Mia X's Legacy Stands Tall after 35 years in the game


by Brooklyn White

Who is the queen of southern rap? That’s a loaded, borderline unfair question. In the early days of rap, up until the mid-nineties, rap was certainly a coastal game. That’s not to say women artists in the south weren’t making music - they just weren’t the face of it, nor was the overall culture even prepared to digest a southern male act. Women like Salt N Pepa, MC Lyte, and Lil Kim dominated, and it made sense. Hip-Hop was born and bred in New York, and crept over to the west for brutal and spirited perspectives. In 1995 the south was ready for its close up, with a young, freshly booed Andre 3000 proclaiming that “the south got something to say” at that year’s Source Awards.

The tides began to turn, and the music that was reserved for basements and hydraulicized whips went mainstream. But the question of which woman out of the South reigns supreme remains. Some say Trina, the Dominican/Bahamian vixen who entranced listeners with her sexually charged cuts. Others say Three Six Mafia’s first ladies Gangsta Boo and La Chat (who have begrudgingly observed a second wave of the sacreligious, horrifying sound they helped innovate). And others will argue that Virginia’s Afrofuturistic, fashion forward storyteller Missy Elliott is the true standout talent of the south. Truthfully, none of that matters. Choosing a singular monarch is both unnecessary and divisive. But if we are going to discuss the southern women who reconfigured rap, Mia X has to be a part of the conversation.

During my teen years, I would watch a now deleted YouTube clip of Master P’s “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” The track’s lineup was incredible and filled with heroes from my home state, Louisiana. The video is five minutes of a superteam of dirty south rappers trying to make the crowd jump, while in the middle of a high energy basketball game. But who stood out to me the most was the lone female MC, a beautiful brown skinned woman with a slick hairstyle, long acrylic nails, impeccable makeup and a clover-green jersey set.

Here was a woman, in a music video, who wasn’t light skinned or a size two. Mia X was surrounded by several rowdy men, some of whom were off beat, and not only held her own lyrically, but also showed people that a woman who rapped didn’t have to look a certain way to be sexy, or successful. She was effortlessly both. And this transformative representation gave me the inspiration I needed to jump start a rap career of my own.

Mia began rapping in the mid 1980’s, as a member of a DJ crew with another 504 musician, Mannie Fresh. They would throw parties around the city as teenagers, and Mia would battle rap as well. Her debut project Da Payback would come in 1993. The title track was a nearly 8-minute-long bounce record, overflowing with advice for women who wanted to get the creme de la creme from poorly endowed tricks. It’s an easy listen, with Mia’s commanding voice remaining the track’s center, even as the beat endures several timely switch ups. Da Payback is reminiscent of what people envision when they think of New Orleans. Though it is a long-time land of poverty and site for natural disasters, people have this grand daydream of Mardi Gras parades on Bourbon Street, pressed up-do’s sitting atop smiling faces, and honey-colored bodies bouncing in the sunlight. It is the best of New Orleans, while being unafraid to talk about life in the hood.

Her cadence is Nola-fied through and through - “pay” becomes “peh” and and “away” loses it’s hard “y” as well. This vocal style allowed Mia to cultivate a following as she released her first full length album, 1995’s Good Girl Gone Bad, Unlady Like in 1997, and Mama Drama in 1998-the second and third of which have since gone platinum and double platinum, respectively. Mama Drama spawned a Charlie Wilson assisted classic “What’cha Wanna Do”, which made its way to the Billboard Hot 100. (Yes, before Wilson was rocking straight backs and habitually adding flavor to hip hop joints, he collaborated with Mia X.) Then at the height of her success, at age 29, X retired to take care of her family. She has since battled and defeated uterine cancer and dedicated time to another passion of hers: cooking.

Women in rap come in all sizes and shades, though the sad fact remains that fatphobia and colorism hinder some artists’ career trajectories. Nonetheless there are women rappers who are enjoying comfortable, respected careers. The southern half of America has been the soil for rappers like Asian Doll and Chika, who discuss their surroundings, upbringings and relationships with vivid detail. It’s not a stretch to say that a space for them would exist without Mia X. Her vivid rhymes, proximity to one of the biggest rap collectives of all time, and ability to meander between battle rap and charting singles are some of the reasons why she goes down in history as a matriarch of Hip-Hop. Her legacy is strong, after 35 years of sonning anyone who would dare step to her.

