Ladies First: Rapsody On Hip Hop's 50th & Women's Influence On The Culture

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Photo provided by Publicist, D'usse

Exclusive Interview: Rapsody is just as excited to celebrate 50 years of Hip Hop as we are! We caught up with the femcee to talk D'usse's HH50 Day Parties, what she wants to see from the culture, & to hear about the women in her life who have been a shoulder to lean on.

In this era of Hip Hop history, women have been dominating the culture. A voice that has reverberated for years above the masses is Rapsody, a femcee who began carving out her space in Hip Hop over 20 years ago. Rapsody, born Marlanna Evans, grew up in the small town of Snow Hill, North Carolina, and as a child, she admired women lyricists whose pens were mightier than their swords. It is no surprise that Rapsody has not only amassed great success in the industry but has become a coveted voice within the culture. Albums like Eve and Laila's Wisdom show that she is both a student and a teacher regarding R.A.P.—"Rhythm And Poetry."

We're honoring 50 years of Hip Hop this year, and the celebrations haven't ceased. What was birthed in The Bronx has become an international phenomenon, and brands like D'Usse Cognac are curating events to highlight such a milestone. Founded by Jay-Z, D'usse has been a staple in Hip Hop. They specially curated a series of must-attend Day Parties, and over the weekend, Rapsody was with the brand in Houston, where we caught up with her. We talked about the significance of this milestone and her vision for the next 50 years of Hip Hop.

"I want to see, you know, a lot more women owning labels, producing. Just taking on all those roles that men have dominated for years. Because we're talented, we're worthy, we have value. We're heavy hitters in change."

Read through our chat with venerated emcee Rapsody to check out what she had to say about D'Usse holding down Hip Hop, her desire to see more women take their deserved places at the forefront of the culture, and why it's important for her at this stage of her life to remove the veil of celebrity that often keeps her at arm's length from her fans.

This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

HNHH: Thank you so much for speaking with us! Let's jump right in—tell us all about the D'Usse event in Houston and this year's ongoing Hip Hop 50 celebrations.

Rapsody: I thought the event was amazing. To come together in Houston, which is, you know, one of the major cities that's contributed a lot to Hip Hop. And women that have come from here! Just to come through and celebrate 50 years of that it has been amazing. And to do it with D'Usse, we know how important Hip Hop has been, especially to the liquor brands.

As you know, [D'Usse is] one brand that we've always helped uplift, but to do it in this way, I think it's amazing. D'Usse is a representation of Hip Hop, they go hand in hand. We had a good time, Houston came out,! We went through South music, I brought some East Coast music. It was just a beautiful evening. That's what Hip Hop was created—to bring people together, to celebrate our individuality, our community, and that's what it felt like here tonight.

The celebrations of Hip Hop's 50th anniversary are putting our pioneers back in the forefront. What are your hopes for the future of the culture?

Aw, man. It's been 50 years, and when I think about the future, I mean, I hope we continue to, you know, expand in our creativity. I love to see Hip Hop continue to build and grow in the space of education. I think that's so important. We have so much power there. And I want to see, you know, a lot more women owning labels, producing. Just taking on all those roles that men have dominated for years. Because we're talented, we're worthy, we have value. We're heavy hitters in change. I was talking to somebody the other day, and it's like, Kool Herc had that party back then because his sister needed money to go back to school to get clothes. It was something. So, women have always been a part of the culture, and I want to see us really represented in all spaces.

Exactly! The contributions from women in Hip Hop are endless. Who were some of the women that have been a shoulder for you to lean on? Who has offered up words of wisdom in your times of need?

Man, my Hip Hop community when it comes to women? I don't want to forget anybody! First, I would say Rah Digga. She was the first woman in Hip Hop that ever created with me on a record. And that meant a lot. Like, she was the beginning of me knowing what sisterhood looked like in this business. And Chaka Pilgrim, who, when I signed the Roc Nation, she was the president of Roc Nation. And she just taught me so much in a short period of time before she transitioned on to her next career path. But, you know, she was always there with words of wisdom, encouragement, support...anything I needed.

The same with the current president Shari Bryant. She's been like a rock star and a great example of what a woman looks like in those spaces and how supportive that is for our village. MC Lyte—that's the big sister. Queen Latifah. Missy Elliott. Misa Hylton, a legend. Icon. She's been, you know, a huge, huge factor in my life. Probably the biggest, and has taught me so many things. I could go on and on! But those are some.

That's beautiful. I love to hear that. So, there are several ways that the industry is honoring Hip Hop's 50th. What is something that you're looking forward to this year? Or what is a highlight that you've already experienced?

Man, okay. I have short-term memory loss! [laughs] A Hip Hop 50 event that I'm looking forward to? Let me think. I've been a part of several, but—the anniversary, true anniversary, we're celebrating all year, but it's in August, right? So, I'm really looking forward to those events, because I know they're gonna be big.

I'm actually doing one in New York with Rakim and a bunch of other artists. So, to do an event like that in celebration of 50 years in Hip Hop, and to do it with a legend like Rakim and so many other artists, and to have representation of the newer generation with myself, I'm really looking forward to that. What the crowd looks like, the age spectrum that I know will be represented. So, I'm excited about that.

This is my last question for you. I actually asked you this a few years back when I interviewed you then. Alright, so we all know that celebrity is an illusion. People, whether it be fans, labels, management, PR, etc.—they have expectations of who you are or who you should be. There's a veil, sometimes purposeful, that keeps the public from connecting because they often get caught up in the illusion of the entertainment industry. So, what is something about you—the heart of who you are, not as the artist Rapsody, but as a person—that doesn't always translate to the world because that illusion shadows it?

Wow, that's an amazing question! We were talking about this earlier. And that's been a big growth point for me, these last three years, is taking off the veil. I think the biggest misconception for people with me is that I'm not perfect. I'm just as human as you are. I tell people I always want to show up as a representation or reflection that we are one and the same. I see myself in everybody, and I hope they see themselves in me. And that's what—yeah, just connecting with people on a human level.

I don't want to be the artist that people want to be like or emulate. And I don't want to be the one that they just look at as a sex symbol and want to have sex with. I want to be the girl next door, your home girl. And I think that might be the biggest disconnect for me. That, yo, I just want to be the home girl. You know, to let you know that it's perfect to be imperfect. I have stretch marks, I have a mole, I have all these perfections, and there's still beauty in that. We all look the same, you know, so that would be it for me.

About The Author
Erika Marie is a seasoned journalist, editor, and ghostwriter who works predominantly in the fields of music, spirituality, mental health advocacy, and social activism. The Los Angeles editor, storyteller, and activist has been involved in the behind-the-scenes workings of the entertainment industry for nearly two decades. E.M. attempts to write stories that are compelling while remaining informative and respectful. She's an advocate of lyrical witticism & the power of the pen. Favorites: Motown, New Jack Swing, '90s R&B, Hip Hop, Indie Rock, & Punk; Funk, Soul, Harlem Renaissance Jazz greats, and artists who innovate, not simply replicate.