In the year 2019, Rapsody is as relevant in the hearts and minds of Hip-Hop fans as she’s ever been. While she has always been as talented as her competition, her latest album, Eve, marked new territory in her career. Traveling on tour with Big K.R.I.T, appearing on Everyday Struggle and remaining a topic of discussion on the Joe Budden Podcast, she is a person of interest wherever she goes.
Similar to her personal success, the state of North Carolina is a topic of discussion within mainstream Hip-Hop circles in a way it hadn’t been previously. In years past, 9th Wonder, Little Brother and others carried the mantle for Hip-Hop in the Tarheel state. Today, DaBaby, J. Cole and Rapsody are taking the region into new heights. Not to mention, Stunna 4 Vegas out of North Carolina and Nick Grant out of South Carolina are just two of the many acts looking to carry the torch into the next decade.
With all of that being said, Rapsody is a decade plus deep into the game. J. Cole is retiring from doing features. Could she take a step back from music to do other things? In the third portion of my interview with the Grammy nominee, we talk about her latest album, North Carolina’s Hip-Hop scene, retirement in rap and much more.
One of the other things that interested me about Eve was the variety of samples that were on the album. Eve used everything from “Strange Fruit” by Nina Simone to Luther Campbell records. What were you, 9th Wonder and Eric G listening to while making this album?
We were all listening to different things. Eric G lives in Seattle. He was up in North Carolina with us at one point, but he would go back home to Seattle. G was in Seattle listening to some of everything. Eric was at a point where he was stretching his creativity and not allowing himself to be boxed in. He just wanted to make beats that were different. You know? That’s one reason I like working with him in particular. When he and I get together, we’re always trying to go left. It’s like we’re always trying to do something different than what we’ve always done. What new space can we go into? He and I always have fun creating in that way. We’re always pushing ourselves to think outside of the box and grow as artists. So, I can’t tell you what exactly he was listening to, but I would love to call him and ask him. I just know that he was open to whatever.
I remember when he sent the beat for “Oprah” and I was like, “Bruh, yes! This is the sound that I want. I want to rap over stuff like this.” I wanted to rap over stuff that was different and people hadn’t really heard me on. It had a whole different energy, but it’s not too far from the core of who I really am, which was dope. At the end of the day as long as my beats are dope, I don’t really care what they sound like. As long as they hit me in a soulful way, that’s all I need. It’s got to touch me somewhere in my soul no matter what it sounds like. That’s what I love about working with him, Eric G.
Now, 9th and I talked. I told him I wanted to level up and do something different than what we did with Laila’s Wisdom. 9th is always trying to grow, evolve and push himself. I think it’s dope to be able to do this as long as he has. [His ability] to create and evolve is crazy. He’ll think, “I understand that I am a soulful producer who is known for his drums and people love that, but how I can elevate that while still being me?” It’s now 2019-2020 9th Wonder. That’s the space that he’s always in. He’s elevated with time, but he keeps the core of who he is and what makes him special.
With me, I don’t know what I was listening to. Actually, I do know what I was listening to. I was going back and listening to a whole lot of Roberta Flack and Nina Simone. I was on that vibe. For some albums in the past, I would listen to The Black Album, Jay Electronica, etc. It was always kind of based on Hip-Hop. With Eve, I went back and listened to soul and R&B. I listened to a lot of Gil Scott-Heron as well. I just wanted that energy, but that’s kind of where we were all at in our own respective places. When we got together, it was a melting pot of magic. That’s the best way I can describe it.
“Hip-Hop is instilled in me. I love it. It’s part of who I am, so I can’t stop.”
I really appreciate you sharing that because I had a similar experience. Last year, my aunt passed away and when she did it brought me back to one of the best memories I have of her. My mom and step-dad went out to grab some food and I was in the house with her, so she showed me all of her old records. We spent a good amount of time going through Nina Simone, Jackie Wilson, etc. When she passed, I went back and listened to those songs on repeat. So when I heard those influences on this album, I really appreciated it.
