Masterpiece in the Making

In 2000, the idea of the female MC standing on her own was non-exisistent – almost laughable.   It had seemed that the pioneering efforts of Salt & Pepper, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Lauren Hill were all but forgotten about as female rap artists were relegated to play the sexy side-kick in a hip hop buddy movie literally – only playing a role in a male dominated crew.  Fast forward to the end of 2010 and a female MC’s debut album was one of the most anticipated albums of the year.  Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday garnered platinum status within a month of its release and along with BET’s documentary My Mic Sounds Nice; it appeared that the industry and the world was taking an interest in female rappers once again.  Poised to take the stage and stake her claim on hip hop is Kyah Baby. 

Kyah Baby is a Queens native with a regal vocal delivery that has not forgotten her hip hop roots.  Proof of that is her single titled “L.O.H.H (Ladies of Hip Hop)” which pays homage to all the women who paved the way for the female rappers of today.  Since signing with Selfish Music Group a year ago, Kyah has been featured on “Standing on Couches” with Jim Jones, Lil Kim and Lloyd Banks and has received spins on Hot 97 and Power 105.1.   At the end of 2010, Kyah released her debut mixtape titled The Rough Draft, a slight glimpse of this female lyrist’s true talent.  If The Rough Draft actually lives up to its title, then I predict this female MC will definitely be a part of the new wave of female rappers sweeping hip hop. 

F.A.M.E NYC had an opportunity to speak to Kyah Baby about The Rough Draft, her musical style and influences.

How did you first begin your relationship with DJ Self and the Selfish Music Group?

I first began my relationship with DJ Self when I met him through another artist on Selfish Music Group. Self had heard me on a mixtape and was interested in having me as an artist as soon as he heard me. I went to go meet him at the station; we discussed some things and took it from there.

How did growing up in Queens influence your musical style and vocal delivery?

I don’t think Queens itself influenced my musical style and delivery; I think my experiences in life did that. But, growing up in Queens has given me certain knowledge and encouragement that it is possible for someone like me to make it.  When growing up, I saw people like LL Cool J, Mobb Deep, 50 Cent [and] at present Nicki [Minaj] made it, it gives me a lot of faith and hope.

How did you receive the name the Freestyle Princess?

[Laughs]  I never heard that nickname before, maybe the “Princess of Hip Hop.”   But I am known for blessing the people with a quick 16 [bars].

What compelled you to write and record “L.O.H.H (Ladies of Hip Hop)”?

It’s funny because I tell the same story every time. What actually influenced me was when I was at Summer Jam.   I was saddened to see only one female performing there. It just made me reminisce on when there were many females in the game all at once – all for one in unity. I just thought it would be the right thing to do, to show these women that they are remembered and have made a difference for females in the game as well as up & coming females like myself.

The new millennium has thus far seen a virtual disappearance of female MCs from mainstream hip hop.  Do you believe that the success of Nicki Minaj is ushering a new age for ladies in hip hop?

I really can’t call it, it’s just the beginning.  I’m focused on my music.   My first mixtape The Rough Draft is out right now and available to download for free on www.datpiff.com.

How did you come up with the title of your new mixtape?

It came from the first title I had for my mixtape, which was actually Sincerely, Kyah, but then I thought that sounds like the end of something.  I’m fresh and new, so I have to start from scratch. That’s when I thought…before you compose a proper piece of writing, you go through the outline, the rough draft, the edited version, the final essay, things like that.  So, I just figured ‘Hey, why not start out with the rough draft.’

What is your favorite track off The Rough Draft?

My favorite track off The Rough Draft is number five, “Doesn’t Matter.”  The song is really personal [and] about things I’ve been through with friends and family as well as my personal thoughts on a lot of things.

Name your top five Hip Hop albums/mixtapes of all time.

Wow, top five in hip hop.  It’s funny because I grew up off R&B, [Laughs].  I would have to say Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Lil’ Kim’s Hardcore and Biggie’s Life After Death.

Do you have performances lined up?  If so, where?

There’s no official dates yet, but if you stay connected with me and follow me on twitter.com/KYAHBABY_SMG, that’s @KYAHBABY_SMG , I’ll definitely post show dates, radio interviews, videos and photo shoots, so look out for that.   Also, make sure you type “Kyah Baby” in YouTube.  My videos are up, so go check that out as well.

Besides The Rough Draft, what else should your fans expect from you in 2011?

The Rough Draft was 2010, [Laughs].   For 2011, they can expect more videos, more songs [and] more mixtapes… basically a takeover!

Ladies First

For its first original music documentary, BET decided to put women center stage in My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth about Women in Hip-Hop.  The film discussed the idea what it is like to be a female in the male dominated realm of hip-hop from industry vets like MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, Missy Elliot, Trina, Eve, Medusa, Lady Bug Mecca and more.  My Mic Sounds Nice also featured commentary by Kevin Liles, Swizz Beatz, Chuck D, Quest Love, Russell Simmons, Jermaine Dupri, as well as members of the media such as Big Lez, journalist Smokey D. Fontaine and others.

The documentary begins with the start of hip-hop creating its buzz on the streets of New York City during the late 70’s, early 80’s and placed a much need spotlight on the female pioneers such as Angie Stone, Sha-Rock, Roxanne Shante and others.  It progressed into what is considered by most hip-hop heads and aficionados as the “golden age of hip-hop” during the mid ‘80s to early ‘90s as female MCs like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa and others cemented their place in hip-hop history.  The foundation these ladies paved ushered in what I call the “Hailey’s Comet “of female hip-hop artists – a flash of ladies that shimmered during the mid ‘90s and eventually faded into the horizon as the new millennium evolved.

My Mic Sounds Nice also explored the concepts of the hypersexualized MC like Foxy Brown, Trina and Little Kim, MCs that exploded based on talent and originality like Missy Elliot and Lauren Hill, as well as the pressure of being a female MC, a pressure Nicky Minaj is surely feeling now as she is attempting to resurrect the idea of a female MC back into the industry’s collective consciousness.

After the first 20 minutes, I was well on my way to giving this documentary a D+, and the “D” was not for dope.  I felt like I was watching an over packed suitcase bursting at the seams, bustling on an airport ramp to nowhere.  I contemplated how director/executive producer Ava DuVernay could cram over 30 years worth of history as well as the question of the disappearance of the female MC into an hour-long documentary.  But as the film continued, I began to see the method of her madness.   The film was just as elusive as the notion of a female hip-hop artist in today’s industry.  Slowly my opinion changed from skepticism to optimism.  My Mic Sounds Nice is not a hurried, crash course in being a woman in hip-hop.  Instead, it is a well crafted mosaic of opinions created to provoke thought and evoke change.  Like the peep shows that littered Times Square in the ‘80s, it played with viewers mind –   tantalizing, teasing, forcing the viewer to demand more as the credits rolled.  If Ava DuVernay wanted the streets to percolate with the question of “Where are the female rappers,” then she has certainly sparked the debate with this documentary.  I give My Mic Sounds Nice an A for astonishing and thank Ava DuVernay for tackling a subject that is long overdue.

Female MC’s From NYC