The Experienced Listener Presents: The Return of the B-Girl, by RapSody
…I’m ready. Okay. Before we begin, I hereby proclaim that I will diss no other female MC(s) in this article. Reason being, because even this young lady begins her mixtape, The Return of the B-Girl, by showing respect to every femcee under the sun. And I do mean every. To the point that you hear femcees mentioned together that you would never imagine being in the same sentence.
…And that’s not a diss, by the way.
RapSody: the closest we will ever get to Lauryn Hill without having the real thing. Simultaneously, the farthest from a Lauryn Hill imitator we will ever get without disappointing us with mediocrity. The girl’s got something.
Now, before we go any further, I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute! Didn’t you just do a review for an album called The Rapsody Overture? This is confusing.” …No it’s not confusing; quit acting so NCLB C-student and concentrate. This is an artist named RapSody, not an album. She’s a lyricist repping North Carolina. She’s signed to Jamla Records and is a part of 9th Wonder’s Academy label. Which, of course, means that the young lady’s got quality sound in the backdrop of this mixtape; I dare say 9th Wonder & RapSody is the new Pete Rock & CL Smooth, but with one more X and one less Y chromosome.
So the mixtape begins, as I said, with a huge shoutout to all the femcees that can be fit into a shoutout without putting us to sleep. Then RapSody comes down my street with a track called 1983; it just so happens that I, too, was born in 1983, so I’m a little partial. Sue me. It’s a song about her youth, being born into a chaotic world, embracing intellect, and using hip hop to rise above her circumstances. It’s a story you hear from many artists, male and female. What separates RapSody is her sheer lyrical potency; she shows early on that word manipulation is second nature to her, and that her music is not for those who like things dumbed down (puny NCLB C-students, for instance). As a matter of fact, with respect to the fight against ignorance at large, RapSody pens these lines:
I was on the schoolyard, recess in the park/ and this kid came up, and he asked me like “Uhh…/ Ay Ms., ay Ms. Honor Roll, say Ms./ how you get to play with them words like you play, Ms.?”/ It’s cuz I’m smart and got a library card…/
The beat for 1983 is cool— a little repetitive, but not bad, especially once the bass line works its way in. There’s a line in the song where RapSody describes her birth, and she says, “Had rhythm in my soul before the nurse ever weighed me”. I think that line accurately summarizes what is to be gathered from this track— it’s only the second song, and you already begin to feel the sway in this femcee’s swagger.
Now, back to Lauryn Hill. On track #3, Win, we’re greeted by a Lauryn Hill sample: “You might win some but you…” If you’re any kind of Lauryn Hill fan, you know how the line ends. But the real statement is that, along with the Lauryn Hill sample, RapSody shows up alongside Rah Digga, the first lady of the Flipmode Squad. And Rah does not hold back on this track; she goes in on her verse as if it’s her song. To which RapSody responds with… lyrical prowess to match. And this is how it should be done. It’s a moment where RapSody shows us that being an unknown does not necessarily make one a rookie.
(And might I say, I am deeply offended that this phenom is an unknown. What are you bums listening to?! Moving on…)
Now, let’s talk sexy for a minute. RapSody brings sexy to the table in a very different way than most femcees. On the song I’m Ready, for instance, the sexy comes in the form of a creamy— hollup. (Yo, what age group is this blog aimed at TKKT? Am I good? No? Aight…) It comes in the form of a silky hook sang by Heather Victoria (another Academy label mate), a jazzy instrumental with a touch of piano courtesy of 9th Wonder, and a delivery on the part of RapSody that echoes the likes of Bahamadia and Mother Superia. Butter.
And the cool part is, the song isn’t about sex or even relationships; merely about her being ready for her close-up on the music scene. Now, if you want the birds and the bees, there’s Cherry Red Hot. …Actually, no, that’s not about birds or bees at all; just her lust and desire to be on top of the industry. Okay, maybe Little Things? …Now we’re getting warmer. Or U Sparklin’? …Heck yeah, with the Cameo sample. Or Make Me Say, with the nice Xscape sample for a mood-setter? Definitely. RapSody does sexy just fine. And not in the hoeish way that the industry promotes so well; RapSody knows the art of subtlety, which is the biggest separator between old school music and new school music— old school is interpretive and new school is suggestive. RapSody is new school interpretive.
Enough of that; let’s talk… standards. Wanna hear sumn frightnin’? There’s more where RapSody came from… The title track features the talents of Mara Jade. And ,frankly, the styles of the two are almost interchangeable; if not for the slightly deeper voice and the repetition of her name, I wouldn’t have known Mara Jade from RapSody. Seems like a bad thing at first, until you remember the likes of Nas and AZ; only difference here is two X chromosomes in place of two Y chromosomes.
Continuing on the topic of standards, on the track Angel, RapSody gives a sort of dirge to fallen hip hop artists of influence. Over a 9th Wonder instrumental that beautifully accessorizes the concept, RapSody paints herself as a continuation of the legacy left by favorites Tupac, Left Eye, Biggie, Big L, etc. Again, not a new concept among hip hop artists; but, again, her lyricism takes what might otherwise be considered cliché and makes it worth the listen. Again. And, on top of her performance, RapSody showcases another MC, Laws, who leaves a great impression with lines like:
In my past life, Iraq would’ve been ‘Nam/ my pillhead marine friends would have needles in they arms/ …until they learned what taking candy from a stranger brings/ heard they O.D.’d hallucinatin’ ‘bout angel wings…/
To again give testament to her pedigree, RapSody teams up with legend Big Daddy Kane on the next track, Young, Black, with a Gift. It kinda reminds me of that movie Million Dollar Baby— a father-daughter dance type vibe, but hardcore. Kane and RapDiddy go back and forth like a sparring match over an old school, blaxploitation sound.
I think my personal favorite song on the album is Hoop Dreams to Rap Dreams, featuring King Mez and Skyzoo— more artists that you should take note of. I consider this song a guilty pleasure because, I admit, the most attractive thing about this song is the beat; 9th Wonder really goes in here and gives you something to get your back-and-forth on to. And it’s so smooth that it lulls you. You kinda conk out with a hazy smile on your face, the way you used to when you were a little kid thinking about what was going down at recess the next day.
At this time, I would like to tell a little back-story— I first came across RapSody on the song As We Shine, which also features the artists D-Mal and Thee Tom Hardy. I’d had some prior experiences with Thee Tom Hardy, so knowing him influenced me to give a listening ear to RapSody. The next time I heard RapSody, it was on the song Honda Accord; from the time I heard that engine crank at the beginning of the song, I was biased again, because my mother used to push a Honda Accord. Straight nostalgia. I downloaded The Return of the B-Girl in search of that song, only to find that it featured not Honda Accord, but Honda Accord [Remix], which featured Skyzoo and— TA-DAHH!— Thee Tom Hardy again. I was sold. The song clocks in at #19 out of 20 tracks, and definitely leaves the listener hungry for the next project. Peep the video on YouTube; you’ll know it by the rebellious lightsabers in the air 😉
Years and years ago, I made an instrumental on my Boss DR-5 drum machine called B-Girl Vigilante. RapSody is the real-time manifestation of that dream I had— of a hip hop heroine with concentrated powers and potentials just waiting to explode to the surface. Don’t come to this mixtape looking for jams to bop you to the nearest club; The Return of the B-Girl is all about lyricism, and I mean all about lyricism. It’s not really innovative— unless you have an ear for mediocrity to begin with. To a true hip hop head, what this project represents is a return to classical standards of lyricism for both emcees and femcees. RapSody, a B-Girl vigilante… and may the force B with her.