Less than 48 hours after the release of Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore LP, To Pimp a Butterfly
, interviews with the album’s only featured guest rapper—Jamla Records’ first lady, Rapsody
—began popping up on big-name spots like Complex
and MTV. The interest in the backstory of how the Snow Hill, North Carolina native made the cut for Lamar’s buckshot-jazz critique on intraracial colorism, “Complexion (A Zulu Love),” was surprising not only in terms of major coverage for such a minor player on a mega-release but also revealing for how such outlets cover female emcees in general.
This question, for instance, from NME’s blog interview
: “Do you know where Kendrick drew his inspiration and creativity from for To Pimp A Butterfly
?” asked interviewer Lucy Jones, instead of asking hip-hop’s latest "'it' woman” where she gets her
inspiration. Goofy questions like this tend to present Lamar as some mythical and enigmatic supernova (“What is it about Kendrick that draws people to him?”) and speak strongly to a specific gender bias in hip-hop.
Jamla’s new brand manager, Karlie Hustle, picked up on the imbalance. “Why are media outlets by/for women not covering Rapsody on the Kendrick project, but would have a 10-page thinkpiece up if he'd chosen Iggy?” she tweeted
. But two days later, following the release of Rapsody’s new video for her single “The Man,”
one of those outlets answered Hustle’s frustrations, though with a lack of ambition. On Jezebel’
s pop culture subblog The Muse,
writer Hillary Crosley Coker penned an encyclopedic, Pulitzer-worthy critique
of the single that read, “The song is good and Rapsody's rhymes are solid.” Way to go, Hillary!
At least the knee-jerk press and hysteria surrounding TPAB
may offer the perfect setup for the release of Rapsody’s new video for “The Man,” a song that appeared on last October’s Beauty and the Beast
. The tune tackles the difficult issue of fatherless homes in the black community and the socio-psychological effects on the boys who oftentimes have no choice but to grow up quick and adapt to premature patriarchal roles. Rapsody’s spin on the topic highlights a lose-lose scenario, where even the most resilient, respectable and responsible young black men in these situations still have to battle profiling and police brutality. It’s a subject that has polarized the country over the past year and, coincidentally, falls in line with some of the major theme’s on Lamar’s TPAB
, which Rolling Stone's Greg Tate says has “mob-deeped the new Jim Crow.”
For that reason alone, Rapsody’s “The Man” surely deserves stronger adjectives than “good” and “solid.” The rising Raleigh emcee deserves to be commended for piecing together an eight-year grind that’s put her here, unequivocally—aligned with the past year’s biggest social movements and