Haastattelussa Oakland-naisräppäri Gripsta

Haastattelussa Kalifornian Oaklandista kotoisin oleva naisräppäri Gripsta. Hän vieraili vuonna 1993 Ice-T:n ‘Home Invasion’ -albumin kappaleella ‘Funky Gripsta’. Gripsta teki myöhemmin levytyssopimuksen Tuff Break/A&M Recordsin kanssa 90-luvulla. Hän esiintyi myös Ice-T:n vuonna 1999 julkaistulla ‘The Seventh Deadly Sin’ -albumilla. Gripsta on työskennellyt urallaan useiden tunnettujen artistien, kuten South Central Cartelin, Spice 1:n ja Sh’killan kanssa.

  1. Hello, Gripsta! It’s a pleasure to have you for this interview. I am thrilled to get the opportunity to speak with you. How have you been?

West up! What’s happening? Thank you for having me. It’s good to finally be able to sit down and chop it up with y’all. I’ve been really good, working and diving into this music like never before. I have a lot of dope and hard-hitting stuff in the works. I think people are going to love it.

  1. Growing up in Oakland, California, can you share some of your most memorable experiences and challenges from your childhood? How did the city shape your upbringing and influence your music?

Yeah, I am originally from the Bay Area, both my mom and dad’s side. In my music, especially this new album, I touch on a lot of things that link back to my experiences growing up. Oakland was tough, to be honest. That’s why my mom packed up and moved us to Los Angeles. I spent my early years in Oakland, and coming back and forth, I can say it was really wild. I grew up during the crack era, and it was a big deal where I was. Everyone was involved, including my family and friends’ families. I saw a lot at a very young age.

I even had a gun pulled on me by my babysitter’s husband when I was in second grade. There were other incidents too, like my grandma’s house getting shot up by a family member’s boyfriend who was involved in drug dealing. Those experiences made me realize how messed up the world can be. Not feeling protected during those tender ages influenced my music and made it raw. I keep it real and don’t hold back to protect the listener. What you see is what you get – raw, uncut. That’s how my life has been.

On a positive note, one of my most memorable experiences was my mom working her ass off to put me through Catholic school for a few years. It was a great experience because I developed friendships with kids from different races and walks of life, which made me more worldly, ambitious, and showed me there’s more to life than just the hood.

  1. The hip-hop scene in Oakland has a rich history. Can you compare and contrast how the hip-hop scene was back in the days versus now? How have you seen it evolve over the years?

Yeah, the hip-hop scene in Oakland has a rich history. The Bay Area itself has a rich history, with the Black Panthers, the hippies, and the uprisings, being outspoken in political and social protest. These factors, I believe, helped shape the rap movement and culture. Oakland has always been an authentic place for music, less influenced by industry moguls. Artists in the Bay Area, whether they are painters, singers, rappers, graffiti artists, dancers, or playwrights, are still very organic and honest in their expression compared to other cities.

On the other hand, I also spent half of my childhood in Los Angeles, where things have changed a lot. There used to be more support for local artists in the rap game in Los Angeles, similar to how the Bay Area supports its local artists. However, here in Los Angeles, it feels like every man for himself, and there isn’t as much extra love given just because you’re repping LA and they are from LA.

  1. When did you first discover your passion for rapping? Can you take us back to the moment when you realized that this was something you wanted to pursue seriously?

Yeah, I think I was around 13 when I discovered my passion for rapping. I was watching a TLC video on Yo MTV Raps, and seeing Left Eye perform, I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I want to try this!’ I loved hip-hop too much not to give it a shot.

But my love for rap actually started earlier, around the age of six. I remember hearing my mom play songs by the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC, and I thought it was really cool music. From there, I started collecting rap tapes from artists like Ice Cube, Ice-T, NWA, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, A Tribe Called Quest, Naughty by Nature, Two Live Crew, DJ Quik, and Tupac. I had to hide a lot of those tapes because my mom said I was too young to listen to the profanity, but I found a way to listen to them anyway.

  1. Meeting Ice-T must have been a significant moment in your career. Can you share the story of your first encounter with Ice-T and how your collaboration came about? What was it like working with him and being featured on his albums “Home Invasion” and “The Seventh Deadly Sin”?

Meeting Ice-T was such an amazing experience, no cap. It felt surreal because I grew up listening to him. I actually met him at a hip-hop competition for ASCAP. I made it to the finals, and an OG introduced me to Ice-T and told him to keep an eye out for me on stage. I went up there and killed it, winning second place in the competition at just 14 years old. It was just me and the microphone, doing my thing.

Afterwards, Ice-T approached me and told me he was feeling my style. He signed me to Rhyme Syndicate Productions not long after that. He even gave me a whole song on his “Home Invasion” album called “FUNKY GRIPSTA!” (I’m still the first and only female in the Syndicate). As for collaborations, he jumped on a few tracks on my unreleased A&M Records album. He also featured me on a song called “Hard-Core” on his album “The Seventh Deadly Sin.” I’ve always had a natural talent for this rap game, so it was easy and a whole lot of fun.

