What Are We to Do with the Term "Female Rapper?"

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The phrase “females” is word drenched in disrespect, but “female rappers” provides a seemingly necessary differentiation, a question on the latter’s place in Hip-Hop’s lexicon demands a discussion. 

The word “female” in reference to human women, is simply not it. The adjective, which has transformed into a “bronoun” as described by rapper Le1f, has a stench to it. Firstly, “female” reduces a person to biological anatomy, making it inherently transphobic. Also, when men say “females,” it feels as if there’s a disconnect and the respect that every person should be entitled to, is missing. The term was present during Jermaine Dupri’s recent interview with People-yes, the one where he disrespected an entire collective of hardworking artists.Dupri lightly sighed and said “females?” after the hosts asked who his favorite woman in Hip-Hop was. Only the hosts didn’t say “woman in Hip-Hop.” They said females, too. And that’s the issue.

In 2012, during one of the BET Hip-Hop Awards’ cyphers, South African rapper Jean Grae started her verse with the line “2012, stop saying femcee.” Four years later, The Source published a piece detailing the importance of the word, saying “...naysayers claim the term takes away from the important contributions women have made to the genre and makes them seem less important than male artists by putting them in separate categories. Others approve of the colloquial nickname and see it as a form of empowerment. Why wouldn’t female rappers want to be associated with the other trailblazers of the femcee movement?” It’s confusing - there are times when one would want it to be clear that they are exclusively referring to the women of the genre and “femcee,” a less cringeworthy, yet still uncomfortable version of “female rapper” gets the job done. But what do you do when “female rapper” is a tactic used to subtly attack all of the successful women, past and present

Law professor, Seiberling Chair of Constitutional Law, and Gender and Law editor Professor Tracy A. Thomas, penned an essay calling for the demise of the word “females” in reference to women in 2017. She wrote, “[l]inguists have long documented the innate misogyny of slang, where thousands of disparaging terms for women have proliferated over the years, with scant male equivalents. Indeed, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists “female” as a disparaging term for men...since 1400 [A.D], female has occasionally been used to describe one’s mistress, which which could be seen as pejorative — as a sex object.” By that logic, “female rappers” has a sexual undertone to it, even when a particular woman’s content is not about sex. Women simply don’t have the luxury of subverting sexualization, making Dupri’s comment about all modern women rapping about the same thing that much more off. Not only is it not true, but it indicates the way women are seen as carbon copies of another, for no reason other than existing and making music. 

The sexualization of women who make rap music was evidenced in Rick Ross’ 2017 interview with popular radio show The Breakfast Club. When asked by Angela Yee if he would be interested in signing a female rapper to Maybach Music Group, Ross responded with, “[y]ou know, I never did it because I always thought like I would end up f-----g the female rapper..[and] f-----g the business up...You know, she looking good and I’m spending so much money on her photoshoots...I gotta f--- a couple times,” with laughter interrupting him more than once. It was a disturbing series of remarks, which were met with backlash, followed by an apology. The damage was already done though, and women were made privy to the types of thoughts and conversations had regarding them, when all they’re doing is taking care of their business. 

Another issue with the usage of “female rapper” is that it often reinforces the idea that women are naturally less skilled than men. It’s the same “you’re good, for a girl” thinking that men somehow have warped and meant to replicate a compliment. Even at the phrase’s birth, which can be attributed to battle rapper Roxanne Shante, there was misogynoir (coupled with ageism). As stated, it’s become a part of women’s vocabulary, too, doing the dastardly work of internalized misogyny so sneakily that some don’t even know the implications behind the word “female”. Saying that someone is your favorite female rapper means that they’re not talented enough to just be your favorite rapper. They need a header, to let others know that they beat out their gender, but not their competition at large. 

So where does that leave us? How do we let people know that we’re just talking about women who rap, while laying “female rapper” to rest? I’ve said it, you’ve said. I know that people will continue to say it. Not even out of contempt, but because it’s ingrained in people’s minds and has been for over three decades. But, it has served its purpose, and if the distinction must be made, there are other ways to say it. There’s no need for dramatic performance art meant to formally bury the word. We can just move forward and let the women behind the mic do their thing, and respect them while they’re doing it. 




A Conversation with AJ, The One

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by Taylor Crumpton

AJ, The One is goddess trap. Defined as an “ass shaking and hip winding experience, filled with stimulation of the mind, body, and spirit,” the Inglewood, California multimedia artist and creative director is an embodiment of radical sexual politic principles. Her latest EP Womxn is a melodic ode to Oshun inspired by the deity’s strengths, AJ, The One, adorned in crystals, under the celestial energies of the Moon, is listeners first glance at her spiritual abilities. 

