Connie Diiamond has remained Hip Hop’s best kept secret for almost a decade, but now she’s ready to step out from behind the curtain and take her place in the spotlight. Having grown up in The Bronx, Diiamond’s sound is full of grit and trap influences. Through early projects like Trap Elliot and Trappin For The 99&2000, Diiamond developed and honed a distinct sound paying homage to her roots in every breath and bar, solidifying her place as a hometown favorite. This past year the burgeoning Bronx-native not only had her breakthrough but she shattered the glass ceiling that kept her confined to NYC’s underground realm of Hip Hop with the release of single “Move”. Sampling the 2001 anthem “Move Bitch” by rap legend Ludacris, Diiamond’s take on the 00s classic quickly became a viral hit catching the attention of Ludacris and furthermore the world. “Move” was shared by Lebron James via Instagram which only fed the frenzy putting Diiamond front and center on the global stage. “Move” was just just a taste of what the rapper was capable of, leaving the world hungry for more. And she delivered her new album Underdog Szn to satisfy our cravings. Diiamond’s raspy and strong voice comes through a myriad of beats ranging from drill and classic Hip Hop offering something appetizing for every type of rap connoisseur. This new body of work is Diiamond at her finest, it represents a culmination of years of self-discovery, trial & error, and most importantly it represents triumph.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, V connects two generations of female powerhouses that have forged their own path, in the once male-dominated genre. Read the full roundtable discussion hosted by Hip Hop icon: MC Lyte, below.
MC LYTE: I want to hear from you ladies first! What made you get into Hip Hop? What sparked your love for the genre?
LOLA BROOKE: There wasn’t one thing or moment that made me pursue rap; I’d say it was a combination of a few experiences. From watching music videos to expressing my feelings with writing. One thing for sure, Hip Hop was always around me. There were so many inspirations for me growing up — 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, and Meek Mill. Meek is one of my main inspirations. There are so many greats that walked the same streets I did too. Foxy [Brown, [Lil] Kim, Biggie & Jay Z — we all got that Brooklyn way about us. MC Lyte, you know I don’t play about you, too! Thank you for doing this.
CONNIE DIIAMOND: I’m from the Bronx and I started doing music at around 14 years old. It started out as poetry, honestly. I used to do a lot of poetry slams at my school and outside of the school,in the city, in the Soho area. And then I kind of just transitioned into doing the music. So I’ve always felt like it’s the same thing, it’s just without having music or instruments behind what you are saying.
BKTHERULA: That’s super fire that you did poetry slams. What made me pursue rap is that my dad actually used to be a rapper. I would say just listening to him and listening to his old stuff inspired me. I just remember growing up we would listen to his music on a cassette tape, in the fucking whip.. My dad just really made me want to start rap but I started music at 14 years old as well. So yeah, really just seeing my pops do that shit at a point in time, I was just like, “Let me let me tap in real quick.” Like, let me just finish it off.
MONALEO: I’ve always loved music. My grandmother, when I was younger, she put me in the church choir. I always had really bad anxiety, but I really loved to perform. And it gave me this rush, like just being able to be in front of people and share my gifts and share my talents. So ,that was kind of my introduction to music in general. As I got older, I started finding my own way listening to the music that I wanted to listen to. My grandmother really was the one who kind of kind of put me into this space. So that’s what made me want to pursue music, and then specifically rap music, I just really loved. Well, at the time that I was getting into rap music and making my own rap music, I was going through this really bad breakup. I needed this kind of pick-me-up thing, like I needed to instill confidence back into myself. So I started writing these really aggressive rap songs that helped me just denounce everything that was associated with that breakup. I made a bunch of aggressive rap music and I put it out to the world and people really received it well. They felt where I was coming from, they felt the energy. They loved it and it became a career for me. So that was my introduction into rap music.
