Meet Rapsody. Invincible. Divine. Cultured. Known for her creative wordplay and rhythmic patterns, Rapsody’s style remains unparalleled. Where soul and hip-hop meet, the Northern Carolina artist has produced four studio albums, four mixtapes, three extended plays and counting. Her 2016 EP Crown, features the voices of Ab-Soul, Anderson .Paak and Moonchild, reinventing a 90s hip-hop sound for a new generation. In 2016, she also signed to Jay Z’s record label Roc Nation, proving that female rappers are undeniably deserving and will continue to take the male dominated industry by storm. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, take a minute to get to know a woman who is clearly going to pioneer a movement that will inspire and encourage the women of the world.
“I think one of the greatest things as artists that we can do is use our platform to inspire and uplift, especially little girls. To go outside, and be seen, and allow yourself to be touched by them, and to talk with them, and have conversations to let them know: I look like you. I’m real. Whatever you dream whatever you wanna do, its possible. It’s attainable. Let’s build their confidence, and watch them fly!”
—Rapsody, March 2017
MITD: Every artist has a public image. Who is Rapsody when the cameras are off?
RAPSODY: Some people meet me and they almost think that I’m really shy. I’m just a laid back chill person. That’s pretty much who I am.
MITD: What inspired you to pursue a career in music?
RAPSODY: Just a love for it. It was just something that I was drawn to. The storytelling of it. Just how the music and words touch people and told a story just resonated with me, whether you knew the person or not, whether you’ve been through the same story, there was something in the music— whether it was the lyrics or the emotion— that you can connect with. I think I fell in love with that. I just found a purpose in it.
MITD: Being a woman in a male-dominated industry, have you come across any challenges?
RAPSODY: Definitely. As women, we face challenges just in general, in music, especially in hip-hop. It was a challenge being respected, to feel like you are enough, that you are an equal, that you belong. Somewhere along the lines in hip-hop, it was like women didn’t have a place like they did early on in the days of your MC Lytes, Roxanne Shantes, Queen Latifahs, your Lauryns. Like, it felt like that narrative changed. Like your place in the industry was as a video vixen or you know, it was only about what you looked like. It was very sexual. Like back when a woman’s place was in the kitchen. It kind of felt that was with hip-hop in a sexual sense. So, I think just having to break that, making it about the music, feeling like I do belong, and I’m just as good as the guys— if not better than. That was the greatest challenge I think. Getting that respect.
MITD: Do you consider yourself a conscious rapper?
RAPSODY: I don’t really do labels. I don’t do labels in music. Hip-hop is hip-hop. I think we all are conscious. We all are living. We are all conscious. We all just have different styles. You’re not gonna wanna sit and talk about politics and what goes on with the world twenty-four seven a day. You have artists that give you music where you can just have fun and let loose, but then there are artists that make music that you might listen to monday through thursday when you’re going through life, when you’re working, when you have a family or are going through relationship problems. So, I think that there is a lane— a time and place for all types of music, but I’m just not good with labeling if am I a “conscious” rapper. I’m just an artist, and you know, the things I talk about are the things that are important to me and the stories I wanna tell. There are artists that talk about things I might not wanna talk about, but I think they still have a purpose and I think they are still hip-hop.
MITD: People are always talking about what’s going on with hip hop as a genre, in terms of it’s progress or digress. Can you speak on that a bit?
RAPSODY: I think hip-hop is very healthy. We have artists that have all different kinds of styles. When you look at women in music now, there’s like a rebirth going on. There’s a kind of energy, a female presence. If anything, I think the digression is on the mainstream end, how we get music and what in music is allowed to be seen. Cause I feel like earlier on, and I’m talking about DJs too, they had a power and flexibility in playing what they wanted to play. Where now, you have playlists and you hear the same songs over and over again. It’s the same with TV. Hip-hop itself, if you know where to look and where to find it, is very healthy. It’s good to see the young kids working with the older generation. It’s beautiful to me all the way around. I couldn’t be more excited. There are new artists popping up and they all sound different, they all have different styles. Anderson Paak, Marian Mereba, Kendrick Lamar, Sza…It’s in a healthy place and I’m excited about it. I’m excited about the expansion of it.
MITD: The creative process can be very ritualistic. What’s yours like?
RAPSODY: My process usually is pretty simple. I’ll get a beat, I’ll vibe to it, I’ll pace to it, and I’ll ride to it. I’ll live with it, and then after that come the words. It’s that simple with me. I think if anything, I go through stages with every project I have to write. Like, one album, I was writing the whole album in the car. Another project, I spent the majority of my time sitting outside overlooking the skyline. Another project I spent sitting in this room. I always had to sit in this room. With every project there is a vibe or an energy that I have to keep. So, whatever this place is where the light turns on, that’s gotta be the place. You might break out of it every now and again when you’re traveling or whatever, but when I’m in this energy, I gotta catch it.