“Vagina Vibe,” the EP’s opening track, is an ethereal display of yoni energy, with the rapper calling upon her sisters to stand in solidarity against misogynist attackers. Music is her chosen platform, born out of a vulnerable and community-centered love and rooted in Black womxn experiences.

AJ, The One’s songs are an interdimensional portal into an Afrofuturist led future where sexuality and eroticism for Black womxn are embraced, rather than demonized and hypersexualized by patriarchal oppressors. Her musical projects are bold reclamations of space, with the duality of her freestyles operating as both a rallying cry and hymn. A Los Angeles tongue, her intensity leaves a burn mark at the end of every verse as a potent remainder, and in some cases, warning about the development of her intrinsic rapping ability. 

At dinner, we talked about the emergence of womxn rappers, the release of her first mixtape, and vaginas.

If you could categorize your rap in three words, what would they be?
My rap would be sensual, eclectic and stimulating. I want to choose another word than sensual. So stimulating, eclectic... colorful.No, not colorful, because eclectic and stimulating is also colorful. Could be... I'm just very much inspired by the erotic, but I don't necessarily want to say erotic, and I don't necessarily want to say sensual. And I definitely don't want to say sexual.

Yo, I think erotic is it. It's like that. Erotic because erotic isn't always about sex. It's about connection. That’s why I say erotic. An instrumental can be erotic too. Like, not even words, "Oh this shit makes me feel something." That's what it's about. It makes you feel something, and that's why I say stimulating too.

In a Berkeleyside interview, you said “my music is for womxn.” Why do you center your artistry on the lived experiences of womxn?
One thing that rules my life is the deliberation of silenced identity. I said silenced, but in reality we’re not silent. We’re disregarded. They tried to bury us. We’re muffled. At a young age, I realized that Blackness was somehow better than anything else. When I got into consciousness in the fifth grade, and won my school’s Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest, my first time performing on stage. I was able to formulate words about muffle identities, and found representation. In high school, the code of conduct for women and girls was very bad. Myself, I contributed to misogyny, because that’s what we were taught. We internalized it. I remember like, "Sexual freedom? What is that?" You know what I mean? "That's not cool, you're a hoe." You know what I mean? Who is it that taught you that? So, I chose women because I needed it.

Four years ago, you moved to the Bay from Inglewood and released a “0 to 100” freestyle on Soundcloud.
I had this infatuation with Oakland. They were my representation, and lived in Oakland. I told myself, “Yo, I need to move out there, so I can really express myself. I got to the Bay, honey, and had a studio apartment and I was like, "Don't nobody know me out here." You know you get that feeling? Then I said, "I'm going to start putting my poems on Soundcloud." My first poem was a “0 to 100” freestyle by Drake, and very AJ The One.  It just was very, "You niggas is this, women are this." And I was just like, "Wow." I felt so good. It's so bad quality. I think I recorded it on my iPad. It’s good, and my first time recording a song. It said this is who I am. 

I can't not not make music about women. I've literally tried.

I'm going to put in the review, this is all vagina inspired music. 
Right? It's such a strong reclamation of space. And it was “Bitches Ain't Shit” by YG and Nipsey Hussle. 

Nipsey is your dude. I saw you went to his funeral.
He is my guy.  It's a long story of how our families are connected, but in terms of an artist, he was one of the people that pushed me to rap. It was [“Bitches Ain't Shit”], that questioned me to say "Why aren't women making songs like this?" I liked the song, it's cool. But then I had a situation where, I'll never forget the situation.

Is this essential content right here? 
Yes. In high school, there was this very popular girl who had cheated on her partner. His friends played a hella loud song, and followed behind her as she walked home. She was in tears, and because there was a power difference between us; she was a senior, and I was a sophomore. I can’t be like “Are you okay?”. Back then, it was different. I felt so helpless. I fucking hated them. I was so mad. I didn’t know what she did, but they followed her for blocks until she was out of my sight. 

That song had me like, “I gotta go make some shit like this”. You know what I’m saying? I don't know, maybe one day I'll shake it out of my system, but it doesn’t seem like it's going away.

