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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Rita J
Monday, December 07, 2009

Dope female emcees can be hard to come by. Sure, you may find one here or there, but as a rule, the majority of hip-hop shows and street corner cyphers are filled with male dominated line ups. The few females people get to hear on a mainstream level are, for the most part, using their sexuality to get attention, rather than attempting to learn, or hone, any kind of rhyming skills. This is why listening to Rita J’s debut album, Artist Workshop, is such a nice change of pace. She’s a smooth emcee with a style of her own, and what’s between her legs is not a topic of conversation. Point blank, Rita J has skills, and this week I caught up with her to find out more about her path leading up to her first LP, her thoughts on why there’s such a dearth of female emcees in the game, and how a hurricane picked her up and moved her.

Adam Bernard: Start everyone off with a little background info.  What originally made you want to be an emcee?
Rita J: Well, I never really set out to be an emcee, it just kinda happened over time after I had been engineering music in college, writing poetry, and becoming more and more encouraged to do so.  I just wanted to expand my writing and try different ways of doing so. Emceeing came out of that, and being very familiar with hip-hop from a young age helped me progress naturally.
Adam Bernard: Although there is a growing community of female emcees out there, you’re still far far outnumbered by the boys.  Why is this?  Are women not drawn to emceeing, and if so what do you think makes it such a male-dominated craft?
Rita J: I really can't tell you why, or speak for all women, but I think that we're not taken seriously, and our contribution to the craft is overlooked and overshadowed.  Men are still in the higher positions controlling what music is accepted in the mainstream, so until somebody changes the perspective of women from just being sexual objects, the image, and lack of female emcees, will exist. The female emcee also has more authority and demands than a video chick. It might be intimidating for a male to recognize a female really being a dope emcee. There’s a lot of machismo and ego in hip-hop, as well, and I don't know many woman that express themselves in that manner, or want to take on that role.

Adam Bernard: Other than the changes you mentioned that are needed to create a better space for female emcees, what do you think needs to happen in order to inspire more girls to want to grow up to be emcees?
Rita J: There needs to be better role models and a better success rate (i.e longevity) of women in Hip-Hop. They need to see more examples of female emcees with class, respect, style, power, and the proper skills to pay the bills.
Adam Bernard: Since you have the skills to pay the bills, let’s talk a little bit about your album, Artist Workshop.  Musically, what’s the direction of this project?
Rita J: Good rhymes, good beats, hip-hop with different musical production styles and influences, raw, organic, soulful, positive lyrics... I wanted a cohesive album that you can play all the way through.

Adam Bernard: What are the main focal points of your rhymes and why are you passionate about those subjects?
Rita J: I just want to uplift and encourage listeners to become better versions of themselves.  I vary in topic throughout the album, but always keep in mind a positive message. I talk about education, empowerment, spirituality, passion... I am a firm believer of what you put out into the universe comes back to you full force, so I want only the best for me and what makes me feel good about myself and others. Also, I want women and girls to know that there is an alternative to what has been seen/heard thus far in hip-hop.
Adam Bernard: If you had to pick just one song from the album - which you do, because I’m controlling this interview! Bwahahaha! - which would you say most represents who you are as a person?
Rita J: I would have to say “Inspiration” because I can really feel those emotions and lyrics and it was one of the first songs that I ever wrote. I'm always feeling challenged and consistently looking for inspiration.
Adam Bernard: Keeping with the theme of your personal life for a moment, you’ve had some pretty bad experiences with weather.  What this I hear about you having to flee from not just one, but a number of hurricanes? Did God just really want you to move?
Rita J: I experienced three devastating hurricanes in 2005 and it was scary to know that everything you know can be taken away from you in an instant. To see the destruction of a hurricane was eye opening, but yes, to answer your question, I feel like that was my confirmation to move.  I'm a midwestern girl, I'll leave the hurricanes for the Floridians. There really wasn't much I could do in those situations but pray that everything would turn out okay. It landed me in Atlanta, GA, where I've continued to pursue music.

Adam Bernard: Finally, tell me one thing you miss from your youth that you wish you could see, or do, today.
Rita J: I really miss dancing on stage. I was trained in dance for thirteen years. I still dance today, but not professionally. I also miss just being with my family, all of us living together, that's what made me who I am today.
Related Links

MySpace: myspace.com/ritajackson
Twitter: twitter.com/alreadytaken79
Label: allnaturalhiphop.com


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:15 AM  
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