Crackin' Nutz 

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

Page 6 of 7

Much of Goldee's rage stems from her sister's murder, which happened seventeen years ago. "The next day I went by the house where it happened, on 18th and Myrtle Street in West Oakland," she says. "They left all the yellow tape up, and the door unlocked, and all the blood. I can't tell you what it feels like to see that: It's like, you're stiff; you can't feel anything anymore."

The MC revisits the murder in her signature song, "Off with His Head," a jeremiad addressed to her sister's killer. On the hook, Goldee shrieks in a voice jagged enough to feel the shards flying in your eardrums: Off with his head/I want 'im dead/I put seventeen Glock shots worth of bullets in your fuckin' head.

Goldee, whose album has no projected release date, describes her music as an outlet through which she expresses anger, and also tries to make sense of what's happened to her. "I feel like I was cursed from the womb," she says. "I'm not gonna go out there and hurt nobody, so I just put it in my music." Yet because the tragedies of which she raps mostly arise from violent relationships with men, her songs are about coping with individual trauma.

Goldee is not the only female MC to use violence to reverse or appropriate gender roles. Conscious Daughters, who put at least one song relevant to women's issues on every album, see this reversal as a way of making their songs sound not only hard-hitting, but socially relevant. Ear to the Street's "Wife of a Gangsta" grimly discussed the dangers a woman faced in having a drug-dealer boyfriend, while "Shitty Situation" frankly addressed an unwanted pregnancy without any support from the baby's father. According to CMG, when Queen Latifah met the Daughters at 1994's Billboard Music Awards in 1994, the first thing she said was "That 'Shitty Situation' song is the bomb." Their sophomore album, Gamers, featured "All Caught Up," which dealt with AIDS: Ain't that a bitch?/I'll put this motherfucker in the dirt/If he done gave me anything, a pistol put him worse/I can't believe I fucked around with that, and came up short/Without no beanie on the penie now I'm all caught up. In the past, men have cropped up on the Daughters' albums like sinister, leering figures: people who lead their girlfriends into a violent, criminal underworld, or sire children and run off when they aren't infecting women with fatal diseases.

On The Nutcracker Suite, the Daughters kick their gender commentary up to the next level of scandalousness. "Kill My Nigga" turns the tables on domestic abusers. On the song's hook, the MCs chant over a crackling, whining beat: Bleed 'im/Stab 'im/Slash 'im/Kill 'im. Goldee -- who joins the Daughters on the track along with Baby Doll, another up-and-coming East Bay rapper -- says "The idea is that if a chick's with her dude, and he's an abusive partner, she'll just pop 'Kill My Nigga' in the CD player, and he gonna be like, 'Bitch, you tryin' to kill me?' And she gonna be like, 'Nah, I'm just vibin' with the music, you know.' And maybe he'll chill out, because he'll think, 'Wow, that chick just might be crazy.'"

Special One says that the rage in that song derives from personal experience: A former boyfriend tried to stab her on one occasion, and knocked out her teeth on her 21st birthday. "We still talk," she says. "He wants to take credit for turning me into a lesbian."

For her part: Goldee seems energized when she hears "Kill My Nigga" reverberating on Fred's stereo at Peekaboo Studios: "Ooh, that's deep. It gives me chills."

Jamaica spends weekday mornings at the Dogged Outt Productions studio on 3rd Street in Potrero Hill, munching on Cup o' Noodles and 25-cent packs of orange Doritos while her brother and his crew smoke blunts, drink 40s, and diddle on ProTools. The walls of the studio are covered with cut-outs of honey-skinned women in bikinis, along with posters announcing albums by such local turf rap artists as Louie Loc, Kev Kelly, Playa Mac, and the Straight Outta Hunters Point soundtrack. Two Terminator speakers sit front and center on a high shelf above the computer, heaving and caving in with the thrust of a perennially heavy bass. The couch, stove, and dishwater-gray rug are cluttered with A.1. barbecue sauce bottles, upended MK-4902 keyboards, soccer trophies, old boots, an econo-pack of cornflakes, blank videotapes, CDRs, and copies of Stuff magazine -- in other words, titties galore, and more beautiful big booty girls.

Isaac Alexander (aka Coujo) started Dogged Outt -- then Eight Bit Crappy Productions -- in 1989 with his friend Emmet. In 1996, the Dogged Outt crew recorded its first album, Bay Area Crime Diaries, on a cassette tape. "We used to just hang a mic from the light fixture on the back porch," Isaac says, waving his hand at the rear end of the studio. "That was our sound booth." Dogged Outt the label released its first compilation, Tha Route of All Evil, on the underground market last year, followed by Jinicydle's debut, Ghetto Tactics. While Jinicydle delivered a strong, convincingly homicidal performance, the real ghetto tactics belonged to Jamaica, whose guest raps as Mak Diddy were the best thing about the album. Having ushered in a solid hip-hop fanbase and a modicum of critical exposure, Isaac is now pushing ahead full throttle to drop Jamaica's album, tentatively called Both Sides of the Game, this fall. Isaac claims that he's never really liked any other female artist, even in mainstream hip-hop: "I wasn't set out to put out a female rapper on my label, but when I heard Jamaica, she was the one of the tightest artists that I'd ever heard, period."

In the makeshift studio, Isaac taps on his computer, and "Death Wish" resonates from the speakers. Cradled over a low-slung armchair, Jamaica bobs her head and mouths the words to her own songs, but she flinches a little when Isaac cues up "One Night Stand," which sets an African drumbeat against a spare keyboard track and Jamaica's remarkably vulnerable vocals: Just for one night, I'll be your girl/A one-night stand, that's all it has to be/Put your tongue in places, you can make me cream ... /Just for one night, boy/Don't try to fight, boy.

Obviously, this song is about wanting to get into a guy's pants, but Jamaica has a song, "Maica, Maica," about girl-on-girl love, too. The hook is a woman singing: Maica, Maica, you drive me crazy, I just want to be your lady. As she is always trying to be a little outside of the roles that society cultivates for her, Jamaica seems to be flirting with an open-ended sexuality. But she's also unsure about whether she wants a romantic relationship, or just a person to value her: Jamaica's current answering machine greeting has the artist singing in her gloomy, gospel voice, Ooooohhh, I want you to myself/And I don't want anybody else/Soooo, if you want me, come and let me know/And we could get it cra-a-ackin, fo' sho'. Asked if she's really looking for love, the starry-eyed MC merely shrugs. "I'm just trying to get some attention."


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