Why you should care
Because hell, yes: Bring on another lady hip-hop star.
So what happens when you make a rewind-worthy appearance on the most celebrated album of the year? Shit gets surreal. “I’m thankful that Kendrick gave me that platform,” says Marianna “Rapsody” Evans, the North Carolina emcee who is garnering unmitigated buzz following her heart-snatching verse on Kendrick Lamar’s epic, politically charged statement album, To Pimp A Butterfly.
But longtime followers of Rapsody are not at all surprised with her star-making turn on the moving black-is-beautiful track “Complexion (A Zulu Love).” The 27-year-old protégé of former Little Brother producer 9th Wonder (Jay Z, Drake, Destiny’s Child) has long been a deadly serious lyricist ever since her NC State days as a member of the group Kooley High. But when Rapsody’s crew attracted the attention of 9th in late 2006, she proved to be a standout, eventually signing a solo deal to his It’s A Wonderful World Music Group imprint.
Now with a new single, “Don’t Need It,” and the re-release of her highly praised 2014 EP Beauty and the Beast, plus a follow-up to her full-length studio debut, The Idea of Beautiful (2012), Rapsody is poised to capitalize on the groundswell of attention surrounding the female spitter. It’s go time.
OZY: Does all the attention from your appearance on To Pimp A Butterfly feel strange?
Rapsody: [Laughs] I’m just glad to be turned on to so many listeners at one time. The fact that people now know who I am, that they like my appearance enough to research my work … it feels good to have people love your music.
OZY: On “Complexion (Zulu Love)” you rhyme: “12 years of age, thinkin’ my shade too dark / I love myself, I no longer need Cupid … Light don’t mean you smart, being dark don’t make you stupid …” How personal did the writing process get for you?
Rapsody: I’ve personally been affected by it, and I also have a niece who is the same complexion I was when I was young. I took her to get a Barbie doll and she told me she didn’t want the black one because it was ugly.
OZY: That had to hit home, right?
Rapsody: It really did. Me and sister said, “Wow, we don’t want her to grow up and feel that way about the shade of her skin.”
OZY: Your music echoes the early ’90s, East Coast boom bap period of hip-hop. How much of a challenge was it coming out of Wilson, North Carolina, where the Dirty South sound was king?
Rapsody: There is a crabs-in-a-barrel thing in North Carolina. When you go to Atlanta and turn on the radio you hear Atlanta music. You don’t get that in North Carolina. I had to go outside of NC to get that love to come back and get it at home.
OZY: What’s the one question that makes you cringe?
Rapsody: It got to the point that every interview I did there was a question about Nicki Minaj or if Azealia [Banks] went off on somebody that week. There’s this idea that there can only be one female rapper and we have to be catty and we have to not like each other.
OZY: So what can we expect from your upcoming album?
Rapsody: I think people got away from making black music. I hear how people don’t want to listen to anything political anymore, but I disagree. I just want my music to be honest and to speak for everybody.
Watch the video for “The Man” from the re-release of Beauty and the Beast.