As a rapper, do you feel being a womxn gives you an additional strength or secret talent? Historically, critics have downplayed womxn rappers and accused them of using a male ghost writer.
As a womxn rapper, It’s a superpower in general. I have a very deep purpose and intentionality in everything I write and say, it makes me feel invincible. I can rap, but I can make you think about something, and have you thinking about it that night. Like, “Did this bitch really just say? "This bitch really said shit right here?”

There’s several meanings behind a womxn rapper’s bars. At first listen, you believe to have an understanding of the meaning. Once you study the rapper, you gained an additional depth behind the bar. If you speak to them in-person, you receive an additional third meaning.
That’s what I love to do. It makes me feel invincible, and part of a girls club. In this time, I feel so held too. It feels like all of us are like “We’re here?” City Girls, Megan Thee Stallion, Tierra Whack. Even though I don’t know these people, I am invincible. We are The Incredibles.

That's what I love to do. It makes me feel definitely invincible, and it makes me feel like a part of a girls club. I don't have a lot of other woman rapper friends, but I still feel so held, especially in this time.

So, you’re working on a mixtape?
My next project is a mixtape, packed in with a lot of different flavors. I’ve only had one project, and never dropped a mixtape. These twelve tracks are going to be filled with full personality. On my first project, I did a good job on crafting a narrative. Now, I want to show a lot of my personality, who I am in my everyday, and what it’s like to be AJ The One. Yeah, I'm excited. Really good producers, like... I'm just excited, it's going to be awesome. Can't wait to hear it.

Mask Off

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by Brooklyn White

In 2017, hedonistic rap star Future released “Mask Off” - his flute-heavy ballad about molly, percocets, and fearless robbery. Out of all of the singles shared over the course of his decade-long career, it is the highest charting one, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Why were fans especially drawn to the elaborate celebration of drug use and theft? Maybe it has to do with Future’s theme, masks. The subject is two fold, as one Genius user points out. Not only is the Atlanta rapper undeterred by the possible consequences of his crimes, he is completely open about his habits and thought processes. This has been a recurring theme in Future’s career - the notion that no matter the depth of your perceived sin or world views, as long as you are able to confess and show the people the person behind the mask, then all is well. When Future showed up to the 2017 BET awards with his young daughter, he wore a $3000 mask (as did she), and performed in one as well. The implications were still present, but this outing was more of a fashion statement, as masks are sometimes, especially within the Hip-Hop community.

Rico Nasty in her  “Block List” video

Rico Nasty in her “Block List” video

Masks have been around since ancient times, and there is proof of their existence in the Stone Age. According to the History of African Masks, the role of a mask maker (and wearer) was a sacred one, as people viewed this being as someone who had contact with the spirit realm. These masks, made from wood, copper and other materials, were used as part of a ritual, often in preparation for an important occurrence like “war preparation, crop harvesting, marriage, fertility, and burials.”

Roots aside, masks may also represent the parts of ourselves that we hide, either to benefit others, or because we are afraid to face ourselves. But it’s not a standalone psychological issue, instead resting under a larger problem. “Masking is not a term used in a professional mental health setting,” according to mental health specialist Hazel Smith. The concept is filed under defense mechanisms. When asked about defense mechanisms, Smith said, “Defense mechanisms are learned behavior that we use to deal with uncomfortable situations to get us to a point of comfort in any given situation.” That is exactly what wearing a mask is, trying to cope with some type of discomfort by putting on a front. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Smith wrote, “[it] can be transcended when one decides to be their..authentic self without fear of judgment.”

Masks in rap sit at the intersection of style and anonymity, which is ironic given the boastful and self-centric tendencies present in rap. Masks remind us of our humanity and collective consciousness, even though we are all individuals, when you take away our name and status, we are the same. Mask on, mask off.

Below are some rap stars who have either been spotted in masks, or wear them full time. 


Leikeli 47

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Leikeli 47 wears a ski mask to keep the attention it on her content. In a 2015 interview with Highsnobiety, the rapper said,“this mask is my cape. I tell people that all the time. I also just wanted to keep it fun and fresh. It’s just like you said though, the mask keeps the focus on my music. It helps me with performing, too. I was definitely a very shy kid growing up in New York.”. Leikeli doesn’t overindulge in social media either, so her keeping a low profile isn’t a stunt, it’s her life.

