Category Archives: Interview

RapSody, The Mia Hamm of Hip-Hop

MidCoast Music, October 2011

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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.”


Verum Magazine, January 2012

Mayer Hawthorne represents Detroit better than the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, a show he offered to sub in for Nickelback this past year. Recording his albums in his apartment in downtown Motor City Mayer came to prominence on the strength of his initial indie release A Strange Arrangement in 2009 on Stone’s Throw Records. Since then Mayer has been busy working on his follow-up which dropped late 2011. How Do You Do is a solid development for a new artist with a unique sound. Verum recently had a chance to catch up the soul singer.

Verum: What was the process of putting How Do You Do together compared to your last work, A Strange Arrangement?

Mayer Hawthorne: I went back to Detroit to record the majority of this new record. A lot of it was that dirty Detroit soul. Basically I just set up my own little bedroom studio in downtown Detroit. I played more of the instruments myself on the new album. Everything is definitely elevated on this album. The playing of the instruments is better, I learned to play better. I also learned a little bit more about how to sing so I hope people notice that on the album.

Verum: How do you keep your sound constant from playing the instruments to having a full band live? 

Mayer Hawthorne: Well it’s all about the guys I have playing with me. My live band The County is pretty much all guys I grew up with in Detroit. We’ve got one or two guys from L.A. It’s all about my guys in my band. They’re my favorite musicians and they’re all handpicked by me. A lot of them like me grew up in Detroit so they all know the vision.

Verum: Tell us about your relationship with Detroit.

Mayer Hawthorne: I wrote a song about it (A Long Time). I did a whole video based on The New Dance Show which was a show I used to watch everyday after work. I’m going to continue repping for the D always, it’s a fantastic city.

Verum: Tell us about your unique style

Mayer Hawthorne: I’ve always had the motto “flashy but classy. That was always been sort of my thing. I always wanted to be original and unique and stand out from the crowd but I was always brought up to keep it classy. That’s really what the formula is for me. I really borrow from and I’m influenced by everything that I see.

Verum: How does your music follow that motto?

Mayer Hawthorne: It’s definitely about being original and unique and doing something new and moving the music forward and not taking it back. The same goes for style.

Verum: What’s new on your latest album?

Mayer Hawthorne: This new record I really feel like I found my Mayer Hawthorne sound. It’s obviously very soulful and its rooted in Detroit soul music but it incorporates all the other styles of music that I grew up listening to and love like hip-hop and Jazz and Surf Rock and New Wave, all those things are blending together now are blending together to create that sound, It’s exciting.

 Verum: Was it important to you that you carve out a new sound on this album?

Mayer Hawthorne: Absolutely, it was very important to me to not just be a derivative of anything. I hate when people say ‘lets take it back to the good old days.  I don’t want to take it back to the good old days that shit drives me nuts. Let’s make the new good days and those that move t forward and do something new for our generation.

Verum: How did you enjoy your time at Stones Throw Records?

Mayer Hawthorne: Working with Stones Throw was fantastic. Those guys are all so much fun and they’re just really creative and that’s what I’m all about.  We got along really well. I’ll always put on for Stones Throw.

In Class With 9th Wonder

By Jake Krzeczowski
Verum Magazine, February 2012

A college lecture hall hardly seems like a home for the musical form of hip-hop. Since it’s inception in the mid-70s as a offshoot of funk and jazz, the genre has been categorized largely by its placement as an outlier in American culture’s lexicon. With the passing of hip-hop greats in recent years such as Heavy D and Pimp C, a disconnect has begun to emerge as new artists get younger and younger. Veteran Grammy Award-winning producer 9th Wonder (Patrick Douthit) who has worked with everyone from Jay-Z and Destiny’s Child to Murs has set out to bridge the gap between the new and old school and he’s doing it on a much different stage, within the walls of Duke University. As a member of an older generation of hip-hop evangelists, Douthit has assembled a crew of young MCs such asRapSody and Tyler Woods under the name It’s A Wonderful World Music Group to help foster a new style and groom the newbies on the history of the game. Continue reading In Class With 9th Wonder