meta-scriptWhite Dave On The Producers That Inspire Him, Why He's "Not A Rapper By Nature" & His New EP, 'Porch Sessions' |
White Dave

White Dave

Photo: Anshil Popli


White Dave On The Producers That Inspire Him, Why He's "Not A Rapper By Nature" & His New EP, 'Porch Sessions'

The jubilant rapper White Dave's blunted new EP, 'Porch Sessions,' which dropped on 4/20, is all about the reason for the season

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2021 - 05:20 pm

If White Dave doesn't have the right beat in front of him, it's hard for him to get creative. Luckily, one transported him to the period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance.

Upon hearing the beat that would become "Peek," the rapper born Noah David Coogler suddenly hurtled through time and space; his street threads transformed into chain mail; his mic became Excalibur itself. "It gave me an old-school, stone-castles, moat-with-an-alligator-type vibe," he recalls to "I was like, "Oh, man, this s**t sounds like some medieval-type, 'I'm on a horse,' jousting [scenario]. The horn felt like Merlin and wizards and s**t."

While that description may recall a D&D match on shag carpet with the shades drawn, White Dave hears the potential for the opposite: Ladies' night at the club. "It's got the crazy-ass beat; it's got the sexy-ass horn," he says of the tune’s appeal to the fairer sex. "I was like, "Let me do something for the ladies that will make them want to move and spark some imagination."

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"Peek" is a slinky highlight from this month's Porch Sessions, White Dave's latest in a series of releases dropping on 4/20. The Richmond, California, rapper born Noah David Coogler has mostly gotten ink for contributing to films by his brother, Ryan, like Black Panther and Judas and the Black Messiah. But the EP's energy, vivacity and humor points to a future far afield from his brother's shadow.

White Dave takes a long toke on the cover of Porch Sessions, but if the weed imagery conjures an unmotivated couch potato, think again. His work ethic is second to none, and when the pandemic finally wraps up, expect this talented MC to make a massive splash onstage and in the studio.

"I want to connect more, build more with other artists and build up the bread," White Dave proclaims. "The best way to build up the bread is to expand and network, and that means working with other individuals who are like-minded and have a similar hustle." gave White Dave a ring about the dynamo producers that made Porch Sessions possible, why he's had to work harder than most MCs and the inspiration behind each track on the EP.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

This is one of a few records you've released on 4/20. What's special about that day to you?

Brand reinforcement, brother. Brand reinforcement. I'm a fan of weed. My fans and people who listen to me are fans of weed. I felt like it would be not only on brand but a nice gift to connect with the fans on 4/20, the day of herb. It gives them something to look forward to every year. 

I know if my favorite artist promised that they'd release something every year on 4/20, man, I'd be kept in. It's a good way to connect with the audience and give back to the people.

What was your approach for Porch Sessions as opposed to some of the other 4/20 albums?

Typically, if I'm making an EP, I just sit down, get a couple of beats together and start writing. What makes this a little bit more special is that I linked up with some new producers that I hadn't worked with before. Anytime I work with new producers, I always get excited because working with new people unlocks new creative energy.

That's why DP [Beats] and Beats By Holly are the two new producers I linked up with for the EP. They inspired me, man. Of course, I've got Boom production on there, but they really drove it home for me. I've got J-Mac vibing to the production as well. They all inspired me to make these records. 

I made a bunch of records, we trimmed the fat and I've got these five records I felt could stand on their own and were an accurate representation of me. So, we put them together and got it out.

What do you specifically appreciate about these producers?

Man, anytime I turn on a beat and it sounds fresh—it doesn't sound like anything else that I've heard—I try to remain in my lane, you know? Kind of carve out my own sound, my own kind of lane. All the beats on the project, in my opinion, were really unique and kind of captured different artistic levels and sides of me.

Anytime I'm able to get inspired by the production, it makes the studio session that much easier. Sometimes, I'll be writing to a beat and the beat doesn't move me; the production doesn't move me. Which isn't to say that it's a bad beat; it just doesn't connect to me the way I'd like for it to. 

The producers and production on this project spoke to me and I was able to sit down and get some nice records together. I'm excited about the feedback and I'm excited for people to be introduced.

It seems like it's not just the sound of the record; it's putting the right beat in front of you so the creativity can flow. The producer's role applies throughout the music-making process.

Absolutely. I'm not a rapper by nature. I talk about this all the time; I love making beats. And because I'm not a rapper by nature, I've got to really, really, really rock it with the production because that will encourage and unlock that rap energy.

I grew up making beats, so when I hear beats, I'm listening to it like a solo producer: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is tight, this is tight." Oftentimes, I hear a beat and it unlocks that rapper mentality, that rapper mind-state. Those are the beats that I usually put on my EPs and albums: the beats that unlock that type of creativity.

These producers, they did it for me. I'm so excited about the sound of this project. And it sounds so much different than all my other 4/20 projects. All my 4/20 projects sound different, and that's what I'm definitely going to do as an artist: continue to grow, continue to mature, continue to push the boundaries.

Photo: Anshil Popli​

You said you're not a rapper by nature. Do you mean to say you're technically limited in some way? Which is not a slight, because many of my favorite singers and guitarists are very technically limited.

