We Rhyme Too

Friday, Jan. 24, 8:30 p.m., $12 

Local 506, Chapel Hill

Throughout history, from the mythic Mammy figure and the Hottentot Venus to Serena Williams and Beyoncé, the black woman’s anatomy has been a landscape where mainstream culture has projected its worst fears, stereotypes, abuses, sexist tropes, gender controls, and fantasies. 

On January 24, “We Rhyme Too,” a black femmes hip-hop showcase at Local 506, will be an affirming reclamation of the black woman’s voice, independence, spirit, and perhaps most important, her body. 

“For me, it is necessary to reclaim and govern our own culture,” says Angel Dozier, one of the organizers. “I grew up on empowering MCs and hip-hop pioneers like Sha-Rock and Roxanne Shante. All the Roxannes! It’s how I grounded myself in my personal education. It’s how I serve as an educational practitioner for our community.”

“We Rhyme Too” is presented by Be Connected Durham and The Conjure, which also presented “HERstory: A Night of Black Femmes in Hip Hop” at The Pinhook in November. That night offered a remarkable look at the creative energies of young black women. The room was filled to capacity with a cross-section of the city; all ages, races, and genders; gay, straight, and nonbinary; different socioeconomic backgrounds.

It was some bad-ass sisters in house, starting with the emcee, Dozier. While introducing the artists, Dozier reminded us to “protect and pay transgender black femmes.”

The show’s curator, Rachel Alexis Storer, is known in the entertainment arena as DJ Gemynii

Gemynii told the INDY that hip-hop “has been very much a boy’s club,” and that “most hip-hop shows may include one woman but are very much cis-het male dominated.”

Gemynii is also behind The Conjure, with its rallying cry of #payblackfemmes.

“It was important for men, women, and nonbinary folks to be there supporting black femmes. Being in the audience. Making sure we get paid,” Gemynii says.

“Anytime you see a black woman on this stage, know this: They’re getting paid!” Dozier adds.

Dozier encouraged us to purchase “The Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause” from a vending booth that was set up by the city’s near-iconic activist, Omisade Burney-Scott. 

Mikisa Thompson drew attention with her mobile thrift store. In a case of listening to revolutionary words while black, Thompson was charged by police in May after her white neighbors in Garner complained that she was playing her recordings of Malcolm X’s speeches too loud.

“She’s back there creating legacies for black women,” Dozier said, reminding us that Thompson is the mother of Takiya Thompson, the NCCU student who toppled the Confederate statue in Durham.

“Fuck the KKK!” Dozier shouted.

“Fuck the KKK!” the audience shouted back.

The crowd was treated to a striking palette of hip-hop styles by nine artists: the possibilities of love and love gone wrong; commentaries on race, immigration, black-on-black violence, motherhood; teaching and humor.

Roenita Steward, who works with special needs children in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools and also sings professionally, arrived just before showtime to support her younger coworker, Exhale, who was first up. Her stream-of-consciousness flow was comparable to the Beat Generation poets of the 1940s and 1950s.

“I wanna run through your lights; I wanna dance through your nights; you’re a universe.”

Next up was the gritty hype of Tiny Two Timez. Watching the diminutive Timez was akin to witnessing the ancient warrior Queen Nzinga with a microphone and a beat. 

Two Timez’s whir of brown energy and unquestioned street cred was followed by Greensboro rapper Lovey the Don, whose clinging, striped mini-dress and ankle-high boots evoked a ‘60s go-go girl—a fierce, sultry presence.

Cameroonian-born M8alla was superbly accompanied by backup dancers Saky Hall and Tia Coffin. M8alla has opened for national recording star Miguel, and she showed why she is a rising star in her own right. Though she’s now a legal resident, M8alla’s “Illegal” resonates with the ongoing national dialogue about immigration.

“Still undocumented, so I’m running from the law. Everybody asking when I’m gonna be a star. I tell them not to worry, but it’s getting pretty hard.”

Meanwhile, the socially conscious poet and rapper Lena Jackson served up poignant lyrics that are damn near capable of peeling the lead out of public-housing paint. She’s had a busy year, opening for Toni Braxton in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and New York. Even though she has about a dozen well-made videos, Jackson may be the most formidable rap artist many have not yet heard of. Look up her “Poor Kids,” where an excerpt from a Malcolm X speech serves as a leitmotif.

“The Bible says it loves me. The government says it covers me. It all sounds like a lie when you’re out your mind and hungry.”

Then there were the comedic antics of Tanjah, who ruled the stage despite wearing a boot cast on her broken foot. She looked as if she was home on the couch wearing sweats, watching television, and eating bon bons before slipping on a sneaker and arriving at the Pinhook to share a heaping helping of self-deprecating levity. 

Anyone incapable of laughter while watching Tanjah perform “Smile” is either dead, in a coma, or waiting on a prison sentence.

“Smile! Even when life kicks your ass, smile!”  

Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at tmcdonald@indyweek.com. 

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One reply on “Black Femmes Take Over Hip-Hop with The Conjure and Be Connected Durham”

  1. Everyone deserves to live and thrive. No one should be left out, no one should be shut down. Blacks, we gat this always. And we’ll keep comin’ out and goin’ up.

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