LAKEYAH: I’ve always been musically inclined, I don’t just rap but I love to sing. I was always so shy and nervous and reserved. But I started doing poetry slams – which is tea, Connie, because I started doing that in high school too – and my team told me that I sounded more like a rapper. I don’t know if it was my delivery or what. So I started doing freestyles on Facebook and YouTube. And I became this young YouTube sensation in my city, I was always going viral. After that, I just kept going because I grew a very large fan base and it was a positive space for me, especially because I didn’t sound like anybody in my city. I was very different. People online received me well, and it got me in the eyes of my label, and it turned into something larger for me.
YOUNG DEVYN: I started doing music very early on. My family’s from Trinidad, so we have a genre called Soca. And I got very big in the Soca genre because I started at eight years old. At the time I was the only child in Soca music, so it was like a never before seen thing. I blew up in the first six months, I was on tour from like eight years old to 14. I traveled the Caribbean, doing sold out shows and stadiums in Trinidad in front of like 40,000 people at only 12 years old. So I felt like I kind of had reached my peak in Soca music because it was not really a mainstream genre. Like it doesn’t even have its own category on Apple or Spotify. I always felt like because I’m authentically from Trinidad and authentically from Brooklyn, I could kind of be the artist that bridges that gap and makes it mainstream. I never thought Hip Hop would ever be what it was, that kind of just happened organically. I started listening to albums and then I started dissecting bars and punchlines and metaphors – falling in love with the essence of what Hip Hop really is. That’s kind of how I fell in love with the genre. From there it took off, I got straight to it, and I dropped a record. It was the first record from a female in a very long time in New York City that kind of made that impact. And we just like got the ball rolling from there. And now I’m here.
TIACORINE: Well, I started off singing and doing talent shows. In the third grade I picked up the flute which further opened the door to music for me. I fell in love with all genres of music because that’s what I was surrounded by growing up. My mom is from Idaho so she played mostly Rock & Pop music but my stepdad played Hip Hop like Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, and Sugar Hill Gang. So it was a mixture of influences for me — my own curiosity for music and then what my parents played in the house. I have to say my upbringing is the reason I sound the way I do. It also ties back being where I’m from and just my whole journey as a person because I use my real life experiences to create my music.
MC LYTE: You know, I always say for any female MC – to cross that front line is just to be someone who is about her business because there’s everything in this world to try to stop us from getting to that ultimate goal. Any woman who’s still standing and still wants to do this is powerful and courageous, and so I salute all of you for making your way and having enough balls to move forward in such a male dominated field. I got my start by listening to the greats do it – Salt N Pepa, Run D.M.C., The Sequence, Roxanne Shante, and of course, the first female I ever heard rock the mic, Sha-Rock from Funky 4+1. Listening to them gave me the belief that I could actually do it. I got my start in school, we were banging on desks, making up rhymes. Then a good friend of mine, Eric Cole, asked me if I wanted to go audition – actually, he didn’t use the word audition. He said, “Do you want to go meet this record label, they’re looking for female artists.” It wasn’t until after I put it all together. I was like, “Oh shit, that was an audition.” But needless to say, I was ready. I had my rhyme book with me to put my rhymes down to different beats that they had already prepared in the studio. I went into the booth and I laid it down. And maybe two days later, they called me and asked me if I was interested in signing and sent me some paperwork. So that’s really how I got my start, rhyming in school and rhyming with a clique of people that really had a love for hip hop in Brooklyn. There wasn’t a lot of hip hop happening in Brooklyn, it was mostly rockers and Soca and reggae. So to have a group of folks that was really into hip hop music was a special thing. So that’s basically how I got my start.
V MAGAZINE: Being from two different generations of Hip Hop, one thing I found interesting as I listened to you tell your story: I see that you were each really trying to push the genre forward and bring something new to it as you forged your way into it. With that in mind, could you each talk about what that experience was like for you breaking through, especially as a female artist in a male dominated genre? Obviously, everyone has their own experiences, whether it’s dealing with record labels, or trying to start out on your own.
