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    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    Hotness: Bahamadia MP3s



    Compiling my hip hop mix last night, I remembered my near-forgotten appreciation for Philly native Bahamadia. But back in ’00, when her EP, BB Queen, came out, it was often at the top of my playlist. Even then, it felt like a precious anomaly: a female rapper with genuine skills and a fresh flow talking about interesting things. I was already calling back her distinctive monotone with the sharply enunciated consonants and her rapid rush of syllables riding the beat. So I scrounged around to find my copy of the seven-song CD. After brushing off the inevitable dust bunnies, I gave it a few spins. Sure enough, it was as satisfying as ever.

    The old trope of female MCs not getting respect is of course as true as ever, but it’s also brought up ad infinitum. So instead, I’ll take a bit of a different approach: what makes Bahamadia so engaging isn’t that she’s as good as male rappers, but that she’s different from them. In “Commonwealth (Cheap Chicks)” for example, she celebrates “all the ordinary females around the way…/ the broke broads who still wanna get their little shine on.” Other underground rappers may stand against materialism, but Bahamadia relates to these women on a personal level. She details exactly how they have to cut corners to look good, name-checking TJ Maxx and JC Penney like most rappers drop Escalade references. Even someone as conscious as her “Chaos” collaborator Talib Kweli would have a hard time pulling that off with his cred intact.

    And on “Beautiful Things,” she takes to listing the troubling events dominating the turn-of-the-century American zeitgest: “Jon Benet Ramsey, chaos, mayhem, tragedy/ Kosovo victims, Third World country casualties/ Fen-Phen and Herbalife may not reduce calories/ Corporate downsizing cut wages and salary.” That’s already a more interesting documentation to me than most mainstream hip hop offers. But Bahamadia again flips the script, imploring the news to focus on beautiful things for a change. In an industry centered on toughness, competition, posturing and negativity, her call for beauty feels especially refreshing. It’s one that a lot of male rappers would have to hesitate to make so as not to seem soft.

    So I was listening to the EP, lamenting that Bahamadia so rarely released her music. Her debut Kollage came out in 1996, then BB Queen in 2000, then nothing. But as I started to research, I discovered something pretty strange. Apparently, she had released an album in… 2006? Called Good Rap Music? I headed over to Elbo.ws (which aggregates almost 1800 blogs) for confirmation, but I couldn’t find a single mention of it. Startled but undaunted, I kept digging and as far as I can tell, you can only pick it up through one Australian site. What the hell!? I’ve heard of being slept on, but wow, even by underground female MC standards, this was pretty flagrant. So I’m going to order a copy and find out what the deal is. If I like it as much as BB Queen, you’ll probably soon see Bahamadia back here again. Unfortunately however, it’ll be one of the very few places for the time being.

    * MP3: "Commonwealth (Cheap Chicks)" - Bahamadia from BB Queen EP
    * MP3: "Beautiful Things" - Bahamadia ft. Dwele from BB Queen EP [Buy it]

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