Crackin' Nutz 

Women MCs struggle for a place of their own amid the misogyny and violence of gangsta rap.

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In the meantime, CMG took a day job and raised her son. "You need to have people who believe in you and want to put your shit out," she says. "But you also have to be prepared to cut the fuck off at any moment."

When the Daughters lost their deal with Priority, a few aspiring moguls offered to stake some money on the Daughters' next album, but none followed through. They were all men, Special One recalls, noting: "Ain't no woman ever tried to put money behind us." So the two hustled on their own during this hiatus, driving down to Los Angeles to pass out Gamers at conventions, and performing shows throughout the Bay Area. Eventually, Special One fell on hard times. She'd always indulged in dreams of pro basketball, or running her own production studio, if the rap game didn't pan out. Yet a series of invasive knee surgeries kept her off the b-ball court, and in the meantime, her longtime partner gave birth to a baby boy. As for production, she still entertains the fantasy of her own studio, although she was recently forced to sell a swank Triton keyboard to pay her rent.

Then, last year, Paris re-emerged with his new label, Guerrilla Funk Recordings, which will release Conscious Daughters' third album, The Nutcracker Suite, in early 2005. Thus, two decades since those high school radio shows, the Daughters are back in the game -- and evidently, they've progressed from stepping on toes to busting balls. But now that they're both approaching forty, it will only get harder.

Conscious Daughters are speeding down I-880 in an SUV, bumping Top 40 joints by Lil' Flip and Kanye West. Special One sits in the back -- munching a bag of Lay's potato chips and chattering about how fine those Mystic Journeymen are -- while CMG drives. Goldee the Murderess sits shotgun, sucking on a lollipop and brandishing a golden microphone Special One gave her as a late birthday present.

The car exits onto 73rd and ambles through the flats of East Oakland, passing houses with cyclone fences, green Sears siding latticed with wrought-iron grillwork, checkerboard lawns, porches littered with tricycles, men barbecuing hot dogs, and kids sitting on the hoods of cars while they slurp Popsicles. CMG parks in front of a squat green house belonging to Fred Funk.

It's a lazy Sunday, and Fred saunters down the hall in rubber sandals and socks to usher the MCs into the small, dank room that is Peekaboo Studios. His old sketches of Michael Jackson and Prince hang on the studio walls, along with egg crates and foam to absorb the sound. Fred's desk is cluttered with recording equipment. He has stacked milk crates and copies of Remix magazine on the dung-brown carpet underneath. The bathroom adjacent to the studio doubles as a vocal booth. This is where the Conscious Daughters' comeback album will be recorded.

Goldee gravitates to the gold things in the room -- a little clock with musical notes engraved on the side, and a small figurine of a guitar with a man's head and sunglasses. She puts her mouth behind it and mock-sings: I got the ghetto blues.

"Blind ya, this gold," she says to Funky Fred. "Goldee blind ya with all this gold."

Both Daughters take turns spitting verses from "Never Seen Us Coming," a track from The Nutcracker Suite. Special One raps: And you never see me coming/Not even in the light/'Cuz I'm spitting balls of fire/And guns and knives/Bitches getting duct-taped to their fucking mic stand/'Cuz you invaded my space, 'cuz you invaded my land/Put your hands in the air 'cuz I'm gonna tape 'em to your hair/And then I'm gonna wrap the mic cord around your body and tie it around your throat, and use this garbage bag as a coat.

Richmond's Harris says she's not sure which fans the Daughters are trying to reach at this point in their career. "Marvaless still has a solid fan base because she stayed underground, and she still has that gangsta edge," she says. "But the Daughters went mainstream. Now they're gonna have to go harder to compete overall, especially if they want to sell to a younger crowd." She notes that many of the Daughters' original fans are now in their late thirties, and aren't buying a lot of hip-hop: "Most people in that age group prefer R&B now, which is why a lot of former female rappers have gone on to do other things, like make movies, produce, or raise families. It will be interesting to see what female rappers are talking about in their late thirties."


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