If you’re only a casual follower of Hip Hop, female emcees typically fall into two categories—the dolled up, sex kitten types like Nicki Minaj and the somewhat obscure types like Rah Digga and Bahamadia. Nevermind the fact that even the term “female emcee” is somewhat of a misnomer. After all, it’s not as if women and men don’t essentially perform the same functions as Rap artists. It’s easy and accurate to point at the lack of females in the industry that are truly in positions powerful enough to greenlight a project from someone with two X chromosomes to add some much needed diversity. But how many artists—male or female—are willing to take their careers into their own hands instead of waiting for a major label to do all the heavy lifting.
Self-described “paper girl” Raven Sorvino is in the midst of a run that has seen her perform, oversee and independently distribute her own material via Language Artz. You can find her at the same showcases and events performing alongside her major label counterparts with the large, recoupable cash advances. But when it’s time for another project she doesn’t answer to the stereotypical A&R GZA described as “a mountain climber who plays an electric guitar.” Along the way, Raven has earned nods of approval from Diddy, Dr. Dre and a steadily growing fan base. True power knows no gender lines.
In The Beginning...: “Honestly, it was listening to my play brother that rapped because he loved Rakim. When I first heard Rakim it was like, ‘Dang!’ His bars just captivated me. When I really started writing was when I heard Lauryn Hil on The Score. I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard a female do.’”
Destroy And Rebuild: “I had the momentum off of Inspired because the people received it really well. So it gave me a lot of confidence when I went in to do Paper Girl. The original version of Paper Girl that I got signed with Hipnott Records—I scrapped that record. So I just went in and created a whole new record…a whole new soundscape. I got with Picaso and told him about the sound I was trying to do. He got with J-Hyphen and Chi-Kotiq, which is The Formula, and they created a sound that set the pace for the record. From there it was so natural that everything just fell into place.”
Family Matters: “It is a lot of flossy stuff on the record, but I didn’t want it to only be that. That’s not all that Raven Sorvino represents. It’s a part of me, but I’m also a family person. Being Anna Maria Pink is a big part of my life and who I am, so I’m not gonna shy away from that. With my family—as far as my pops being gone, missing him and just spending time with my mom and brothers—that’s really a big part of me. And I just want people to understand that family is first. That’s everything to me, and I just want to share that love with the world.”
Leimert Park Playa: “Man…there’s just so much soul there. Honestly, I’m not from Leimert Park. I’m originally from Richmond, Texas, which is about 20 miles outside of Houston. So I moved to Leimert Park, and once I did, that culture captivated me. It really just became a part of me instantly. There’s a lot of soul over there. You’ve got the congas playing on the weekend—and I put that element in [‘Leimert Park Playa’]. People are out there playing music, especially with all the jazz going on over there.”
A Softer Side: “Well I definitely like the wine, that’s quite apparent [laughs]. ‘Whisperz’ is just about there being a softer side to me. I was ready to let people inside, because a lot of the visuals I had were like beating people up…very aggressive. That’s not who I am all the time, and I didn’t want people thinking, ‘Damn, why is she mad all the time?’ So I got to showcase that softer side without going too far. Even though the video says ‘Not Safe For Work,’ I don’t think it’s really going that far. It was cool to put that in the title though.”
A Story To Tell: “The beginning, middle and end were definitely executed on Paper Girl. It’s a story. And if people really, really listen to it, it’s like a movie. I was inspired a lot by that, and I kept the formula with the R&B hooks. I got Donye’a on it, and I felt that this project was even more musical. So we took a lot of the elements from Inspired and just amplified them on Paper Girl.”
Go See The Doctor: “[The experience with Dr. Dre] made me want to work harder. That probably just wasn’t my time, and I’m thankful that they were even interested in me enough to have the opportunity. Dre was calling my house, and he cared enough to keep in contact with me personally—not having his assistant or someone else make the call. And he’d tell me, ‘The contracts are getting worked on. Don’t worry; everything’s going through.’ We recently ran into him not too long ago, and he remembered me off top. And this is years later. So maybe one day something will happen with Raven Sorvino and Dr. Dre. When it didn’t materialize, I was never mad or angry like, ‘Ahhh, I don’t like these people anymore!’ It just wasn’t the right time, and I just needed to develop my skills more. To even have that opportunity was a good moment in my life. And when we saw him recently, Picaso was with me. He kinda liked Picaso’s name, and he was real cool. So that was dope…we had our little moment.”
Appreciated By Men And Women: “Actually, I’ve got a song that’s not on the album called ‘Reign Coat’ produced by Dae One. And I’ve had big, gangster-type dudes tell me, ‘Yo, I be slappin’ the shit out of this song! You went so hard on this, and it’s a song I can actually listen to from a female.’ So it was cool to hear that, and I like to keep that element in my music. I want the dudes to be able to listen to my music, roll in the car and bump it. I think a lot of that has to do with being raised by my father and having three older brothers around. I’ve got that tomboy in me just from being around them, but I’m still a lady too. My mother also raised me, and she’s just all Superwoman—diva’d out. So there’s the aggressive Raven, and there’s the girlie girl too. There’s a balance.”
Higher Learning: “Just going to school has been so good for me. The knowledge that I’m soaking in is helping me tremendously as an artist. I take Alexander Technique lessons, which is a breathing class. It helps out in things like doing interviews and it definitely helps with performing. I do yoga, meditating and breathing, theater, playwriting and I’m learning about documentaries. Eventually I want to do that, and since I love music, I want to work on a lot of music documentaries.”
The One Collective: “[Picaso] understands where I need to go, and he’s in charge of my whole branding—from my Tumblr and website, to the visuals. When I need to convey my sound to the people, he helps make sure it sounds the way it should. So it’s about taking my talent and making it big, and we try to make sure people receive it properly. Another part is getting with the right producers. I’ve got my own people that I bring in, but he also brings in his people. And we kind of blend it together. It’s a team effort, and with his Hip Hop background and my Hip Hop background it just meshes well together. That’s so much better as opposed to a suit and tie dude where everything is just corporate, and they’re telling you, ‘You do this. No, you can’t do that.’”
Thinking Of A Master Plan: “It always starts off with the visions that I have. I’ll just flip through the beats, and Hyphen is usually the person that I call first. If he doesn’t have time then I’ll go to somebody else, but he’s my go to guy. He can match the sound with the picture I’m trying to paint just like that. And once he puts his twist on it, the magic just starts happening. Our thing is, we like to make songs. It’s not just about rapping over a beat. We’re into making songs, and we’re eventually trying to win a Grammy. We know that’s got to come from making songs. And it’s not just any old type of commercial songs like, ‘Oh this is trendy now. Let’s do this.’ No. We have faith in our own sound, and we think that can crossover without trying to copy this or that person that may have won the Grammy last year.”
Video edited by Caroline Sparks.