Songs That Remind Me of Home


by Jojo Parker

One Christmas, maybe a year or two before Hurricane Katrina, I was gifted a portable CD player and the Black Eyed Peas album Monkey Business. It was my favorite and most used gift at the time, despite having to hold it a certain angle to avoid skipping songs. There was nothing more powerful to me than listening to music on my own; creating a personal relationship with the notes, bars, melodies and words spoken without influence from others. To this day I prefer listening to music by myself with headphones in. But when Hurricane Katrina changed the space wherein I listened to music, my relationship with it changed. Songs became reflections of the homes—or lack thereof—I had.

"Choppa Style" was played everywhere in my pre-Katrina childhood-on the radio and at every function. The song sounds exactly like the city it represents: loud and boisterous on the surface, unexpectedly slow in some parts and repetitive enough to inspire participation, down to the call and response section in the middle. But outside of the noise and fun, it remains a grim reminder of my broken and dysfunctional family life. My parents went from arguing a lot to not speaking at all during my youth, and now the song represents a home that was broken before it even began.

I once asked my mom if she would scream in response when Choppa said "If you hate your baby daddy holla (Ooww)." Her response: "of course.” I don't think my mom hates my dad now, but I no longer speak to him, which could be a result of her willingness to scream out in joy about her hatred for him. I also have no doubt in my mind that my dad screamed "Oh yeah!" in response to the call out "If you hate your baby mamma holla" too.

Then home moved, blown away by 175 mile per hour winds and the instability of my single parent home. We found our footing in Houston, where everything became chopped and screwed. Growing up in a new city was hard and the older I got the less secure I grew with myself. I was reminded of these uncertainty when "These Days" by Z-Ro would play in the car.

Z-Ro's low voiced lyrical lament, "and these days / seem like where I go the fake taking over like real ain't cool no more / and these days / don't nobody show love / instead of lending a helping hand they want to see blood," would always feel like a direct commentary on my lack of connection to the people around me and, by proxy, Houston itself. Sure, it was home for a while, but it wasn't a home I understood.

I tried my best to fit in, dressing and talking in ways I had hoped would would give me the approval of my white peers. It was an attempt escape the “Katrina kid” label I previously held in elementary school—a label that was only placed on the Black kids. Thus, I leaned towards the emo pop-rock that congregated the music charts. One of the only Hip-Hop songs I had on my phone was "Crack a Bottle" by Eminem, which I would play after school with my crew at the time.

It was the crew that made feel at home, that made me feel safe and with whom I did not have to compromise my being. But as with most things, that sense of belonging was only temporary. One day friend got annoyed when I played the song yet again, angrily stating that they wanted to hear something else. I floundered. I didn't have anything else to play that would produce that same level of camaraderie. I was embarrassed to learn that, just like me, there was no staying power in "Crack a Bottle"; it didn't always belong; it fell out of favor fast.

Hurricane Katrina didn't keep us from visiting family when possible. 6-hour car rides were filled with gas station snacks and my mom’s infinitely large CD collection, which she would cycle through regardless of scratches, skips, or complete breaks. One song that always stood out to me was "More than Friends" from Estelle's second album Shine.

It wasn't the thesis of the song that got me. Instead it was the lyrics, "wonder why, wonder why, wonder why / why must we pretend," that always rang true. Every time we went back home, it didn't feel like home. Sure I was born in New Orleans and partially raised there, but I was losing almost all connection to the place. I felt like I was just pretending to be from New Orleans. I wasn't from Houston, but I was no longer from New Orleans either. I was just pretending to have a place that I could call home and I didn't want to anymore. But I really wasn't presented with any other options.

In my life, there is no pure definition of home. There is no one singular place that I can describe as belonging to. However, there are songs that bring me back to moments in time; lyrics that take to places that no longer stand; bass lines that conjure up car rides; and melodies that lay truth to my sense of belonging. Maybe one day I will have a finite and tactile place to call home. But for now I have an infinite amount of intimate little moments in songs that remind me of home.

