Connection Point Director Yasmina Mrabet interviewed Lebanese-American Alyssa Marie about her work and perspective as a female rapper in the world of hip hop. Her answers are below.
What inspired you to join the world of hip hop?
I’ve been drawn to the freedom of writing since I was a kid, whether it be poetry, stories, or song lyrics. Coincidentally, I loved music equally as much but didn’t have the voice to be a singer (though I often sing on record anyways.) These two things kind of just merged together over the years and spawned a musical writer and performer who doesn’t sing: aka a rapper. Thank God for that.
As a woman in hip hop, I would think there are some barriers and obstacles that are a challenge, given that it is male-dominated. Can you share with us some of the challenges and opportunities you have encountered as a woman rapper?
I think it’s very much a gift and a curse being a female rapper. Of course, it’s easier to achieve the wow factor given that there aren’t too many females who can rip a mic and do it well. This also can lead to people spreading around the music like “Check out what this chick can do!” It’s definitely easier for a lady in the scene to get some recognition and buzz. At the same time, though, I think being taken seriously as an actual artist instead of just an impressive video to show your friends is a lot more difficult. People may feel weird about having one of their favorite rappers be a female, so instead they have you as their favorite “female rapper” or say you’re “dope for a female.” So I guess what it comes down to is it’s a lot easier to get noticed as a female rapper, but in turn you need to work twice as hard to be taken seriously.
In what ways (if any), does your background as a Lebanese American influence your work?
I’m very fortunate to be from an extremely close Lebanese family. My cousins are more like siblings and my extended relatives are closer than most people’s immediate families. I think this has affected the way I approach and create my music in two major ways: 1) I’ve always wanted to make music my older relatives can listen to and be proud to show people (which I did successfully), and 2) the support and determination I am blessed to receive from them has made it possible for me to actually pursue music 100% as a career path. It took awhile for me to come out and say to them this is what I wanted to do, and even longer to show them my music and videos, but it is because of their reactions that I’m still on this path to living my dream. My work ethic and determination are due to them, and I can never thank my family enough for that.
Can you tell us about some of the themes and messages you try to get across through your songs?
I’m not sure if it comes across or if I do a good job of disguising it, but I’m an extremely opinionated person and I use music as a way of expressing these opinions and viewpoints with people who may or may not agree with them. I’ve always been cautious of being one of those preachy rappers who make you feel like they’re talking at you and yelling at you, but at the same time I have a lot on my mind that I want to make the world see and understand. A lot of times I use metaphors to soften the blow of some of my heavier material, sort of like a halfway point to meet the listeners at. I just want the people who hear my songs to know it’s okay to challenge what you know and go against the grain. Ignorance is a choice and the differences between us all are a lot thinner than you’d think. Be weird; weird is the new cool.
If there is one thing the world should know about women in hip hop, what is it?
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