interview THE LADY OF RAGE (February 2011) | Interviewer Paul Edwards

   It was almost 5 years ago when Paul Edwards contacted Dubcnn with the idea he had to write a book focusing on the "Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC" and asking for help in speaking to artists themselves to get their input. Years later and with more interviews than countless journalists will ever manage to secure Paul finally released his epic read to critical acclaim and commercial success, it has been in Amazon's Top 10 Hip-Hop and Rap books since it came out and it's also being published in Japanese and Korean.

"How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC" is compiled from interviews with over 100 MCs, and featuring many West Coast artists.

Highlights include – Shock G describing working with 2Pac and his writing processes, RBX on ghostwriting for Dr. Dre, Lady of Rage explaining how she comes up with flows and content, B-Real recalling how he came up with Cypress Hill’s biggest hits, Crooked I on writing lyrics down and using tape recorders, DJ Quik discussing being both an MC and a produce, E-40 on coming up with slang and rhythms and much more.

Other West Coast artists and groups interviewed include Bishop Lamont, Cashis, Crooked I, Yukmouth, Glasses Malone, Guerilla Black, Omar Cruz, Spider Loc, The Federation, Tha Alkaholiks and more.

Now, thanks to the great relationship between Dubcnn and Paul Edwards, the writer has given Dubcnn EXCLUSIVE rights to release all the key WestCoast interviews that were compiled to create "How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC."  Each of these interviews give an insight into an artists thought process around creating a track and help you understand why being a Hip-Hop MC is truly an Art and Science!

Read on and enjoy. As always feel free to hit up the forum with questions or comments.

Questions Asked By: Paul Edwards in March 2007

How to Rap: How did you learn how to rap?

Lady of Rage: I used to write poetry a lot, so the transition from poetry to rap is not that hard, it’s just music to poetry.

How to Rap: Did you memorize other people’s lyrics and write a lot?

Lady of Rage: I wrote my own things, I also memorized when I really got into rap, of course I memorized the songs that I liked, but writing wasn’t that hard, because like I said, I used to write poetry so it was just an extension of that.

How to Rap: Is there a set process you go through when you’re writing lyrics?

Lady of Rage: Yeah, I usually wanna be alone, I don’t want nobody around me. I might hit a joint once or twice and then I just listen to the track over and over. Sometimes I might freestyle, like see how I wanna do the flow and then just take it from there.

How to Rap: Do you write your lyrics down on paper?

Lady of Rage: Yes, because I’ll forget it.

How to Rap: Do you think that’s the best way to do it?

Lady of Rage: Well, for me it is! I mean I hear people say they don’t write their lyrics down and they keep them in their head and that’s amazing to me, and I wish I could do that, but as soon as the thought comes in my head, if I don’t write it down, and try to remember what I said an hour later, I may not. So I have to write it down.

How to Rap: Do you find it helps to have a large vocabulary?

Lady of Rage: I think so, either a large vocabulary or a big imagination or common knowledge… just a good intellectual base, because you can say things that most people may not even know about. I was good at science so I might throw an “amoeba” in my rhyme or “paramecium”—the average person may not know about that, so it’s like, damn, what the hell is she talking about! Or did you hear what she said? So I think it all helps and adds up.

How to Rap: A lot of the metaphors you use make references to different things, do you ever go and specifically look something up to come up with those?

Lady of Rage: Sometimes I may… I said something in a rhyme about “botulinum toxin” [from] watching the Discovery Channel. At the time I didn’t know that was botox—it’s a poison, and they use it to decrease the wrinkles in your face. So I was watching that, and instead of saying “botox,” I just used the whole “botulinum toxin,” which sounded better. So I watch a lot of things on Discovery, Forensic Files, and I just use all of that. I learn stuff every day, so it’s how you use what you know.
Or in general conversation, somebody might say something, and it may sound good. I have a lot of friends that are just street smart and they have a lot of sayings and if it sounds good I’m like, oh I might use that, because they’re just throwing it out there, not rhymes or nothing. I had a friend who was like, yeah, I’m not a stranger to danger, and I was like, you’re not a stranger to danger, I like that. So I just pick up everyday things.

How to Rap: Your flow is always very varied and interesting, do you consciously keep switching it up when you write a verse?

Lady of Rage: It’s following the meat of the beat, it’s wherever the beat directs me, so the beat is basically the conductor, and I follow the lead.

How to Rap: Because some rappers will get one rhythm and keep rapping the same rhythm, but you tend to do different rhythms, like every bar you’ll have a different rhythm…

Lady of Rage: Yeah, I try to do that, and it also depends on the words that I’m saying, so if you’re trying to fit a word in there you might have to change your flow because it’s not gonna work if you constantly use the same repetitive style. You definitely want to change your flow and change your rhythm and change all of that, to keep people guessing or to make it interesting.

How to Rap: Do you think that the flow is more important than the subject matter?

Lady of Rage: Naaah, I think what you’re saying, in my opinion, what you’re saying is more important.

How to Rap: Why’s that?