MC LYTE: I’ll kick this one off. The beginning was rough. You know, I imagine for today’s artists that may not have major record label deals, it’s difficult. However, we didn’t have the internet. So literally, everybody at the record label was throwing a hand in and I was signed to an independent label at the time when we first started. So we were licking stamps, and putting records in envelopes and waiting for the postman to come get them. It was some really, really antiquated work that took place. Today’s artists, I mean, you click a button and your shit is everywhere, which is fantastic. But I’m sure that there’s some other challenges that artists are met with that are not quite identical to what it is that we went through. But yeah, it took a lot of time. It took a lot of effort. Just as it does today, you have to meet the DJs who will play your records and it’s even harder to cut through today. Because it’s so flooded with so much [content] right now. However there is great opportunity in the internet today and social media and all of the means of getting your music out there. But yeah, it was a feat but I do believe that the strong survive.
LAKEYAH: I’m from a very small city. It was very hard for me to break through because we don’t have anybody looking for artists there. We haven’t had anybody really breakout since Coo Coo Cal. I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so he was our first big artist. I am the first female artist from my city to be on this level in the industry, which is a huge weight on my shoulder. It’s heavy, it’s very heavy, it’s like putting the entire city on my back. But, I will say, I feel like the hardest burden as a female rapper is not being able to be who you want to be completely without having so much judgment. I’m an open lesbian, so there’s the [stigma] of that. Then there’s me being signed to a label that has so many household names, where I have to fight for that recognition as well. It’s like you said MC Lyte, the strong survive. And I’m gunning for the number one spot and that’s what I’m here for.
BKTHERULA: I feel like I was taking music seriously when I was in school but I wasn’t really telling my [classmates] like, “Oh, I’m making music.” I wasn’t telling people like, “Go listen to my new song.” Instead, on the weekends, there’d be this little local show. Everybody was a bit older, like in their early to mid twenties, which was a very big age gap for me at the time. I was 16 years old. Every single weekend, I would go to these local shows. Obviously, I’m not on the fucking the lineup, but I start going to the shows. I’m seeing people perform and I’m networking. Eventually I made friends with one of the artists that was on the lineup. It’s crazy because that small local show, it was like the Rolling Loud [festival ]to me at the time. So after I made friends with one of the artists, he let me do like one song on his set. And then, boom, everytime I came back on the weekend, everyone was like “BK, BK!” basically cheering for me. Eventually they put me on the lineup. I was all the way at the bottom and at that time, there was this little spot with “BK.” But I did what I needed to do because I wanted it extremely bad. And I’m still on the same journey of wanting it and just doing what I need to do. I feel like that’s really how I came up and grew in [this industry]. I was not just sharing my music with friends – I pulled up to these shows every Friday and every Saturday and found a way to perform. That’s when I started seeing my [career] take off, then the whole label got involved. I would say my [experience] was just filled with [determination] and fighting for the [opportunity] to show[case] my talent. That was my biggest [battle].
TIACORINE: My journey, It’s been rough. It gets weird and uncomfortable sometimes as a woman in this industry but I navigate by just being transparent and putting my foot down. I try to have [agency and authority] over as much as I can. Every time I do a feature I just make it my business to be the very best and let the guys know I’m not just some girl that raps, I’m a real artist and you have to respect me. The way female artists have been treated by this male-dominated industry is what has sparked the female unity we are seeing now. You know we go through a lot so I think it just came to the point where it’s like “Well, if you guys are going to be this way we are going to band up and force our way in together because we are stronger as a unit.”
