A couple weeks back the homie KJ and I hooked up with one of the hip-hop games most anticipated and talented acts, Rapsody. The North Carolina native hooked up with the musical genius 9th Wonder early in her career and was signed to his Jamla Records imprint under his IWWMG group (It’s A Wonderful World Music Group), and the rest is history. Cop her recently released The Idea Of Beautiful record here now, it is seriously an instant classic. Check out the interview we landed with Rapsody below where we talked about her influences, working with 9th, how her name came about and much more;
Skoodmusic: Where did the rap name “Rapsody” come from?
Rapsody: I was up one night reading the dictionary, and I came to the R section. I read the definition for “Rhapsody” and to paraphrase, it’s poetry spoken with great emotion. I thought that said it all about the craft. So, I dropped the “h” and made it my own.
Skoodmusic: I find it interesting how you were signed to 9th Wonder’s label after you were a part of Kooley High; how did you and 9th link up? I read he had been coaching you for years prior to your signing.
Rapsody: Before Kooley was an official group, we were just a bunch of friends that founded a Hip Hop organization at NC State. Foolery, a producer in Kooley High, was interning with 9th at the time and asked him to come with to us and listen to music. 9th heard my first two songs I had ever written or recorded, and he said “you’re a star”. He gave me some things to work on and just took me under his wing. So, in 2008 when I learned he had a label, I reached out via my manager at the time and the rest is the future. Kooley is a collection of solo artists. So, we were all doing Kooley, as well solo things. Tab and Charlie Smarts are also members of a Inflowential, a NC Hip Hop collective that you can tell was inspired a lot by the Roots. We always looked at it as, whatever we do outside the group, comes back to the group.
“9th heard my first two songs I had ever written or recorded, and he said “you’re a star”
Skoodmusic: Also, I read that some of the members of the group were cool with him before he even began his whole music thing, is there any truth to that?
Rapsody: No, no one was cool or even knew him before he was 9th Wonder. He went to school and is good friends with my brother-in-law, but I didn’t meet 9th until a few weeks before The Minstrel Show was released. Tom Foolery was the first to meet and build with 9th on a friendship level, and that was sometime after The Listening was released I think.
Skoodmusic: What was one of your favorite collaborations?
Rapsody: Sheesh, that’s hard. They all are favorites (laughs). A lot of the artist I’m blessed to have worked with wasn’t done together in the studio, with exception of Big Daddy Kane, Mac Miller, Kendrick Lamar, and Rocki Evans. So, those hold a special memory because I got to watch them work and build together. Jean Grae and Phonte as well, because I looked up to both of them so much. Phonte being from NC and Little Brother being heroes to so many of us, and Jean being a older sister I looked up too.
Skoodmusic: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Rapsody: Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Common, Little Brother, Nas, Andre 3000 and Biggie to name a few.
Skoodmusic: Who are some of your favorite artists of all time?
Rapsody: Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Mary J Blige, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Marley, Ray Charles, and Luther Vandross to name a few.
Skoodmusic: How does it feel to be hailed by many as 9th Wonder’s “secret weapon”?
Rapsody: Its a honor. But, I think the secret is out, outside of mainstream. I’ve put out 3 mixtapes, a EP, and album. Jamla’s secret weapon is GQ. He is a monster. I’m excited for the world to get to know how talented he is. He has his first album dropping October 23rd, entitled “Death Threats and Love Notes”.
Skoodmusic: It seems that you work with a lot of your personal favorite artists often; people like Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, and Big K.R.I.T., for example. What is it like being in the studio with artists who you listen to regularly, or look up to in general?
Rapsody: It’s good to create and build, and be friends with other talented artist. I’m fans of all of those guys and I have so much respect for them all. It’s exciting and they keep me on my toes. It’s just fun to be around like-minded individuals, creating, having fun, and doing what you love. I look at all of them like brothers.
Skoodmusic: Are you happy to finally see your own album on iTunes and the amazing reviews?
Rapsody: I’m speechless. This is a album that you hear many artist say about their debut, “That I’ve been working on my whole life”. It feels like the official beginning of my career. Now, that it’s out and it’s been reviewed and just reading everyone’s responses, Im really speechless. Im happy to have it out for sale, that it peaked at #16 on itunes, and just that everyone loves the music. It’s really humbling and I can’t wait to get back in the studio and continue to have fun and make music. It’s a dream come true.
Skoodmusic: Is there any specific event or occurrence in your life that motivated this album heavily?
Rapsody: 9th’s trip to South Africa shaped this album in so many ways; from the sound to the cover. While he was there he saw a video by Nomsa Mazwai’s on tv. He got her album, and that’s where “Kind of Love”, “In The Town” and “When I Have You” came from. And, that sound was the sound we had been searching for. That was the sound that shaped the whole album. 9th also took the picture we used as the cover right before he and Phonte were leaving to go to the airport to come back to NC. It’s just crazy how it all came together.
