Rapsody tells Jalen Rose how she made it in the rap game

Marlanna Evans grew up in a small town in North Carolina with a population of around 2,000 people.

“Everybody knows everybody,” she told me on “Renaissance Man” from Snow Hill, North Carolina. “Two-parent household. I was one of five kids, a whole bunch of cousins ​​running around barefoot, you know, going into the woods and fishing. And I was a tomboy. I loved basketball. I loved hip hop.

But Rapsody, Marlanna’s alter ego, is now officially Hollywood. The Grammy-nominated rapper, emcee, and storyteller worked on the coming-of-age film « On the Come Up, » which was based on Angie Thomas’ book of the same name. The film tells the story of Bri, a teenage rapper trying to conquer the world of underground rap battles. Rapsody wrote the music for the Sanaa Lathan-directed film and also coached its young star Jamila C. Gray, who plays Bri. Fittingly, Rapsody was one of Thomas’ original inspirations for the book.

“So working there is a real looping moment. But I connected so much with her story because I saw myself in her. And I think a lot of artists will,” the 39-year-old said.

It’s quite a hit for this country girl, who got hooked on hip-hop after hearing MC Lyte’s « Poor Georgie, » which dropped in 1991. But she didn’t try rapping until attend NC State.

« We hadn’t really been exposed to the arts in our own way or we didn’t know anyone… It was foreign to me, » she said. « So, you know, it wasn’t something that I thought was achievable. So it was really just a dream. Everyone thought I was going to go to college and play basketball and do whatever after that. But once I got to college and then got into [rap]I kept it secret.

But secrets rarely stay secret, especially within families.

« I had a younger cousin and he was at my mom’s house and he was listening to one of my
Songs. [My mother] said, ‘What are you listening to?’ He was like, ‘Marlanna.’ She was shocked,” Rapsody said of her mother, who then gave her daughter support.

After college, Rapsody really tried to make it in the rap game and was so poor that she shared McDonald’s meals with her friends. None of this impressed her sister, who kicked her out because she didn’t have a real job, so she sometimes slept in the studio. Producer 9th Wonder gave her a chance and featured her on his second album. She was officially in the game and unplugging, « annoying » everyone on Twitter, spamming users like a bot, with her work.

« I look back and I was like, I know people hated us… It was so corny, » she said of her first social media strategy.

She has since signed with Roc Nation and collaborated with the biggest names in the industry, including Kendrick Lamar and the late Mac Miller, to name a few. And she got some impressive endorsements. Dr. Dre told her she was his favorite rapper.

Rapsody attends the BET Music Showcase at City Market Social House on January 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (
Rapsody wrote the music for the film « On the Come Up » directed by Sanaa Lathan.
Getty Images for BET

« That’s when it all really settled down. I’m like, okay, we’re here now, » she told me.

Dre was far from her only male admirer in the industry. In fact, she said her biggest supporters were guys, including Mac, Kendrick, Big Chris, 9th Wonder, and Ab-Soul.

“The men were very, very supportive. The majority of my fans were male,” she said, adding that Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu were also influences.

But Rapsody — who is a purist and doesn’t fit the mold of today’s female rappers like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion who ooze sexuality — has found some prejudice in the industry.

“When it came to the music business, it was hard to be respected as a woman who rapped like I rapped,” she said. “At a time when sex was sold. And there is nothing wrong with that. I like women who love their bodies. But it was the only narrative that was pushed.

« It felt like I was making space for myself, allowing people to respect me for who I was and not just throwing me on a bunch of lists with other women, » she said, adding that she wanted to be called an artist. , not just relegated to the female category.

Rapsody had to fight hard to go “against the tide of what this job was. And the stories he pushed.

To borrow from Mr. Sinatra, she did it her own way. And it sure works.

Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan iconoclast Fab Five, which rocked college basketball in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before becoming a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for « NBA Countdown » and « Get Up, » and co-host of « Jalen & Jacoby. » He produced ‘The Fab Five’ for ESPN’s ’30 for 30′ series, is the bestselling author of ‘Got To Give the People What They Want’, a fashion designer, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership. Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.


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