The female artist presence in hip hop is in such an interesting place right now. Just four years ago, the average hip hop fan would be a bit pressed to find independent and underground female rappers gracing the front page of major hip hop websites, starring in reality television shows and featured on mainstream programs.
In 2013, it’s pretty much a 360. “Georgia Peach” Rasheeda is starring in VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta”, MC Lyte is executive producing BET’s “Hip Hop Sisters”, a reality show featuring Lil Mama and rap legends Yo Yo, Monie Love and The Lady of Rage. Almost every single major label has at least one female rapper on the roster (Def Jam: Teyana Taylor; Interscope: Azaelia Banks, Iggy Azalea,Reema Major; Jamla: Rapsody).
As I mentioned last month in the post about regional hip hop blogs [Read:Regional Hip Hop Blogs Are The Best Y’all. Here Are A Few Of My Favorites], I’ve been following Chicago hip hop culture for some time. The eye is on the Midwest right now, and several of the same rapper names keeps popping up. MTV’s “Sucker Free” did a full special on Chicago’s scene late last year, as did the New York Times. During both of those big features, two female rappers from the Chi were mentioned and prominently featured. One was Katie Got Bandz, the other Sasha Go Hard.
Earlier in the Spring I had a chance to speak with Chicago’s Katie Got Bandz. During that time, she was recording her upcoming project Drillary Clinton –which was released today via Chicago indie label Lawless, Inc. — and preparing for several out of state shows and appearances. During our lengthy chat, we talked about her ever growing digital presence, recording with Maybach Music Group’s Gunplay and appearing on reality televsion. We wrap the interview up with some word association (and a bit of laughter). Most important, Katie Got Bandz also drops a bit of wisdom for other young girls who want to live the street life.
*Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Nanci O: How long you’ve been rapping?
Katie: I always was interested in rapping, but I actually started writing and recording for about two years ago.
Nanci O: What was it like growing up in Low End Chicago?
Katie: Well I grew up in the projects with a single parent, and my father is incarcerated, growing up with a single mother then, in the projects, you had to do what you got to do to make it.
Nanci O: The drill scene is real hot right now in Chicago. How would you describe the scene in Chicago?
Katie: Turning up! That’s the definition I use in interviews.
Nanci O: Are there any other female rappers, either from Chicago or other states that influenced your style or inspired you to rap?
Katie: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say inspired me to rap, but definitely Nicki Minaj and Rhianna.
Nanci O: We have our own slang down here in the Carolinas, things that we say, and I know you guys have a lot of different slang up there in Chicago as well. So can you talk about different types of Chicago slang and what they mean?
Katie: We use the word “Op” up here a lot. “Op” is the opposition of a friend, an enemy. “OTF”, only the family. We use “goofy”, “blert”, “blang”. That’s all I know right off bat, because you kind of caught me off guard with that question. [Laughter]
Nanci O: [Laughter] All right, cool. Can you talk about your gun charge and how you caught it? Are you able to legally talk about it right now?
Katie: Well, I’m just going to say I was caught up at the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m still fighting the case now, and it’s looking good. So that’s all I can say. I ain’t going to get into many details on here.
Nanci O: For any young ladies who may be going through the same type of situation that you’re going through right now with your case, what type of advice would you give them?
Katie: I’d tell them to stay out of trouble and stay away from drugs, tell them to follow your dreams because the streets ain’t nothing nice. It ain’t no joke. It’s hard getting up out the system, but it’s easy getting in it.
Nanci O: That’s real. I want to talk about MTV Chicago hip hop special, when MTV came to your city last summer, did a huge television special on the scene and what you guys have going on up there. So how did your life change after MTV aired that special and featured you?
Katie: It changed my life a lot. It increased my fan base and helped my fans learn more about me from the questions they [MTV] were asking. It also let other people see that I’m real and humble. It made me try harder, because I was like — I always wanted to be on TV, and then seeing myself on MTV….. [Katie goes silent for a moment.]
Nanci O: Did it change the people around you, not your close friends, but folks who were cool with you before, that once you got that fame and your buzz really started growing, have you noticed how any other folks around you have changed?
Katie: It changed my friends, family for sure, because when I was out here doing the wrong thing everybody was with it, but people had to see you doing good and better than them, so like instead of my frienemies supporting me, they tried to get on top of me. When I opened up for Gunplay and the same people who never came to a video shoot were showing up. [They asked] “why didn’t you bring us to the concert?” I’m like, “Why would I just up and just bring y’all to a concert and leave the people out who been here since day one?” You know?
