Next Wednesday, May 2nd, I have the honor of moderating “Nice With Hers”– a conversation (plus fab intro by ebony.com’s Jamilah Lemieux) with Karen Good, Kierna Mayo, and dream hampton — some of the fearless female journalists who wrote the narrative of how the world came to know hip hop, culture, fashion, and itself at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, USA. I’m thrilled, nervous and totally consumed with what we will discuss. As such, I’ve been thinking more so than usual about hip hop and my work as a writer/ journalist.
Personally, I always think of the interviews I’ve had with female rappers first when thinking of my contributions to “hip hop journalism” because they represent the core of my work in understanding feminism, revisionist politics and sexuality. I’ve interviewed MC Lyte, Nefertiti, Jean Grae, Left Eye and most recently Queen Latifah, but it’s my 2001 talk with Bahamadia that always gives me a soaring sense of pride. It was an extraordinary privilege and pleasure to interview a woman who I consider one of the dopest MC’s in the game. Needless to say Philly’s BB Queen blew my wig back and gave me mad food for thought. Here below, is that interview. And if you’re around next week, please RSVP and drop by our convo. I’d love to see you.
With rap music you have your beat makers and then you have your microphone controllers. Being an adept MC is just as much about what you are saying, as it is about how you say it. And then there are rappers like Q-Tip, Rakim, and DMX that are remembered and renowned for the distinctive nature of their voices.
In 1996 when Chrysalis Records released Bahamadia’s, “Kollage,” the Philadelphia native, had ciphers from the Bronx all the way to Brixton wide open off her flow and off of her voice—ultra mellow and cottony thick. Last year after seemingly disappearing from the demanding hiphop set following the unsuccessful launch of her salient debut, Bahamadia returned with her highly anticipated 7-track EP– “BB Queen” (her twist on B.B. King where B.B. now stands for Beautiful Black).
BB Queen at worse was too short and should have been an LP; at best it extended itself lyrically and musically to roads less traveled by other rap albums. There’s “Beautiful Things” that critiqued media’s obsession with violence and scandal, while the EP’s last track, “Pep Talk” flipped-out on a trip hop, electronica vibe.
Born Antonia Reed, Bahamadia, which is a combination of the Arabic words “badia” meaning “original creation” and “hamd’allah” meaning “thanks be to God,” has been spending the majority of her time touring in Europe with the likes of Roni Size and in the US touring with the likes of The Roots. theHotness caught-up with her back in Philly while relaxing with her two sons, reading Octavia Butler’s “Mind of My Mind” and writing new rhymes for her next project.
theHotness: What was hiphop like in Philly when you were growing-up?
Bahamadia: It was so dope. There was a wide range of styles of music going on in the streets like early electronica and disco breaks. And then there were the playground jams. Even though Philly is a big city it still has a rural feel to it. Everybody knows everybody. People here are real supportive of each other.
tH: What inspires your work?
B: Eighty-five percent of the time, I’m inspired by beats. But I’m also influenced by passages from the Bible or other books. One song off the new record, “Pep Talk” was drawn from a passage I read in “Transforming Your Sexual Energy into Creative Energy” which was about the vagina and all the energy that flows out of that part of a woman’s body.
tH: In your song Special Forces you rhyme, “I’m lifting up my left tittie to y’all token chicks/ You ain’t really hot/ Just image and politics/ I’m prototype/ You duplicate of male affiliates.” Is this song about female rappers who use sex to sell records?
B: No. It refers to people (in general) who feel they have to utilize different people to get advancement in this industry. I basically called it like I saw it. It’s not about a particular person, but if it happens to apply to them, then I’m talking to them.
tH: How do you maintain your underground appeal in an industry obsessed with artists that look and sound like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown?
B: Basically God is present in my life. And I don’t even consider myself an underground artist. I just feel like I haven’t gotten my time yet. In terms of the people that are shining now, that’s in God’s plan for them to be shining at this particular time. I have a great deal of respect for anybody that’s doing something original and doing something productive with their lives. How they choose to communicate to the world may not be how they express themselves behind the scenes.
tH: You seem like you have reached a level of enlightenment with your music. How was making this record different from some of your past collaborations?
B: I might have compromised and done things in the past to pay the bills, but now I’m way past that. Now I can just be me and do what I feel like, talk about what’s on my mind and reach out to so many more people.