Thi’sl doesn’t think talented, female Christian hip-hop artists get enough attention and he’s doing something about it.
The Full Ride Music Group rapper announced the October 1 release of “Gurl Code,” a compilation album featuring only females. In an interview excerpted below, he broke down not only why he felt the project is needed, but why that need exists.
David Daniels: What inspired you to put together this female compilation?
Thi’sl: I’m a big fan of a lot of female artists and I know that we live in a culture of music where you only see female artists really “succeed” when certain things are set up.
If you look back over the history of hip hop in general, once we moved out of that era of the Queen Latifah “Ladies First” and MC Lyte’s into the mid-to-late 90s, all of the female artists that you saw going hard were backed by a crew. It was always like four or five dudes and a girl. Even right now, when you see Nicki [Minaj], she got put on because she was backed by a crew.
In these days and times in our culture of Christian rap music, I don’t see any label that has that crew element. Then every label is a group of dudes. There aren’t any girls in it to even be pushed. It’s rarity you see girls even featured on songs unless it’s singing, but there are a lot of female hip-hop artists that are dope. HeeSun Lee, Butta P, Jai, Martay—I can go on and on, but they don’t have that push of the crew or the “dude community,” outside of Butta P.
Butta P has the crew effect with Rhema Soul. I think that’s why she’s probably one of the most forefront people in the whole movement. She has two other people that are constantly pushing her to make music, put out songs and to do well.
I know this compilation isn’t going to fix that problem, but I wanted to be able to take some of these female artists and put them in front of more people and help push it forward.
DD: Have you been talking with Butta P? I interviewed her and she said the exact same thing about how crews need to get behind a female artist.
T: The funny thing is, I was thinking about doing the compilation and I hadn’t even talked to her. I text her and said, “Yo, I’m about to do an all-girl compilation. You want to get on?” She text me back, “Dude I was about to text you the other day and ask you the exact same question. I’m in.”
I’m going to tell you again. The reason why I don’t think a crew of dudes in the Christian rap community can get behind a girl is because crews don’t exist in Christian hip hop. Right now in mainstream media, crews are what dominate.
DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, they started it back up in this new school era. When you saw them for the past years, it was always a crew with them—Khaled, Ross, [Lil] Wayne and Ace Hood. They were always doing something together. It made it look like something people wanted to be a part of. That doesn’t exist in the Christian rap market.
One of the reasons why the crew element doesn’t exist is because people in Christian rap are not educated enough about music to know what works and what doesn’t. You have 100 independent artists right now running around trying to invest pennies into themselves.
If they got together and formed a crew with like three to four dudes and everybody came in and said they were going to push everybody hard, they would kill because you go from taking 25 cents to promote yourself to having $1 and three other people to promote. When dudes get that mindset, you’ll see more crews and then girls will probably have a chance of being fit into some space like that.
DD: How close are the 116 Clique or W.L.A.K. to being crews?
T: They’re on record labels, but they are not straight crews. When you look at Maybach Music, when you see Rick Ross promoting a Rick Ross record, you see Wale, Meek Mill, Stalley, all of them with him because it puts forth strength in numbers: it’s us—it’s not me.
Collision is still young in what they’re doing as a label and you have certain obstacles. Most of those guys probably work, which there’s nothing wrong with that. A smart man would work and take care of his family. So, when dudes have a schedule of work, life and family, a lot of that stuff plays into it. I don’t think Collision has had the opportunity to show us that aspect of it.
Reach is a record label, but they aren’t a crew. Lecrae was on 106 & Park. You saw Lecrae on 106 & Park. Now, don’t misinterpret that. I think Lecrae does one of the best jobs out of a person that I’ve seen on a record label at being an artist with promoting the other artists on the label. When he was on 106 & Park, he shouted Andy [Mineo] out in the crowd. He didn’t have to do that.
Lecrae is the king of giving looks to the other artists that are on Reach, but if you were to turn on 106 & Park and saw Lecrae, Derek Minor, Andy, KB and Tedashii sitting on the couch together, it would’ve had a much stronger look. If they wouldn’t have even said a word, it still would’ve had that feel.
That’s probably my least favorite thing about Christian rap because I grew up in environment where it’s all for one and one for all. As a young buck doing music, there was always four or five of us. When I had a show, the whole hood was there.
My cousins that rapped, even if they didn’t rap on the song I was on, they were on stage with me. It’s the same thing with videos.
You know who I didn’t mention who I think does a good job of trying to do that? RMG [Reflection Music Group]. When you see the RMG videos, they look like a crew of dudes.
With the girl compilation, I didn’t have to put my money, time and effort into doing this. I could’ve just kept doing what I was doing, but I’m used to playing ball like that. I’m used to looking around the court and saying, “Man, he open. Let me pass him the ball.” But it’s hard to do that when you’re in an environment full of dudes that want to do everything by themselves.
DD: How do you solve that problem? Is that just a resource thing or do you need to have that mindset?
T: You’ve got to have that mindset. The internet and TuneCore have extremely helped the independent artist, but it also hurt the independent artist at the same time. Now, you have independent artists that think like, “I can record an album, drop an album, put it out on TuneCore”—in our demographic of music—“get an interview with Wade-O, get a Rapzilla post and I’m good.” There are very few artists inside of Christian rap who are “successful monetary wise” and see the return on investment in their money.
If I take an album, get it up on Rapzilla and get an interview with Wade-O, I can sell 500 CDs. If I sell 500 CDs, I just made $3,500. Some people are happy with that. They’re happy with having all of that $3,500. Versus, I can get with somebody else, give up some of my rights, give up some of my money and I could sell 5,000-10,000 CDs. People don’t think like that, but that’s business 101.
People don’t understand ground work, they don’t understand building something and they don’t understand strategic partnerships. Again, it goes back to not having business sense. In Christian rap for so many years, we’ve been taught only to understand and know theology, but in order for Christian rap to get to the place that everybody would like to see it get to, it’s going to take people involved that understand business as well.
Thi’sl singled out Reach Records as an example of an intelligently-run business. One artist on Reach, Lecrae, touched on the lack of female MCs in Christian hip hop as well. Stay tuned to Wade-O Radio to hear his opinion, Butta P’s and more on whether or not a lack of female MCs is a Christian hip-hop problem or just a hip hop problem.