Newly minted signee to Roc Nation, rapper Rapsody was in celebration mode last night (Thursday | 9/21) at her album release party, answering questions and taking pictures with special guests who were in the building, supporting the thought-provoking lyricists on her sophomore project, Laila’s Wisdom – officially out TODAY.
Songstress Elle Varner, vet Hip Hop Journalist-turned rapper Rob Markman, Queens’ own Pharoahe Monch, Rae Holliday, her dream team – producers 9th Wonder and Young Guru, and more were all there to applaud the North Carolina native on her efforts, drinking and having a good time at NYC’s Sweet Chick Lower East Side location.
With features on the album like Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes, Black Thought, Musiq Soulchild, Terrace Martin, BJ the Chicago Kid, and not sure if you folks already heard her “Power” track featuring Mr. K Dot himself that’s currently hitting airwaves, the Grammy-nominated and critically acclaimed songwriter/hip hop artist took a minute away from all her praises to chat a bit about the album and a few other things.
Paying homage to her grandmother ‘Laila’, Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom captures her incredible diversity of flow and depth of message through a poignant and riveting collection of lyrics over 14 insightful tracks.
“It’s always the fun part when you spend so much time making music and then you get it put it out and see how the people connect with it. That’s the most exciting part of it all for me as an artist because you know, I don’t make music for myself. I make it for other people.”
In regards to the best part of putting out her project, Rapsody shared, “When you see comments like, I love this song or that song; I can really relate to – that’s the most rewarding part.”
From this project to Crown, her last body of work which was released back in November 2016, upping herself just a bit, Rapsody informed that, “With Crown, we went in and just wanted to have fun; we didn’t think about it. We just went in, recorded for 3 weeks and then put it out. With this one (Laila’s Wisdom), we took our time, spent 2 years on it. It was myself, 9th Wonder, Terrace Martin who brought that Jazz element making it so much bigger, it was just a whole different space and project that we put a lot of time, energy, thought and fun into. But it’s just a bigger record, more conceptual, just a complete body of work.” Making sure all was just right for her fans, she continued, “It’s been about 80% to 90% complete for about a year. I’ve lived with it a long time, sample clearances take a long time, paperwork – it’s a long process.” And one well worth it.
With a crazy team on board, we had to ask what it was like getting in with those guys, at which she exclaimed, “The thing with working with all those guys was well, we were all family beforehand, so it was just us bringing all those talents into one room and working together. And it was easy because nobody had an ego…”
“Music was the biggest ego in the room and we all just wanted to make the best project.”
“Terrace brought the jazz side, he taught me a lot of things about playing with my voice and thinking outside the box; you know, using the room and the walls to use your voice to bounce off of. 9th, we push eachother. 9th’s beats always bring something out of me; it’s crazy, as legendary and talented that he is, he’s still elevating everyday. Guru, he brings the engineer side and just makes a stink in his own way; being with Rocafella so many years, thinking about records and sound-wise, making it more layered. Bringing all of those talents in was amazing!”
Always setting herself apart from what everyone else is doing, dealing with the pressures of having to conform, or not conforming rather, she was firm in her position and humble nature being due to having a sharp & uplifting team and keeping to her Carolina roots, “I think One, I have a great team around me that keeps me focused and grounded. Two, I’ve learned early on that I can’t do anybody better than them, I can only be myself, the best version of me.
“Me trying to be like somebody else and fit into their thing is not going to work because it’s not honest. And when you do something that’s not honest, something that’s not natural, it’s not going to last.”
“Living in North Carolina helps, it’s not like a New York or LA where I see a million rappers and what they have, trying to keep up with the rat-race, in NC it’s nothing but us and trees, sports and God. So I can stay grounded. The main thing is my team, and what I grew up on.”
And after 6 years as an independent artist, deciding to sign with none other than Roc Nation was the best way to go after riding the wave. “I think we always know that, we can only do so much to a certain level. And to partner with a team like Roc Nation, and Jay Z and what that brand means, them having a better reach and can help with our platforms; it was just the timing was right and plus they were the right fit for us. I’ve had label meetings and they weren’t the right fit, so they got it, they loved the culture. They allowed us to be as creative as we wanted to be, it was just the perfect fit. Everybody had the same goal, and we respect each other. So it was an easy decision.”
How did it feel to have a legend like Busta Rhymes herald “Laila’s Wisdom” as the best from a female MC he’s heard in over 10 years? “Speechless! I don’t even know how to put that in words, what that means. Busta Rhymes, one of the greatest entertainers, one of the greatest MC’s ever, been doing this 20 plus years so to think about everything he’s heard and all the knowledge. When you get someone like that to give you that kind of respect, recognition, and love, that means something. And to know that the music touched him in that way, I’m just honored.”
As far as one day collaborating with the great Jay Z himself, “My whole career has been built on God’s time so as far as doing something with Jay Z himself, I think it will happen when the time is right in some state, form or fashion. We will see!”
Totally in tuned with what she is about, we also share a commonality for the culture with Rapsody. ‘Culture Over Everything’ being her philosophy that you can say has molded her throughout her career, it’s important to never forget the purpose of the music in the first place. As Hip Hop was created on the bases of getting tot he people in the first place, not just being afforded the luxury of fame and money. “It’s my foundation! It always reminded me that ‘it’s for the people and by the people’ at the end of the day. If you’re not touching and moving the people, then what are we doing it for? The money, the fame, and the accolades, all of that comes when you touch the people first, so never make that your focus (money & fame). “
“Keep it about the culture, first and foremost.”