MF DOOM

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While a part of a rap duo with his brother, MF DOOM showed his face without care. But after tragically losing his brother, and being dropped from Elektra records/falling out with the politics of the business, he began covering his face. An article for The Hip-Hop Foundation shared, “drawing similarities between his own life and the story of the fictional Doctor Doom, who’s face was deformed after a laboratory accident and donned a mask while seeking revenge against the world, Dumile himself began wearing a metal mask and re-titled himself MF Doom. Swearing revenge against the industry that badly deformed him (his own words).” He has taken the game of hidden identity even further by sending out masked fake DOOMS to perform in his stead. 

Schoolboy Q

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I first began noticing Schoolboy Q as a standout artist in 2013, as he prepped to release his third studio album, Oxymoron. The cover art featured Q wearing a mask, while his following album featured a man with a concealed face on the cover as well. His most recent work, Crash Talk shows the artist wearing a paper bag over his head, a common reference to unattractiveness.

Nicki Minaj

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Nicki Minaj has worn a number of masks over the years. Perhaps her most famous one is the colorful surgical mask (designed by Shojono Tomo) that she wore at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. Tomo and Minaj worked together a number of times during the Pink Friday era, putting together some of Nicki’s most elaborate looks yet. She also wore glitzy masks in her videos for “Only,” and more recently, “Chun Li.”

Tyler, The Creator

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You may argue that Tyler, The Creator is in the running for one of the best rap masks of all time, given his intense rebrand over the past 5 years. The California native went from detailing murders, to singing about the softer, flowery aspects of young, rich life. His mask was metaphorical as well as physical, and it seems as if he’s traded in his ski mask for something greater - love.

BbyMutha Talks New Music, Pride Month, and Self Care

by Nadirah Simmons

When I hopped on the phone with BbyMutha, she was in Chicago getting ready to hop in an Uber and head to lunch with a friend. The Chattanooga-bred rapper had just gotten her nails done and bought a few wigs, and was looking forward to “Renaissance One” later that night, a show put together by PartyNoire and “Red Bull Presents” to celebrate the city’s LGBTQ+ pioneers.

I spoke with BbyMutha about the pressure to constantly put out music, the importance of protecting the Black LGBTQIA+ community and her newfound method of selfcare.


NS: You’re on the lineup for the “Renaissance One” show that “seeks to elevate these progressive artists and pay tribute to Chicago’s LGBTQ+ pioneers” during Pride. How important is this month to you?
BM: I appreciate Pride Month for what it is and not what it’s being turned into. I feel like it’s a lot of commercial profit. These are people that you wouldn’t have thought twice about [at any other time]. 

I saw a lot of ads this past month with transgender women that I follow as the faces, and I’m happy for them. But at the same time nobody does anything for them when they need help. That’s my only problem with it. Now that I’m grown I can just be gay, and I appreciate being able to play at shows like this because I can really really just be me! With other people that are like me!

Right! And it’s important what you said about visibility, because for Black queer bodies with that comes a need for protection. 
Yes, you’ll see people get so mad and say “I’m not supporting this brand anymore because they had this person on there.” And then people attack that community. That’s the stuff that has me worried, because outside of the promotion there is no protection.

That was a bar! And people are out here getting hurt and killed.
And none of these brands ever stand in solidarity with them when it’s not Pride Month.

Yup! I put a rainbow on these shorts and…
[Laughs] Right, so you better buy it!

Crazy. So I have to ask you this. Someone the other day tweeted you and recommended you make a personal Twitter account to tweet “crazy” stuff in a separate place.
Yeah somebody tweeted that to me and they got me fucked up. I’m going to do what I want to do, I paid my phone bill. Especially not on for something as silly as social media. If you don’t want to see something I post cool, but that’s why you have an option. You’re not being forced to follow me. 

Within music, especially with the people who look like us, there is this intense pressure to act a certain way or maintain a certain image. Is there pressure for you to conform to an industry standard?
I don’t care about an industry standard, because it’s very untrue and I’m a bad liar. So I feel like even if I did conform to that people wouldn’t receive me well. It would come off as fake and not genuine. It would do me a disservice.

I also spent a lot of my life being told who I needed to be. And I still ended up getting rejected. You turn into these people the world tells you to be, and it’s still not good enough because now there’s something else you have to do. 

That’s such an important value to have, and certainly something I see whenever you share your kids on social media. They look so free and happy, which is a testament to your parenting. Is it difficult to balance motherhood and your music?
They’re hand in hand. People who say what you should or shouldn’t do probably don’t have kids, and they don’t have people around them that actually care about them. And for a long time I didn’t either and it was the hardest.

People just don’t know what they’re talking about. Yes I’ve had to take some L’s when it comes to my children, but from each L I grew and I learned. 