Yeah, absolutely. Man, I grew up with acts who can rap. And when I say "rap," I mean you can turn on anything and they just bar the s**t up. I never grew up with the innate ability to just rap off-the-cuff. 

Of course, I could freestyle with friends and s**t like that and X, Y and Z, but I had to really sit down and learn and teach myself how to structure bars and how to ride the beat and how to format songs—hook, chorus, bridge, intro and outro. I had to really sit down and learn the fine technique and intricate detail of being a rapper.

For me, the way my brain works, producing is second nature because I've been banging on tables and making melodies and cutting rhythms since I came into the Earth. But layering words over beats was something that I had to teach myself. 

I started freestyling and rapping and putting bars down when I was 10 or so, but I didn't record my first record until I was 12 years old. That's because I was teaching myself. Making beats came so easy, man. I don't even know how to explain it.

I had a keyboard at my house when I was growing up and I used to play on that thing all night, making beats, just because it connected. It sounds that way connected to my brain. But for me, personally, rapping activates a whole different hemisphere of my brain. That's why I'm always thankful when I meet and work with producers that activate that.

Technically speaking, what's the most important aspect of rapping?

That's a layered question, and I'll tell you why: It's different for every artist. I say that because as a rapper, you've got your tone as a whole—just how you sound on a record. Then, you've got your delivery. You've got your pitch. You've got how you're rapping—if it's super laid-back, if it's super amped-up. If you're changing your voice. All of these things factor into how your message is perceived.

Looking at myself as an artist, I'm a huge fan of how I deliver my raps. If something I'm saying has a comedic edge, it's kind of funny, it's kind of nonchalant, it's how I deliver it, too. I'm a real big fan of how you're delivering the raps.

Let me give you an example. I'm a huge 21 Savage fan. And the reason I'm a huge 21 Savage fan is because his beats are easy to follow along with. But that doesn't make them simple, you know? Having the ability to rap an entire song and have people rap with you bar-for-bar, not everyone can do that.

On the other hand, you've got artists like Eminem. Massive Eminem fans are able to rap along with him, but his delivery and technique is a little bit more intricate and precise. That's not to say one is better than the other; they just do things differently. 

For me, personally, I think how I deliver the bars is not necessarily what sets me apart, but what makes me a little bit unique. A lot of artists sound similar but you can distinguish between them because of how they're presenting to you.

I'm a huge fan of Kendrick [Lamar]'s delivery. Huge fan of Kendrick's delivery. And it's because it travels a fine line of God-tier technicality but still resides in that realm of ear candy. Maybe it's not easy to rap along to, but easy to follow along with.

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Let's go through the tunes on Porch Sessions. What can you tell me about "That's a Play"?

"That's a Play" is probably the newest record on there. Originally, my 4/20 albums were only four tracks. I kind of like the theme of four tracks.

But my boy J-Mac, who's a producer out of North Carolina, I met him a couple of years ago. He always sends me beats here and there. He sent that over and was like, "Hey, I made this beat, man. It's kind of got a cushy pop sheen to it. It's not a pop record, but it's got a poppy feel, almost."

I turned on the beat and, like I was saying earlier, it activated that part of the brain. It activated that lyric-writing portion, that "I have words to say" portion. I laid down a rough hook and I was like, "This might be a jam!" It kind of had a mellow-hype thing. You can either turn it on and chill to it or turn it on and get hype to it.

When I finished the record, I sent it over to my management team and they were like, "Aye, this record's tight. We want to put it on Porch Sessions. This has to go on there. This is a hell of record."

Right on. How about "Hotel Motel"?

"Hotel Motel" is one of my personal favorites. My boy Boom, who's a phenomenal producer, man—phenomenal producer—sent that beat over. I'd been telling him, "Say, bro, we need more uptempo shit, some party-type s**t!" 

He sent the beat over, I was chewing on it for a bit, and I actually came up with a couple of different hooks for it. But I said, "We need something that will represent Bay Area culture a little bit." When I was growing up, we used to have hotel parties. And depending on the crowd you were hanging with, it was either a hotel party or a motel party.

That energy and that type of vibe, I wanted to capture that on the record. If you're from the Bay, you recognize that this is the Bay Area life. That is the Bay Area anthem for the album, if you will. I wanted to make sure I had at least one on there that was like that.

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Tell me about "Odor."

It speaks for itself, man. If you're going to be dropping a project every 4/20, you've got to make sure you have a type of weed anthem on there. "Odor" is also produced by Boom. Boom is the GOAT. He's the backbone to my sound. He keeps me motivated.

Once again, Boom sent that beat over and I listened to it and I was like, "Yo, that s**t, that is such a unique sound." There is nobody rapping over these types of beats. I feel like that's what kind of separates me from everybody else. They always have a nice groove on them.

I hate when I turn on a beat and the beat's tight but it's got too much going on. You can overproduce. There's such a thing as overproducing. Boom does the exact amount every time—the perfect amount every time. For example, "Hotel Motel," it took me a while to get that song where I needed it to be. "Odor" wrote itself. He sent it over and I was like, "OK, this is the weed anthem. Now let's get it going." 

I feel like "odor" is a word that kind of has negative connotations. People think of an odor as a negative thing. For me, an odor isn't necessarily a bad smell. It's a distinct smell. So I was like, "'Odor' is a good word for trees." Some people think weed stinks and other people think it's one of the best smells on Earth.