Nanci O: One thing I notice about you is you have like a real crazy digital presence. When you dropped the video for “Pop Out” with King Louie, it’d only been out a week and already had 17,000+ views. The video for “Need A Hitta” is almost at half a million views, and then the “They Know How I’m Rockin” video is at almot 50,000 views.
Folks really seem to gravitate to what you have going on. Did you expect your style and your music to hit so hard?
Katie: When I first saw my first video, I mean, I didn’t even expect for that to take off. I didn’t know that I was going to be taking views so serious. I was just doing something to try to keep me off the streets and out of trouble. I was just doing something. I wrote the song in July. Then something came up that held me back from doing the video, —and everybody just kept asking for the song. And I wasn’t dropping the whole song until I dropped the video. I recorded the video like two days before I got locked up.
And then when I got locked up, it dropped [the video]. When I got out, they [promoters] started calling me, booking me for parties and interviews. So I’m like, “I might as well keep going.”
Nanci O: Wow, that’s crazy! Okay. So this is what I’ve heard from some of my blogger comrades, that Chicago might be next with a season of “Love & Hip Hop”. If it did come to your city, would you be willing to star in it? Would you go there?
Katie: I would love to be in there. I always said I wanted to be in a reality show. I actually want my own reality show.
Nanci O: You have a new mixtape dropping soon, Drillary Clinton, and first of all, that’s a dope ass concept, by the way, and it’s a dope title. So what plans do you have to push that mixtape?
Katie: Drillary Clinton is more like an album/mixtape. I was going to name it Bandz and Hittaz. I was having a hard time coming up with my next title for my second mixtape. And since King Louie dropped Drilluminati, Drillary Clinton came to my head, like as the female version of Drilluminati, you know.
Nanci O: When you found out you had a chance to get a feature with Gunplay, how did that feel? What was your first reaction?
Katie: I was in the studio, actually, when I found out and I was working on some songs for Drillary Clinton. I didn’t know anything about the record, because I guess they [my team] was like surprising me with it. And when I was told Gunplay, I was real thirsty then or whatever, like, and when I heard the song “Y’all Niggaz Ain’t Hitaz” I was thirsty to drop. I love the song [with Gunplay]. It’s one of my favorite songs.
Nanci O: Who are some other features that you’re going to have on your album, Drillary Clinton?
Katie: I got King Louie, I got Gunplay, I got Lil Bibby, I got Fatz Mack, and I got Castro.
Nanci O: Who are some other producers that made some tracks for you on that album?
Katie: My original producer, Block on Da Trakk, Billionaire Boyscout and Skillz On Da Beatz. I also got a beat from Carnage.
Nanci O: So who else should folks in the Carolinas be checking for from Chicago, that’s either with Lawless Inc. or that you really ride with heavily?
Katie: Well they need to check out me, you know. [Laughter] No, we got another artist on our team, Bird, he with Lawless Inc., too. He got a lot of dope stuff that’s about to drop, and they need to look out for Lil Bibby and Lil Herb, King Louie, just stay tuned for the whole Chicago, because a lot of people got hot stuff.
Nanci O: Okay. As we wrap up, I want to do like a word association. So I’m going to say a word or I’m going to say two words, and then you just say the first thing that pops into your head. Okay? Is that cool? [Laughter]
Katie: [Laughter] Okay, yeah.
Nanci O: All right, the first thing is snitch.
Katie: Shoot him! [Laughter]
Nanci O: [Laughter] All right, the next word is “Hitta”.
Katie: Ride out! [Laughter]
Nanci O: All right, the next phrase is “Love & Hip Hop”.
Katie: Katiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee! [Laughter]
Nanci O: [Laughter] I’ve got two more. The next one is Chicago.
Nanci O: The last one is Drillary Clinton.
Katie: You know, it’s me, Katiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!
Nanci O: [Laughter] All right. Is there anything else that you want the people in the Carolinas, North Carolina, South Carolina, to know about Katie Got Bandz and what you’re doing with your movement, that we haven’t discussed in this interview?
Katie: For the people down there, I want ya’ll to know that I’m bringing it hard. I got a lot of hot stuff for ya’ll. Stay in tune for it. If you haven’t already, download Bandz and Hittaz. Also, check out my new single featuring King Louie, “Pop Out”.
Nanci O: And so before you go, can you give the listeners your Twitter, your website, your Instagram, anywhere that people can connect with you online?
Katie: Anything, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. I’m Katie Got Bandz with a “Z,” Katie Got Bandz.
Nanci O: Katie Got Bandz, so thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Definitely looking forward to checking out your album!
Katie: Thank you.