MITD: That’s so dope. I can relate. Name an artist that changed your perspective on music?
RAPSODY: I’d probably say Lauryn, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. Lauryn was something special for me, not only because she was a woman, she sang, she rapped, but when Miseducation came, there was an honesty in it. It wasn’t boxed in. It wasn’t just a hip-hop album where she had to rap the whole way through. When she did songs, like a Zion, that was the first time I had heard something like that. That changed it.
MITD: I was literally about to ask you what song, but you beat me to it! Zion is beautiful piece. Ok, so let’s touch on another facet. What has been the most difficult part of being in the music industry?
RAPSODY: The politics [laughs].
RAPSODY: Yeah, the politics for sure. That’s just across the board. Definitely the politics. You know, they say that when you are in the music field, making the music is only ten percent of it. The other part is the business, the politics of it. I think that’s probably the most “not fun” part of it. But, now I’m in a space where I’ve been doing it for so long that I’ve drawn my line in the sand. This is my line. This is what I am gonna do. This is what I’m not gonna do, and you know, once you create that and get all of that in place, your brand and what you wanna do, what you wanna say and how you wanna present yourself to the world and in what way, it becomes a lot easier. I love being this fam. I love being with Roc Nation. It makes it a little bit easier.
MITD: I believe that. What has been the most fun?
RAPSODY: Just outside of making music, when it leaves your hand and goes out into the world, and you get to see how the people react, how they connect with it, meeting the people, and hugging them, hearing their stories. It always blows my mind when I meet people and they tell me how they connect with the music because— I don’t really know how to put that feeling into words. That’s the most rewarding part— how you can inspire people and change people’s lives with your music. I grew up listening to so many artists that did it for me and now lookin’ at what I can do for somebody else.
MITD: That is truly dope and so special. We thank you. Ok, let’s get into a little fun. What is one of your guilty pleasures?
RAPSODY: I’m tryna think if I have any [laughs]. I can’t think of one, not one I feel “guilty” about. Maybe How to Get Away With Murder [laughs]. I’m locked in. It used to be Scandal, but Viola Davis has taken the lead!
MITD: Ok, let’s switch things up a bit. There has been a major shift in the socio-political climate, globally. How are you currently feeling about the temperature in America?
RAPSODY: To be honest, I try to turn off. It’s just so much sometimes. It can be depressing sometimes. The current administration…man…it’s a struggle. It ’s a constant fight, and now more than ever you have to be tuned in. There is something new everyday. The one thing that I find in it, the one thing that I love about it if anything is that it is bringing people together. For example The Women’s March, now it’s really time to come together, because it’s not a game. Before, it was like, “Yeah, whatever, this for entertainment or whatever,” but no, this is real! If anything, I think I try to focus on that part of it. I’m locked in on getting the message and inspiring. But as for the politics, reading the news, the paper, I try to turn off.
MITD: Broccoli City is all about community and giving back. If you had to pick two artists to head a community service project, who would you pick and what would you do?
RAPSODY: This is easy, because I’ve already been thinking and planning. The two people I would go to first would be Alicia Keys and Janelle Monae.
MITD: What would you guys do, if you can say?
RAPSODY: [Laughs] I don’t wanna say too early!
MITD: Well, we are definitely looking forward to whatever that thing is. We need it. Ok, last question. The goal of the Broccoli City Festival is to redefine cool by educating urban millennials on how to create urban, resilient, thriving communities. Growing up in Snow Hill, North Carolina, what do you believe your community needed more of to become sustainable?
RAPSODY: I grew up in the country. My grandfather had a garden. They were farmers. My aunts had gardens, country animals. I miss snapping peas and getting a raw cucumber and just eating it. Communities need more of that. I ate so good and healthy back then. It would be dope to see that with our people. We have so many problems with heart disease and diabetes, so yeah. Just seeing communities being able to feed themselves.
MITD: That is something Broccoli City is all about, and MITD supports it as well, so that’s great to hear! What’s next for Rapsody?
RAPSODY: Outside of the music, tours, and stuff like that, I want to start a foundation and work on giving back. I wanna focus on this project. The first time I went to the White House was with a group of artists. We were with President Obama talking about how we could give back, and influence. I definitely wanna build on the ideas that came from that, and just do something that brings us all together. We want to give back and collectively support each other.
MITD: Wow. This has been beyond amazing. On behalf of Made in the District, and Broccoli City, we are really grateful for your time and insight. We can’t wait to see you rock the Broccoli City Fest stage! Wishing you all the best.