Everyone’s been asking so I have to ask, when can we expect the album?
I can’t even give no updates! I had a listening party and everybody thought that was the final [album], but I’ve added so much since then! It’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be worth it, and everybody is going to be like “damn okay this is why it took so long!”

In music people stay dropping stuff left and right, every month. 
That was literally me last year, and I’m not finna stress myself out this year! You do that and then people are like okay, throw that in the trash, where is the next one. Like nah, I’m gonna make y’all wait for this, it’s going to be good, and then you gonna sit with it for a while.

Do you feel like that saturates the market? An artist will drop a new thing every single week and I’ll be like damn are you doing this for some streams? 
I feel like it’s for the streams, and also nobody has the balls to say “y’all gon’ wait.” Everything is some supply and demand type shit, and that’s not what I’m on. Last year I put out five EP’s, I was doing that because I felt like if I wasn’t working on something I was a a failure. But it’s okay to work and keep it for a minute and sit with it. 

What do you to take time for yourself?
I just now got to a point where I’ve been trying to do that. And honestly what I learned this week is to wake up early. Waking up early, I have time to do stuff. When I get back home waking up early is going to do me some good. I can wake up before the kids, smoke and get my hair done before they get up, because that’s a lot of different personalities coming at me at one time. 

And being on tour. I just spent four days in Amsterdam by myself and at first I ain’t know what to do. After a while you realize that’s a form of self care too, spending time with yourself. And doing stuff that you like to do and not feeling bad about it.

Who are you listening to right now? What’s in your playlist?
Future never leaves my playlist, he’s my problematic fave. Asian Doll is really in my playlist right now, I like her. All the usuals, Young Thug, Gunna, Lil Uzi. He in my top ten! Earl, a lot of Earl lately because I miss being on tour with him. I really like Schoolboy Q’s new project. Key! 

People forget about him sometimes!
Forreal and I don’t know why, he’s a legend. And Nudy, I always listen to Nudy. And Hov, Nirvana, Bad Brains. 

That’s a good playlist. Before we go I know you’re in Chicago getting ready for the show and I want to know, what do you like about the city?
This is only my second time being here. It’s very Black and I love it. Black people everywhere.

25 Years Of Lil' Kim

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by Brooklyn White

Lil’ Kim, the 4-foot-11-inch tall musician and model, is a force. She started out as the first lady of Junior Mafia in 1994, and over the span of her 25-year career has reinvented herself a healthy number of times. Her resume is long, reconfiguring the content women could present in Hip-Hop, setting new trends with her fashion, and remaining largely herself. Ever aware of her legacy as a fixture in rap music, one needs to look no further than Trina and The City Girls’ “fuck niggas, get money” or the style choices of Rihanna for affirmation. She is a legend who deserves it all and then some.

Who can forget the commanding opening line, “[h]ot damn ho, here we go again”? The way she is able to guide her vocals over winding soul samples and Latin pop, without getting lost, is a talent. “Musically, her cadence is one that other women in rap still have yet to emulate,”writes historian Karen Garcia. “Her transition to pop, [while] still being very Hip-Hop is also amazing. No one ever doubted Lil Kim’s ability to rap and make gritty music.” She has worked with ghostwriters, sure, but some of Kim’s most fun verses (“Lady Marmalade” and the “Not Tonight” [Remix],” were written without assistance. If it’s murder, you know she wrote it.

Men have always proudly shared their stretched exploits with anyone who would listen. Barbershops, game nights and break rooms become cringe-worthy hot beds for this kind of information sharing. “Boys will be boys”, chimes the decrepit patriarchy. They are encouraged to kiss and tell, circumventing the “hoe” label. Women however aren't given the same privilege. Those who are pro-hoe have moved past puritancal views and the gender binary is fading, but many cis-het men still cling to both as a way to exert control over women and the LGBTQ community. Thankfully, they remain unsuccessful. 

