EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Rapsody has partnered with Crown Royal Apple for "The Royal Sessions" where emerging artists are able to showcase their talents. She spoke with us about her role as "The Royal Sessions" master of ceremonies, told us advice she has for budding artists, and shared why creatives shouldn't be afraid to slide into their favorite artists DMs for advice.
Prior to this pandemic that put the world on pause, there were already plenty of creative ways for artists to reach a global audience. Many of us are tuned in by apps, social media platforms, websites—you name it. Crown Royal Apple wanted to give a platform to up-and-coming artists to help them showcase their talents, so they created “The Royal Sessions." They reached out to Rapsody to act as their master of ceremonies, and as an artist who loves supporting her fellow creatives, the rapper accepted.
The Grammy-nominated emcee was more than thrilled to partner with the brand, especially as they made it their goal to bring more music to the culture from the intimacy of an artist's own home. “The Royal Sessions” has already featured artists like Chase B and Lion Babe, and on Thursday (May 21), DJ and visual artist Quiana Parks will take her turn.
“It is important for us to come together as a community of creators and support one another,” said Johannah Rogers, Senior Brand Manager, Crown Royal. “Crown Royal Regal Apple wants to empower artists who have lost opportunities and revenue during this unprecedented time, so we created The Royal Sessions to provide a stage to rising stars in the industry who can help us come together through our connection with the music, despite being apart.”
We had the pleasure of speaking with Rapsody about her partnership with Crown Royal for “The Royal Sessions" as well as all things related to creativity, music, and encouraging new talent. “[I] just [wanted] to show my support as well as support Crown and their efforts to empower and give a platform to these emerging artists," she said. "When they told me the idea I was excited about it, especially during a time like this when a lot of artists have to be creative on how to get their music out, how to reach their fans, [and] also how to make people feel good through art.”
When it comes to bringing art in its most authentic form, Rapsody is both an expert and an advocate. “I love what [Crown] represents,” she continued. “I look at their brand through the art, just how infused into the culture they are. They make themselves apart of the culture versus using the culture. When they came to me, I was excited to be apart of this opportunity just to help artists.”
Like “The Royal Sessions,” there has been an influx of Live music sets throughout various social media platforms. We wanted to know who Rapsody tuned into, and after singing Lion Babe’s praises (“I’ve been listening to Lion Babe for maybe the last five years. I love her artistry and what she represents to the culture”), the rapper admitted to being an avid fan of watching various DJs on the ones and twos.
“DJ D-Nice, of course, [with] like, half the world,” she said. “9th Wonder. A lot of times within the culture, the DJs are left out. We forget how important they are, just as much as the artist. The thing I like about seeing DJs rise is people remember that DJs are still the cornerstone of hip hop." Rapsody may be a respected emcee who many adore, but she treasures this moment as an admirer of her fellow artists as she’s able to share vulnerable moments with creators. “It makes you connect with the music they make even more.”
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Last year, Rapsody stopped hip hop fans in their tracks when she released her acclaimed album Eve that paid homage to influential black women. In a time when many artists are following similar sounds or riding the same waves, Rapsody has managed to successfully go against the grain while creating music that touches the soul of listeners who have their ears to the ground and hearts in hip hop. It isn’t easy being a person who walks their own path when the industry—or even the public—is vying for women in rap to fit a particular mold, but the North Carolina native has made it work.
“As an artist in the information age, it can take a lot out of you,” Rapsody said. “You have to keep up. It’s such a fast pace. You forget sometimes to breathe, to check in on yourself, to get to know yourself, to unlearn some things.” She recognized that this global pandemic has caused hardships for many, yet she said she quests to find a silver lining in it all. For Rapsody, she’s connecting with herself though “a lot of soul searching and revisiting ‘Who am I?’” She added, "It’s been exciting and very healing for me.”
Over the last few years, hip hop has lost a number of young artists whose lives were snuffed out before they were able to reach their potentials. Juice WRLD, XXXTentacion, Lil Peep, Pop Smoke, Lexii Alijai, Chynna Rogers, and Rapsody’s good friend Mac Miller are just a few artists who never received the opportunity to share all that they had to offer with the world. Everyone from culture commentators to fans to critics have all weighed in with opinions regarding what hip hop as a culture needs to do in order to protect or guide the emerging generation of entertainers. We were curious as to what encouragement Rapsody would have for young artists who are trying to navigate their way in an industry that can often feel like an uphill battle during a blizzard without a coat.
“To believe in yourself,” she began, noting that it’s a piece of advice that she’d received. “Trust the gift that was given to you. Your purpose is not like anybody else. The timing is not like anybody else. You are unique and your path, your journey, and your story is unique because it’s tailored to you.” It may sound like some simple piece of advice, but Rapsody added that if an artist truly understands this rule, then they're on their way to making pure, authentic art. She still relies on this, as she recognized that as much as she has put her heart and soul on wax, there are still parts of Rapsody that fans have never seen because she hasn’t felt comfortable. Still, she encourages other artists to walk without fear and take risks, including hitting up other creatives for support.
“The community in hip hop, in the culture, it’s a lot stronger than what people think,” she stated. “For myself, during this time, I’ve been wanting to learn something new outside of music. I was like, ‘Man, let me hit Lena Waithe because I have some questions.’ And she hit me back immediately! That surprised me! I should do this more.” If you can't muster up the courage to slide into Lena Waithe’s DMs with questions, Rapsody recommended tuning into Lives like “The Royal Sessions” to “just watch people create.”
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In many ways, Rapsody is a mystery. Even with 15-ish years under her belt, Rapsody has managed to hold aspects of herself close to the chest. We questioned her about who she is, removed from being Roc Nation's critically-acclaimed emcee, and wondered how the public can connect with that person walking in the shadows of the limelight. Before responding, she let out a laugh. “I guess the best way to answer that is to know Marlanna and not know Rapsody,” she said, mentioning her first name. “A lot of people know Rapsody.” A couple of spare minutes and a quick Google search can inform you of a few of the rapper’s favorite things, but that’s not necessarily the soul and essence of Marlanna Evans.
“I think now I wanna share a little bit of who Marlanna is. The person that is the biggest part of Rapsody, why Rapsody is the way she is and why she works the way she does,” the rapper continued. People have told her “I wanna know about your love life, what makes you cry, what you talk to your best friends about,” so she’s ready to introduce people to that side of herself. “A lot of things I’ve been through, I know a lot of other people have been through. Some people just need music to heal those times, to understand those times, to laugh at those times. That’s the space that I’m into now with art: Wanting and allowing other people to come into that space with me." We look forward to peeking in once the door is open.
Make sure to tune into "The Royal Sessions" Thursday at 9 p.m. to catch Rapsody along with DJ and visual artist Quiana Parks over on Instagram at @quianaparks.