Rapsody’s passion knows no bounds. The veteran MC is no stranger to leaving her heart out on wax, doling out life lessons, and bringing us deep into her world through a series of meticulously crafted and expertly spit stories. Rapsody, born Marlanna Evans, floats beyond the categorization of a “rapper’s rapper.” She needs no co-sign; she’s dope on her own merit. Making some of the most real-life music, while entertaining us with sputtering flows and a wicked pen game, Rap is one of hip-hop’s prized treasures.
On her latest album, Eve, Rap, 36, comes into her own once again. Following her 2017 GRAMMY-nominated album Laila’s Wisdom, she sounds impassioned and enthused with herself, sounds thrilled to be on the mic once more. The album is her freshest and most dynamic work to date, featuring Rapsody relishing in herself, her sexuality, and her joy. Happiness is the fabric of Eve, which Rapsody tells me is intentional.
“It’s the core of it,” Rap says. “We should find happiness in who we are and how we look, and our individuality. Look in the mirror and love the reflection. Understand that we are worthy, and we are enough.”
Legacy, too, makes Eve a cherishable thing. With each of the tracks named after a notable Black woman, Rapsody uses this album to pay homage and develop her legacy in the same turn. “When I think about my legacy, I just wanna be known as someone who helped push the culture forward, to open doors, to change minds on what a female in this time looks like in hip-hop,” she says. “Somebody that reminds people that we have a place, we are talented and gifted, and we shouldn’t be separated because of our gender.”
When all’s said and done, Rapsody wants to go down as one of the best to ever do it. She will.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: The first thing I noticed on Eve was the sheer amount of passion you brought to your delivery. I’ve never heard you so fired up. Where did that come from?
Rapsody: Two places. One, for me, as an artist, figuring out who I am and being comfortable with who I am. Understanding my place in the culture and not having to chase anything or fit [into] anything. I’m just super confident in who I am, and I’m walking my walk fearlessly. Two, I believe the stories that I’m telling and the love and respect I have for Black women. I want to display that urgency in the music. When they listen to it, I want people to hear that it’s honest. It’s not a gimmick or following a trend. We’re working on this album, and it just so happens to drop in a time where Black women are at the forefront of a lot of conversations. That’s not why this album was made, for this time. This album was made for the truth in it.
You sound like you’re having the time of your life, really relishing in yourself and your sexuality and your joy. I think of the line “Undefeated when we laughing.” How important is happiness to the fabric of this album?
Man… It’s the core of it. We should find happiness in who we are and how we look, and our individuality. Look in the mirror and love the reflection. Understand that we are worthy, and we are enough. Once we do those things, we start to fall into true and complete happiness. That’s what it is—me feeling you don’t have to fit into a box. Live life to the fullest and be happy with that. I had so much fun creating this album because I was thinking about growing up and the women that I wrote about, it just brought back the happy memories of how they made me feel. That’s what translates into the music.
You also have so many bars here about survival and perseverance. When did you realize you would never be defeated?
For me, complete comfort and realizing that was around She Got Game. [You] may not have heard it through the music, but I understood my gift and it was more so, me wanting the world to catch up to me. Now, around Laila’s Wisdom, being GRAMMY-nominated, and this album, I realized I don’t live for validation. You don’t need validation to make music for people. That’s your purpose; it comes from within.
There’s also a handful of bars rightfully calling out the industry dynamics and how they hurt women. How does it feel to have the platform to call attention to these issues?
I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful to be able to use my voice to shed light on things that need to be talked about in a truthful, unapologetic way. In an urgent way. We shouldn’t allow anyone else outside of this culture to define us. The power we have as a people to take that control back, this is our culture, so we should be the ones running it and putting out the images of what we look like as women. How we want to be portrayed and how we want to be respected. It’s just a reminder not to forget who we are, our lineage, our history, and the power that we have. Hopefully, [I] add some spark to a spark that’s already there.
I love how you’re playful at times, too. The call-out on JID is hilarious and thought-provoking. Did you guys plan that?
JID kinda set that one up. I did my verses, and I sent it to him to close it out, and he wrote the verse, and then he hit me: “Rap, I ended my verses with ‘and the bitches…’ I need you to come back and check me on it.” I was like, “Yo, that’s dope.” It just worked because the Queen Latifah record came right after it. It was just a dope, full-circle moment.
Naming your songs after all these strong Black women brings me to the idea of legacy. So, what does legacy mean to you?
Wow. When I think about my legacy, I wanna be known as someone who helped push the culture forward, to open doors, to change minds on what a female in this time looks like in hip-hop. Somebody that reminds people that we have a place, we are talented and gifted, and we shouldn’t be separated because of our gender. That’s what I want my legacy to be, and to be one of the greatest that ever done it. Man or woman. To inspire little girls [to see] it doesn’t matter your shape or complexion; you can be one of the best at whatever you do. You can compete with any man. You don’t have to change who you are; you’re enough.
Was there any pressure honoring these women with your music?
No! No pressure at all. I was excited. I woke up every day with a different excitement. I [get to] talk about different things that women deal with. Creatively, it was a really good, fun time for me. It was healing, too. It was a reminder of who I am: I’m well-rounded, and I wanna be well-rounded and balanced.
Eve is a very empowering album, but to be able to empower, you must first be secure in yourself. So, when did you come to a place where Rapsody loved and respected Rapsody?
That’s a good, powerful question. I went through phases, you know? I’ve always been confident and secure, and self-love and that got shaken up a bit when I got to college. I battled some racism and hip-hop… With what I had to deal with being in the business and image, I think I found myself again—and the self-love and confidence—on Beauty And The Beast. I began to get back to self-love and confidence, and understanding who I am and loving myself completely, again.