Photo courtesy: Styled by Mikell Petty of WYV; From back left Coco Peila, Hazel Rose, Shy’ An G. Center back Hunny Tinted, front MADlines
As festival season draws to a close, attendees at this weekend’s Life is Living Festival presented by Youth Speaks at De Fremery Park had the opportunity to get out some final grooves. The event, a free celebration of hip hop, intergenerational health and environmental action, brought local artists to the stage who focused on using their lyrics as a catalyst for social change within their communities and beyond.
Around 2pm, the festival officially popped off with the SEASONED showcase located at the Front Porch stage. There, curator and host MADlines brought together four dope female lyricists, making for an unforgettable performance. SEASONED, a response to the scarcity of women in hip hop, included performers Hazel Rose, Shy’An G, Coco Peila and Hunny Tinted. Representing various backgrounds, the artists attracted diverse crowds around the small stage as the ladies touched upon a myriad of social and personal issues through their lyrics, lacing their flow over various beats of reggae, jazz and trap.
Hunny Tinted got the crowd warmed up as the first performer, cautioning the audience she’s a lover, not a fighter while delivering fast paced lyrics that encapsulated romantic themes. Following Hunny Tinted’s performance, Shy’An G sauntered on stage unleashing her flow to crowd goers, a relentless blend of meticulously thought out wordplay. Her style, reminiscent of Hip Hop’s East Coast’s roots, had everyone bobbing their head in approval. Hazel Rose kept us on our feet as she posted up like the Dalai Lama while MADlines played hype (wo)man, running across the stage saluting the crowd.
Taking a break as host, MADlines then performed a three song set of her own, including popular tracks Plenty Plenty and The Weapon, both off her 2013 EP Love Child. A fusion of hip hop and reggae, the artist and educator to San Francisco’s incarcerated youth, delivered powerful verses while channeling her Jamaican roots. Her effervescent personality made her performance especially entertaining to watch.
The final performer, Coco Peila, had to grab for the nearest water bottle in between songs after dropping lyrical fire and wit, humorously reminding fans she was thirsty in the literal sense. She then proceeded to get personal with the crowd as she discussed her three year celibacy and encouraged crowd participation with her next performance. Music goers recited lyrics “papa, learn to be worthy” from an unreleased track, a song which served as reminder the importance of self love.
The show finished with a collaboration between Coco Peila, Hazel Rose and MADlines, with a choreographed performance of Coco’s track Fall In Line. Things didn’t go as planned however, as Coco had the dj cut the beat midway through (LIKE A BOSS)-advising the audience if they were standing, they needed to be dancing to something worth dancing for. The dj then returned the beat, leading to an impromptu moshpit as the crowd and performers shared the stage for an epic finale. The showcase was a hit, proving that women in hip hop don’t have to be objectified as sexual trinkets to make it in the game.
I had a chance to speak with host MADlines on the challenges women in hip hop face, her creative process, as well as upcoming projects. Below is an excerpt of our discussion.
How was SEASONED conceptualized?
SEASONED was a collaboration between myself and Coco Peila, Miss Haze [Hazel Rose], Shy’An G, Hunny Tinted and Youth Speaks. We wanted to showcase the rawness of women lyricsits in the Bay in a new and innovative way. We met up, had discussions, practiced and gave each other feedback. The showcase was a success and I’m excited about what will come from it.
Being a female MC can be gritty. What challenges have you faced?
Being a woman in hip hop mirrors being a woman in the world, which means everything is harder. You get paid less for the same work. You get over-sexualized and you have to deal with douche bags. The difference between being a woman in hip hop and being a woman in the world in general is that sexism in hip hop is, for the most party, very blatant. It may sound crazy but I prefer blatant sexism to subversive sexism. It’s easier to fight when you see and know what you’re up against. No sexism is the end goal though.
Follow up question- do you find it difficult to be taken seriously in a male dominated field?
Sometimes. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to mature into who I am as a woman and create boundaries that ensure my physical and emotional safety. I can tell when a man is an ally and when he’s a mark.
Tell me about your creative process-what goes into producing a song?
I always go off of the riddim, the instrumental that I’m given. But sometimes there’s a concept that I’ve been ruminating on. It has to come to the surface of my psyche organically. It has to be the right instrumental. I’ll listen to a beat over and over until I’m sick of hearing it. Other times the lyrics just come to me like lightening. It just depends.
Can you let us in on your latest project?
My next project is an EP. This time I’m working with several producers but the Reggae element is what grounds the whole thing. I plan on dropping it in December.
Monica Cadena is an Oakland based writer. She focuses on community issues pertaining to urban planning and food justice. She also enjoys writing about arts and culture, particularly her love of music. She studied urban planning at San Francisco State University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys conjuring up new recipes in her kitchen, or enjoying all the Town has to offer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org