Death of a Frequent Flyer
Quick, name ten truly great female emcees in Hip Hop history. Can't do it, can you? Digging into crates for estrogen-laden lyricists, there's Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill, Jean Grae, Mystic... Hell, even if you give ol' school originators like Roxanne Shante and Salt N Pepa a pass on the sheer influence of their legacy, or give new-school innovators like Missy Elliott a pass simply for changing up the game, coming up with ten impressive female lyricists in 30 years of Hip Hop is still something of a mental exercise in futility.
This is precisely what makes Chi-town native Psalm One's Rhymesayers debut so damn impressive. Already heralded in URB Magazine's "Next 100" as an emcee to watch, the self-proclaimed quirky B-girl comes out mics a-blazin' on the title track, dropping dazzling lyrics atop an off-kilter, string-laden groove that sounds a little like Prince Paul's quirky work with MC Paul Barman. On "The Living," she recounts in remarkable detail her daily life as a struggling underground Hip Hop artist; balancing the mundane minutiae of her day job as a chemist with long nights of mic checks, performing for small but appreciative crowds, and trying to sell a little merch before heading home to sleep and do it all over again the next day. "Rapper Girls" is a sizzling diss of the ambitious young ladies who use their T&A and stripper-pole moves (yes, Lil' Kim, this means you) to get ahead in the Hip Hop game, with bitingly incisive lyrics like, "You'll never be more than that girl who raps good for a girl/But really those titties is giving wood to the world/They keep you around to prevent a sausage fest/And you'll do just fine cuz of the gloss and chest."
But it's "The Nine" that truly showcases Psalm One's prodigious storytelling abilities best, with a funky, laid-back beat supporting her memories of her mom, who "got mugged on the front porch of our Inglewood home/He greeted her with a .38, took her bag and her bones/Your girl was in a deep slumber, didn't hear it go down/And when I woke up I was choked up, couldn't cope, I broke down." The song goes on to recall her childhood as "a loner, a rebel, a stoner, a pebble," describing herself as a chubby kid uncomfortable in her own skin who gained confidence through her Hip Hop skills. Fuck the gangsta bullshit-- THIS is keeping it real, raw, and full of heart and guts. It's the best Lauryn Hill imitation since The Miseducation of..., and, along with the rest of Death of Frequent Flyer, deserves to be Psalm One's first step towards stardom.