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By Jake Krzeczowski
Marlanna Evans is not your typical up and coming hip-hop star. As a female with an accounting degree, it seems the native North Carolinian would fit in better behind a desk than a microphone. Yet, that is precisely what the young MC has become known for, having dropped two mixtapes already this year, the artist known as Rapsody has set out to return the B-Girl to the hip-hop game.
Growing up in North Carolina, sports play a huge part in everyone’s life, especially basketball. Two of the most storied programs in college basketball call the Tar Heel State home, as did Michael Jordan; and Marlanna Evans had a nasty crossover.
Raised in the hotbed of hoops Evans put everything she had into the game, eventually working her way into a spot on the high school varsity team as a freshman, that right-left dribble bringing her closer to her dreams.
North Carolina’s culture isn’t limited to the tan hardwood though. Over the past decade the state has seen a rise in hip-hop acts, slowly carving out a niche in the industry beginning with Petey Pablo in the early 2000s. Taking the reigns from him was legendary producer 9th Wonder who with his “It’s a Wonderful World/JAMLA” label set out to cement the state in the hip-hop world.
9th Wonder, fresh off working with major talents Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne and Drake, eyed a chance to return to his old stomping grounds and help bring out the voice of NC.
For all the accolades and gym time, Marlanna was left without the coveted college scholarship she had envisioned since the YMCA leagues. Without a definite location for school, she decided to stay close to home and felt the pull of NC State’s profound hip-hop culture.
“When I was growing up, North Carolina State was it for hip-hop around us,” said Evans. “When I got there I think there was a country act for homecoming, so we kind of wanted to bring it back.”
So the girl who split her adolescence between wind sprints and endless verses from the likes of Jean Grae, Bahamadia and Rah Digga saw the impact a female could have in the game and traded her basketball for a pen and paper, immersing herself in the scene, creating the first hip-hop club on campus.
She eventually joined with fellow NCSU students to create the rap septenary Kooley High. The formation of the group marked a migration of sorts from Marlanna Evans to RapSody.
“It’s hard to be anyone but yourself,” said Evans. “That’s the beauty of music, it’s supposed to be different. Your not supposed to go out and do something the same as someone else, that’s not the art.”
9th Wonder began assembling his team in 2009, filling his roster with a host of young MCs from North Carolina, hungry to learn and grow. It didn’t take long for the fabled producer to hear about the young female MC making waves at NC State.
Listening to RapSody one thing is for sure, she loves hip-hop. “Culture over everything” her favorite line in her rhymes. It made sense then that 9th Wonder would extend an invitation which Rapsody quickly accepted
“ He gave me homework, to listen artists like Lil Wayne, A Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z’s Black Album,” RapSody said. “He said to memorize these albums, not so much what they were saying but how they were saying it and how it was delivered.”
And so, the former point guard found herself a coach, bounce passing ideas off of each other on delivery, flow and cadence, all the while a pair of headphones not far away, “homework” always within reach for inspiration.
Player and coach spent endless time in the studio, working on Rapsody’s initial offering, “Return of the B-Girl” a whirlwind of a mixtape dropped in late 2010 to glowing reviews and set the stage for her follow-up project, Thank H.E.R Now, the title itself an homage to the great Common love ballad to hip-hop.
The mixtape featured collborations with hip-hop heavyweights and newbies alike including Raekwon, Mac Miller, her idol Jean Grae and Big K.R.I.T and thrust her into the underground’s limelight.
For years Marlanna Evans listened to Lauryn Hill and the like, game-changing artists who came through and left their mark on the game. When asked what she thinks her legacy will be when her story is finished, a flash of that sense of history shines through, the Mia Hamm of hip-hop.
“I want to be able to say I produced good music and represented the culture well, introduced it to a new generation of young girls,” said RapSody. “Hip-hop has opened me up, there being so many stories and I want to touch those little girls the same way MC Lyte touched me, that would be the greatest thing for me.”