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And how about "Peek"?

"Peek," man! Ah, man! One of my personal favorites from the project.

Beats By Holly—he's the guy on IG, man. He reached out to me a couple of months ago and goddamnit, man, he sent me, like 80 beats, man. Which I love. Because not only does it show me that you're serious about your craft; you're serious about working.

I can't tell you how many times somebody would hit me on IG telling me, "Let's do some work," and that's it. That is the full extent of the conversation. Holly hit me, he said, "Let's do some work," I said "Bro, let's go," and he sent me 80 beats the next day. Eighty beats!

And me, I'm very picky. Beats can be tight, but they may not speak to me. I'm going through the beats, brother, and I came up on the beat for "Peek." I was like, "Oh, man, this s**t sounds like some medieval-type, 'I'm on a horse,' jousting [scenario]." I felt like I was in a suit of armor. The horn felt like Merlin and wizards and s**t. It gave me an old-school, stone-castles, moat-with-an-alligator-type vibe.

I didn't come up with the words right off the bat, but the beat was talking to me. So, I said, "Let me chew on this for a little bit." I'm chewing on the beat for a little bit and I'm realizing … Something I think about all the time is that I'll be hovering over my listener's breakdown—not my streams, but my listener's breakdown—and it sounds funny, but I only have, like, eight percent female listeners.

I'm like, "Let me see if I can do something for the ladies, but not, like, super, super, super down the line. I've got R&B records for the ladies on the albums and s**t, but I was like, "Let me do something for the ladies that will make them want to move and spark some imagination," you know? "Peek" is my song that's for the ladies.

It's not a sex song, but it's kind of sexy, you know what I mean? It's got the crazy-ass beat; it's got the sexy-ass horn. It's got a certain feel to it. The way I did the hook, it's got a swing. Sometimes, I write my bars to be very precise and on-point because that's how I taught myself, and other times, I'll do something with a little more swing. 

And the hook on "Peek," if you're looking at it from a musical standpoint, is a little more bluesy, a little more funky, because it lacks traditional structure. It holds notes, it starts at off times, and it gives the song a unique kind of swing when it gets to the hook portion. And that's what I really like. That's what I really f**k with.

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Lastly, we've got "Brand New."

Yeah, yeah, that's DP, man. French producer, bro. He hit me about doing some work, brother, and he sent over, like, 10 beats. So, I'm going through them, I'm going through them, and I pulled up on this beat. I was like, "This s**t is wild!" I loaded it into ProTools, man, and once again—and I can't make this s**t up, bro—the song wrote itself.

It gave me this sliding-type feeling. Where I'm just sliding. I'm in a good mental space, I'm in a huge spiritual space, and I'm just vibing out. "Brand New" always felt like a phrase that was meant for rebirth. I'm reinvigorated. I'm full of fresh, new energy. That's what I wanted to capture on that record.

The guitar on that record is hella sexy. The bass gets to kickin'. It's kind of an aggressive record, and I don't have an aggressive sound, so that kind of gives it a layer. It was funny because, originally, that was going to be the opening track. But at the last minute, we moved "That's a Play" to the beginning and we moved "Brand New" to the end. 

Now that I look at it, I'm like, "God, we should have put 'Brand New' at the front," just because of that energy. It's got a very unique energy that no other song has.

When things settle down, what are your plans for the remainder of 2021 and 2022?

I want to get on stage, man. I don't want to oversell myself, but I put on a pretty good live show. I want to do it safely. I know COVID is still poppin'. But the biggest thing, man, is I want to continue to make records. I want to branch out and make records with more artists. 

It's more difficult to do as an independent artist—working with bigger artists and with bigger budgets and s**t. But I've made moves here and there, so I want to just continue to grow. Continue to hone my craft. Learn the industry better. Also, do more production. I still make beats. I make beats every day.

At the moment, I only produce for myself. I have a couple of artists I produce for here and there, but for the most part, I only produce for myself. I want to venture out more. I want to connect more, build more with other artists and build up the bread.

The best way to build up the bread is to expand and network, and that means working with other individuals who are like-minded and have a similar hustle. I want to continue to grow, get better, get smarter, mature and continue to make steps.

I really appreciate your drive and commitment to improve as an artist. It's inspiring stuff.

Oh, for sure, man. If you're not trying to get better, what are you doing?

Black Coffee On New Album, 'Subconsciously': "Music Is Life To Me And I Want You To Feel That With Every Beat And Melody"

A black-and-white photo of pioneering rap group Run-DMC

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


'Run-DMC' At 40: The Debut Album That Paved The Way For Hip-Hop's Future

Forty years ago, Run-DMC released their groundbreaking self-titled album, which would undeniably change the course of hip-hop. Here's how three guys from Queens, New York, defined what it meant to be "old school" with a record that remains influential.

GRAMMYs/Mar 27, 2024 - 03:49 pm

"You don't know that people are going to 40 years later call you up and say, ‘Can you talk about this record from 40 years ago?’"

That was Cory Robbins, former president of Profile Records, reaction to speaking to about one of the first albums his then-fledgling label released. Run-DMC’s self-titled debut made its way into the world four decades ago this week on March 27, 1984 and established the group, in Robbins’ words, "the Beatles of hip-hop." 