Also featured on this album is an artist by the name of J. Cole. I just wanted to ask you about what is in the future for you. There are artists like J. Cole saying I’m retiring from doing features. Joe Budden has said he’s retiring from rapping completely. Was there a time in the past that you’ve felt like you were done with rap? If not, is there a time in the future that you can see yourself stepping away from rap?
To be real, I was thinking of this same thing yesterday. I would say that there were tough times in my career when I was navigating my way through the music business, not the culture, but the business. I would question myself and ask if I could really do this. Do people want music from you? Do they love your music? Can you even continue to do it as long as you want to do it? I would have those days where I’m questioning it, but I would always go back to the core of who I was. Hip-Hop is instilled in me. I love it. It’s part of who I am, so I can’t stop. At the end of the day, even if I didn’t make a dime, I would still choose music. I would still write music even if no one listened to it. I don’t ever see myself retiring or hanging up my rap jersey. It might be a situation where I don’t release music as frequently. You also have artists that only make music when they’re super inspired. I just don’t think I’ll ever come out and say that I’m retiring. I plan on having a Coach K career. I’m always going to do it. Even if I just stop for ten years, I may come back out. For me, it’s always music. I am music. I can’t say that I’m going to retire. I don’t see myself doing that.
But, I do see myself continuing to grow and do other things within music. Music is always going to be there. I also want to act. I want to get into fashion. I also want to write children’s books. I also want to start a foundation. There are so many other things [that I want to do]. I want to produce documentaries. I want to get behind the camera. I want to write films. There are so many things I want to do artistically. Music will always be who I am
I just have two more questions. Continuing with J. Cole, he has been on a run of features. DaBaby has been blowing up with a run of number one albums. Little Brother has also put out an album. How has it felt to be a part of the recent run of North Carolina artists having success on the biggest stages?
Man, it’s fulfilling. It’s invigorating. It’s beautiful. It makes me proud and excited because I’ve always known how much talent there is across the state. We have been overlooked as a hotbed of amazing talent because we’re not a huge metropolitan area like New York, L.A., Chicago or Dallas. We’ve always known we had a history and a story to tell. [It’s special] to see and to be a part of that wave that can give back to people and inspire them, especially where I’m from. I’m from the eastern part of the state in a small town. I grew up in a town with 2,000 people. People don’t see a lot of ways out. Where you are from will never leave you and you will carry that wherever you go because the world is way bigger than the block that you stay on. We all have a purpose. It’s dope to inspire people and to show them the same way that 9th and so many others did. [I just try] to set a good example.
It’s exciting because it’s just the beginning. We have so much more to say and so much more to do. We have so many more artists to break through and give to the culture. It’s just a dope time overall.
The last question I have is about your recent collaboration with DoorDash. You are the highlight of their ongoing “Every Flavor Welcome” campaign that gave three winners $1,000 each to host their own dinner party. As part of the campaign, you lent your voice and flow to one of their spots. How is the experience of creating a song for an album similar or different than creating a song for a commercial?
For this particular spot, I can’t necessarily say that I authored it because I didn’t write it. What I did was lend my voice to it. If you’ve seen the commercial, every food that you see is what I am saying at the time.
Where I come in as an artist is that I have these words and I have to bend them. I have to lend my voice, my inflection and make them sound appealing over production. How do these words fit over this beat? How are you telling this story in a way that fits all this energy, cultures and foods coming together with DoorDash? What I did was bring it to life. They just allowed me to go in and try whatever I was going to try. Then, we would try it another way and another way. Whatever I wanted to do, they allowed me to try and have control over. I did one take and we all laughed at it, but they allowed me to do it and have control over it.
They also pushed me as an artist to really stretch my voice. They made it a really cool experience. DoorDash allowed me to have the creative space and freedom to throw paint at the wall.
Thanks for checking out our three part interview with Rapsody. If you’re interested in exploring more of North Carolina’s 2019 run in Hip-Hop, check back for our interview with photographer and creative director Kamiin Valree. In our conversation, he touches on his experience working on the “Under The Sun” video with J. Cole and DaBaby, collaborating with Dreamville, growing up in New Jersey and much more.