Thursday, 13 January 2005

Battle Of The Breast

There’s a wave of female MC’s bending the rules and the music establishment over a barrel. Like me you may not remember when British MC Monie Love broke America or when Deborah Harry (Blondie) first rapped bars about hip hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy on Rapture, a track that took the art of female emceeing to number one in the charts in 1980. But when you think about it, its actually quite sad that until recently we’ve had to look that far back for successful female MC’s. Maybe it’s unsurprising given the reputation of the UK music industry, but while the USA and hip hop have boomed and brought forth multi-platinum selling female emcees to mainstream audiences it’s only now the UK are finally catching on.

It seems thanks to the success of the burgeoning underground music scene and the efforts of mic blazers past and present, more and more female emcees are emerging and challenging both the lyric and history books ultimately spurred through a very real hip hop gene. They’re bringing stories and rhymes fuelled by social climate and stifled opinions. Unknowingly perhaps, but they’re fighting a saturated fantasy world of bling and worse.

In the wake of the success of MC’s like Ms Dynamite, who contrary to popular belief still spits bars like the rest of them (at underground London club night Forward, Dynamite a former resident, turned up unannounced recently to unleash 30 minutes of firing verbals), record companies and the public are opening their ears.

While Shystie has been snapped up by Polydor and Estelle by J-DID/V2, Touch caught up with six of London’s leading ladies on the high-rise…

UZI (Urban Soul Incorporated), 17, South London
Having casually written poetry and MCing for a number of years, UZI joined South London collective N Double A last summer. Their track, Ghetto Living appeared on the first Street Dreams compilation and they can currently be seen spitting on Lord Of The Decks 2, their own Top Boy DVD’s and under 21’s club nights.

I MC because…I’ve got a message to deliver and aside from the music I’ve got talent in lyrics and I want to express that and give that to the people.
MC Style…Real, urban life.
On being a female…I think it makes it harder and you have to prove your point more. You have to justify your talent where as men can get recognised through ego and arrogance. I wish people would just listen to the music.
Musical memory…Recording tunes and listening to the final product, Wake Up is on a conscious tip and that was an amazing feeling.
Fave MC’s…Wiley, All In One, Fury’s my girl, Narstie, L Man and my favourite is Dizzee Rascal.
Drug of choice…I think all music.
Working on…Our raves and our new radio station has just launched, 95.5 On Top FM. I’m doing an R&B tempo track with a beat from Sinister and I’ve just finished the Pum, Pum Riddim, and a tune called Wake Up for the next Street Dreams compilation album.

Tor, 23, East London.
After winning college competitions and linking up with a management team, Tor was signed to Go Beat for a spell before the label moved from Polydor to Island. Instead of compromising her music (and soul) she returned to the studio with a new found vigour and recently appeared on the Split Mic mixtape. While currently talking with various major record labels she continues to play football for Tottenham Ladies.

I MC because…I can’t help it. In east London you either do sport or MC because there’s nothing to do. Pen and paper is accessible, It doesn’t cost anything and if you’re good, you can get credibility for it.
MC Style… I rap but I kind of sing too.
On being a female… It’s helped in a way. If you do what you’re doing and you do it right you’re really going to stand out.
Fave MC’s: I’m feeling Klashnekoff, Talib Kwelli is a big one on the list - I like a lot of different things about different MC’s, flows like Lil Kim’s Jay-Z’s, the boys like Kano…
Musical Memory…Working in New York with Rashad Smith…there’s such a buzz about hip hop there that it makes you work so quick and feel excited to be part of hip hop.
Drug of choice…I don’t smoke or drink anything. I’m a football player too and I’m busy recovering from a leg injury.
Working on…My album, some new bits with Fusion, Rashad Smith, JK and I’ve just started a track with Wonder. I know my best work is yet to come.

Maihem, 18, East London.
Maihem started her career at the tender age of four, playing the keyboards. She began song writing at ten and spitting at 13. Maihem is one of the few females producing a lot of her own beats and is now working with J2K and big boy producer TNT.