On The Timeless Impact Of Tweet's "My Place"


by Charne Graham

Tweet’s sultry vocals were first heard in Sugah, a trio of singers signed to Devante Swing’s Swing Mob imprint that included herself, Susan Weems and Rolita White. While working under Devante, she met fellow Swing mob artists Timbaland, Magoo, Playa, Ginuwine, Renee Anderson and Missy Elliott. When Sugah dismantled Tweet returned home, depressed, suicidal and no longer making music. In 2001 Missy asked Tweet to deliver backing vocals on her album Miss E... So Addictive. A year later Tweet released her debut Southern Hummingbird. And while the two hit radio singles “Oops (Oh my)” and “Call Me” remain classics, “My Place” stands out.

Powerful songwriting and a limitless approach to layering harmonies define Tweet’s music. This skill is on display on “My Place,” which follows the vulnerable intro poem “So Much to Say.”  On it, Tweet opens up about giving up on life, love and contemplating suicide: “A handful full of pills and a Plan B, I wanted nothing to do with life or what was to become of me.” What follows is a song about starting over and inviting a new love into her home.

In the first verse Tweet sings,

“And I picked up a joy to my face/My heart beats faster than a regular pace/And I'm not sure of what it is/I asked my mother to help me with it/ And she said ‘Daughter, you reached a jones and that's real lovin, so carry on’”

This verse signals the start of something fresh. Tweet is not only anxious about beginning a new love, but she is equally anticipating confirmation of her feelings from a maternal figure. What follows is an urgency in Tweet’s request for her lover’s presence, and then a detailed explanation of how long she’s waited for them to get there. It’s a display of familiarity and sisterhood that helps listeners relate their tales of love and romance to Tweet. My Place” is more than a song about longing and lust. It’s for the women who have waited patiently for love. Who were close to giving up but held on.

Time hasn’t lessened the impact of her this iconic track one bit. Here’s a look at three of the best songs that sampled “My Place.”

Bryson Tiller - “No Longer Friends”

Produced by Gravez and Swiff D, “No Longer Friends” is the second track on Tiller’s sophomore album True to Self. This song is all about Tiller being the homie your girl always told you “not to worry about” but ultimately the truth comes out that they aren’t just the friends they seem to be. You can hear Tweet’s hypnotizing harmonies throughout this song.

Goldlink - “Dance on Me”

Goldlink’s “Dance on Me” is produced by Milo Mills & Hasta on his 2015 sophomore album And After That, We Didn't Talk. This track took a more uptempo approach to “My Place” using the same sampled instrumental but sped up with a BPM that makes it hard to sit still or hold up a wall.  The concept of this song was to simply be carefree, enjoy yourself, and dance. It’s less about staying in and being booed up, and more about being out and shaking something. Something like this.

IamSu! feat. Ty Dolla $ign and Terrace Martin  - “Float”

This 2013 collab was the Cali trio we all needed. “Float” is produced by Kuya Beats and featured on Iamsu’s Kilt 2 and Ty Dolla $ign’s Beach House 2. This song took a lustful approach to blending the genres of rap from Iamsu, R&B from Ty Dolla $ign and jazz from Terrance Martin. The unique and somewhat unconventional love song is all about the hopes of a physical future with someone as “My Place” does but there does not seem to have that same patient anticipation.

On Tierra Whack's Surrealist Hip-Hop World


by DeAsia Page

I arrived to Tierra Whack’s Whack World world a bit late, six months after its release to be exact. Nonetheless my arrival introduced me to an artist who fused playful yet thought-provoking lyrics with avant-garde visuals. Who used juxtaposed images reminiscent of work by artists like Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes. Who carved out a space for herself aside pioneers in Afrofuturism and Afrosurrealism so that she too could create her own world.

Whack World, with its 15 one-minute long tracks, invites listeners to the world of the Philadelphia native. On “4 Wings” she compares her toughness to spicy chicken wings. On “Pet Cemetery” she tells listeners that she’s mourning the loss of her homie and fellow Philadelphia rapper Hulitho, who passed away last year. On “Fruit Salad” she proudly sings about loving her body and not changing it for anyone. On “Hungry Hippo” Whack raps about how she doesn’t need a man to give her the finer things in life because she can already afford them.

The accompanying visuals incorporate both Afrosurrealism and Afrofuturism, as juxtaposing colors tied with futuristic clothing is a dominant theme throughout her videos.The term Afrosurrealism was originally coined by poet and music critic Amiri Baraka in 1974, but the form of expression is further explained in a manifesto by D.Scot Miller in which he explains that Afrosurrealism focuses on creating a juxtaposition between images in the present day, while Afrofuturism focuses on the intersection of blackness and technology.