Lady of Rage: I don’t wanna hear the same old thing, I don’t wanna hear, ok, how many ways can you kill somebody, that’s all simple, and how many ways can you say that shit… I wanna hear something that’s gonna blow my mind! [Did] you put some thought in there, did you take the time, did you really sit down and think about that? I just like different thought provoking stuff—I’m a lyricist, so I like lyrics. Lyricists and MCs, that’s their main thing—who’s saying the dopest shit, not the simplest shit.

How to Rap: Though with the flow you can get really complex, so do you think it can be as interesting?

Lady of Rage: Yeah, it can, it definitely can, because you might put a pigeonhole on someone and feel that that’s all they can do, that they’re gonna stick to this one style, [but] when you change it up all the time, they never know how you gonna come. It’s impressive to hear different types of flows. It shows your growth, it shows your ability to not just being one limited thing—you have style.

How to Rap: How long does it take you to write lyrics normally?

Lady of Rage: Oh boy, it can take from an hour to a week. It’s not a fast process for me—it definitely takes time, depending on the beat.

How to Rap: Do you ever just go in and freestyle lyrics and record them?

Lady of Rage: I used to, I remember one time when I was with Dre, and I went in to do a mic check and my thing was I always wanted the record button to be on whenever I went on the mic. And so this particular day I was doing a mic check, and I just went off and I just said some of the dopest shit I ever said in life and I was so excited after I did it, I said, did you get that Dre? And he was like, yeah, I heard you. I was like, did you record it? And he was like, nah, ain’t those the rhymes you getting ready to say? I said, no! That’s not the rhyme I’m getting ready to say! I was freestyling! And he thought that was something that I wrote, and I was just so deflated because it was just so tight and as soon as it came out my mouth it was forgotten. So sometimes I do [freestyle].

How to Rap: Back in those days, did you guys do a lot of that, doing a lot of freestyles and then putting different bits together, because I heard that was how some of that stuff was constructed…

Lady of Rage: Well some of it, mainly like with Snoop, because that’s how he used to, that’s how he created his stuff—he would freestyle, he wasn’t a writer then, he was a freestyler and I wasn’t a freestyler, I was a writer. But sometimes you know, smoking and drinking you get extra power, or it seems that way and sometimes I would do that and sometimes it would sound good. But mostly I was writing, I was writing my stuff.

How to Rap: What are some of your favorite verses or songs that you’ve come up with?

Lady of Rage: “Unfucwitable” is definitely one, I had a song on my album called “Confessions,” that was one of my favorite songs, “Microphone Pon Cok” was one of my favorite ones, “Set It Off” on Snoop’s album was one, and some of my new stuff that I have now, some of the stuff on there is definitely tight.

How to Rap: With “Unfucwitable,” can you describe the whole process of making that track?

Lady of Rage: I like to help create the beat, and I can do that more with [DJ] Premier because we have a real close relationship and he lets me do that. So he was going through the beginning stages of picking out something and I forget what the sample was, but he was playing something and I was like, I like that. And so he kept playing it, and then he looped it, and he didn’t like it, but I liked it and I was like, that’s what I want, that’s what I want! So he went on and did it and I just sat in there for a while, smoked a joint, sat in there by myself and just listened to it over and over, until it come—it’ll come to you. And that’s how it is.

How to Rap: So did you write it all in one go in the studio?

Lady of Rage: I had one verse and then I wrote the other verse in the studio, a verse and a half in the studio. But normally I write at home.

How to Rap: When you’re working with people like Dr Dre and DJ Premier, do they ever have any input into what you’re writing about?

Lady of Rage: Not necessarily, unless they say, this is what I want it to be about, but other than that, it’s basically on me.

How to Rap: Do they ever give any direction on how you’re going to deliver the vocals?

Lady of Rage: Yeah, and that’s what I like—Dre and Premier, they both do that. If I’m laying down my lyrics and maybe I didn’t put enough into it or didn’t say it right, they’ll cut me off, they won’t let me go to the end of the rhyme. They’ll say, “Nah, nah, nah, do that again,” or “Do that better,” or “Say it like this,” and I like that—that doesn’t offend me or bother me.

How to Rap: Do you prefer doing solo material, or working as part of a larger team like on the Death Row albums?

Lady of Rage: That was good, I liked that, it’s cool, but now basically I just like doing my own thing, because it’s not as much… I wouldn’t say stress, I dunno, it’s just easier. Because working with Snoop and Dre, they’re so fast and like I said, it can take me an hour or a week, and they write just like that, so when I go in with them I usually have something already.

If they call me and say, “Rage, I want you to do this song,” I start right away on it so they won’t have to be waiting on me like, damn, you’re slow. But I saw an interview—I think Eminem said sometimes it may take him a week or some days to write a rhyme and I felt much better, because I thought it was just me. When other people, when other MCs start saying it takes them a while, I felt a little better, I felt more at ease, like it’s not just me.

How to Rap: Yeah, a lot of MCs I’ve talked to for this book have said they takes ages, because if you want to write something really good you have to take your time…

Lady of Rage: Exactly, exactly.