I MC because…That’s what I do, it’s me, it my life. If I wasn’t MCing, spitting, making beats I don’t know where I’d be right now, prison or something.
MC Style: Different. I just remember how I used to listen to people like Skiba and wanna learn that rolling tongue.
On been a female…It does and it doesn’t make a difference for the fact that you’re going to get love if you’re good no matter what, but been a female makes you stand out a little more.
Fave tune to date: Scorpion (with DJ Target).
Fave MC’s: Kano, D Double E, J2K and the youngers like Scare Dem.
Musical memory…Meeting J2K, he’s a funny character who brightens up the studio and going to see Erykah Badu live. That was a life changing experience trust me.
Drug of choice: Music, it gets every problem and point across.
Working on: I’ve just realised I’m not an MC, I’m an artist. Every genre is my genre, standard. I’m doing the next Heat In The Street mixtape with J2K and I’m on DJ Target’s Aim High mixtape.

Lady Sovereign,18, North London.
Sovereign’s career launched on vinyl last year with track The Battle featuring Shysite and co. She’s currently working with a host of producers including Medasyn and Sunship. Having just finished a stint warming up for Obie Trice and more recently playing Fabric Live with Dizzee Rascal, Sov is tipped by more than just the industry for the top.

I MC because…It’s all I want to do, Ms Dynamite inspired me. I have nothing to fall back on I just want people to hear me and laugh. I knew I could be better than the swag MC’s I used to hear on radio.
MC Style: Cheeky and random
On been a female… It’s nothing. It doesn’t make a difference it’s how you are, it’s how you spit.
Fave tune to date: A Little Bit Of Ssh! (Out now) or Midget that I’m working on.
Fave MC’s: Anyone who’s cheeky - Flirta D, Missy Elliott, Ludacris, Outkast.
Would love to collaborate with: Dizzee, Wiley, Outkast.
Drug of choice: Hash. It gives me the giggles.
Working on…Bare tunes, mixtapes, dubs. I’ve just finished a remix for The Streets next single with Tinchy Stryder, Kano and Donae’o. I’m set to go on tour with The Streets later this year.

Lady Fury, 17, East London.
It was when Fury started entering competitions at under 21’s raves like Young Man Standing that she got noticed and now she is the only female MC regularly booked for Eskimo Dance’s and Sidewinder. Formerly a member of East Connection, she now sits with her mentor Maxwell D and The Musketeer family while aspiring to become a youth worker.

MC Style…Angry and real.
I MC because…it helps me express myself, I like music and I like writing bars. I was a very shy person and MCing helped me overcome it and gave me confidence.
On being a female…It’s still more about talent in this game than sex or race.
Fave MC’s…I only started listening to MC’s after seeing Dynamite fuck up EQ, that made me want to do it, so her, she murked the rave in two seconds. I also like Heartless and Pay As U Go.
Raves and clashing… I clashed Gift’s sister, Q-T once, she sent for me but I’m not in it, I’ve got a bigger picture and being negative isn’t going to benefit me. I find at raves people either go mad or they stare, like their a bit shocked or something.
Drug of choice…Trainers. Decades are the lick now, not Nike, you gotta move with the times. I like the old skool look, with adidas you can come different, you can just cover your body with clothes or you can have a look. I’m an individual, you get me?
Working on…Tracks, keeping up profile on radio. Gash featuring Demon, Murk Dem my first solo and Tools So Small are all out in shops.

Rzarector, 20, East London.
Also representing The Musketeers, Rzarector only began MCing 18 months ago driven by her frustration at only being able to sing to her television. It was through ongoing work experience (from the age of 16) with Commander B on Choice FM that she hooked up with mentor Maxwell D and Fury.

MC Style…Bashy but lowkey.
I MC because…I can’t sing. I just want to be happy with what I’m doing and what music I’m putting out.
Being a female…People get excited when they know you’re a female MC, but it’s not a big thing. It doesn’t bother me, I don’t see a difference.Fave MC’s…I won’t go home and listen to pirates, I rate a lot of people in the game but I don’t really have inspiration. I would like to collaborate with Kano though if I could. He’s big.
Inspiration…People that piss me off, I try not to but that’s what I find myself writing about, especially HO’s. I’ll remember if
you’ve done me wrong in the past and you’ll know the lyric is about you without me calling your name.
Fave track to date: Mine and Fury’s version of Terror Danjah’s Cock Back.
Drug of choice…Bless. Strictly high grade boy.
Working on…Our show on Flashback 99.3fm, Tuesdays, 8pm, The Musketeers album. I’ve laid down tunes I haven’t even named that are in the pipeline to be released.

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