Tzadeka and MC Lovely are two female emcees or “femcees” whose rhymes aren’t just about experiences as a woman, but they are about human experiences, inspired by their surroundings in the city. Tzadeka, whose name is inspired by the Hebrew word for righteousness representing this to the fullest in everything that she does as a performer, and Mc Lovely who for the last ten years has been rallying females involved in all aspects of hip-hop culture together, both give their opinions and insights about the importance of hip-hop to them and why people in Edmonton should take notice.
What’s your definition of hip-hop?
MC Lovely: My hip-hop is a reflection of my life in poetry form. A way of explaining life and emotions from love to frustration. Each song I produce is not some frivolous topic a label is making me rap about. It’s a defining moment in my life: that time I had my heart broken, that ladies night out with my best friend, my love of comics, a confession to a friend.
Tzadeka: Hip-hop is a culture, so it’s a constantly growing, expanding organism. It’s living. I think it’s almost beyond definition because so many artists are taking it to different places and fusing it with different cultural art forms and modes of expression. I guess that’s how I see hip hop — as a means of expression that’s not limited to music. It’s dance, visual art, beats and rhymes, lyricism — everything. Hip-hop has been adopted and adapted by so many communities, especially marginalized ones that it’s a powerful means of communication and expression of identity! I work in the inner city with mostly First Nations youth and I see how drawn these kids are to hip-hop and its ability to empower, giving a voice to those who feel they have none.
Who’s your favourite hip-hop idol?
Tzadeka: I’m not sure I can name my one and only hip-hop idol — but I will name some names. I love Bahamadia for her deep, smooth vocals, real life content and non-hyper sexualized persona. Jean Grae for her fierce sometimes angry flows. Lauryn Hill for being a sick MC as well as an incredible vocalist. Kinnie Starr for representing Canadian aboriginal femcees with an enduring need to challenge how humanity at large is ‘pornified’ and what that means for women in hip hop and women in general.
I was first turned on to hip-hop by my older sister in the 90’s — Tribe Called Quest and Diggable Planets were my entry point. I love strength and integrity in music and I am inspired by, particularly, women who exemplify it in an industry that promotes women as sex objects in so many cases.
MC Lovely: I try not to idolize celebrities or performers. We are all just people. I treat everyone equally, with respect and dignity. I have opened for a lot of people who most would consider famous…. When it comes to my favourite MC it would have to be Black Thought from the Roots. His songs filled with lyrical skill, harmonies and thought have always moved me.
How has hip-hop influenced you as an artist?
Tzadeka: … I have been intensely inspired by hip-hop, but at the same time, I wouldn’t say that I’m exclusively tied to the genre. I was raised on world music, jazz, blues, classical and roots (my dad’s a classically trained cellist and lifelong musician) so I like to think that the music I create is informed by these musical traditions too. I started out doing spoken word as a teenager and it just sort of developed organically into something that resembles hip-hop. I have always been drawn to oral traditions and storytelling and so that’s kinda my point of origin.
MC Lovely: As an artist, I am constantly changing just as my life has changed. Skill grows with every year. Hip-hop has been my routine for over a decade. It has helped me draw, write, design clothing, dance, smile. Hip-hop is the love of my life.
Do you think of yourself as an artist or as a female artist?
MC Lovely: I think of myself as a poet. Being a woman is usually only important to the men in the scene. “Oh look a girl MC — what an oddity”. When it comes to being a woman in hip-hop, I try to help other girls struggling or just starting out. That’s what my Promotions Company, “Ladies United Voice” is all about. Whether a girl is a producer, rapper, DJ, dancer, graffiti Artist, clothing designer, I try to help so that she doesn’t give up. I support female hip-hop not because it’s better but because it is equal. We deserve to be heard.
Tzadeka: I think of myself as an artist and a female artist. But I’ve found that especially in hip-hop a lot of people react with surprise that I’m an MC, not just a “singer” ‘cause I’m a woman. My aim for many years has been to work with girls and women to promote community and solidarity amongst femcees so that there is a safe space to create and showcase music in what I see as a very male-dominated genre. I don’t represent all female MC’s, but I am a woman. My lyrics speak to my experience in the world as a woman and much of the work I do in the community focuses on female mentorship and empowerment…so ya, I guess I do identify as a female artist a lot of the time.
Why in your opinion, is hip-hop an important part of Edmonton’s culture?
MC Lovely: Hip-hop gives an outlet for expression to many people who have no other way of relaying their struggle. Edmonton has many poets and artists that want to influence how we interact daily.
Tzadeka: In Edmonton, there’s a pretty sweet little music scene and hip-hop is a part of it, but often I see the different genres sticking to their own and promoting artists that are similar to themselves. However I have seen this start to change and open up more and more. Punk bands, folk and indie rockers, hip-hop heads and reggae bands are all coming together and realizing we are all different flavours of the same musical substance.
MC Lovely: That song you hear when you wake up that puts a smile on your face, the Mural you drive by on your way to work, the dancer you see in Churchill Square. It all becomes a part of who you are.
Tzadeka: I know there’s Edmonton femcees out there but I want to see more of them. I want to see them headlining shows, supporting each other and getting supported by all the dudes in the scene. I see this as really important. If there’s a show with all ladies on the lineup GO SEE THEM! Music is music is music and hip hop is even more then music. It’s community, identity and a voice from the margins. That’s why it’s important for Edmonton to hear it!
Interview by Becky Hagan-Egyir
Tzadeka photo credit: Kara Rain
MC Lovely photo credits: Kavan the Kid (comic book), Flavor Edm (black and white)