Rarely in music, or anything else, is there a clear demarcation between old and new. Styles change gradually, and artistic movements usually get contextualized, and often even named, after they’ve already passed from the scene. But Run-DMC the album, and the singles that led up to it, were a definitive breaking point. Rap before it instantly, and eternally, became “old school.” And three guys from Hollis, Queens — Joseph "Run" Simmons, Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels — helped turn a burgeoning genre on its head.

What exactly was different about Run-DMC? Some of the answers can be glimpsed by a look at the record’s opening song. "Hard Times" is a cover of a Kurtis Blow track from his 1980 debut album. The connection makes sense. Kurtis and Run’s older brother Russell Simmons met in college, and Russell quickly became the rapper’s manager. That led to Run working as Kurtis’ DJ. Larry Smith, who produced Run-DMC, even played on Kurtis’ original version of the song.

But despite those tie-ins, the two takes on "Hard Times" are night and day. Kurtis Blow’s is exactly what rap music was in its earliest recorded form: a full band playing something familiar (in this case, a James Brown-esque groove, bridge and percussion breakdown inclusive.)

What Run-DMC does with it is entirely different. The song is stripped down to its bare essence. There’s a drum machine, a sole repeated keyboard stab, vocals, and… well, that’s about it. No solos, no guitar, no band at all. Run and DMC are trading off lines in an aggressive near-shout. It’s simple and ruthlessly effective, a throwback to the then-fading culture of live park jams. But it was so starkly different from other rap recordings of the time, which were pretty much all in the style of Blow’s record, that it felt new and vital.

"Production-wise, Sugar Hill [the record label that released many key early rap singles] built themselves on the model of Motown, which is to say, they had their own production studios and they had a house band and they recorded on the premises," explains Bill Adler, who handled PR for Run-DMC and other key rap acts at the time.

"They made magnificent records, but that’s not how rap was performed in parks," he continues. "It’s not how it was performed live by the kids who were actually making the music."

Run-DMC’s musical aesthetic was, in some ways, a lucky accident. Larry Smith, the musician who produced the album, had worked with a band previously. In fact, the reason two of the songs on the album bear the subtitle "Krush Groove" is because the drum patterns are taken from his band Orange Krush’s song “Action.”

Read more: Essential Hip-Hop Releases From The 1970s: Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang & More

But by the time sessions for Run-DMC came around, the money had run out and, despite his desire to have the music done by a full band, Smith was forced to go without them and rely on a drum machine. 

His artistic partner on the production side was Russell Simmons. Simmons, who has been accused over the past seven years of numerous instances of sexual assault dating back decades, was back in 1983-4 the person providing the creative vision to match Smith’s musical knowledge.

Orange Krush’s drummer Trevor Gale remembered the dynamic like this (as quoted in Geoff Edgers’ Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song that Changed American Music Forever): “Larry was the guy who said, 'Play four bars, stop on the fifth bar, come back in on the fourth beat of the fifth bar.' Russell was the guy that was there that said, ‘I don’t like how that feels. Make it sound like mashed potato with gravy on it.’”

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It wasn’t just the music that set Run-DMC apart from its predecessors. Their look was also starkly different, and that influenced everything about the group, including the way their audience viewed them.

Most of the first generation of recorded rappers were, Bill Adler remembers, influenced visually by either Michael Jackson or George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. Run-DMC was different.

"Their fashion sense was very street oriented," Adler explains. "And that was something that emanated from Jam Master Jay. Jason just always had a ton of style. He got a lot of his sartorial style from his older brother, Marvin Thompson. Jay looked up to his older brother and kind of dressed the way that Marvin did, including the Stetson hat. 

"When Run and D told Russ, Jason is going to be our deejay, Russell got one look at Jay and said, ‘Okay, from now on, you guys are going to dress like him.’"

Run, DMC, and Jay looked like their audience. That not only set them apart from the costumed likes of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, it also cemented the group’s relationship with their listeners. 

"When you saw Run-DMC, you didn’t see celebrity. You saw yourself," DMC said in the group’s recent docuseries

Read more: 20 Iconic Hip-Hop Style Moments: From Run-D.M.C. To Runways

Another thing that set Run-DMC (the album) and Run-DMC (the group) apart from what came before was the fact that they released a cohesive rap album. Nine songs that all belonged together, not just a collection of already-released singles and some novelties. Rappers had released albums prior to Run-DMC, but that’s exactly what they were: hits and some other stuff — sung love ballads or rock and roll covers, or other experiments rightfully near-forgotten.

"There were a few [rap] albums [at the time], but they were pretty crappy. They were usually just a bunch of singles thrown together," Cory Robbins recalls.

Not this album. It set a template that lasted for years: Some social commentary, some bragging, a song or two to show off the DJ. A balance of records aimed at the radio and at the hard-core fans. You can still see traces of Run-DMC in pretty much every rap album released today.

Listeners and critics reacted. The album got a four-star review in Rolling Stone with “the music…that backs these tracks is surprisingly varied, for all its bare bones” and an A minus from Robert Christgau who claimed “It's easily the canniest and most formally sustained rap album ever.” Just nine months after its release, Run-DMC was certified gold, the first rap LP ever to earn that honor. "Rock Box" also single-handedly invented rap-rock, thanks to Eddie Martinez’s loud guitars. 