MONALEO: I grew up with anxiety. So I was always a very reserved, very quiet, very shy girl growing up. I was always just to myself, like I was one of those girls in school that you’d see walking by herself. So I went from being this person for my entire life – being very reserved, being in this shell – to infiltrating this space that we call music. A space where you have all these eyes on you and everything that you do is a spectacle. It was overwhelming for me and it took some adjusting. I really had to get acclimated, I had to realize that as female artists, whether we like it or not, we have to put our best foot forward all the time. Because every time we step out, we subject ourselves to a lot of scrutiny, and a lot of judgment. We don’t get the opportunity to just be human, and just be ourselves and experience things. And like I said, when I initially started my rap career journey, I was dealing with a really tumultuous breakup. So I was kind of all over the place. My emotions were crazy and I was still healing from something that was very traumatic for me. In the midst of that, I was also trying to just continue to work and continue to show up in these spaces and having to deal with imposter syndrome. I was used to being this person who was always a fly on the wall. So to be invited into certain spaces, I wanted to naturally be reclusive. I naturally wanted to be somebody who was just not problematic and not stepping on anybody’s toes. I wasn’t really earning my respect, I wasn’t getting the same recognition. So it was difficult and something I had to really work through. Just as a human being, not even as a female artist, but as a human being.
MC LYTE: I think that’s something we all can understand and relate to.
MONALEO: On top of being a female artist, there’s this realization that if this is something I’m going to pursue, I don’t like the fact that I always have to be on my toes. I don’t like the fact that I always have to go above and beyond and then we’re not considering things like colorism and other issues within the industry like that. But candidly speaking, you just have to do a little bit more as Black female artist. You have to do a little bit more, to really make a name for yourself in this space. So that was something that I didn’t like and still don’t like about the industry. But it was something that I was willing to do. It’s like how you said MC Lyte, “The strong survive.” So, it’s something that I was willing and will continue to be willing to do if it means just being able to prove myself. And not only to myself, but to all the young girls that also struggle with anxiety, who never imagined themselves being in a space where they have a bunch of eyes on them. I want to prove to them that they can feel comfortable within themselves and they don’t have to second guess everything that they’re doing. It was really exhausting to be that person. It is exhausting to be that person. But I’m working through it, I’m feeling a lot better, a lot more confident in just the work that I’m putting out. I think staying true to myself and staying true to my story is something that really continues to ground me and keep me sane. I realized why I’m doing it, because not everybody is doing it for the same reasons, right? And that’s fine. But when I remember why I’m here, what I’ve come from, what I’ve gone through to get to this space that I’m in right now, and how I had to fight tooth and nail…I had a realization. I said to myself “Okay, I belong here. I deserve to be here. My presence is needed, even if it’s not appreciated by anybody else. I appreciate the fact that I’m here.” I just want to continue to be myself and continue to show up for myself and continue to represent girls like me. So the difficulty and the challenge for me was just powering through that anxiety and getting here and being confident in myself, my ability, and my skills. They try to pit female artists against each other and they try to compare numbers. But everybody’s journey is different. Comparing myself to other people is just going to be a disservice, because we’re on different paths. With that being said, the difficulty was just powering through that anxiety, and that imposter syndrome,
MC LYTE: Comparison kills, it does. And being on this roundtable with all of you, you know, you all come from different places, you all talk a different slang, you all, aesthetically, look different from one another, you all have your own style. I’m always the biggest supporter of truly digging within and being yourself. Because the thing is, there is now an audience to be who you are. That’s it, just be who you are. So I commend all of you, it’s really a great day for women in Hip Hop. Y’all are taking this thing to a whole nother level. And showing up at clubs to perform and all of the things that you’ve all had to go through, are going to make all of you that much stronger. You’re going to be able to call upon those moments in a new moment, that past moment would have made you stronger, for the moment that you’re in. So salute to all of you.
