Rapsody: A Black Woman Created This Tour

With Sa-Roc and Heather Victoria

Friday, Mar. 13, 9 p.m., $23+

Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh

“Everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by amazing black women,” Rapsody says.

She’s calling from the road, in the middle of “A Black Woman Created This Tour,” which began in Philadelphia in February and ends with a homecoming show at Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh on March 13.

The tour is a victory lap for Eve, Rapsody’s critically acclaimed third album, which was released in August 2019. The Snow Hill, North Carolina native began her music career in Raleigh with Kooley High and 9th Wonder before going on to earn Jay-Z cosigns, Grammy nominations, and Kendrick Lamar collaborations as a solo artist.

Like Eve, which paid homage to black women—with titles like “Nina” (as in Simone), “Oprah” (as in Winfrey), and “Aaliyah” (as in Aaliyah)—the title of the tour evokes a sense of pride and sass that is specific to black women.

Right now, Rapsody’s tribe of #ProfessionalBlackGirls includes booking agent Yves Pierre, tour manager Felicia Bennett, photographer and videographer LaTroya Brooks, Jamla Records vice president Tia Watlington, and Rapsody’s stylist, the legendary hip-hop architect Misa Hylton.

“Not only do I speak about it in the music, but I walk it in my real life,” Rapsody says. “I make sure that we support our sisters, so throughout the tour we’ve been highlighting black businesses owned by black women. It’s been amazing all the way around.”

From her nail art and her gold accessories to her classic kicks and her popping cornrows—sometimes with beads added—Rapsody’s collaboration with Hylton amplifies her black-woman aesthetic while matching her sonic and lyrical vibe. The two first met in 2016, when Hylton was assigned to style Rapsody for an event hosted by Puma.

Rapsody admired the way Hylton advocated for her to always be herself. In an industry filled with unrealistic expectations for women, a host of gimmicks, and an excessive amount of plastic surgery, Hylton’s support was crucial. When it was time for Rapsody to hire a permanent stylist, Hylton was the first person she thought of.

“She’s been like another big sister,” Rapsody says. “She not only styles me and helps me grow in that aspect, but she’s also taught me so much about myself as a person.”

For Rapsody, getting to connect with her fans on a more intimate level throughout the tour has also been amazing. Through meet and greets, she interacts with dozens of fans at each show. As an artist, she finds it inspiring and fulfilling to see firsthand the impact of her talents. Her authentic, down-to-earth homegirl vibe is a breath of fresh air.

“Everybody has a story to tell, and I’m so thankful,” Rapsody says. “I’ve heard stories from women, like, ‘You’ve inspired me to go for this promotion that I’ve been wanting to go for, and I’m the only black woman at my job,’ or, ‘Yo, in my business, being a black woman is challenging for me every day, and your music keeps me from snapping.’”

The music industry in general and hip-hop in particular have a history of making the journey more challenging for black women. Since the days of Roxanne Shanté and Sparky D, women have been paid less, blatantly ignored, placed in narrow lanes, and pitted against one another.

With a solid decade of experience under her belt, Rapsody acknowledges that the industry is “more intense” for black women. With this tour, she’s intentionally creating opportunities for other women to win.

“I’m making sure I have black women around me,” she says. “When it’s all said and done, I want to be able to say I’ve made it easier for the women coming after me. I want them to know that however they wanna show up, they can show up. They don’t have to be a carbon copy of anybody to be successful.”

In the beginning of her career, like most aspiring artists, Rapsody associated success with a label deal, national radio spins, platinum plaques, and award shows. But with experience comes wisdom.

“I now understand that success is waking up and being able to do what you love and still have peace of mind,” Rapsody says. 

Success is about inspiring others, whether or not she sells a million records or wins a certain number of awards. (Her second album, Laila’s Wisdom, was nominated for two Grammys, but Eve was controversially snubbed.)

“Regardless of any award, I touched people, impacted people, and inspired people,” she says. “I want to be able to look back and say I brought somebody with me. I opened doors; I supported this person, the same way Queen Latifah and Rah Digga supported me. At the end of the day, that is what we are here for—to gain knowledge and share knowledge and create change.”

Comment on this story at music@indyweek.com. 

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