Let me start things off with the story. Back in 2013, a few of the mandem and I went to the last Rock The Bells Music Festival in San Bernardo, CA (Rock The Bells is essentially Rolling Loud before there was Rolling Loud). The second day of the festival rolls around, and it’s way too hot. We’re talking 45 degrees celsius and the sun ain’t hiding behind a thing. Like most people that day, we eventually went to look for some shade to help us cool off. As we’re walking around, we deadass run into 9th Wonder. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, he’s essentially hip-hop royalty and one of the world’s best hip-hop producers. The mandem and I are absolutely shocked because we’re canadian and just never thought we would ever meet this guy. Right when we started asking him all these questions and he stops us introduces us to Rapsody. At the time, I was completely unfamiliar with who she was and I’d never heard her music before. All I knew was that if 9th is introducing her to us it’s because she’s got talent.
Later that day and we decided to check out her set and let me tell you, she had all of us looking at each other wondering how the hell we’d never heard of her before. This girl was spittin’ spittin’. She wasn’t “good for a girl”, she wasn’t “good based on the city she’s from”. She was good as in better than a lot of active rappers (respectfully). All it took was one song for me to understand why someone as credible as 9th wanted to see her shine. So I think it’s time we talk about Rapsody because just like how I was back then, I think a lot of people are still sleeping on her right now.
Rapsody isn’t the female emcee you go to for the commercial ass shaking records and in the present day, that might be why she doesn’t have the same appeal as a Cardi or Meg. Personally, I don’t know too many women that talk about her music but they should. Whether you’re an avid fan of hip-hop or not, I think everyone can appreciate a woman perfecting her craft in a predominantly male genre. Her music embodies everything a lot of us love about hip-hop: bars, flow, cadence and samples. If you go back to her She Got Game mixtape, you’re going to find a lot of heat. With features from artists like Raekwon, Phonte, Chance The Rapper, Mac Miller, Ab-Soul, Nipsey Hussle, Styles P and Jay Electronica, you realize quickly that even back then, Rapsody’s pen was highly respected. She didn’t stop at just rap features alone though. Once I noticed that she was the only woman I can think of that has rapped on both a 9th Wonder and Primo beat, I started looking at her in a different light. That’s some people’s entire musical resume and she was able to accomplish all of this, on one mixtape. Songs like Dark Knights, Jedi Code, Never Fail, Kingship and Coconut Oil are great songs to start with if you’re not a full project listener.
Laila’s Wisdom was the first Rapsody album I’d listened to and just like her mixtape, she went against what’s “popular” and gave us a pure hip-hop project. A project that received a lot of critical acclaim and was Grammy nominated for best rap album of 2017. With songs like OooWee with Anderson Paak, You Should Know with Busta Rhymes and A Rollercoaster Jam Called Love, it’s apparent that all the accolades were well deserved. This woman not only raps her ass off but like most great emcees, she knows how to paint a picture with her words and storytell.
For Rapsody to follow up her second album (Laila’s Wisdom) with Eve which only further established Rapsody as a creative and insightful artist. Every single song is titled after an influential black woman and no two songs sound the same. She touches on themes such as the strength of black women, sexism, freedom from oppression and even on the lingering effects of violence that black men have endured. It’s a raw, confident and purposeful album. She not only sounded more comfortable on this album but personally, I think this album even pushed 9th Wonder to explore another side of his production bag. I found myself really coming back to songs like Nina, Cleo, Maya and Myrlie in 2019. This album warranted a grammy nomination too but we all know how that goes most the time…
If the creative direction of her mixtapes and albums weren’t enough to win you over, she also had one of the most memorable verses on a classic album. Yes, this is the same Rapsody that went off on Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly. The emcee put a verse together that doesn’t shy away from the reality that colourism has also negatively affected the black community. Learning to love the shade of your skin can be challenging when those in your environment don’t seem to value it. She highlighted this beautifully on Complexion when she said:
“I love myself, I no longer need Cupid
Enforcin’ my dark side like a young George Lucas
Light don’t mean you smart, bein’ dark don’t make you stupid”
Thank you Rapsody for that verse and for the countless other ones you’ve given us. You’ve proven that you’re not only one of the best active female emcees but one of the best active emcees period. Keep giving the people music with a message, the streets always catch on eventually.