MONALEO: What you said is exactly right. I mean, it’s a really good space for female artists right now. We’re celebrating each other right now. I think that’s a really good thing. And you can kind of speak to this best MC Lyte. You know, like 20 years ago, whenever there were other female artists, I know there were only a select few. And right now there are a lot more female artists from different walks of life. So I think it’s a good space for us right now. Especially if we continue to be mindful of each other and each other’s struggles. I think that’s why it’s so easy for me to be receptive to female artists and be supportive of them, because I know how difficult it can be, especially working with labels. I’m still independent, but I know that working with labels, they try to mold you – there’s a very specific artist that they’re trying to build right now. I know that they try to box female artists in. So, I think it’s a really beautiful space for us to just continue to be ourselves. If anything that just kind of makes us stand out even more, it’s kind of like a cheat code. If you are different from what they’re pushing right now, I think you can create a lane for yourself. So it’s a good time for female rap right now. I’m really proud of where we are. I think we got a lot to work to do still. But for right now I’m content with the unity, at least behind the scenes, because I know that the fan pages create narratives, but behind the scenes, we really do make an effort to check up on each other because it gets crazy. It gets really crazy with the internet and just being subjected to everybody’s opinions. It’s so readily available, you can just see it and you can’t avoid it and you’re scrolling through your comments. You’re scrolling on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or whatever and you see the negative things they say about you and sometimes it really does stick with you. It really does affect you. So, I think behind the scenes, we really do check up on each other in real life and make sure that we are not losing our minds. So I think we’re making a lot of progress. We’re making a lot of progress for sure.
CONNIE DIIAMOND: You got some great points, Monaleo. Especially about staying true to yourself and just making sure you’re tackling everything you came to do. I think my biggest obstacles were staying consistent as an artist. I feel like I’ve been doing music for a while and most of the time I would just fall off, because I would feel like maybe I wasn’t putting in enough. At the time when I started putting out music there weren’t as many female rappers as there are right now. So now I feel like everyone is just like, “Oh, now we need this,” they’re kind of paying more attention to the females and want to see everybody win. Prior to this I felt like it was really male dominated. But the obstacles were just staying consistent and trusting the process, you know, it gets rough. I always tell my other friends that are musicians that this shit is not for the weak. You go through so many different moments of highs and lows, we don’t always show the moments that tear us down. We don’t always broadcast the moments where we’re actually struggling. When you go on the internet, you only see the good, you only see the glam but not the struggle. But I feel like we’re all humans, and everybody has their moments where they’re not having a good day or they’re not feeling confident. We all have those moments where we are just going through the motions as being artists, you’re gonna have times and days where you feel like you’re defeated. We all go through moments like that and when I felt like that my biggest downfall was just slowing down every time. When I slow down, I feel like I kind of put myself two steps back. But now that I’m more understanding and not so hard on myself, I try to stay grounded as much as possible while knowing everything is a process. I also feel like just being signed now, I am working with people who have more knowledge about how a lot of this stuff works. And it’s different for everyone, some people will probably feel like they would be better off if they were independent. But for me the work actually starts when you get signed. Like when you finally get that jump start you need with a label behind you. The obstacles I feel like I faced was just being consistent and staying focused on what I’m working on. Obviously, I’m in a better space now. Things are going really well.
MONALEO: And don’t forget, it’s a marathon not a race. Everybody’s journey is different. Sometimes we need to take breaks. I’m only saying this because that’s something that I also would struggle with – or I thought that I was struggling with – staying consistent. But it was really because I was letting the pressure of other people get to me or even just managers, they’re always in your ear about staying consistent. Especially when from a managerial standpoint, they see other artists’ work and they’re like, “Damn, I need my artists to be doing this, I need her to be on TikTok, I need her to be making these videos, I need the content, I need all of this.” And you can start to feel like you’re behind. I was definitely struggling with that, especially just these past few months that I was pregnant, because I literally just had a baby two weeks ago. But just these past few months when I was pregnant, I really was feeling the heat from people, my managers, just my whole team. I was really feeling that heat and I was really feeling like I’m getting behind or slacking. I felt like I wasn’t being consistent and like I was lazy. When in reality, sometimes you need to take a break and really reset so that when you come back, you are 10 times stronger. 10 times more focused. So I’m glad that you were able to take that break, but I just don’t want you to be so hard on yourself. I feel like that whole “staying consistent” thing, that’s something that’s being engraved in us right now and indoctrinated. I respect it because there is power in a really diligent work ethic. But sometimes we just need breaks. I just don’t want you to come down so hard on yourself, because I mean, it happens sometimes. We just need to regroup and figure out what the fuck we’re doing. In life in general, there’s more to life than music, even though music obviously is very important to all of us. There’s more to life than being in this race. So I just don’t want you to get too caught up in that. But I’m glad that you are back, feeling better, you look beautiful. And congratulations on being signed.
