Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Rah Digga Explains Why “This Ain't No Lil Kid Rap”

Written by Niina Pollari
RahDigga2.jpgI sit down to interview Rashia Fisher, better known as Rah Digga, on a legendary bad luck day. We've had communication trouble and commute issues, and she's fresh out of a traffic jam on her way in from New Jersey. But the lady known for being the godmother of Flipmode looks cheerful as she enters, two friends in tow and armed with snacks, clearly relieved.

Photos by Jason Rodgers
 
I sit down to interview Rashia Fisher, better known as Rah Digga, on a legendary bad luck day. We've had communication trouble and commute issues, and she's fresh out of a traffic jam on her way in from New Jersey. But the lady known for being the godmother of Flipmode looks cheerful as she enters, two friends in tow and armed with snacks, clearly relieved.

Niina: So, it's Friday the 13th. Are you superstitious at all?

Rah Digga: I am, actually. I realized it was Friday the 13th yesterday, and things have been going awry. They went awry in getting here, but it did come together. I've still got the whole weekend to get through, but I'm just letting the chips fall where they may.

Niina: Not to mention that you’re having a pretty alright year. One little day isn't going to do much.

Rah Digga: That's right. And I had an album drop last year, which was exciting. Ten years later!

Niina: I know! I've been rocking Dirty Harriet all week because I knew I would get to talk to you. So I have to ask you. Why ten years?

Rah Digga: I had an album that was supposed to come out in 2003, and it didn't happen, so after that I pretty much gave that album away on mixtapes and such. Then I was going to do some more work in the film world. I started taking classes at New York Film Academy for directing and editing. I figured behind-the-scenes could be a nice transition. I always loved music and art but wasn't necessarily into the famous part of it. But the anniversary of Dirty Harriet was coming up, so I planned to do a little EP. I wanted to do something low-key, but it wound up really turning into a big deal. And I must say I can still rip some ass on the mic, so it definitely turned out to be a good thing! You guys definitely have to thank Lucas [from Raw Koncept], because he bitch-slapped me back to my roots. He hates when I say that.

Niina: Back to your roots. Hence the album title, Classic.

Rah Digga: Mhmm.

Niina: Artistically, I'm sure you feel it's different than your debut.

Rah Digga: The biggest difference is that I've matured as an artist. With DH, I was hell-bent on proving to the world that I knew how to rhyme. As with most artists' first albums, I was more battle oriented and telling people off. With this album it's like, “I know you all know I know how to rhyme!” The first album was trying to prove I'm the best, and with this album I have the attitude, like, “You already know can't nobody fuck with me.” It's not an album where I'm trying to fit in with the trend or keep up with what's current. This is a grown woman who still happens to rhyme, still happens to do what is considered a young person's profession. But I'll kick your ass.

Niina: Well, yeah. It's evident from the words of songs like, This Ain't No Lil Kid Rap. You're distinguishing yourself from newcomers. I was reading an interview where you called a lot of newcomers corny and gimmicky. Are you consciously distancing yourself from that?

Rah Digga: I’m in the position now where I can do what I want. I can say what I want. I can make the music I want to make. There are no cameos on this album. I don't even have an R & B hook. This is straight, grassroots beats, rhymes, DJ cuts. People are like, “Who would be so brazen? What in the world, no singsong? No hot 'it' person on the album?” You know [laughs].

(Rah has been checking her phone often. It’s her daughter’s birthday this weekend, and the girl is relentlessly calling to check up on every little detail. This is funny because we’ve been talking about having creative control—like mother, like daughter.)

Rah Digga: She’s calling me every five minutes like, “Mom!” Anyhow. A lot of rappers from my generation, my peer group, are kind of struggling with trying to be relevant and young and trying to fit in with all the newcomers, like, “Oh, let me make sure I get a song with so-and-so,” just trying to keep themselves current. I feel like you so don't have to do that. You can totally be yourself and just stick to what people love you for. I think artists would be so much better off but nobody takes that leap of faith. I'm happy I did.

Niina: Are there any new artists whose work you admire?

Rah Digga: I'm a really huge fan of Janelle Monae.

Niina: Oh my gosh, me too.

Rah Digga: I'm a person who listens to lyrics first and foremost. She has the capacity to be a dope emcee. On her Tightrope remix with B.o.B, I honestly think she's rhyming better than the guys. And Eternia, she's someone I did a song for on her album. She's not technically a new artist either; she's just getting to release an album and starting to get a little notoriety.

Niina: One of the reasons I like you, and Janelle too, is that you don't try to be sexy. She has an animated face, but it's not a sexy face. You have this gravelly voice that’s not traditionally sexy. But especially in rap, it tends to be “rappers” and “female rappers.” You don't hear “male rapper.” How have you encountered gender stereotyping being a rapper?
 
RahDigga3.jpgRah Digga: Well, in my case, because even my voice just comes across as so aggressive, I've always been put in the male category. As far as how people say “female rapper” versus male rapper—I hate the whole differentiation. Even the word “femcee” drives me up a wall! It sounds like a venereal disease. Who made that word up? Please go back under a rock.

