Exclusive: The North Carolina native discusses her latest project "Thank H.E.R. Now," and how the Chef mistook her for an R&B gal before respecting her wordplay.
While the title of Rapsody’s second career EP may be “Thank H.E.R. Now,” Perhaps it’s Hip Hop who should be thanking this emcee. With a commercial scene that is sweeping the genre out of its core principals, Rap music, for many, just doesn’t sound the same; Rapsody, on the other hand, is just “Ill.”
That’s what legendary emcee and Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon called the blossoming rapper after hearing a personal performance from her in producer 9th Wonder’s studio in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mixing multiple legends with newer MC’s like Mac Miller and Big K.R.I.T., Thank H.E.R. Now gives listeners a flavor of the new with some of the old.
HipHopDX: Is Thank H.E.R. Now everything you wanted to accomplish and more and what was your overall reaction to the whole thing?
Rapsody: It exceeded my expectations because I didn’t expect to get the features I got. I didn’t think Raekwon, I didn’t think Estelle, you know just to be working with her and Marsha Ambrosius - I never expected that. I came into it like, “I want a few features, hold it down by myself.” 9th [Wonder] was like, “Let’s try and see what happens.” So just to have everybody’s support off of love. We’re an independent label just starting out, we don’t have money to pay all those people so it was all off the love and that was great. I couldn’t be happier with the sound of it. Return of the B-Girl was the first solo project I’ve ever done and I knew I wasn’t there yet and I still have a lot of growing to do now but before this I was like, “I don’t know how I’m going to follow up,” I had just put that out in December. I worked hard and I can hear some growth in me and I still have some growing to do but I’m very happy. I think if it was me listening to someone put out a project like that, I think I would be very happy and proud with that project and if I had to rate it, to me it’s a 8/9 out of 10 at the very least. Cadence-wise, delivery-wise I have a little work to do on my delivery, I’m always wanting to learn and grow. You have to hit people in the heart and they want to know you and they need people they can relate to and I’m starting to figure that out.
DX: The Hip Hop world is receiving this project well. Is the reaction what you thought it would be and what have you done since it dropped?
Rapsody: All I can say is it’s a great feeling. We’ve been working on it heavy for the last few months, before and after the tour and just to be able to pull it off and get the features we got, I was just so happy that it was so well received. I didn’t go into it expecting anything but I was like as long as I can do better at expanding the brand and the fan base than what I did with Return of the B-Girl, I will be happy at the very least. I’m very pleased just how it’s moving and the buzz that’s behind it. To have a tweet by Ali Shaheed Muhammad, I would never expect that so I would have to say that I’m overwhelmed and just more than happy.
DX: Is pleasing your base more important than getting your name out to everyone? How important is it to you to get your name in the heads of everyone?
Rapsody: 9th asks me all the time, he asked me last night, “Would you ever want to perform at the BET Awards?” and you know it all depends. I don’t think the mass majority of people is going to understand Hip Hop in its true form and I don’t want to go pop so if I could pack out The House of Blues in New York. I would be happy as long as I wouldn’t have to compromise or sell myself short or disrespect the culture in anyway for materialistic gain or fame. Of course we’re all in this business because it’s something we love to do and we want to eat off something we love doing - nobody wants to starve. But if I could live comfortably and eat and just make good music and have a great fan base where I could tour like [A Tribe Called Quest] for the rest of my life, I would be happy. That’s the most important thing to me is putting out good music that I like and I know that’s only going to go so far and I’m fine with that.
DX: What does this project do for you moving forward? Where does Thank H.E.R. Now put Rapsody moving forward and what does this project mean in the scheme of your career?
Rapsody: I think a few things it kind of helps. For one, just coming off the Mac Miller tour and dropping this project, that’s feeling the buzz and a lot more people are knowing my name and their doing research on me so what’s my next move? I don’t know just yet I would like, short term, to go on my own tour whether it be a college tour, east coast tour whatever, start working on the next album and you know just small things like that but me and 9th are just waiting to see what happens with Thank H.E.R. Now and see how far it goes, how many people it will reach, what the buzz is going to be like.
DX: You kind of do a mixture of features on this project with some of the old cats like Raekwon and Jean Grae but then you also feature newer guys like Big K.R.I.T. and Mac Miller. Why did you do that sort of mixture of artists and why do you think it is important to have both newer hip-hop artists as well as older ones?
Rapsody: Well Mac Miller, Big K.R.I.T. and Laws, I’m a fan of all three of them so those were people I really wanted to work with. I love their music and at the same time as a kid growing up watching Raekwon, you know, you’re a fan of those and you’re like “Wow I would love to work with them one day.” But how we got Raekwon, I think 9th made a beat and we were just talking and he was like, “I’d be dope if Raekwon got on it” and I was like “Yeah right." We were just talking, we went out of town and we came back and he had a show that we didn’t know about, I don’t think they promoted it very well, but we got back at midnight and we’re like, “Raekwon is down the street at a show and he’s in town, word?” So of course 9th has been wanting to work with Raekwon forever. So we met him after the show and he came to the studio and he chilled for two-and-a-half/three hours. Inside, we’re jumping up and down [laughing] it’s Raekwon and 9th is in there playing beats, he played 13 beats for him and before he left, he listened to me but he was like, “You sing, right?” and I was like “No, I rap” and he was like, “Oh, you spit?” and 9th was like “You want me to play him the joint?” I was like “Yeah.” [9th Wonder asked] “What you want me to play?” and I didn’t know I’m trying to keep it cool and I’m like “Play him ‘Top Five’ or whatever.” He sat back, he heard it, he nodded and he was like, “Yo, shorty’s ill.” He looked at me and he was like, “Yo, I'ma give you a shot. Whatever you need I got you.” I didn’t even think to ask him and I also asked him for advice after he left and we sent him a joint and he did it, that’s how we got Raekwon. But especially, at this point in my career, I would have never thought that I would have gotten Raekwon.