“Lil’ Kim made me feel comfortable with my sexuality,..saying what I want to say, how I wanna say it and not feeling sorry if people are offended. Also that there’s nothing wrong talking about sex or openly expressing my sexuality as a Black woman.” -C. Alexis, Tarot reader

“Got buffoons eating my pussy while I watch cartoons.” Imagine, for just a brief moment, the leisure surrounding this line. Not only was Lil’ Kim saying that she doesn’t take men seriously, but she was so used to sex that she can focus on other activities while being pleasured. She wasn’t the first woman in rap to discuss it - Salt N’ Pepa quite literally “talked about sex” in 1991. But what Lil’ Kim did differently was paint vivid pictures of her liaisons and consistently consider her own pleasure (even though she was unafraid to please her partner, too). “That's how many times I wanna cum, twenty-one, and another one, and another one, and another one”. In 2016, a study conducted by the Archives of Sexual Behavior revealed that heterosexual women are 30% less likely to orgasm during sex than heterosexual men, which is unacceptable. Lil’ Kim was not interested in sexual encounters that didn’t end with an orgasm and asserted the right for heterosexual women to have them too.

“Her approach to fashion and beauty was, and is, sexy, expensive and over the top.”

Of course, Lil’ Kim is also a fashion and beauty trailblazer. 20 years ago this year, she attended the MTV Video Music Awards in a custom, Misa Hylton designed jumpsuit that showed off one breast. The Brooklyn-born hustler also debuted two banged wigs with the Chanel and Versace logos spray painted on them in 2001. Her approach to fashion and beauty was, and is, sexy, expensive and over the top. Kim sometimes personifies camp - the bad-yet-good taste that was the theme of 2019’s Met Gala. No one else would dare step out in a blonde, Bo Peep-style wig, a bedazzled anti-mask or boots lined with red weave. The other girls just don’t have the guts, and that’s okay. Kim also walked for Baby Phat (recently revived in collaboration with Forever 21) and was featured in a campaign for Iceberg Jeans, erasing the lines between hip hop/pop culture and mainstream fashion. Luxury brands were leery of rappers for years, but Lil’ Kim was able to create meaningful relationships with multiple luxury brand designers, and quickly became a fashion darling.

So here we are. Two and a half decades into Lil’ Kim’s career and she’s still doing it. Still making art and inspiring rappers. Still speaking directly to women and showing them how to move through a world that doesn’t want them to believe it is for them. Dripping in Chanel and jewels on the regular. We know that she’s imperfect, we know about the beefs. We know that she’s imperfect, we know about the beefs. And we know about her struggles with colorism, abuse and body dysmorphia. She’s a fighter who deserves honor, and you better believe we’re giving it to her. It’s clear that Lil’ Kim is the Queen Bee and a trendsetter, and she’s still going awff.

Salma Slims Is Ready for Her Closeup

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by Brooklyn White

Salma Slims’ new project, Runway Rapper is here. It hosts features from Salma’s Private Club Records labelmate (and brother in-law) MadeinTYO, Slim Jxmmi of Rae Sremmurd and Ty Dolla $ign. The EP, as well as Salma, is inspired by Naomi Campbell, the cheeky model with an extensive career and indelible presence. But make no mistake, Salma Slims is her own woman.

The former cheerleader, girl group member and Lowes employee has come a mighty long way from having 9-5’s and juggling college courses. Her hard work has paid off though and now she has multiple high profile campaigns under her belt (including Calvin Klein) and over 200,000 Instagram followers who are ever excited about her latest moves. Read our email exchange with the runway rapper herself below.


Brooklyn White (BW): You're based in Los Angeles now, but you spent your formative years in Atlanta. How did living in the south prepare you for the types of people and events that you come across in California?Salma Slims (SS): Atlanta raised me. Taught me how to get it out the mud,... keep my foot on they necks and never let up. My mentality is fixed on that. Coming to LA, I’m the same person but I grind harder out here because this is an entertainment city and everybody is after the same thing - to make big. [I]t makes me go 10 times harder being out here.

BW: Your introduction to the music industry was in your teens, under Tiny Cottle's Pretty Hustle. Can you tell us  a little about that experience?
SS: My introduction to the music scene was actually with 247 Ent/Konvict music when I was in a group, and from there our group caught the attention of Tiny though a cypher we did that went viral…[S]he liked the fact that we were a rap group and it was something different that you didn’t see much of during that time.

BW: What do you want listeners to walk away with after listening to 'Runway Rapper'?
SS: Runway Rapper is a lifestyle. Being a bad bitch with lots of attitude and class. This [EP] has a mixture of everything and a little bit for everybody.

Hair and makeup by  COYA BROWN , wardrobe by  AMIRAA VEE , nails by  ASTRID CURET , set design by  SIERRA HOOD , set design by  TEDRA WILSON , photography by  RANDIJAH S  and TEDRA WILSON

Hair and makeup by COYA BROWN, wardrobe by AMIRAA VEE, nails by ASTRID CURET, set design by SIERRA HOOD, set design by TEDRA WILSON, photography by RANDIJAH S and TEDRA WILSON

“I absolutely lovvvvvvvve Naomi..I feel like I’m her daughter and she doesn’t even know it. We have very similar stories - she grew up in a very religious home being [Jehovah’s Witness] and I grew up in an Islamic home.”

