Crowning a female champion of Hip-Hop over the last decade has been an easy task. Since 2009 the most popular lady MC has been Nicki Minaj. Many have come and gone but in 2017 it looks as if that throne is about to crumble from under Nicki as she has several challengers. Earlier this week it was announced that Cardi B has the #1 song in the country with her vicious yet catchy ‘Bodak Yellow’. While Cardi’s star is beginning to rise, another lady who’s been grinding for some years is finally starting to get the recognition she deserves. Rapsody is a name you may remember from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly but she has been making music long before that. Laila’s Wisdom is her coming out party, her first release after she signed to Roc Nation in 2016.
What makes Rapsody stand out in a crowded room of female rappers is her lyricism. She doesn’t use wild flows or voices to get her point across; Rapsody is a Hip-Hop lover’s dream come true. Throughout Laila’s Wisdom you can catch lyrics that will make you rewind the track or stare at your phone like Weebay from “The Wire”. “They say we three fifths human, the rest of me’s an Autobot” she boasts in the title track, giving you a display of fun yet inciteful lyrics that tell her story and history as a Black woman in America. Rapsody does this several times on Laila’s Wisdom where she takes a serious topic, like the social media driven second half of ‘Nobody’, and turns it into a song that doesn’t come off like she’s harping on you. “I gotta fit in and keep up wit it, ya know/ I gotta tell em when I wake up, gotta show em what I eat/I gotta tell em where I’m goin’, gotta explain why I got beef” is a testament to how we live live in 2017. Rapsody’s analysis with these lyrics is a mirror looking back at society; this is normal routine for a vast majority today.
Laila’s Wisdom is an example of what competition can do for an artist. Rapsody makes it known she’s coming for the top spot of female rappers but doesn’t hold back with the plethora of male rappers featured (most notably keeping up with Kendrick Lamar on ‘Power’). Hip-Hop has always been competitive. You never wanted to have the weakest verse in the cypher or on the song. That’s not to say Rapsody only showcases great lyrics with her features but it’s more noticeable she wants to show out and prove she’s as great as her male counterparts. Being a woman in Hip-Hop is hard to begin with as labels and society expect a certain look; being a LYRICAL woman in Hip-Hop has to be 100 times more difficult. Rapsody didn’t conform to these gender norms and it pays off with Laila’s Wisdom.
Sans a weird Busta Rhymes entrance on ‘You Should Know’, this album makes excellent use of its guest features. 9th Wonder is responsible for most of the production and dives into a more soulful arena than he has previous ventured. Hearing Rapsody with Anderson .Paak, BJ The Chicago Kid, or even Musiq Souldchild is beautiful, displaying a harmonious union that can even make songs about being shamed for your looks be soulful (as presented with ‘Black & Ugly’). Out of all the major releases this year, Laila’s Wisdom presents a genuine take not only on the Black experience in America but what that experience is like for a woman as well. Rapsody is doing her part to claim that female MC crown but while doing it, she might become one of the most recognizable names in all of Hip-Hop.
Repeatable: ‘Pay Up’, ‘Nobody’ feat. Anderson .Paak, Black Thought, & Moonchild, ‘U Used 2 Love Me’ feat. Terrace Martin
Skippable: ‘Chrome (Like Ooh)’
By Joe Coad