Much like these two philosophies, Whack’s world is not bound by conventional notions of creativity, representation, or white structures of “normalcy.” 15 scenes, from decorating a taxidermied dog to dancing with sock puppets in a pet cemetery, magically connect tales of love and loss with the desire for success and healing. It’s an affirming representation of Black womanhood, reminding listeners and viewers that we can and will feel multiple things at once. An affirmation that is important in Hip-Hop, where Black women are often sexualized, stereotyped and rarely given autonomy over their narratives. In her “Whack World,” Tierra independently creates an avenue where she has agency over her body and her image.

Whack’s “Mumbo Jumbo” was nominated for Best Music Video at this year’s Grammy awards. Her debut as a whole landed on multiple year-end music lists-NPR (ranked #10), Rolling Stone (ranked #37) and Complex (ranked #16). However the mainstream attention Tierra Whack has received doesn’t validate the quality of her music. “Whack World” would’ve still been one of 2018’s best albums without the recognition from NPR and other music outlets. However, it certainly adds another woman to a pool of women rappers who often get overshadowed by their male counterparts or the now “dead” competition between Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. Tierra Whack, with her surrealist imagery and beautiful storytelling, is setting the tone for the future of how Black women in Hip-Hop should be received in the mainstream.

The Inherent Afrofuturism of Sampling

Mtume, whose cut “Juicy Fruit” was sampled on the Notorious B.I.G hit “Juicy”

Mtume, whose cut “Juicy Fruit” was sampled on the Notorious B.I.G hit “Juicy”

By Nadirah Simmons

Much of the conversation around Afrofuturism and how it operates within music centers the performers themselves, focusing on their fashion, instruments and lyrics. It makes sense, and is part of the reason why artists like Sun Ra, George Clinton, Parliament Funkadelic, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, Janelle Monae and others on a list that is far too long to write here in its entirety are positioned as the embodiments of the philosophy. This sentiment is valid, but my conclusion on how Afrofuturism presents itself not just in music, but in Hip-Hop more specifically, is an often overlooked point: how the music itself is created. If Afrofuturism is an exploration of the intersection of the African diaspora and technology, then sampling in Hip-Hop-a process in which classic cuts often made by Black Soul artists are integrated using digital hardware or software-is inherently Afrofuturistic. 

Thomas Porcello describes digital sampling as one’s ability to encode a fragment of sound, from one to several seconds in duration, in a digitized binary form which can then be stored in computer memory. He adds that “this stored sound may be played back through a keyboard, with its pitch and tonal qualities accurately reproduced or, as is often the case, manipulated through electronic editing.” That ability to store a fragment of sound in something or someone’s memory with certainty that it will be played back at a later point in time is not just central to the technical side of sampling, but also to the ears of any human who enjoys music. In fact, it is this notion that arguably makes sampling in Hip-Hop so great.

Music is characteristically communal, especially within the context of Black communities. A quick examination of the role music played in slavery to the creation of genres like Blues and Hip-Hop asserts this fact. So it should come as no surprise that my fondest childhood memories involve myself and an elder, riding around in the car listening to music and rapping or singing along to a song. But beyond rapping JAY-Z’s Reasonable Doubt word for word along with my dad and picking out tapes so I could sing the O’Jays and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes with my Pop-Pop was the moment these two worlds meshed, the generations of my father and my father’s father.

Anyone born into my family is musical by default, and at the age of five we definitely knew the words to songs that came out when our grandparents were young. That being said, I’m not quite sure when I recognized my first sample. Nonetheless I vividly remember a younger me picking up on The Stylistics’ “Hurry Up This Way Again” in JAY-Z’s “Politics As Usual.” Ski Beatz had managed to flip a song released 16 years prior about a man longing for his lost love into a track that details both the highs and lows of hustling. Ytasha L. Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, says that Afrofuturism can be “a total re-envisioning of the past and speculation about the future rife with cultural critiques.” Thus “Politics As Usual” is more than just JAY-Z rapping over a sample of a classic. It is also a musical representation of past, present and future. 

What gets tricky is when sampling is done not-so-well or at the disapproval of the original artist themselves. Every flip is not going to be as seamless as Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit” into the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” and drawing upon the music of our elders without their consent can land you in court-think Leroy Hutson suing Jeezy over the sample on “Time.” Yet what cannot be denied, as author Greg Tate notes, is that “sampling is a way of collapsing all eras of music onto a chip – a digitized race memory.”