There is another major way in which the record was revolutionary. The video for "Rock Box" was the first rap video to ever get into regular rotation on MTV and, the first true rap video ever played on the channel at all, period. Run-DMC’s rise to MTV fame represented a significant moment in breaking racial barriers in mainstream music broadcasting. 

"There’s no overstating the importance of that video," Adler tells me. vIt broke through the color line at MTV and opened the door to a cataclysmic change." 

"Everybody watched MTV forty years ago," Robbins agrees. "It was a phenomenal thing nationwide. Even if we got three or four plays a week of ‘Rock Box’ on MTV, that did move the needle."

All of this: the new musical style, the relatable image, the MTV pathbreaking, and the attendant critical love and huge sales (well over 10 times what their label head was expecting when he commissioned the album from a reluctant Russell Simmons — "I hoping it would sell thirty or forty thousand," Robbins says now): all of it contributed to making Run-DMC what it is: a game-changer.

"It was the first serious rap album," Robbins tells me. And while you could well accuse him of bias — the group making an album at all was his idea in the first place — he’s absolutely right. 

Run-DMC changed everything. It split the rap world into old school and new school, and things would never be the same.

Perhaps the record’s only flaw is one that wouldn’t be discovered for years. As we’re about to get off the phone, Robbins tells me about a mistake on the cover, one he didn’t notice until the record was printed and it was too late. 

There was something (Robbins doesn’t quite recall what) between Run and DMC in the cover photo. The art director didn’t like it and proceeded to airbrush it out. But he missed something. On the vinyl, if you look between the letters "M" and "C,", you can see DMC’s disembodied left hand, floating ghost-like in mid-air. While it was an oversight, it’s hard not to see this as a sign, a sort of premonition that the album itself would hang over all of hip-hop, with an influence that might be hard to see at first, but that never goes away. 

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A collage photo of African women rappers (Clockwise from top-left): Femi One, Deto Black, Nadfiav Nakai, Candy Bleakz, Rosa Ree, Sho Madjozi
(Clockwise from top-left): Femi One, Deto Black, Nadfiav Nakai, Candy Bleakz, Rosa Ree, Sho Madjozi

Photos: Kaka Empire Music Label; Dave Benett/Getty Images for Dion Lee x htown; Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images; Slevin Salau; Asam Visuals; Harold Feng/Getty Images


10 Women In African Hip-Hop You Should Know: SGaWD, Nadai Nakai, Sho Madjozi & More

Women have been a part of African hip-hop since its onset, contributing to the genre’s foundation and evolution. These 10 female African rappers bring unique perspectives to hip-hop coming from Nigeria, Ghana and across the continent.

GRAMMYs/Mar 27, 2024 - 03:26 pm

African music has become increasingly mainstream, with Afrobeats gaining global popularity in recent years. As Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, and Tems have become household names, and the Recording Academy presented the inaugural Best African Music Performance award in 2024, all eyes are on Africa.

Hip-hop is a crucial thread running through Afrobeats, which also mixes traditional African rhythms with pop and dancehall. Hip-hop landed in Africa between the 1980s and 1990s, first in Senegal in 1985 and in South Africa the following decade. Over time, African hip-hop advanced from imitating American styles, to a focus on artists incorporating their own cultural experiences, languages, and social commentary.

The result was a distinctly African sound, present across the continent from West to East Africa. In Nigeria, the rap scene is almost mainstream with artists like Olamide earning a GRAMMY nomination for Best African Music Performance for his hit song with Asake; Tanzania has gained enormous respect on the international rap scene for its own "Bongo Flava." 

Women have been a part of African hip-hop since its onset, contributing to the genre’s foundation. Nazizi Hirji is known as the "First Lady of Kenyan Rap" for becoming the first successful female artist in her country at age 16. Mariam of the Malian duo Amadou and Mariam created a distinctive sound by fusing elements of hip-hop and traditional Malian music. 

Africa's hip-hop community is ever-evolving, and women are at the forefront. The following 10 African women rappers are bringing their unique voices, experiences and sounds to the scene.

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After leaving her career as a lawyer to pursue music, the Nigerian rapper SGaWD is beginning to make her mark on the scene. Fusing elements of hip-hop and Nigerian alté, SGaWD creates a sound without restrictions. 

She released her debut EP, Savage Bitch Juice, in 2021 and collaborated with fellow Nigerian artist Somadina on flirty lead single "Pop S—." In the second single "Rude," SGaWD detailed the nuances of her romantic and sexual experiences with men. She followed this with a slew of singles, including "INTERMISSION " and "Dump All Your Worries On The Dance Floor."

Her summer anthem "Boy Toy" is a sexy and melodic blend of rap and R&B. Her comfort with sexuality goes beyond lyricism; the music video for "Boy Toy" shows her comfort and embrace of sexuality via wardrobe choices and choreography.

But it's not all sex; SGaWD is dedicated to organizing her community. In December 2023, she organized The Aquarium, a sonic experience that included performances from herself and other female rappers.

Lifesize Teddy

Mavins Records is known for producing back-to-back breakout stars — from Rema to Arya Starr — and fans now expect a new artist from them annually. When Lifesize Teddy was introduced to the scene, rapping as her alter ego PoisonBaby, she got deep. Her intro video dissected her relationship with her inner child and explored her roots in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. 