BW: How long did it take you to craft this project from beginning to end? Did any particular life occurrences motivate it?
SS: It took me about 4 months to finish the project[,] I’m in the studio every other day. I was just waiting on the label to drop the project, so it took forever to come out. I actually just finished a project with super producer Dun deal and it’s some of my best music, so I have so much music I’m sitting on right now.

RANDIJAH S and TEDRA WILSON

RANDIJAH S and TEDRA WILSON

BW: You've cited Naomi Campbell as a major influence, and that inspiration is evidenced on the cover of your project. What have you learned from her career and how do you juggle music and fashion?
SS: I absolutely lovvvvvvvve Naomi..I feel like I’m her daughter and she doesn’t even know it. We have very similar stories - she grew up in a very religious home being [Jehovah’s Witness] and I grew up in an Islamic home. She had so many doors [closed] on her but she still remained to go hard and now she’s the biggest supermodel in the world. I get a lot of my creative inspo from her. The cover of my project was paying homage.... I’ve always wanted to [redo] her PLASTIC DOLL portrait from 2011 that was shot by Seb Janiak. Shoutout to the photographer Brian Christopher, the graphic designer Weird Creative, and [creative director] FilthyMcDave for helping me bring that to life.

BW: Your most recent track is "Seasoning" - a ticking, thumping, bass-heavy track full of clever references and confidence. How did "Seasoning" come about?
SS: I was in the studio working with Camiam and he’s done a lot of huge records. The beat was so hard, I wanted the record to be the intro to my project. I just went in the booth and spazzed on the beat.

BW: What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
SS: [The] “Seasoning” video also dropped May 31st. And..I’m hoping to go on tour this year and take everything out the roof.

‘Runway Rapper’ is available on all DSP’s now.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

A Conversation with Schenay Mosley

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by: Nadirah Simmons

I first saw Schenay Mosley during the NYC stop on Smino’s Hoopti Tour. A singer and multi-instrumentalist whose music embodies Alternative Soul and R&B, she commanded the stage with ease and set the tone for the show, something that few lead acts can even do. Mosley, who moved to Chicago to pursue her education and music career attended a rehearsal for Smino and has been singing with him ever since, calling the St. Louis rapper and the entire Zero Fatigue crew a “genuine family” she can trust with her thoughts and ideas.

I immediately dug into her discography, captivated by her 2018 EP Lotus. We conducted a quick interview via email about what’s influenced her artistry, her creative process and more.


How did you get into music?
I got into music when I was 4 years old. I just started singing and realized that I loved it. I use to tap my fingers on tables when I was younger and eventually my parents bought me a keyboard. It's been history ever since. 

How did your upbringing and your environment influence you being an artist?
My Dad used to DJ back in the day (he still does now) and he always played music around the house. My cousin used to come over and make beats in the basement and I started learning how to produce from him. I grew up singing in the choir, taking piano lessons, you name it. I've always been drawn to the frequency of music. 

Who are some of your biggest inspirations musically?
Some of my biggest inspirations are Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, Aaliyah, Whitney Houston, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Sade, Marvin Gaye, Beyoncé the list goes on.

What is your creative process like?
My process varies depending on how I feel. Right now I'm letting the music flow and I'm not controlling what I say or do. I just lay it all out in the booth and clean it up later. It feels more authentic that way. 

How did you link up with Smino? What has your experience touring with him and the Zero Fatigue crew been like?
One of my former friends told me he was looking for a backup singer and I agreed to come to a rehearsal--I've been singing with him ever since. And I love traveling with them, it feels like a genuine family, I know I can trust them with my thoughts and ideas. We always make sure the energy stays pure.

What is your favorite thing about being on tour?
My favorite thing about tour is seeing the look on everyone's faces when we walk on stage. I love the connection I have with the audience and I love instilling joy into their hearts through my gift. 

How do you identify, and how important is your identity when it comes to creating?
I identify as a spiritual being and black woman, first and foremost. And my identity is important since it is the lens in which I'm telling my story. I also like to write things from a human perspective since I am more than the color of my skin. 