It’s hard to imagine Hip-Hop without sampling. Not only would many of our favorite songs cease to exist, but we would lose the musical borrowings that have and continue to create a lineage between Hip-Hop and older genres of Black music such as Funk, Soul and R&B. Afrofuturist music goes far beyond simply how an artist dresses, their lyrical subject matter and the tenets they practice in their daily lives. Afrofuturism takes on the role of forging a path for our future as Black people, and asserts that history should remain a part of identity, especially in the context of our race. And the inherent Afrofuturism in sampling asserts where we’ve been, where we are and that we are always going to be here.

On Missy Elliott & The Future: Why Black Girls Need Afrofuturism

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by Nadirah Simmons

I was a kid when I saw it in Missy Elliott’s video for “Sock It 2 Me.” I saw it again when I watched TLC’s video for “No Scrubs.” I heard it on Brandy’s “What About Us?” But I didn’t know what to call it until college. “It," is Afrofuturism.

Historically when the future is imagined in tv, music and film it is seen through a white lens. In 2016, Vox pointed out that “only 8% of the top grossing sci-fi and fantasy films featured a protagonist of color,” half of which were played by Will Smith (‘Hancock,’ ‘I Am Legend,’ ‘Independence Day,’ ‘Men in Black’). They added that there are less than twelve Black characters in the entire Star Trek franchise. There was only one in the original Star Wars trilogy. Zero in The Jetsons. And, only one episode of what I will argue is the greatest sci-fi show of all time, The Twilight Zone, featured an all-Black principal cast.

Growing up I didn’t watch 'Phil of the Future.' Or 'Ben 10.' Or 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars.' And the sci-fi shows that I did watch, like Dexter’s Laboratory, rarely featured any Black people.

A bad precedent is set when marginalized groups are presented with depictions of the future that do not include people who look like them. And in the case of little Black girls who learn at a young age just how powerful racism and misogyny can be, visions of the future are essential.

Brandy’s Full Moon was the second album I bought with my own money (the first one was Michael Jackson’s Invincible). I was 8 years old, and remember hearing the futuristic sound crafted by clinking noises and synths and turning into the Michael Jackson meme: “I love this song!”

The video took me over the edge. Brandy was in some world where gravity didn’t exist surrounded by silvery men in chains. It was the future, and it was amazing! It didn’t take long for me to become fascinated (read: obsessed) with images of the future in music created by Black women. And these images, with all their robots, cyborg themes, android shapes and shiny metallics, weren’t hard to find.

Though the term wasn’t coined until 1994 by cultural critic Mark Dery in his essay “Black to the Future,” the first Afrofuturistic approach to music dates back to Sun Ra in the 1950s. Ra led “The Arkestra,” with whom he recorded music that drew from hard bop and modal sources, and crafted space-themed titles to reflect his connection of ancient African culture to the Space Age. The same ideas can be found in the music of George Clinton and his bands Parliament and Funkadelic.

When Dery first put a name to the philosophy, he posed questions that built the foundation for its importance:

Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures? Furthermore, isn’t the unreal estate of the future already owned by the technocrats, futurologists, streamliners, and set designers ― white to a man ― who have engineered our collective fantasies?

For people like Sun Ra, Afrofuturism was a form of liberation, to free Black people from white supremacy. For filmmaker and author Ytasha Womack Afrofuturism is “The intersection between black culture, technology, liberation, and the imagination, with some mysticism thrown in, too.” Whatever it means for different people, one constant remains: Afrofuturism imagines a future shaped by Blackness and Black history. And for Black women it means that much more.

It is impossible to talk about Afrofuturism without talking about Missy Elliott. Her debut album ‘Supa Dupa Fly’ dropped in 1997 and was recorded and produced solely by Timbaland, whose futuristic beats, muffle ad-libs and warped effects created a sound that was quite literally out of this world. The video for the album’s first single "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" found Missy sporting an inflated trash bag during a fisheye lens shot in a silvery room. “The music that we make is futuristic,” said Missy in a behind-the-scenes interview for the video. The video for "Sock It 2 Me" only confirmed this sentiment, as it placed Missy, Lil’ Kim, Da Brat and Timbaland in outer space planet hopping to flee their attackers. The video for the third single, ”Beep Me 911,” finds Missy, Magoo and 702 reimagined as robotic dolls, staggering across illuminated backgrounds reminiscent of starry skies and all I can say is yes!