After spending three years of artist development in the Mavin Records Academy, she started her music career, by releasing two EPs in the span of four months in 2023. Her self-titled debut EP was led by the single "Hypnotic," a flirty song of sexual freedom that merges hip-hop and Afrobeats. Her second EP, POISN, featured five songs with one featuring her fellow Mavins Records artist, Magixx.

She ended last year headlining different shows in Lagos’ Detty December and is a special guest on Ayra Starr World Tour. 

Eno Barony

Ghanaian rapper Eno Barony's name reflects her aura and essence: "Eno" is Twi for mother, and quite fittingly she is referred to as "The Mother of Rap" in Ghana. Raised by missionary parents, she uses her music to spread the message that women should not be silenced. 

She has been releasing music for over a decade, with singles "Tonga," "Megye Wo Boy", "The Best," "Touch the Body," and "Do Something" gaining mainstream attention on the continent. Eno Barony released her first album in 2020 and, the following year became the first female rapper to win Best Rapper at the Ghana Music Awards. 

Her most recent album, Ladies First, captures the nuances and complexity of being a woman in Ghana and serves as a form of resistance to patriarchy. Opening track "God Is a Woman," featuring Ghanaian singer/songwriter Efya, establishes the tone: Eno is "entering every lane" even though "it’s a man’s world and she entered without a passport". 

Eno Barony continually pours vulnerability into her music. On these lead singles; "Heavy Load" and  "Don’t Judge Me" she raps about accepting her body image and addresses the culture of unconstructive criticism in the music industry, respectively. Last month, she released a new single "Good Enough," a romantic and reflective tune.

Nadai Nakai

Hailing from both Zimbabwe and South Africa, Nadai Nakai has been a fixture in the African rap scene for over a decade. She was the first female rapper to win the Mixtape 101 competition on the hip-hop show, "Shiz Niz."   

A mentee of pioneering Kenyan hip-hop artist Nazizi, Nakai released her first single "Like Me" under Sid Records in September 2013. The rightfully braggadocious song detailed her many talents and skills, wrapped in clever lyricism. She continued to release a slew of singles, including "Naaa Meaan" (a collaboration with Casper Nyovest, a South African male rapper), which garnered over 1 million views. Her debut album, Nadai Naked, was an ode to women making liberating choices. 

Her hip-hop and R&B-inspired songs highlight her values of female free expression and strength. Her most recent single, "Back In," announced Nakai's return to the industry after grieving the death of her boyfriend, AKA. She plans to release a tribute EP dedicated to AKA.


Deela saw a hole in the Nigerian music industry that needed to be filled. Where were the women who talked and behaved like her, with brazen confidence and an unfiltered sense of expression? 

She started making music during the pandemic lockdown, releasing singles such as the raging "Bitch Boi" and trap track "Rolling Stones." Both tracks later appeared on her debut album, Done Deel. Deela's most popular single, "Get A Grip," shows the rapper is demanding autonomy while owning her promiscuity and single life.

Deela's experimental sound includes ventures into trap, drill and more. Her 2023 album Is This On? showcased this range via UK rap-inspired "Trapstar" and straight-up hip-hop track "Take That Up" featuring Flo Milli.

She hit the ground running in 2024, releasing a collaboration with Somadina titled "Lagos" and a love-themed EP, Love Is Wicked

Deto Black

Lagos-based rapper Deto Black is an artistic polymath who dabbles in modeling, acting and photography. Her music spans hip-hop, Afrobeats, rap, pop and rock, and is becoming known in the alté scene following her collaboration with Odunsi the Engine, Amaarae and Gigi Atlantis on "Body Count." Deto’s verse on the 2020 track is  sex-positive, and encourages listeners to follow her example. 

Deto released her debut EP, Yung Everything, in 2021 and followed with singles "Nu Bag" and "Just Like Deto." At the start of 2024, she released "It’s A No From Me" featuring Chi; its music video was directed by notable alté artist Cruel Santino.

Rosa Ree

Tanzanian rapper Rosa Ree addresses the nuances of womanhood in male-dominated spaces. She entered the scene in 2016 with the goal of proving her naysayers wrong, releasing the aggressive "One Time" to dispel any notions that a woman couldn't exist in hip-hop.

In her 2022 single "I’m Not Sorry," Rosa Ree dismisses criticism and asserts that she won’t be sorry for showing her true image or voice. She also explores the unique bond between mother and child in 2023's "Mama Omollo," further showcasing the multifaceted identities of women in music.

Rosa Ree's 2024 single "In Too Deep" further showcased her introspective side by exploring themes of emotional hurt, betrayal and disappointment.

Candy Bleakz

Nigerian rapper Candy Bleakz fuses Afrobeats, amapiano and hip-hop, with heavy emphasis on street music. She started making music in 2019 and quickly began developing a community. Candy Bleakz collaborated with Zlatan and Naira Marley on "Owo Osu." 

Her resume now includes hits like "Baba Nla," "Kelegbe," "Virus", and "Kope." Her single "Won La" was even featured on the American TV series "Flatbush Misdemeanors." The most amazing thing about Candy Bleakz, though, is her courage to question the established quo and push for female representation in the infamously male-dominated street music scene.