What inspires you to keep going?
This indistinguishable fire inside of me, it's like I HAVE to do this. I have to share my gift and help people in a certain way and this is it. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself selling out stadiums and enjoying my career with my beautiful family.

Texas Women Are Rapping Their Way Into A Brighter Future

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Like America as a whole, the history of Texas is racist, sexist, and selectively shared. Fortunately, archivists like Bri Malandro and BOONAPALISTA are using the internet and images to shed light on the true stories regarding historical events. Malandro’s term “The Yee Haw Agenda” (a nod to Black folks in western wear) has wrapped itself around the world wide web, prompting conversations about the way we consider cowboys and their whitewashing in Hollywood. The timing is nearly divine, with Lil Nas X enjoying his fame as a musician with country and rap influences, the Kentucky Derby recently rapping up, Solange Knowles rolling out her ode to southern living with When I Get Home, and fans witnessing a meteoric rise of Black women from Texas who make fiery, honest rap music about their surroundings.

For over 10,000 years before colonizers drifted to Texas, Native Americans lived there and got acquainted with the land, themselves and each other. When European squatters came during the early 1700’s, they brought religion and deadly illnesses, and some were not met with kindness (excluding the trade-eager Caddo). Eventually, this kindness would not be met with any, as Caddo tribe had dwindled by 95% by 1816. There were multiples countries who staked claim to Texas until it claimed its independence in 1836, but this obviously was nowhere near the end of ethnic and racial grievances in Texas. Legal Black slavery continued until 1865, Black and Latinx folks have been strategically ignored during voting seasons, the deaths of Sandra Bland and Jordan Edwards rocked America to its core.

As always, Black people (and women, specifically) have done the work required to shine a light on injustice, entertain while healing, and make Texas a safer space for others. Late last year, 19 Black women made history when they were elected as judges in Houston and Beyoncé continued to heighten cultural awareness with her Homecoming documentary. Additionally, women from Texas are rapping to regain control of sexual narratives, advance themselves financially, and spread messages of empowerment, fun and freedom.

“Megan from Houston, I’m naturally sexy” is a bar from Megan Thee Stallion’s impromptu “Still Tippin” verse. Like the original performers of the southern cut, Megan reps Texas hard, as shown by Pimp C-inspired verses, cowboy hats, and frequently flaunted “H Town” hand signal. In her 2017 video for “Last Week in HTx”, she takes fans on a trip to some of Houston’s landmarks and highlights the devastation the city endured during Hurricane Harvey. She states her own struggles, saying “every..night I was eating cheese eggs.” Thee Stallion has kept her homestate in her heart, mind and music as she climbs the Billboard Hot 100 with “Big Ole Freak,” sells out shows, and posts up with fellow Houston-born royal, Solange.

“I feel like I have to put on for my city, because we have so many legends and so many greats,” Megan Thee Stallion, Rolling Stone

A newly christened Asian Da Brat [FKA Asian Doll] hails from Dallas, Texas and in a documentary with All Def Digital, she went into detail describing the early days of her career. “I [stayed] in the hood, [our curtains] had..tacks. I didn’t even have a bed,”. That kind of poverty in Latinx and Black communities is all too common in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. According to statistics shared in May of 2018, nearly a third of Black and Latinx people living in Dallas are living below the poverty line, respectively.

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“I want to know everyone where I’m from and I love repping Dallas. It’s always been more of a Texas thing, though...Texas is so slept on. I just want to put on for my city and state as much as I can and show everyone that we’re here.” -Asian Da Brat, Billboard

Making it out of poor neighborhoods is a goal for many young people who dream big and work hard to make their talents shine. Dallas is a city that’s booming with flair, and hopefully it gets to the point where the resources and opportunities align. But as homeless communities swell and more youth feel forced to turn to the streets to support themselves, there’s no telling when the tide will turn. But, Asian Da Brat is here to guide her peers every step of the way. She regularly encourages Black youth, especially women to hustle, be wise, and maintain their confidence.

Cuban Doll makes vivid, quotable music too, and has talked about becoming a woman while her mother was in jail. Growing up with an incarcerated parent is an under discussed reality that has had an affect on tons of non-white kids and teens. So, the Dallas native sharing her feelings about the last few years of her upbringing holds weight. In a short amount of time, she’s organically grown a large following and has drastically altered what could’ve been perceived as the trajectory of her life.

Black people and people of color have faced socio-economic disparities since European settlers entered Texas. But brilliant Black women are changing the story around their culture and shaping their future. Everything is litter in Texas fosho.