Missy explores sci-fi themes in much of her work, using outer space, superpowers and other fantasy elements to create imagery rooted in a conceptualization of the time to come. Imagery of Black people that had not been seen before.

TLC’s “No Scrubs,” Blaque’s “808,” Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson’s “What’s It Gonna Be,” Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody,” Erykah Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know,” Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N.,” the visuals are endless. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t dance in the mirror and imagine that I was in the same silvery anti-gravity cube they were in when I was a kid.

Little Black girls need Afrofuturism because we need a way to visualize a future. A future where Black women are inventors, warriors and heroes capable of anything.

DJ Goldielocks On Leaving New Orleans After Katrina, Confronting Fear And More

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by Nadirah Simmons

The best part about talking to DJ Goldielocks was when she mentioned the word “tribe.” Defined as “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect,” there’s no doubt how important tribes are to creatives, especially when they are Black and women. For Goldielocks, a tribe that supports, encourages and uplifts its members is all she can be around. And it shows.

Not only did our conversation find us bonding over our disdain with how SoundCloud has evolved and our love for Megan Thee Stallion, but most importantly the desire to see us all win-from the DJs to the journalists to the hairstylists. That’s rare to hear right off the bat when talking to someone you barely know, but Goldielocks emphasized it whenever she could during our conversation.

We talked to her about her introduction to DJing, the lasting effect living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina has had on her, her dream person to DJ for and more.

I’m so jealous, you’re from New Orleans and I’ve been trying to go to for years. Do you stay there?
I stay in Dallas, Fort Worth. But most of my work is in Dallas.

Well I know what the music scene is like down there. How did it influence you musically?
I can speak to what it was like when I was there. When I was younger everybody used to be at the block party t-popping-that’s tootsie popping. And I remember hearing Big Freedia and hearing Magnolia Shorty and hearing DJ Jubilee and being excited. I met Juvenile for the first time when I was six or seven after the Second Line. But the musical scene down there is so diverse and different. It’s literally gumbo, a little bit of jazz, a little bit of Hip-Hop, a little bit of bounce, a little bit of blues.

[Laughs] Yes to the gumbo!
And while my mom is from New Orleans my dad is from Mobile, Alabama. So I had diverse music in my upbringing. My mom hipped me to India Arie and Kanye and OutKast. I used to think she could’ve been a DJ because she hipped me to so much.

When did you move to Texas?
I went through Katrina. I don’t like to call myself a refugee, I call myself a survivor because I’m a citizen of this country. After Katrina they put us on a plane and we didn’t know where we were going and we ended up in Fort Smith, Arkansas. From there my mom was a traveling nurse at the time so she was able to go to Little Rock for an assignment and then to Dallas, and we stayed with one of her friends for a year and then she sent for us.

You were so young. And I think as a kid from up north who was young when it happened, a lot of people like me forget how deadly Katrina was. And how damaged the community still is. 
We were in the convention center, and my mom just started going back two years ago. Katrina was fifteen years ago. I could’ve lost my mother. When she was going to WalMart she had to get some food to feed her kids-she had me and my cousins…As a twelve year old I saw dead fetuses. I had to move a dead body. I’ve had to use the bathroom outdoors. And not being able to take a bath for days. Getting ran over by a stampede of people. All at twelve. But that’s my story and I tell it, it’s only fuel for the fire. 

When did you get your start in DJing? 
I was really into Slim K and Rob Gallardo. They have this mixtape series Purple Children. I had started listening to it and I thought it was so dope. I went into the music and listened to the transitions and how they would chop stuff. I was like man I want to do this.

I was working at Waffle House over the summer between semesters and one of the popular DJs was a regular, Captain Charles. I started telling him I wanted to be a DJ and he told me he had a couple of boards he wasn’t using and that he would bring them to me. A week or two later he came with it.

I took it home and the first song I ever chopped was “Say Yes” by Floetry.

What? I need to hear that!
It’s locked away on SoundCloud. It’s horrible [laughs]. After that I would DJ in my room, people would try to get me gigs on campus and I was nervous. I didn’t start DJing in the public until this year when I moved to Fort Worth.