She released her debut EP, Fire, in 2022 and raps proudly about her life and talent. On its breakout single, "Tikuku," she addresses her haters head-on. This song has garnered over 300,000 posts on TikTok going as far as eliciting a challenge in the Nigerian section of TikTok.

Candy Bleakz's second EP, Better Days, was released on March 22 and featured lead single "Para," a rap song featuring African drums, strings and chords. 

Femi One

At just 26 years old, Femi One is a renowned  Kenyan rapper and songwriter. Most of her songs are in Swahili and Sheng — a unique offering as many African rappers perform in a more universal language. 

Over the past five years, Femi One has released back-to-back singles, culminating in her 2019 debut EP XXV. " Two years later, her debut album, Greatness, further detailed her wild style and personality. Tracks like "Balance" are jam-packed with witty wordplay and hidden allusions. She also taps into her gospel roots on Greatness, thanking God for her career on "Adonai."

Her latest single, "B.A," is a pure Afrobeats song that invites listeners to lose themselves in the music and positive energy by throwing open the virtual club doors. 

Sho Madjozi

This South African rapper is known for her bold aesthetic, from her rainbow-coloured hair to her bright costumes. She released her first song, "Dumi Hi Phone," in 2017 and dropped her a genre-bending debut album the following year. Limpopo Champions League explores sounds from hip-hop to EDM.

Sho Madjozi has a quirky habit of writing songs about notable individuals. Her breakout single "John Cena," a tribute to the wrestler and actor, earned her the BET award for Best New International Act in 2019. She also collaborated with Sneakbo, Robot Boi and Matthew Otis on the hit amapiano song "Balotelli," which celebrated the renowned African soccer player. 

Sho Madjozi's music is entirely intertwined with her culture; she raps in the Bantu language Xitsonga and performs traditional dances such as xibelani wearing an adapted 

xibelani skirt. The xibelani (which translates to "hitting to the rhythm") dance is native to Tsonga women, and is performed by girls on special occasions as a celebration of their culture. Sho Madjozi's use of the dance and interpretation of its clothing helps shape her region’s cultural identity.

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Baby Keem GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Baby Keem (left) at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images


GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Baby Keem Celebrate "Family Ties" During Best Rap Performance Win In 2022

Revisit the moment budding rapper Baby Keem won his first-ever gramophone for Best Rap Performance at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards for his Kendrick Lamar collab "Family Ties."

GRAMMYs/Feb 23, 2024 - 05:50 pm

For Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar, The Melodic Blue was a family affair. The two cousins collaborated on three tracks from Keem's 2021 debut LP, "Range Brothers," "Vent," and "Family Ties." And in 2022, the latter helped the pair celebrate a GRAMMY victory.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, turn the clock back to the night Baby Keem accepted Best Rap Performance for "Family Ties," marking the first GRAMMY win of his career.

"Wow, nothing could prepare me for this moment," Baby Keem said at the start of his speech.

He began listing praise for his "supporting system," including his family and "the women that raised me and shaped me to become the man I am."

Before heading off the stage, he acknowledged his team, who "helped shape everything we have going on behind the scenes," including Lamar. "Thank you everybody. This is a dream."

Baby Keem received four nominations in total at the 2022 GRAMMYs. He was also up for Best New Artist, Best Rap Song, and Album Of The Year as a featured artist on Kanye West's Donda.

Press play on the video above to watch Baby Keem's complete acceptance speech for Best Rap Performance at the 2022 GRAMMYs, and check back to for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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4 Reasons Why Eminem's 'The Slim Shady LP' Is One Of The Most Influential Rap Records

Eminem’s major label debut, 'The Slim Shady LP,' turns 25 on Feb. 23. The album left an indelible imprint on hip-hop, and introduced the man who would go on to be the biggest-selling artist of any genre in the ensuing decade.

GRAMMYs/Feb 23, 2024 - 03:44 pm

A quarter century has passed since the mainstream music world was first introduced to a bottle-blonde enfant terrible virtuoso who grabbed everyone’s attention and wouldn’t let go

But enough about Christina Aguilera.

Just kidding. Another artist also exploded into stardom in 1999 — one who would become a big enough pop star, despite not singing a note, that he would soon be feuding with Xtina. Eminem’s biting major label debut The Slim Shady LP turns 25 on Feb. 23. While it was Eminem's second release, the album was the first taste most rap fans got of the man who would go on to be the biggest-selling artist in any genre during the ensuing decade. It also left an indelible imprint on hip-hop.

The Slim Shady LP is a record of a rapper who was white (still a comparative novelty back in 1999), working class and thus seemingly from a different universe than many mainstream rappers in the "shiny suit era." And where many of those contemporaries were braggadocious, Eminem was the loser in his rhymes more often than he was the winner. In fact, he talked so much about his real-life childhood bully on the album that the bully ended up suing him.  

It was also a record that played with truth and identity in ways that would become much more difficult once Em became world famous. Did he mean the outrageous things he was saying? Where were the knowing winks, and where were they absent? The guessing games that the album forced listeners to play were thrilling — and made all the more intense by his use of three personas (Marshall Mathers the person; Eminem the battle rapper; and Slim Shady the unhinged alter ego) that bled into each other.

