Rapsody, the North Carolina lyricist known in hip-hop circles as a rapper’s rapper, has consistently delivered on both her individual releases and features. In 2017, Rapsody (born Marlanna Evans) dropped her critically-acclaimed and Grammy-nominated album, Laila’s Wisdom (Jamla/RocNation). The first record on the album—the title track—has been in my personal rotation nonstop ever since and it contains easily one of the best sample uses ever of Aretha Franklin’s “Young, Gifted & Black.” Shouts to producer Nottz. Fight me, bro.
Now, she’s preparing for the release of her new album, Eve, set to release on August 23.
The album’s lead single, “Ibtihaj,” is produced by 9th Wonder and features singer D’Angelo and GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan. The song is a reworking of GZA’s classic single, “Liquid Swords” and is named after Ibtihaj Muhammad, the American fencer and bronze-medalist at the 2016 Olympic games who doubled as the first female Muslim-American to medal at the Olympics and the first Muslim-American woman to wear a hijab in competition for the United States of America. Rapsody’s song speaks to fearlessness and standing by one’s beliefs, a necessary motivation and inspiration in the current political climate where both the temperature of the nation and our leadership seem to be hell-bent on questioning everybody’s right to life if it doesn’t conform to one that reinforces white supremacy. This, despite the song’s very inspiration being one of the exact folks being reduced to second-class citizens while they represent this country on the world’s biggest stages, excelling. Fancy that.
The single is accompanied by a video, directed by Jay Scorcese and shot in Harlem, that features several Muslim-American women living their best New York lives. And it includes a fencing scene, again, in homage to Muhammad. The video also features appearances by Roxanne Shante and Mary J. Blige, along with The GZA. There’s something both striking and badass in seeing a bunch of women in burkas and hijabs rolling on three-wheelers and ATVs around Harlem streets. Like, it shouldn’t be so striking, but it is, and the need for that type of representation cannot be understated enough.
Eve, Rapsody’s third studio release, will pay homage to iconic black women, past and present, with song titles named after women like Oprah Winfrey, Aaliyah and Whoopi Goldberg, according to Essence.
“It’s my ode to the women in my life who have made me who I am, but at the same time I realize it’s bigger than me,” says Rapsody (née Marlanna Evans). “It’s more about the village of Black women. I feel like we all have similar experiences and similar stories and very similar inspirations. My last album, that was for me. That was all personal things that, you know, you can listen to and maybe you can relate, but a lot of it was for me.”
Shout-outs to Black Girl Magic. And if that’s not your ministry, per se, then shout outs to Black Excellence.
Rapsody’s album, Eve, is part of a new tradition of paying homage to black icons in innovative, artistic ways. The Heiritage is a company founded by two black women who created a deck of playing cards paying homage to iconic black women like Zora Neale Hurston, Michelle Obama and Angela Davis, among others. Chicago artist Jamila Woods recently released her sophomore album Legacy! Legacy!; each record on the album is named after an iconic black figure like James Baldwin, Eartha Kitt and Nikki Giovanni, among others. Rapsody—whose music often delves into her own history and place in America, as well as in hip-hop—is creating art that will ensure that when someone in the future similarly pays homage to those that came before them, she’ll be part of that collective of women who pushed the envelope and created new paradigms.
Check out the video for “Ibtihaj” and on August 23 get your tape decks ready for Rapsody’s album, Eve!
(That’s an old school reference.)