What was holding you back before?
Fear. Fear of failing. I never wanted to go out in front of a crowd and fuck up.

What is the environment like in Fort Worth and Dallas?
Nobody’s double crossed me, everybody genuinely wants to see everybody win.

Do you remember your worst DJ experience?
Yes. It was on my birthday. I arrived and the people didn’t have anything set up and they were giving attitudes. I ended up not playing until 30 minutes into the event. But it was whatever, what happened was after the event was over. I had to drive back to Dallas to get my check. They didn’t pay me that night.

What does making it look like for you?
Making it means not worrying about where my next check is coming from. I want to be happy. I wan’t my family to be good. I want those around me to eat. And I want to be a DJ for an artist one day.

Do you have an artist in mind?
I don’t know if Ari Lennox needs a DJ but I will deadass abandon everything [laughs]. If Mac was still here I would’ve loved to work with Mac.

Aw you are about to make me cry. That guy was my favorite.
Swimming is it!

Roxanne Roxanne is The Best Film of 2018


by Melissa Kimble

One might forget that Roxanne Shanté was only a teenager when she changed the game. But a viewing of Roxanne Roxanne, the Netflix film about the rap powerhouse born Lolita Shanté Gooden, will remind you. The rap battle champ had been destroying her competition since childhood and by the time she was 13 she solidified her spot with “Roxanne’s Revenge.” Her story, brought to life by creative and film powerhouses Nina Yang Bongiovi and Mimi Valdés, was named one Netflix's most watched films of the year. And as the first biopic to center a female rapper and tell her incredible story through an incredible cast, Roxanne Roxanne is the best movie of 2018. Period.

The movie is a necessary piece of music history. From the door knockers to the matching fur coats for couples to the spray painted shirts, the style of the 80s is on full display. Add this to the makeup of the families and communities in the Queensbridge Houses, and the film gives viewers a full mirror look at “the Golden era of Hip-Hop.” Without a doubt, Shanté’s indelible mark on the industry is still felt today, every time your favorite rappers take shots at each other. Just as JJ Fad opened the door for NWA, Roxanne Shante opened the door for rap battles as we know them today. The film takes you through her journey, explaining why the pioneer’s star didn’t shine as bright as one would’ve hoped due to issues with money and managers in the industry.

Beyond this, the cast provides a stellar and sturdy foundation for an important story. In her first role, newcomer Chante Adams, is undeniable as Roxanne Shanté. Although she was born after this historic era, Chante delivers the tenacity and passion of the young rapper with ease and a strong on screen presence. “I think Chanté was born for the part. Her parents made her for me,” the real Shanté told the New York Times. The weight of carrying the role of a Hip-Hop legend is grounded by two legends in their own right - Nia Long and Mahershala Ali.

Considered by DJ Booth as “the most Hip-Hop man in Hollywood”, Mahershala is heartbreakingly evil as Cross, the older drug dealer that Shanté falls in love with. However their relationship turns sour when it becomes abusive. Mahershala masterfully plays the antagonist - gracefully evil, cool and demanding. It’s equally as delightful to see Nia Long shine as Shante’s mother - full of depth, grit, and a rawness. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Long had a connection to Roxanne.

“I was singing her records in the bathroom mirror with my braces, bangs, ponytail and red lipstick,” she told the Times. “You never know how things that shaped your life as a girl will come back and reshape your life.”

The Roxanne Shanté story also finds our hero navigating sexual advances from men and addressing the physical abuse she endured at the hands of her lover. This isn’t your average coming-of-age story. This also isn’t permission for you to feel sorry for her. The beauty in this film is that it presents Black girls and Black women in a way that doesn’t celebrate our pain but instead highlights our resilience. And in the midst of the #MeToo movement, founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke, the movie tells her story through the lens of power, not weakness. She knew who she was from an early age and despite the struggles stood up for herself. And in a year where rap beefs have been crazy (see Cardi vs. Nicki), it’s great to see the one of the originators, a 13-year-old girl who out-rapped grown men, finally getting her flowers with Roxanne Roxanne. Roxanne Shanté inspires us to never stay silent. Here’s to more of our stories seeing the light.

Melissa Kimble, who splits her time between Chicago and Brooklyn, is a writer, digital strategist, and founder of #blkcreatives, a collective that advocates for Black genius across across Creative industries.