Rapsody is female, and an emcee, but she’s no more a femcee than Drake and Kanye are malecees. Her gender is an important part of her artistry, but like any complex artist, it’s only a part. Instead, the young North Carolina emcee, signed to legendary producer 9th Wonder’s Jamla label, is emerging as one of the most complete and creatively honest rappers of her generation. That may sound like lofty praise, but it’s a title she proves she deserves on her latest album, She Got Game. The album includes features from some of the biggest and most respected names in hip-hop, including DJ Premier, Chance the Rapper, Mac Miller, Raekwon and many more.
For the latest in our Pulse On Who’s Next series, DJBooth.Net shines a spotlight on the aptly-named Rapsody to learn more about the creative roots of She Got Game, how she works to embrace her position as a positive role model, her growth as an artist and a businesswoman and much more.
If you already know and love Rapsody, you’re about to know her even better. If this is your introduction to her, prepare to discover your favorite new rapper.
You just released a new album, She Got Game, which is an obvious reference to the movie He Got Game. What message are you trying to convey with that title?
She Got Game is definitely a play off one of Spike’s best films, and 9th Wonder jokingly refers to me as “Shesus Shuttlesworth”. The basic idea was taking me out of the box I’m often put in because of my gender that separates me from the rest of the pack. In this “game,” AKA the music industry, I wanted to show that I could keep up with the guys because I am just as skillful when it comes to the art of emceeing. That’s the reason we chose to remake the picture of Cheryl Miller sitting on top of a basketball net when she played for USC. Cheryl is one of the best women to ever play the game, and she was also a member of the USBL, which was a man’s league. So, with this project I wanted to make a statement in that same light that gender shouldn’t matter in this game, you can either play ball or you can’t.
You get to play the world one song from She Got Game to introduce you and the project. As hard as it may be to just pick one, which song do you pick, and why?
That is a very difficult question, but I would have to go with “My Song” ft Mela Machinko. This is probably one of the most personal songs on the project and I talk about a wide range of topics that have weighed on my mind. I talk about being compared to Lauryn Hill, frustrations from family and the business, and more. But, at the end of it all I’m confident in knowing that as long as I remain focused and work hard it will all pay off in the end.
It’s now been nearly three years since Return of the B-Girl, the mixtape that I think really introduced you to the larger hip-hop world. What’s changed for you in that time?
Since I released Return of the B-Girl a lot has changed for me especially in regards to growth, branding, and expanding my fan base. I’ve learned something different with every project in terms of flow, sound, tone, etc. until [my previous album] The Idea of Beautiful. On The Idea of Beautiful everything that I learned working on the mixtapes came together at one time with that album. I found my sound, my voice, and really carved a lane for myself. I was a lot more confident and the whole process was really natural. So, after that release I had a lot to build off with She Got Game. The recording process was a lot easier than past projects because I knew how to put inflection on certain words, and I learned to find different pockets in the beat. The growth musically was the biggest thing, and everything else was just a reflection of that.
Both as an artist, and as a businesswoman trying to turn your art into a career, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the importance of branding and creating something that a fan or consumer can trust. Whether we are talking in terms of music, soft drinks, shoes or the like, if your brand is connected with honesty and quality, you’re well on your way. Within that, I’ve learned that it takes time to build that trust and patience is important if you want your product to have longevity and a strong base. Lastly, to make sound decisions and relationships are important. So, always be professional and respectful. Technology has made the world a lot smaller than it is, and the markets we operate in are even smaller, so you want be known as one of the players that everyone respects. That alone can get you farther than you ever thought.
A lot of artists actively avoid the “role model” label, but it’s something you seem to have embraced. Do you feel a responsibility to the next generation?
I definitely feel a responsibility to the next generation. I make music because I love it, but I also know as I grow and become more successful I’m putting myself in a position that has the power to change lives and influence. I don’t take that responsibility lightly. I often think about my own childhood and how much of an influence artist like Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, Nas, MC Lyte, and Queen Latifah had on me; especially in relation to females in hip-hop. We don’t have a lot of balance for these little girls. I want to be another piece of a big picture and just show them a different side of womanhood, and how to be sexy without baring it all. That’s always been important to me.
What’s next for you?
Outside of pushing my latest release, She Got Game, by way of videos, touring, and the like, I will be working on the next Kooley High project, and my sophomore album. I’m really looking forward to finishing this Kooley High album, which will be executively produced by 9th Wonder, and sharing it with the world. I think our listeners will enjoy the new material a lot. Following the release of that project, I will release my sophomore album, and my label mate GQ and I are working on a project as well. It’s going to be a busy year to say the least. I wouldn’t want it any other way.