  1. Ice-T is known for his wisdom and game that he shares. Can you tell us about any valuable advice or guidance you received from Ice-T throughout your career? How has his mentorship impacted your approach to music and the industry?

Ice-T is truly an OG, and his wisdom is unmatched. He’s like an oracle, always dropping knowledge. Throughout my career, I’ve received invaluable advice from him. It’s hard to pinpoint just one, but I’d say the most important lesson he’s taught me is to believe in myself and not care about what others think or say. Ice-T has been through his fair share of controversies, like the one with the “Body Count” record, and I witnessed his bravery, strength, and composure throughout it all. His actions have had a profound impact on me, even more than his words. He showed me what it means to have courage, to be bold, and to stand in my truth. His mentorship has shaped my approach to music and the industry in a powerful way.

  1. Can you take us behind the scenes of the studio sessions while creating the songs “Pop Goz The 9” and “Can’t Fade This”? What was the creative process like?

Yes, the creative process for “Pop Goz The 9” was quite unique. We actually worked on it in Big Ice’s Rose Royce. He had given me some beats from one of our talented Syndicate producers, DJ Ace, and while he went into a friend’s house, I stayed in the car and wrote the entire single. When he came back, I was ready, and we went straight to the studio to record it. We were fortunate enough to record at Larabee West, a studio where even Michael Jackson has recorded. The quality of sound coming out of there was truly amazing.

As for “Can’t Fade This,” the creative process was a collaborative effort. We were vibing in the studio, playing around with different beats and melodies. The energy was electric, and we fed off each other’s creativity. We experimented with different sounds, adding layers to create a dynamic and catchy track. It was a fun and organic process that allowed us to bring out the best in each other’s musical talents.

  1. Collaborating with South Central Cartel on the song “Can’t Fade This” must have been an exciting experience. How was it working with them, and what did they bring to the table in terms of their style and energy that elevated the track?

“Can’t Fade This” came about shortly after Ice introduced me to South Central Cartel, and they showed me love right from the start. It was like being part of a family, with them treating me like a little sister. Big Prod, who is one of the West Coast’s dopest producers, gave me some incredible tracks, and I ended up using several of them on my album. It was only natural to have the whole group jump on a couple of songs with me because their style meshed so well with mine.

Working with South Central Cartel was an exciting experience. They brought a unique gangster style and energy to the table that elevated the track to another level. Their influence helped shape my own gangster style, and I don’t think I would rap with this level of aggression and authenticity if it weren’t for their impact on me. Collaborating with them was a perfect fit, and together we created a powerful and memorable track that showcases our shared love for the game.

  1. As a young female rapper stepping into the hip-hop game, how did it feel to navigate a predominantly male-dominated industry? What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?

As a young female rapper entering the male-dominated hip-hop industry, I didn’t feel too challenged because I understood the expectations. At that time, it was important for me to not be overly feminine. It was more about being tough and fitting in with the guys. There wasn’t a lot of overt sexuality or explicit content like there is today. Looking back, it was kind of cool because there wasn’t as much pressure to show off and be overly sexualized. It allowed me to focus on my skills and authenticity without feeling the need to conform to certain expectations.

  1. While you’ve made notable contributions to the hip-hop scene, you haven’t released a solo album. Can you share the reasons behind this decision and any future plans you may have for a solo project?

If you look back, I’m actually one of the first female gangsta rappers from the West Coast. I did release a solo album. I signed a major record deal with A&M Records after a bidding war, and they invested a lot in me. I recorded my album and even shot a video, which was directed by Ice. However, things took a turn when the hip-hop division of A&M Records was dropped, and I couldn’t proceed with releasing my album. After that, I shifted my focus towards acting and worked on TV shows and commercials. I also went to college and became a special education teacher for many years. However, just a few months ago, Ice’s daughter, T, who is like a big sister to me, encouraged me to pick up the pen again. She’s creatively directing my new project because it’s long overdue. The support from fans all over the world, especially in Europe, has been overwhelming. So, I’m back, and this new project is going to be hard-hitting and impactful.

  1. Looking back on that time, what are some of your favorite memories from your early career? Are there any particular milestones or performances that stand out to you?

Looking back on my early career as an artist, one of my favorite memories was performing at Summer Jam. It was a surreal experience to be brought on stage by Ice and rock the mic in front of a massive crowd of tens of thousands of people. Sharing the stage with legends like Scarface, Tupac, and Eazy-E was a moment I’ll never forget. I also had the opportunity to meet these iconic artists, many of whom are no longer with us. It was a milestone in my career and a memory that will always hold a special place in my heart.

  1. As an artist, who are some of your favorite rappers or musical influences? Are there any artists who have had a significant impact on your style and approach to music?

