We are at the core of everything Rapsody does.
In 2016 she became the first female MC to sign with Roc Nation. A year later she followed up the moment by releasing her Grammy-nominated album, Laila’s Wisdom. Another first, as she was the only woman nominated in the Best Rap Album category that year. Now Rapsody, often referred to as Rap, has a new project on the way that celebrates the women she admires, from Serena Williams to Phylicia Rashad.
On her latest effort, the MC honors the brilliance of Black women.
“It’s my ode to the women in my life who have made me who I am, but at the same time I realize it’s bigger than me,” says Rapsody (née Marlanna Evans). “It’s more about the village of Black women. I feel like we all have similar experiences and similar stories and very similar inspirations. My last album, that was for me. That was all personal things that, you know, you can listen to and maybe you can relate, but a lot of it was for me.”
Her new work, aptly named Eve, will feature song titles of past and present-day icons, including Nina Simone, Oprah Winfrey, Aaliyah and Whoopi Goldberg. The rapper collaborated with Queen Latifah on “Hatshepsut” and even coaxed D’Angelo for a guest hook on another song—all for the love of Black women.
“With this one, I wanted to talk about how important it is to have representation, to have women—Black women—you can look to in your life, whether it’s your mother or your sister, or you turn on the TV and you look at The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad or Cicely Tyson, and now Issa Rae or Yara Shahidi,” Rapsody says. “To have examples you can draw from who look like you—that inspires you and feeds you.”
It should come as no surprise that Rapsody’s deep admiration for sisters stems from her own upbringing. Raised in a matriarchal household in North Carolina, she says having a “really strong village of Black women” is the only thing she knows.
“Their strength and their resolve and their classiness and their love and their fight and how much they carry within my own family, it really spoke to me,” she explains. “I was always open and aware that I had that and how beautiful that was and that everybody doesn’t have that.”
This foundation, this sense of sisterhood, makes Rapsody one of the most beloved MCs in hip-hop. She’s happy to talk about the space rappers like Nicki Minaj have carved out for other women in the genre, and she readily praises Megan Thee Stallion, Kash Doll, and Rico Nasty for their eagerness to support one another. She also sees so many opportunities for women in hip-hop to find their own niche without having to compare themselves with anyone else.
“Women are realizing that we can support each other,” she says. “We can talk life and good things into each other. We can compete musically because we all should compete musically. The dope thing about that is, you can hear somebody’s album and be like, ‘Wow, that was amazing. I want to make something better than that,’ and vice versa. You put that out and they’re like, ‘Wow, that’s dope.’ When you compete like that, it helps the art, and outside of that, you still can respect each other and love what each one brings to the table.”
See Rapsody perform at ESSENCE After Dark on July 4 at Republic NOLA in New Orleans.