Skoodmusic: What inspired you to channel Lauryn Hill so much on The Idea of Beautiful? Her type of sound is definitely missed in hip-hop music and music in general.
Rapsody: That’s just the sound that I fell in love with it. I knew what I was looking for but I didn’t know how to explain it. 9th called it, he said you need something that sounds warm. Something that is between The Score and The Miseducation. That’s your sound. And, the best way to describe that sound was if Lauryn made a rap album that sounded like The Miseducation. She was very influential to me growing up, just like Jay-Z. I didn’t go out trying to be Lauryn, I just did what felt right, and I guess it’s only natural to hear the influence of her and so many others. Similar to D’Angelo, when he came out he was his own artist, but you could hear the influence of Marvin Gaye and Al Green, etc. I was just doing what felt right to me.
Skoodmusic: What is your honest opinion of women in the media today in 2012, as in the portrayal, and the messages being sent so to speak?
Rapsody: When it comes to women, “sex sells” has always been the marketing ploy. Whether we are talking about in commercials selling cigarettes or new mustangs, to Axe deodorant, to movies, as well as music (all genres). In 2012, we could use a lot more balance on a mainstream level so the message isn’t so skewed left. I see a lot more female artists, especially emcees, springing forth and that’s good to see. It’s good to see more getting signed and creating movements. It’s a good start.
Skoodmusic: Who are your favorite female MCs, or artists in the music industry today?
Rapsody: I don’t like to use the term female MCs. But, nonetheless, RaTheMC, Ill Camille, Nitty Scott, Angel Haze, and Azealia Banks. I think they all are dope.
Skoodmusic: If you could collaborate with anyone new or way out of your realm who would it be?
Rapsody: Joey Bada$$ is a new artist I’d love to work with. And, I guess a feature the world wouldn’t expect would be Ellie Goulding. A friend of mine by the name of Kathy Iandoli put me on to her. I love her music. She’s dope.
Skoodmusic: Thats awesome, we love both those artists here at skoodmusic and would love to hear a collab with either of those artists, it would definitely be epic. Thats dope you’re already familiar with Nitty Scott, have you guys ever thought about working on music together?
Rapsody: Yes, I’ve known Nitty Scott for almost a couple years now. We did a song together by the name of “Black Swan” on Statik Selektah’s Population Control. Nitty is dope, and she’s like family. We have a song that we did while I was working on the album and I look forward to working with her more in the future.
Skoodmusic: Do you like the space hip-hop is in right now? Do you think that it’s too commercial, or too negative in embracing violence, drug use, etc?
Rapsody: That all depends on you and how you find and listen to music. If you listen to the radio and watch tv all day, then yes your perception of the state of Hip Hop will be skewed. But, Hip Hop is bigger than being contained in a box with some nobs. I think it is very healthy. There are so many dope artists out, from all over and all different places. You just have to look for them outside of tv and radio.
“There are so many dope artists out, from all over and all different places. You just have to look for them outside of tv and radio”
Skoodmusic: Do you have any other musical talents besides rapping (can you sing, play an instrument, etc?)
Rapsody: For right now, writing and rapping is it for me. But, I’d like to learn how to dj, and I’d also like to take piano lessons. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the piano.
Skoodmusic: What was it like releasing your debut album, especially with all the positive feedback? Were you surprised or did you expect it to work out this way?
Rapsody: I didn’t have any expectations. I told 9th, I don’t want to go into it expecting anything. I was happy and proud of the project, but I just wanted to put it out and see how the people felt. So, to read all the positive reviews, comments, tweets, it’s a really good, humbling feeling. I’m very happy that people love the music. I wanted to grow with this album, and let people get to know more about me and just make life music that people could relate to. So, I’m excited with the outcome and response. I’m definitely enjoying the moment.
Skoodmusic: Now that your debut album has been officially released to the masses, what is going on for you in the upcoming months, any tour dates, or news you could fill us in on?
Rapsody: I have a few spot dates lined up in Greensboro, NC, a Hot97 Who’s Next show in New York, a show with Black Thought in New Jersey, A3C in Atlanta, a show with Big Krit at Oregon State in October coming up, and London in December. We are definitely looking at a tour. We are working that out now. Outside if that, Im focusing on continuing to push the record, shoot videos, and work on some other projects.
Skoodmusic: Do you have a favorite 9th Wonder produced track? I never realized that 9th produced “Threat” by Jay-Z until earlier this week..definitely my song right now.
Rapsody: To be honest, its hard for me to pick a favorite. 9th has so many gems that he has produced. I just really love his sound. He is a genius at what he doesn and I’m honored to be able to work with a legend. But, “Threat” definitely is one of my many favorites; my favorite producer and rapper, its only right.
We just want to thank Rapsody again for granting us this awesome interview, she was extremly humble and down to earth so it was hella easy and came together very clean. Much love & respect. If you haven’t already go snag her The Idea of Beautiful now. Its real hip hop at its finest.