LAKEYAH: I want to say I commend everybody that’s on here that is very vocal and vulnerable about what they go through in real life. Because that’s something that I only can put in my music. Especially you Monaleo, you’re very open about mental health awareness. You talk about where you came from and the mindset you were just in. That’s something that I had to learn to do, because there are people and other girls that we represent and that our stories will inspire. That vulnerability is something that I take from other artists but that’s something that I really take from specifically girls like y’all. Devyn, you know, I love how consistent you are. I really listen to y’all and I fuck with the movement. And I’m glad to be on this call with y’all.
MONALEO: Thank you, I think there’s so much power and strength in being vulnerable. When you just speak about whatever it is, like whatever that elephant in the room is, when you just acknowledge it – “You know what, fuck it, I’m shy,” or, “You know, fuck it, I’m nervous.” Like, that’s something that I used to do. Even when I would get on stage, like my first few performances, I would just tell everybody in the crowd, “I’m not gonna lie, y’all, I’m nervous.” And it felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulder, because I wasn’t putting that pressure on myself to be perfect all the time. I was just really acknowledging the fact that I’m a human being and I go through human experiences, just like everybody else does. I think there’s just a lot of power and solidarity in that. And a lot of people are struggling with the same things that I’m struggling with. So that’s the reason why it’s so important to me to just speak on whatever it is that I’m going through, even if I’m sometimes oversharing. That’s something I struggle with, too. I probably do a little too much talking about what I’m going through. But I know that I connect with people, and I connect with them on a human level. But anyway, Devyn, I want to hear about your struggles getting into this.
YOUNG DEVYN: I feel like my struggles, it wasn’t really being a female in rap, it was more so going from a child star to an adult, like growing up in front of the spotlight from eight to 21. People are literally watching me go from a child to a teenager to a young lady. And it’s like, yeah, I got to make all these mistakes and go through all these crazy teenage things. But I also have to upkeep a brand. So that takes a toll on you mentally because then you do kind of have to figure out what you want to reveal to the world. And then what you ultimately can reveal to the world it kind of starts building up a certain persona that might not necessarily even be who you are. It’s what people want you to be. And for the past year, I had kind of gotten into a mode where I just started living more so for myself, living in my truth. Even when it came to my music, like a lot of the things that I would be hiding before I started speaking on – it kind of made my fan base a little bit closer to me because I became more relatable. The reactions went from being “Oh Young Devyn she’s fire, she has dope freestyle.” Now it’s like my fans fell in love with me as a person, me as a brand, because I’m showing them my good days, my bad days, I’m talking about it all in my music. I’m not just talking about generic tough stuff that, you know, people expect rappers to rap about. I really get into detail and situations. And so it’s like, I feel like my vulnerability and just me in a way that wasn’t too premature and felt like I was kind of rushing my growth. That was just what I had to really go through and figure out. Here and there every single year, “What are new things about myself that I can show the world to let them know I’m older, but at the same time, I’m still me?” I’m reinventing myself. I think I got a grasp on that. And now I pay attention to my fan base a lot and what they react to. So I was taking a break for a couple of months, and the whole time I’m like, “Damn, what am I gonna tell my fans I’ve been doing?” So, I kind of started just telling people I was reloading, and I would post it every single day on my IG Story to a point where it became a part of my brand. So my fans, they would go on Twitter and I would see them write “Yeah, Devyn is coming, she’s reloading.” So, I caught that and it became a thing. I saw something that small take off and now for me I’m in a space of just trying to pay attention to all the little things I reveal to people, see what catches, and I just go with it. Because at the end of the day, it’s all me, it’s all organic. It’s like everybody was saying, the whole purpose and the beauty of being an artist, especially in this day and age, is that we all have different qualities and different factors. Like me, I’m not the twerking gal, I don’t curse in my music. But there’s girls for that and you know, that’s why it’s a beautiful element to know that there can be a plethora of women and we all do different angles and be ourselves. So I love that for us.
