Hip-hop is sexy. The rhymes, the rhythm, the way deft lyrics take centre stage over naked beats… It’s all designed to turn you on, to arouse your body and sometimes even your mind. And, as local MC A.B. Norml proves with her forthcoming double album, it’s not just for the boys.
A.B. Norml, or Abbie for short, would like you to know up front that she hates the term "female MC," whether it’s applied to her personally or to women in hip-hop more generally. "You don’t need the qualifier; it’s retarded and redundant," she says in one of her MySpace blog entries, pointing out that she’s neither a freak show nor some kind of anomaly. There are plenty of ladies in the masculine world of hip-hop, after all, but as she further clarifies, "Hip-hop’s just not that into you."
Can I get a what-what?
During a recent conversation, Abbie told me about her life in hip-hop, which has only recently begun in earnest. She’s been writing rhymes for years, and recently performed live at the intimate Poésie Boudoir show, but had never thought much about her abilities until she became interested in the scene and started going to shows. She met a whole slew of whack MCs, some of whom she got better acquainted with backstage and others who even made her feel special, but ultimately she thinks that women aren’t quite accepted into the culture unless they fit into one of two moulds: the kid sister or the ho.
"It’s not that there’s anything inherently misogynistic in hip-hop culture," she clarifies. "Rappers call women bitches and ho’s because women who hang out with rappers act like bitches and ho’s. I’m sure strippers have equally nice labels for their clients."
Abbie speaks from a certain type of experience: She used to model for everyone from Suicide Girls to Richard Kern, and classifies that era of her young life as a time where she felt disrespected. "I’ve been pretty. I’ve had people take beautiful pictures of me and pay me lots of money for the privilege," she says. "But ultimately who cares? They didn’t want to hear what I had to say. They didn’t want to know what was on my mind."
Now that she’s a rapper, however, all that is about to change. Set to drop her first album – an ambitious double that she refers to as her "love child," entitled Bint – on All Hallows Eve, Abbie’s a woman on a mission.
She’s also got some pretty sweet tracks ready to seduce and destroy, like her Notes for Sasha Gray, a cheeky little number directed at one of her pop culture idols, the notorious porn star-cum-actress-cum-musician.
Abbie describes her sound as part of the conscious hip-hop genre, and says the kind of music she typically listens to is made by and aimed primarily at "dorky white college boys." She says it’s important to note that although she raps, she mainly views herself as a street artist, since hip-hop culture is more than just the music, also emphasizing graffiti artwork, dancing and hanging out in alleys. "No one is illegal or discriminated against in an alley," she says.
Although there are plenty of women in mainstream hip-hop, Abbie thinks that it’s hard to find women who are truly independent in the culture. "There are no independent female rappers," she says, "in the sense of not being on major labels, as well as not merely being commodities or products, and not having guys backing them up in some way." But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; Abbie herself raps about products (or "produkt" as she calls it, referencing her partner-in-crime, Alex Produkt), and wouldn’t mind becoming both rich and famous one day.
"I aspire to be hip-hop’s daughter," she laughs, noting that most women in the industry are too busy worrying about their looks, or forming bands with their boyfriends, not realizing how easy it really is to get involved. She hopes to become a positive female force, enabling other women to get involved in the community without feeling they have to submit to stereotypes or put themselves up on the Chanel pedestal. "You have to be real," she says. "Hip-hop is all about keeping it real, so just be yourself no matter what."
For more of A.B. Norml, including sweet hook-ups to her latest tracks, check out her MySpace page at www.myspace.com/abprodukt.