And, of course, there was the rhyming. Eminem created a dizzying array of complicated compound rhymes and assonances, even finding time to rhyme "orange" — twice. (If you’re playing at home, he paired "foreign tools" with "orange juice" and "ignoring skill" with "orange bill.")

While the above are reason enough to revisit this classic album, pinpointing The Slim Shady LP's influence is a more complicated task. Other records from that year — releases from Jay-Z, Nas, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, and even the Ruff Ryders compilation Ryde or Die Vol. 1 — have a more direct throughline to the state of mainstream rap music today. So much of SSLP, on the other hand, is tied into Eminem’s particular personality and position. This makes Slim Shady inimitable; there aren’t many mainstream rappers complaining about their precarious minimum wage job, as Em does on "If I Had." (By the time of his next LP, Em had gone triple-platinum and couldn’t complain about that again himself.)

But there are aspects of SSLP that went on to have a major impact. Here are a few of the most important ones.

It Made Space For Different Narratives In Hip-Hop

Before Kanye rapped about working at The Gap, Eminem rapped about working at a burger joint. The Slim Shady LP opened up space for different narratives in mainstream rap music. 

The Slim Shady LP didn't feature typical rags-to-riches stories, tales of living the high life or stories from the street. Instead, there were bizarre trailer-park narratives (in fact, Eminem was living in a trailer months after the record was released), admissions of suicidal ideation ("That’s why I write songs where I die at the end," he explained on "Cum on Everybody"), memories of a neglectful mother, and even a disturbing story-song about dumping the corpse of his baby’s mother, rapped to his actual child (who cameos on the song). 

Marshall Mathers’ life experience was specific, of course, but every rapper has a story of their own. The fact that this one found such a wide audience demonstrated that audiences would accept tales with unique perspectives. Soon enough, popular rappers would be everything from middle-class college dropouts to theater kids and teen drama TV stars.

The Album Explored The Double-Edged Sword Of The White Rapper

Even as late in the game as 1999, being a white rapper was still a comparative novelty. There’s a reason that Em felt compelled to diss pretty much every white rapper he could think of on "Just Don’t Give a F—," and threatened to rip out Vanilla Ice’s dreadlocks on "Role Model": he didn’t want to be thought of like those guys. 

"People don't have a problem with white rappers now because Eminem ended up being the greatest artist," Kanye West said in 2015. You can take the "greatest artist" designation however you like, but it’s very true that Eminem’s success meant a categorical change in the status of white rappers in the mainstream.

This turned out to be a mixed blessing. While the genre has not, as some feared, turned into a mostly-white phenomenon, America’s racial disparities are often played out in the way white rappers are treated. Sales aside, they have more room to maneuver artistically — playing with different genres while insulting rap a la Post Malone,  or even changing styles completely like Machine Gun Kelly — to commercial approbation. Black artists who attempt similar moves are frequently met with skepticism or disinterest (see André 3000’s New Blue Sun rollout, which was largely spent explaining why the album features no rapping). 

Sales are worth speaking about, too. As Eminem has repeatedly said in song, no small amount of his popularity comes from his race — from the fact that white audiences could finally buy music from a rapper who looked like them. This was, as he has also bemusedly noted, the exact opposite of how his whiteness worked for him before his fame, when it was a barrier to being taken seriously as a rapper. 

For better, worse, or somewhere in between, the sheer volume of white rappers who are currently in the mainstream is largely traceable to the world-beating success of The Slim Shady LP.

It Was Headed Towards An Odd Future

SSLP laid groundwork for the next generation of unconventional rappers, including Tyler, the Creator.

Tyler is a huge Eminem fan. He’s said that listening to Em’s SSLP follow-up The Marshall Mathers LP was "how I learned to rap." And he’s noted that Em’s Relapse was "one of the greatest albums to me." 

"I just wanted to rap like Eminem on my first two albums," he once told GQ. More than flow, the idea of shocking people, being alternately angry and vulnerable, and playing with audience reaction is reflected heavily on Tyler’s first two albums, Goblin and Wolf. That is the template The Slim Shady LP set up. While Tyler may have graduated out of that world and moved on to more mature things, it was following Em’s template that first gained him wide notice. 

Eminem Brought Heat To Cold Detroit

The only guest artist to spit a verse on The Slim Shady LP is Royce da 5’9". This set the template for the next few years of Eminem’s career: Detroit, and especially his pre-fame crew from that city, would be his focus. There was his duo with Royce, Bad Meets Evil, whose pre-SSLP single of "Nuttin’ to Do"/"Scary Movies" would get renewed attention once those same two rappers had a duet, smartly titled "Bad Meets Evil," appear on a triple-platinum album. And of course there was the group D12, five Detroit rappers including his best friend Proof, with whom Eminem would release a whole album at the height of his fame.

This was not the only mainstream rap attention Detroit received in the late 1990s. For one thing, legendary producer James "J Dilla" Yancey, was a native of the city. But Eminem’s explosion helped make way for rappers in the city, even ones he didn’t know personally, to get attention. 

The after-effects of the Eminem tsunami can still be seen. Just look at the rise of so-called "scam rap" over the past few years. Or the success of artists like Babyface Ray, Kash Doll, 42 Dugg, and Veeze. They may owe little to Em artistically, but they admit that he’s done great things for the city — even if they may wish he was a little less reclusive these days

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