LOLA BROOKE: I never focused on having to prove anything to anyone but myself, coming into the industry. I knew who I was and how I wanted to sound far before things took off. I waited my turn but also did not focus on someone letting me in. Sometimes you gotta make space for yourself and have everyone else catch up. The obstacles I’ve faced have been challenging, but I’ve learned that it’s part of the process — your story. I’ve heard it all, from conversations that I was not marketable to my voice being too deep, but over time you learn that some people have their own reasons for saying what they say. And now…it’s crazy because the same things people tried to call out as a weakness are now praised as my strengths.
V: You guys discussed the past and present of Hip Hop and the struggles and triumph that comes with it. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop, I want you each to share your predictions on the future of Hip Hop. What will the next 50 years of Hip Hop look like?
BKTHERULA: You know, I think the sound is going to change a lot. The genre won’t be exclusive to a specific type of artist, you know. It’s just like, I think the whole sound is about to change so [drastically], that everyone’s going to be caught off guard. The kids are getting bolder and bolder and bolder as the years go on. Artists are going to be saying anything, it’s like a diary, but like online. Honestly I see this happening very soon. In the next couple months, and the next couple years, the kids bout to start saying some shit. But I feel like it’s the same message, it’s just a different voice. It’s the same soul, but it’s just a different star. And I feel like it’s about to sound like swag x 10, you feel me? Swag is about to get more swaggy. And I can’t wait to see what the kids do with it, you know, like, it’s gonna be unimaginable. I think that’s what I will say to some of them.
YOUNG DEVYN: I agree. I think Hip Hop in the next 50 years is definitely going to be very colorful, especially with things like the internet. You know, it gives everybody a voice. I heard people from Asia doing drill rapping, It just connects people from all different parts of the world. So I definitely think the next 50 years is going to be a real cultural shift. We’re going to start seeing people from all creeds and cultures coming together. But for the most part and what I think is the most important part, I definitely love the fact that Hip Hop is like the forefront genre right now. Before, there was a point in time where you couldn’t even see certain hip hop artists at a certain number on the Billboard charts. And now it’s like, we’re the top artists, we have the number one songs. If you go on TikTok, all you hear is hip hop music, everything is influenced by hip hop culture. That’s an amazing thing, and we’re all amazing ladies that are going to be a part of that shift and history. But we’re all going to just take our sounds and the things that we have, and really bring it to the game and add it to the world. So like I said, I can see it being very colorful, the internet is going to be a definite major resource in the elevation of Hip Hop and help the genre [further] transcend. But I’m excited to see it.
LAKEYAH: I’m excited to see all the female artists that are going to be in Hip Hop in the next few years because these past two years we’ve seen a real [resurgence] of the female rapper. We’re so different but we each represent the future of [the genre] in our way and each of us are taking it one step forward for the future female rappers. Hip Hop is the most entertaining genre right now – but female rap – is where the industry is seeing a shift. Honestly, at this point, I don’t even want to hear anything other than female rappers. Hip Hop is being taken over by us and I’m happy to be a part of it. Hopefully in the end we can take home some awards and be given our flowers, we deserve it.
LOLA BROOKE: In the next 50 years the industry will look [almost completely] like us and there will be many more artists like us to come. Hip Hop will be a space to express yourself however you like and give the space to not feel any type of way with how others perceive you. The future is also right now. I feel like we’re seeing a shift in the [face of Hip Hop] now and it speaks for itself. At the same time, I have to add that there is room for us all to co-exist as one. In the end we will not be viewed as female rappers — but simply as rappers. We all know we are giving those guys the heat too though so it’s a [matter of time] (laughs).
