2 // Black Future Month 2012 // RyanNicole, Emcee
Posted on February 2, 2012
RyanNicole is a champion. And if I end the post there, you really have all of the information you need. No hyperbole. Real spit.
Which is, perhaps, for what she’s best known. Spitting real, that is. Let’s put to the side, for a very brief moment, that Ryan is also an accomplished thespian, record setting track and field athlete, one of the youngest non-profit Executive Directors in the Bay Area and a compelling civic leader. Just put it on the back burner and consider, for a moment, her talent as a lyricist. Start here, with a clip from Thizzler on the Roof:
She’s beastly my dude — bar for bar, metaphor for metaphor, one of the most skilled rappers out. Ever. On breath control alone. But I digress. I’m not spotlighting RyanNicole simply to brag on how dope Oakland born, Montera educated, non-profit workin’, black female emcees sometimes are. I decided to feature Ryan’s talents after I saw this clip of Dinah Washington singing a Bessie Smith cover.
I considered the darting fire in Ms. Washington’s eyes, the reckless abandon of the lyrics, the rancor and ire softened to a palatable note. I knew I’d seen those characteristics on stage before, and realized Ryan Nicole employs those qualities every time she touches a mic.
I see the heritage so clearly: how Bessie’s candor influences Dinah’s phrasing. How blueprints left by these blues women affect black girls, now. I consider the lineage: what happens to emcees in the future? Who carries on their legacy, and how?
I thought about one of my favorite books, ever. (I never shoulda loaned it to that one brilliant, scholar — bring me my text back, blud). Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, a scholarly, soulful work by Angela Davis investigates the lyrics, performance and performativity of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. In an excerpt, below, Davis tracks the feminist traditions inherited and employed by these women.
I can’t help but to draw the parallel to the way that RyanNicole rocks; how that womanist sensibility makes its way to her portrayal of characters on stage, in her leadership in the non-profit sector, and of course as she moves crowds behind a skillfully cupped mic. Seems very Bessie-esque, don’t it?
Shouts to Ryan Nicole, who sets a standard for lyric slanging females, who’ll exist generations fro now. Thickwit honors your Black Future.