Good question. So, some of the people that I would say influenced me would be Nas, Wu Tang, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z, DMX, Public Enemy, Big L, LL Cool J, Gang Starr, KRS-One, Ice-T, NWA, Too Short, DJ Quik, MC Eiht, King T, Cypress Hill, Spice 1, Kid Frost, Snoop Dogg. I don’t know if I said Tupac, but of course, Tupac. I really like the current rappers. Lil Durk, Roddy Rich, Nipsey Hussle, this kid called Blast, who kinda rap-sings, is dope. This kid named Slo-Be, he was murdered, but I listened to him a lot, he’s dope. I think Ice-T has influenced my style the most, just his gangster political seriousness that he displays in his rhymes. I’ve tried to emulate that, and I think that comes across in my rhymes also.

  1. The landscape for female rappers has evolved over the years. What are your thoughts on the current state of female representation in hip-hop, and how do you believe it has changed since your early days in the industry?

Yeah, hip-hop has changed overall and has definitely changed for females in hip-hop. The current state of female hip-hop, I think, is cool. There are a lot of female rappers now as opposed to when I first started rapping. That’s dope. I don’t like that it’s a lot more manufactured. Seems like there are a lot of hands in some of these female rap acts. It’s not as authentic anymore. I don’t get the feeling that a lot of these girls grew up rapping on the block, rapping in cypress, like the rappers back in the day, you know. It seems like a lot of people are being picked and put together by record companies. So, that part I don’t like, but I’m definitely happy that females are being represented more in hip-hop because we’ve been some of the main buyers of hip-hop and listening to hip-hop just as much as the men. Like I said, it has changed in the sense that there’s a lot more sexuality displayed, which I don’t have a problem with. Back in the day, you kind of had to be more tomboyish and more masculine to kind of fit in with the guys, and it’s not like that anymore at all.

  1. How do you feel knowing that people from different countries are connecting with your music? Does it influence your approach to creating and sharing your art?

So, yeah, one of the dopest things about rapping to me, and that’s a good question, is the fact that my music is reaching so far away. I mean, you’d think I’m just a little girl born in Oakland, and to be contacted by people in Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Holland, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine… Man, the list goes on and on. It’s amazing. I don’t know if it’s really shaped my music. I think that the people in these countries like me because I’m opening up a window to my world and my life here in the United States, in California, and I like to continue to give the people that, but I am definitely conscious of it when I make my music. I’ve done a few collaborations with people outside of the U.S., and I definitely want to do that and continue that.

  1. Can you tell us about your new single, ‘This Is Cali’? What inspired the track, and what message do you hope to convey through it?

So, ‘This Is Cali’ is a West Coast take on a new dope artist named Scarlett’s song ‘This Is New York’. Shout out to Scarlett. It’s my take on why a person should be warned not to come to California, to get the fuck out of California, if you think it’s a joke, because it’s not. And that’s the message I’m trying to convey in the song. If you hear her song, she’s saying for people to get the fuck out of New York, and I’m saying get the fuck out of California. It seems nice and chill, but you can’t come here and play around; you get caught slipping in the wrong area, that’s for sure. And that’s the message I’m trying to convey as a woman born and raised in California, and people seem to like it. They like the passion in my voice, and I think it’s dope.

  1. When you’re not making music, how do you like to spend your free time? Are there any hobbies or activities that help you recharge and find inspiration?

No cap, when I don’t rap, I like shopping. I enjoy shopping on Amazon online because they have everything, and items come straight to my door. I also like going out shopping for sexy clothes and shoes. Additionally, I enjoy hiking and experiencing that fresh air. I like watching YouTube documentaries, crime shows, wildlife shows, Googling things, researching topics; these activities help me find inspiration. I think driving around and observing the world really inspires me. Sometimes I get in my car and just drive. I find a lot of inspiration by observing what’s going on and becoming connected and conscious of my feelings about life and the things I see.

  1. Looking ahead, what are your plans and aspirations for the future? Is there a particular direction you would like to take your music or any goals you hope to achieve?

My plans and aspirations for the future are to create a couple of dope albums and complete this mission I started years ago: delivering my take on hip hop, my perspective on the world to the people, because that’s what I express in my music, and I want to finally deliver that, hoping people appreciate it. Not taking a particular direction, I’m just being true to myself, staying unprocessed, unmanufactured, keeping it authentic, keeping it real. My goal is to deliver some dope content, keeping it simple and genuine, so that I can strive for success.

  1. Lastly, is there anything else you would like to share with your fans and our readers?

Something I’d like to share for the fans is to never give up. Keep going. Life is short. Whatever you want to do, keep going. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it because you can. All it takes is believing in yourself. And you’ve got me. If you ever feel challenged or need someone who’s still here, persevering against all odds, listen to my music. Also, find me on Instagram at @grip_sta and on Twitter at @grip_sta. My YouTube page is active, and it’s dope – it’s ‘Gripsta’ on my official artist page on YouTube. Just keep an eye out for me. I’m here. We’re moving forward. Let’s rise up and get energized.

Haastattelu: J-P / Fileerausveitsi
Promokuva: Mikkekylilt