song looking at the issue of Gender Based Violence in South Africa right now. The emcee drops knowledge about how men should learn to treat all women with the respect and love they would their mothers and sisters.
EVE cements her name as one of the best to ever do it. If we’re talking top emcees in the game right now in the mainstream, Rapsody’s name should be mentioned with the Coles and the Kendricks.
THERE’s a number of international artists who will pack venues this South African Summer/Spring. And if Erykah Badu’s recent performance on NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert is anything to go by, South Africans are in for an unforgettable, engaging performance at this year’s Delicious Festival from the Queen of Neo-Soul.
Her career spans more than two decades and in that times she’s released five studio albums, a mixtape, one live album, played a number of sets as a DJ and also released a compilation project. But there are three things which stand out about Badu. If you’re fortunate to have a ticket for the Delicious Festival, look out for these three things when she’s on stage:
Google her and see the images that pop-up. It’s just amazing to see how much her look has transformed through the years. On stage, her style is another presentation on its own accompanying the music. She’s done the all-natural look before the doek became fashionable, mixed it up by rocking an orange hued suit swathed in an indigenous blanked topped with a hat, she has worn dungarees with accessories all over her-but still somehow looks cool!
But whatever change she embraces, those beautiful piercing hazel eyes are a mainstay of her beauty. Her unique style, which is not influenced by a personal stylist, has and continues to inspire men and women to embrace their uniqueness and the comfort of expressing it without feeling awkward about it, but rather appreciating the cathartic experience that comes with the fun process. Her style is a symbol of her personality- she tries, if it works for her it does, if it doesn’t then it is what it is.
Some artists can express themselves as good in person, as they do behind the mic. They have a sense of humour, they articulate their thoughts well and don’t take themselves too serious. In the live performances I’ve seen and heard of Badu, she always throws in some banter and shares her opinion about anything between her performances- similar to a Clarence Carter. She’s a 47 year-old with a young spirit, who manages to have fun with her band on stage, like a new artist would.
At the beginning of her NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert performance, while introducing her band she quipped that drummer Cleon Edwards is her son, Seven, whose father is André 3000, which had the audience in stitches. It’s not surprising that she’s pondering the idea of stand-up comedy. More than just being a funny sista, she’s also in control and in charge. She never switches-off when performing- she’s like that classmate who caused trouble but somehow, got good grades.
She walked butt naked on the street, in the Window Seat video in protest. “…it was shot guerrilla style, no crew, 1 take, no closed set, no warning, 2 min., Downtown Dallas, then ran like hell,” she wrote on her Twitter about the video shoot. It took place at the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In the video, she walks on the pavement removing her clothes, until she arrives right where Kennedy was shot, stark naked.
In a television interview on, The Wanda Sykes Show she said “My point was grossly misunderstood all over America. JFK is one of my heroes, one of the nation’s heroes. John F. Kennedy was a revolutionary; he was not afraid to butt heads with America, and I was not afraid to show America my butt-naked truth.”
HER HIGH QUALITY MUSIC
I hope Jill Scott doesn’t read this, but Badu is the Queen of Neo-Soul. There is no other female on the planet, who truly embodies Queen of Neo-Soul as Badu. Record label executive Kedar Massenburg rightly dubbed it Neo-Soul, which is a better representation of our generation. What distinguishes Neo-Soul from other types of music, is that it embraces the other genres. Jazz, Hip Hop, Rock, R&B, Gospel, Soul, and everything else under the sun. Badu’s music captures that very essence, without compromising on the quality and her standards. The older generation appreciate her more because she’s like a conduit of great female vocalists of old such as Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. While youngins connect with her funk and hop that even a young Janelle Monáe can’t match up to.
She’s a multi-award winning artist who equally receives love from the commercial space and also on the streets. You can’t deny her. She has five studio albums which include the poignant 1997 debut Baduizm and Mama’s Gun which has been changing the game since 2000 and three other albums to her name. The two aforementioned albums have classics which are favourites for a lot of her ardent and new listeners, but what’s pleasantly mind perplexing is how she keeps tweaking them but has maintains their core over the decades.
It had nearly been a decade since Miriam Makeba released any project, when she gave the world her classic album Sangoma in 1988.
Mama Africa, as she was known throughout the world, was a superstar of note. She is credited, alongside Youssou N’dour, Salif Keita and Hugh Masekela and others, for being the first globally recognized African musicians.
Sangoma was as a follow up to Comme une Symphonie d’amour that came out in 1979. She was the first world superstar to come from Mzansi, who never lost touch with her Africaness, regardless of where in the world she was.
During her time in exile, after being banned by the South African government, a number of countries became an abode for her. She was issued passports by Algeria, Guinea, Belgium and Ghana. She held nine passports and was granted honorary citizenship by at least 10 countries.
True to her moniker Mama Africa, she was the only performer invited by Halie Selassie to perform at the inauguration of the Organisation of African Unity (what it today known as the African Union) in 1963. A book could be written on her life as a political activist, alone. She was married to Stokely Carmichael, who was a prominent member of the Black Panther Party, and was very vocal against the apartheid system in South Africa, from wherever she was in the world.
In her Grammy award winning album with Harry Belafonte in 1966,one of the stand-out songs there was Ndodemnyama Verwoerd! which lambasted one of the architects of the oppressive system.
She had style, poise yet at the same time, abrasive when it came to things she was passionate about. Often misunderstood, much like her friend Nina Simone, she left a legacy that a lot of African artists live off today.
Her influence couldn’t be captured in one article. But as Sangoma celebrates 30 years since its release, here are some of the songs that came with the album.