CONNIE DIIAMOND: Yeah, super excited to see the growth of all the ladies here in the future, and of all the ladies in the industry in general. I don’t know what to expect in these next 50 years but I can’t wait to see what else we have in store. Every day, artists are being created. I’m just excited to see what this next generation of rappers will bring. When we were younger, we had the Nicki Minaj’s of the world, and now it’s us and a couple of other girls [carrying the torch]. I’m looking forward to seeing who will come in after us, and I’m [curious] about what they’ll sound like.
MONALEO: I’m excited. I’m just optimistic for how Hip Hop is going to continue to evolve and grow and just make space, make room for all the different types of artists that we’re getting ready to see. I’m excited just to see everybody be themselves. I’m excited to see people’s journeys. I know it’s going to be people from all over the world kind of joining in on this Hip Hop wave. 50 years from now we’re gonna be in our 70’s. So we’re gonna be the elders. (Laughs) So we can hopefully be helping them and guiding them and being open and receptive. Hopefully we are being helpful, just being the OGs, sitting somewhere and passing on knowledge. I’m excited just to see how it evolves. I know, it’s gonna be a very beautiful thing. And I know the genre is just getting ready to open a lot more space for different types of artists – colors, shapes, sizes. It’s gonna be a really beautiful, eclectic thing. I can’t wait to see you ladies when we are in our 70’s and they’re honoring us and talking about 100 years of hip hop and we’re there. We’ll be there talking about our experiences and what it was like to be a hip hop artist in 2023. Hopefully, it’s drastically different in a good way in 2073.
TIACORINE: Hip Hop in 50 years sounds very welcoming, experimental, accepting and loving. I think the future is bright and progressive. Hopefully it will be more of a balance m, rather than one sex dominating the other. I think balance is good, balance is key. But I do think women will have more respect in the music game and will get taken more seriously.
MC LYTE: I would just say that I believe there are going to be even more genres. I think, Devyn, you attested to that. There will be more subgenres, more people taking chances. BK said the kids are going to be saying something and making statements with their music – I think you guys are already saying something now. But I just see us all caught off guard. Even today I am caught off guard. If people ask “Did I think that it would go this far?” my response is, “No, I was just in it doing what I do.” But what I will say is, if the odds are that you all are blessed to have a 50 year career, within Hip Hop, it’s going to be through using all of the many talents that you have. Hip Hop, although we love it, we all have come to understand that this is a business. And the more that you prepare to handle yourself, and your activities throughout Hip Hop as a business, the longer you will last. That is where the longevity is, that is where your TV show that you want, the movie that you want to do, the production house that you want to start, the label that you want to start, the fashion brand that you want to start, the magazine you want to have, comes in. All of it begins right here. So I say, God bless you all on this wonderful journey. Align yourself with those that are like-minded, and those who have your back. And I wish you all well and the best for the next however many years you are blessed to do this. I look forward to meeting you all in person and I’m thankful to have had the chance to talk with each of you and hear your stories.
Photography Eric Johnson
Fashion Matthew Mazur
Interview MC Lyte
Editorial direction & casting Czar Van Gaal
Makeup Mollie Gloss (Opus Beauty)
Hair The Chaise Way (Factory Downtown) and Tez Galliano
Manicure Karen Jimenez (Opus Beauty)
Editor Kala Herh
Visual Collaborator Robert Escalera
Set design Jennifer Correa
Producer Goran Macura
Photo assistant Malcom Sales
Stylist assistants Nia Shambourger, Adriana Espinal
Makeup assistant Tess Garvey
Hair assistant Shanice Watkins
Manicure assistant Danny Tavarez
Set design assistant Johnny Saczko
Production assistant Domenic Nadal
Retouching One Hundred Berlin