How to Rap: Do you ghost-write lyrics for anyone?

Lady of Rage: Nah, you know, somebody might be stuck, I might say, say that, and the same has gone for me, I might be stuck and, “Yeah, well say this.” But never a substantial amount.

How to Rap: Do you memorize your lyrics before you record them, or do you read from the paper?

Lady of Rage: Both, like right now I’m on my way to the studio, and I have some memorized and I have some that I’m gonna say off my paper.

How to Rap: Which is better, which do you prefer?

Lady of Rage: I prefer memorized, because you can put more intensity into it, so right now, I’ll just lay it down and when I memorize my other verse, I’ll go back in and I’ll do it over with more intensity.

How to Rap: So you do guide vocals?

Lady of Rage: Yeah, that’s what this will be. I’m gonna do my best today, but I will do better the next time, this won’t be like the final one. I do that with everything. I lay it down, I take it home, I listen to it, I’m like, “I should have said this that way” or “I didn’t take a breath right here.” I analyze it and then I do it over.

How to Rap: In a lot of your stuff you deliver words very fast, but at the same time very clearly, how did you learn to get that vocal technique down?

Lady of Rage: That was just something that I practiced. I wanted to enunciate and I wanted to be heard clearly so when I’m writing it [and] as I’m practicing it I just say it over and over. If I don’t breathe right, I go back, I say, “OK, I need to take a breath right here.” That’s one of my stronger points also, I was good at English and stuff like that, so that’s something that I take pride in and I understand that, and that can go a long way—bigger delivery. I’m a perfectionist, I do it over and over and over until I get it right, until it sounds right to me.

How to Rap: So you’ve done so many lyrics that now you can deliver them really clearly and quickly…

Lady of Rage: Yeah, like last night I was going over what I was gonna say today, because I just want it to flow. I don’t want it to sound like I’m reading it, I don’t want it to sound like I don’t know what I’m saying, it has to be convincing.

How to Rap: Do you ever go over the lyrics and decide where you’re going to take breaths, so you don’t lose your breath doing it?

Lady of Rage: Yes…

How to Rap: Do you plan that when you’re writing them?

Lady of Rage: When I’m finished, then when I go over it, that’s when I’m like, “OK, I need to take a breath here.” I’ll say it, and if I run out of breath, normally I’ll be like, “OK, now I need to take a breath before I say this word so I can say these two lines, take a breath after this word.”
I think that’s a good trait for an MC to have, especially when you’re performing, that’s good, because you don’t wanna sound out of breath. It’s just like a singer, they know when they’re gonna need to take a breath, they know all of these things, same thing for an MC—you should have it down like that. That’s if you take pride in yourself, if you don’t really care, then you gonna sound like you don’t care… but I care.

How to Rap: Some MCs say that you should be able to freestyle, or do this and that to be an MC, do you think MCs should follow some codes of conduct to maintain standards in MCing?

Lady of Rage: Well, everybody can’t freestyle, so just because you can’t freestyle, doesn’t mean that you’re not a good rapper, you just have an extra something that you can do, something that’s added to your resume. It’s like anything, you have different types of singers, that’s just an extra quality that you have, but as far as delivering and all that, I think you should have some type of standard—“OK, I’m gonna do it this way, I’m gonna hold myself to that, I’m gonna make it sound good.” But everybody can’t do everything, everybody doesn’t have the total package.

How to Rap: Do you record a verse all in one take, or do you punch-in different lines and put them together?

Lady of Rage: I like to do one takes, and I’ll do it until I get it in one take and if I can’t, I’ll do a punch. But then when I come back and do it again I’ll do it in one take, because I know now where I need to take my breaths and everything. I take it home, I listen to it until I get it right—I like one take.

How to Rap: What do you think about today’s MCs, compared to older MCs?

Lady of Rage: Mmm… in what way…?

How to Rap: In terms of everything, the content, the flow, standard of albums…

Lady of Rage: With the content, I think MCs back in the day had more content, more relevant content, as opposed to MCs today. It’s basically more materialistic, what you have and what your car is riding on and the girls you wanna get, stuff like that. It was more consciousness back then, more of a message and I think that’s a pretty good comparison I guess, from then and now.

How to Rap: Do you think the skill level has increased, in terms of flows?

Lady of Rage: Yeah, some, yeah, I would say…

How to Rap: Who do you think is really pushing stuff forward?

Lady of Rage: Ludacris, I think he really pushes the envelope. I think he’s a lyricist, he says dope things, but he’s not all serious—he can have fun, he can be serious. He’s an MC, he has some consciousness about him, all of that, so he’s one of my favorites.

How to Rap: What advice would you give to people who want to be better at MCing?

Lady of Rage: I would say it’s gonna be a hard field to break into, especially a female, it’s gonna be hard for her. So you definitely gonna have to come with it, and there’s gonna be some hard knocks, so prepare to fight for it if that’s what you want. And that sounds so cliché, but that’s really what it is.




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