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Contributed by: Vance Asprer
Source: The Elements
Posted on: March 3, 2001 01:16 MST
Filed under: Rap


"Because you have strong knowledge of who you are, you're not going to compromise your integrity for other people in the business."

Bahamadia's not one to test. Just ask the inebriated lamebrain that mouthed off misogynistic drivel just as Bahamadia was walking off the stage following her crowd-rocking performance in Chicago. As expected, Bahamadia, hardly agitated, countered with a snappy rebuttal, but in a surprisingly subdued manner as would a teacher reproaching a class clown for his sophomoric romps. A caustic lecture on respect 101 is what he sure needed. "Didn't you see the flyer? Didn't it say Beautiful Black Queen?" Okay then. Nonchalantly she stepped away from the mic and vanished from the infiltrating spotlight.

This is Bahamadia's temperament, calm yet triggered by such riling instances. Exhausted, her cool mood has momentarily taken the back seat to a keyed up, more brazen one. Perhaps the day's agenda and basically the one-month nationwide Goodvibe Tour (with Spontaneous, Cali Agents, and Slum Village) that kicked off at San Diego and ending in her hometown Philly has taken a toll on her a bit. But this is Bahamadia's denouement. This is her sweet redemption. On her new single, "Special Forces," she rhymes, "When I hit mainstream, y'all niggaz can bite me." In reference to this line, she explains, "Because you have strong knowledge of who you are, sometimes you're not going to compromise your integrity for other people in the business." She appends, "I may sound a little bitter but that's just because people change your views. You're coming and you got all these different delusions and grandeur and all of that, and once reality hits you and you realize that you're just a commodity and these people that you come in contact with don't care about you one way or another, then you kind of adjust to that. It's a lot to take in."

It's just this kind of attitude that Bahamadia postures in the face of music industry ingratiation which then steers her focus again toward her music. "My knowledge is stronger of the industry now, so the different things that I've learned is filtered through the music a little more. I don't necessarily talk about industry-related topics but the growth is me knowing how to formulate my experiences a little bit better because I'm more mature now."

Four years ago, when Bahamadia released her debut album Kollage, she immediately gained worldwide pounds for her infectious and unprecedented sound, yet she was still underrated. How so, you ask? Well, let's say that the album didn't do as well as it deserved. Learning from past experiences, though, Bahamadia is swift to discern that maturity is the chief requisite for growth. "On Kollage, I was coming more as an open mic, underground emcee who has a strong passion for doing it. I wasn't that serious about the business side. Now I know that I have to be a business woman in order to be successful in the industry."

Putting to work her amassed knowledge of the music industry's ins and outs, she landed a contract with Goodvibe Recordings, the LA-based indie hip-hop label that's home to other such local esteemed artists as Declaime, Medusa, Divine Styler, and the Phil The Agony. In Goodvibe, Bahamadia is confident that she has found a label that would foster and support her creative objectives. On her new EP, BB Queen, Bahamadia had just the right assurance of freedom that she had been seeking after. "I had more to say in the production. I co-produced 75% of the songs on there. Whereas on Kollage, I really just accepted whatever I was given. The creative control on BB Queen is 85%. Whereas on Kollage, it wasn't that strong. I didn't have that strong influence on the whole making of the project except for the writing, because I pen my own lyrics. I just felt more comfortable this time around."

Since Kollage, Bahamadia has collaborated with a number of artists for both hip-hop and cross-genre tracks. Along the way, she worked with the likes of The Roots, The Herbaliser, Sweetback, and Morcheeba. Such collaborations widened Bahamadia's creative scope. "Collaborations kept me in the loop in different markets�They were a challenge for me which was healthy, because I got a chance to push myself creatively." As well, she worked with Roni Size for a Drum and Bass track called "New Forms." On the EP, "Pep Talk" is an extension of the same Drum and Bass/Hip-Hop formula, one that's especially tailored for Bahamadia's newfound audience. "Being that I did the collaboration with Roni Size and noticed how successful that track was, I realized that I had another fan base, and not just the traditional hip-hop fan base." It's about progression, exploring uncharted dimensions and breaking down the walls of emblematic hip-hop sounds-in general developing as a music artist. "That's just me. I just want to do different stuff. I don't like staying in the same position. Otherwise, what's the point, if you're not going to try to move it and grow."

Although it may seem as though BB Queen is still somewhat a divergence from Kollage, it really isn't. The EP strategically parallels the debut LP in many ways more than one. First, the leadoff single "Special Forces" matches the intensity of the hard-edged backpacker anthem "Total Wreck," especially upon calling on Rasco, Planet Asia, and Chops of the Mountain Brothers. Then there's the otherwise relaxed "One-4-Teen," a reflection of the soothing "Uknowhowedo." Other tracks such as "Philadelphia" also reinstates Bahamadia's signature sound, while "Commonwealth" is a track that takes on a whole new handle on penny-pinching female consumers. "'Commonwealth' represents the type of female that I am, an everyday chick, a person who's conscious of operating within the perimeters of a budget, juggling a lot of different things. Everybody's not flossy. It's just dedicated to females like me�It's not to knock anybody that's doing what they choose to, because that's their own personal preference. But as for me, I'm just a cheap chick, not cheap in morals and values but financially. I'm going to be that way even when my money starts to come in. I'm still always going to be conscious and always looking for a bargain because that's how I am."

As Bahamadia breaks down the science behind her lyric writing, she elicits, "I'm more attentive to what I create because I have to research and actually live the experiences and then I can filter, take my time, sit back and write the songs. Being a mother has added a fresh perspective to Bahamadia's rhymecraft, however, it does not restrain her from saying what she has to say: "For me to be a parent and to do Hip-Hop, I'm still going to do me, whatever that happens to be at the time, whatever experience I'm going through, whether it's supposedly negative or positive. I'm going to filter those different experiences, as long as I let my kids hear and explain to them about the different things that I might go through or different things that they're exposed to�But if I feel strongly about a subject, then I'm going to tackle it."

Unlike her female peers that saliently brag about donning commercial brand names, Bahamadia spits more substantive words that the average listener can really identify with. Bahamadia knows that every rapper has a reason for saying what he or she says. And in regard to underground emcees spitting conscious messages, Bahamadia posits, "It depends on the emcee's background and what your understanding or what your interpretation of the music is and what part you choose to play. As for me, I'm just trying to keep myself under wraps."

With BB Queen at hand, Bahamadia can again remain calm, as she now knows that she just might have the proper ammunition for all the commercial debaucheries and the music industry artifices. As Bahamadia and Talib Kweli chanted on Soundbombing II's "Chaos," "We, the rhymesayers, will lead you like a beacon of light out of the chaos," expect one of hip-hop's most talented artists to champion innovation at the same time preserve the music genre's true sense and esteem. "People can always expect quality music. They can expect me to represent the truth on whatever level it takes."
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