I hate when people say, “She's dope for a chick.” To me it's like you're dope or you're wack. Don't say that this particular female is OK for a chick, but compared to this rapper or that rapper they're corny. No. Either you're a dope emcee or you're a wack emcee. It shouldn't matter if you're male or female. That's my take on it. I'm an equal opportunist—if your rhymes don't blow my mind, then you should have a plan B.

Niina: Probably a good plan no matter what your genre is in life!

Rah Digga: Yeah.

Niina: In hip-hop lyrics there are famously bitches and hos everywhere. Have you ever been tempted to turn that around? In a couple of songs you talk about fellas looking good in the club . . . it would be easy to turn them into objects.

Rah Digga: I don't even mention the word “club” on this album!

Niina: But as someone so lyrically fearless, have you ever been tempted to just say that one thing?

Rah Digga: I confess, some of my rhymes, I will even refer to “these hos” or whatever, “these bitches.” But what bothers me more than people using those terms is chicks that portray that in the videos. I know everybody has a job to do, and we all hustle accordingly to make a living, but I have more problems with how women are portraying themselves visually than by guys calling them out. To me the words are sticks and stones, but if you're going to act it out or carry yourself as such, then you become groupies who are giving the matter validity. Without people doing that, we would just be smack talking like every other rapper.

Niina: Speaking of lyrics, you’ve let the other f-bomb fly before. Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Rah Digga: I definitely believe that women in hip-hop should take more liberty and more pride, and represent. They should be strong and not succumb to label pressures and whatever typical stereotypes there are for female rappers. I think with female artists, it sometimes becomes about everything but the music. We can rise above image and just be respected as artists. If more female artists did that there would probably be more unity amongst female rappers. We had that back in the day, when Latifah was rocking, and MC Lyte. In the previous generation female emcees did self-destruction songs, but the difference was we had that unity, and it wasn't so much of a glam squad. Now I feel like it's all about marketing females—and that's when it becomes catty. That's where everything went wrong.

Niina: You said there are no cameos on this album and that's really, really cool. But you've done collaborations in the past.

Rah Digga: And I do plan on getting folks for remixes. I'm going to do remixes but as far as the actual album goes, none whatsoever.

Niina: At the risk of transitioning the conversation to some weird places, I saw you mention the HBO show True Blood on your Twitter. Are you a fan?

Rah Digga: I am a huge True Blood fan. I'm a huge vampire and werewolf fan anyway so they just made my whole year last season. Especially since 24 and The Tudors are gone I don't know what to do with myself anymore.

Niina: How do you find Twitter to be? You've got all these people following you and they immediately see what you comment. Is that weird at all?

Rah Digga: I actually got on Twitter not too long ago. I'm not one of those people that tweet their every move, their itinerary—that's a little creepy to me. I'm not trying to have people know all that. Unless I'm actually promoting something, I mostly retweet. I like to let other people tell my story on Twitter. I always do searches on my name every day, and I retweet good stuff and bad stuff. Then my fans come in and answer those people, like, “You're an idiot! How can you say that?”

Niina: Kind of personal and impersonal at the same time.

Rah Digga: Mhmm. As soon as someone tweets something bad I retweet it and let my followers get them. I didn't even have my name as Rah Digga when I started. I started my account and tried to be Rah Digga and someone else had it already. But now people can find me. Now when I retweet, people are surprised like, “I didn't even know Rah Digga was on Twitter.”

Niina: So this is kind of an umbrella question. If a girl came up to you and said she wanted to be a rapper, what would you tell her?

Rah Digga: Run for the hills! [laughs] No, I would tell her to rhyme her heart out and don't let anyone try to tell her anything about her personal style. Just rhyme as best as you know, and whatever fans you acquire, stay true to yourself and you will have those fans. Do not get caught up in what you're supposed to look like and what your image is supposed to be, because when it becomes about that, then you have a really rigid guideline to follow. You can't gain weight; you can't get old; you can't just grow like any normal human being does. You'll always be scrutinized and held to that. If you're yourself, and rhyme the way you rhyme and be serious about it, you'll get better with time. Don't let them pay attention to what you wear or what you look like and you will always have a career.

Niina: Do people ever ask you to mentor them? And what’s your advice?

Rah Digga: Guys and girls ask me all the time. “I'm trying to get into the industry, what's your advice?” I tell most artists they have it easier than we did. When Dirty Harriet was out, I had to go state to state . . . station to station, telling everybody that I had an album coming out. Now you can do it straight from home. They have it easier nowadays. Everything you can practically do for free. The Internet is the most valuable tool for up-and-coming artists, especially if you don't have a budget to hire radio promoters. You can make a name for yourself with zero dollars and an Ethernet cable. There are ways to get around the system. Trust me! I know them all! I gave away a whole major label only to turn around and sell it myself!

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